UCLA vs. UC Berkeley: Which College is Right for You?

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The rivalry between UC Berkeley and UCLA heated up in 2019 when UCLA passed UC Berkeley in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings, after UCLA tied UC Berkeley the year before. The fact is, both schools are fantastic institutions—ranking number one and two in the U.S. News & World Report 2019 Top Public Schools rankings. While both schools share academic excellence, they differ in many ways as well; keep reading to learn more about both of these incredible universities. 

 

UCLA vs. UC Berkeley: A Quick Overview

 

UCLA  UC Berkeley 
Location Los Angeles, California  Berkeley, California 
Campus Type Urban  Urban 
Undergraduate Enrollment 30,994 30,600
Acceptance Rate 12% 16.8%
U.S. News Ranking 20 22
Sticker Price In State: $35,791

Out of State: $65,545 

In State: $36,084

Out of State $70,449

Student to Faculty Ratio 18:1 20:1
Middle 50% SAT/ACT In State SAT: 1300-1530

Out of State SAT :1440-1550

In State ACT: 28-35

Out of State ACT: 33-35

SAT: 1350-1540

ACT: 30-35

Subject Tests Required? For College of Chemistry and College of Engineering only For School of Engineering and Applied Science only
Median Starting Salary $58,400 $66,600

 

UCLA vs. UC Berkeley: A Closer Look

Location

 

UCLA

 

UCLA is located in Los Angeles, California, a city of 4 million people. Surrounding campus are recognizable neighborhoods such as Bel Air, Brentwood, and Beverly Hills. Los Angeles is best known for being the entertainment capital of the world, thanks to its Hollywood neighborhood. The city has hosted the Olympics twice (and is slated to hold them again in 2028), and is the home to two NFL teams, two NBA teams, one MLB team, and one NHL team. 

 

The entertainment industry draws many students to UCLA, but so does LA itself, which is slowly becoming a center of entrepreneurship and tech that rivals its northern neighbors. Beyond entertainment, sports, and tech, students are attracted to LA for the city’s diverse global community—people from more than 140 countries, speaking 224 different identified languages, currently call Los Angeles home. 

 

UC Berkeley

 

Berkeley has a population of 120,000 and is well known as a liberal-thinking hub and one-time center of the counterculture. A fun and quirky city, it features tons of restaurants and an incredible number of bookstores—there are 32 bookstores in Berkeley including Books Inc., which dates back to 1851! If students get tired of eating and reading their way through the city, or hanging out on the university’s immaculately landscaped grounds, escaping to major metropolises like Oakland and San Francisco is easy. 

 

Berkeley is the artsy backyard of the Bay Area, with more than 100 cultural arts organizations, including the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and Aurora Theatre Company. UC Berkeley has been home to 31 Nobel Prize winners among their alumni—look for the coveted parking spaces the university reserves for them as an added bonus for their accomplishment. While creative energy buzzes through the city, Berkeley is also in close proximity to many of the nation’s leading tech companies in Silicon Valley, which is great news for students hoping to intern at Google, Apple, or Facebook. 

 

Size

 

UCLA Student Body 

 

UCLA has a total enrollment of 45,921 students, 31,568 of whom are undergraduates. The rest of the student body is made up of 12,960 graduate students and 1,393 interns and residents. UCLA boasts a 18 to 1 student-to-teacher ratio, and a little over 50% of its classes have fewer than 20 students in them. 

 

UC Berkeley Student Body

 

UC Berkeley has a total enrollment of 43,204 students: 31,348 undergrads and 11,856 graduate students. The student-to-faculty ratio at UC Berkeley is 20 to 1, with 53% of the university’s classes having 20 or fewer students in them (71% of classes have fewer than 30 students). 

 

Weather

 

Los Angeles Weather 

 

UCLA’s weather is best described as idyllic. LA has 292 days of sunshine with an average high temperature of 74°F and an average low temperature of 56°F. 

 

Berkeley Weather 

 

Comparatively, Berkeley’s weather is a bit like its community: quirky. The city averages 256 sunny days a year, the average high temperature is 72°F, and the average low is 44°F. 

 

Academics

 

UCLA

 

UCLA offers 130 undergraduate majors through its seven academic divisions: 

 

  • The College of Letters and Science
  • School of the Arts and Architecture
  • Samueli School of Engineering
  • Herb Alpert School of Music 
  • School of Nursing
  • Luskin School of Public Affairs 
  • School of Theater, Film, and Television

 

One of UCLA’s most notable colleges is its School of Theater, Film, and Television, one of the leading programs of its kind. Students enrolled in the School of Theater, Film, and Television have the opportunity to study everything from ancient theater to avant-garde video to high-tech film production. Graduates of the college will join an alumni that includes Academy Award winners, Emmy winners, Golden Globe winners, and Tony winners such as Frances Ford Coppola, Tim Robbins, Rob Reiner, Jack Black, James Franco, and Ben Stiller. 

 

All students attending UCLA must meet certain general education requirements that are grouped into three foundational areas: Arts and Humanities, Society and Culture, and Scientific Inquiry. Regulations and procedures for declaring a major vary between UCLA’s colleges, but all students are required to declare a major by their junior year. 

 

UC Berkeley

 

UC Berkeley offers 150 different undergraduate majors and minors through its five colleges and one school. Berkeley’s five colleges and one school are: 

 

  • College of Letters and Science
  • College of Chemistry
  • College of Engineering 
  • College of Environmental Design
  • College of Natural Resources
  • Haas School of Business

 

Berkeley is best known for cutting edge programs like electrical engineering and computer sciences, molecular and cell biology, and economics, but there’s also a lot of opportunity to study more obscure subject matter. For example, take Scandanavian, where students can learn about the history, literature, and cultural achievements of the Nordic region from medieval to modern times.

 

Housing

 

UCLA

 

UCLA guarantees three years of university housing to freshmen (97% of freshmen live on campus) and one year to first-year transfer students. Accommodations range from traditional residence halls to on-campus apartments. UCLA also offers a variety of focused living-learning communities: 

 

  • Afrikan Diaspora
  • Chicanx/Latinx
  • Creative Collective
  • First to Go
  • Gender, Sexuality, & Society
  • Global Health
  • Pilipinx
  • Public Service and Civic Engagement
  • Sustainability
  • Technology & Innovation
  • Transfer Experience

 

UC Berkeley

 

About 95% of freshmen live on campus at UC Berkeley, but only about 27% of the total student population lives on campus. UC Berkeley has both traditional residence halls and suite-style living arrangements in addition to various themed housing options. To live in themed housing, you must enroll in a weekly for-credit seminar and participate in community service and leadership activities. UC Berkeley’s themed housing options are: 

 

  • African American
  • Asian Pacific American 
  • Casa Magdalena Mora
  • Global Environment Theme House 
  • Native American and Pacific Islander Pilot 
  • Unity LGBTQIA+ House
  • Empowering Womxn in STEAM  

 

Food

 

UCLA

 

UCLA has a variety of dining options for its students, including four all-you-can-eat residential restaurants which serve up to 10 different entrees at each meal buffet-style. In addition to the residential restaurants, UCLA also has four quick-serve restaurants and an online ordering service for wings and pizza pick-up. Five of UCLA’s dining options are “Green Restaurant Certified,” a rating based on a foodservice operation’s environmental accomplishments in seven categories: water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction.

 

UCLA diners will find something for all types of diets and taste buds with offerings that meet kosher and halal requirements along with those following vegetarian and vegan diets. Students are quick to praise the food at UCLA—it’s frequently at the top of Niche’s 2020 Best College Food in America rankings.  

 

UC Berkeley 

 

UC Berkeley also offers students a wide variety of food options, with four dining commons which accommodate everything from different tastes and specialized diets (such as vegan and vegetarian) to even providing an entire menu prepared without the top allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, eggs, milk, wheat, sesame) and without gluten, pork, and alcohol. 

 

If those options aren’t enough, UC Berkeley also boasts five on-campus restaurants, including the Golden Bear, which is committed to serving local foods grown, milled, preserved, and processed within 250 miles of the UC Berkeley campus whenever possible. UC Berkeley has the distinction of being the first dining station in the UC system that was certified kosher. It also caters to Muslims who eat halal foods. 

 

Financial aid

 

UCLA

 

The sticker price of UCLA is $35,791 for in-state students and $65,545 for out-of-state students. Forbes ranks UCLA fourth on its list of America’s Best Value Colleges. Over half (55%) of UCLA undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, with $18,808 being the average amount awarded. Just under half (45%) of UCLA undergraduates receive grants and scholarships to help them cover their University of California system-wide tuition and fees.

 

UC Berkeley

 

The sticker price for UC Berkeley is $36,084 for in-state students and $70,449 for out-of-state students. The majority of students at UC Berkeley (nearly two thirds) receive some form of financial aid, and 38% of undergraduates at UC Berkeley receive grants and scholarships in excess of the UC systemwide tuition and fees, and thus pay nothing for tuition out of pocket. Between July 2017-2018, 66% of undergraduate students graduated without student loan debt and the average cumulative loan debt for graduating seniors was $18,225. 

 

For California residents, the University of California Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan allows eligible students from families with annual incomes below $80,000 to pay no tuition at all after grants and scholarships. 

 

Want to learn how much UCLA or UC Berkeley will actually cost you based on your income? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to see your estimated cost of attendance, based on real data for each school.

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Sports and Extracurriculars

 

UCLA

 

UCLA has a long and storied history of athletics. Students can participate in Division I athletics, and athletes from the school have won 261 Olympic medals. The men’s basketball team also  went on an iconic run led by legendary coach John Wooden where they won 10 national championships and had four undefeated seasons. 

 

UCLA is home to 65 national and local Greek-letter organizations with 13% of the undergraduate population participating. The campus is also home to more than 1,000 different organizations recognized by the Student Organizations, Leadership, and Engagement (SOLE) encompassing an enormous spectrum of interests and activities. 

 

UC Berkeley 

 

UC Berkeley also offers Division I sports and falls just behind UCLA on the list of colleges whose alumni have the most Olympic medals—Berkeley alumni have received 185 total medals: 105 gold, 47 silver, and 33 bronze. UC Berkeley plays in the Pac-12 conference and has a long-standing rivalry with Stanford. 

 

There are over 60 fraternities and sororities at UC Berkeley and roughly 3,600 students join one (approximately 12% of undergraduates). UC Berkeley is home to a vibrant collection of clubs and organizations on campus as well; there are over 1,000 student groups registered with the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) and Graduate Assembly, covering all types of interest and activities.

 

Culture and Diversity

 

UCLA 

 

The majority of UCLA’s undergraduates come from California, but the university maintains an ethnic and culturally diverse community. Students come to UCLA from all 50 states and over 100 countries. Campus Pride Index (a benchmarking tool for colleges to create more LQBQT-friendly campuses) also ranks UCLA 4.5 out of 5 stars.  

 

Undergraduate Ethnicity Percentage of Undergraduate Population 
Asian 28%
White 27%
Hispanic 22%
Two or more races 6%
African American 3%
Pacific Islander < 1%
American Indian / Alaska Native < 1%
Domestic, race/ethnicity unknown 2%
Total international 12%

 

UC Berkeley 

 

Given UC Berkley’s notoriously left-leaning beliefs and close proximity to San Francisco (LGBT cultural capital of the U.S.), it should come as no surprise that it is very LGBTQ friendly—the school supports numerous LGBTQ groups on campus, is home to Sigma Epsilon Omega (a fraternity specifically for gay students), and offers an LGBT studies minor.  

 

The school is also ethnically diverse, with the majority of students identifying as people of color.

 

Undergraduate Ethnicity Percentage of Undergraduate Population 
Asian 39%
White 24%
Chicano/Latino 15%
African American 3%
Native American/Alaska Native < 1%
Pacific Islander < 1%
Decline to State 4%
Total international 12%

 

Student Outcomes

 

UCLA 

 

Payscale’s College Salary Report found that UCLA had the 15th highest salary potential among the 96 four-year colleges in California and placed 81st out of the 1,566 universities PayScale surveyed nationwide. Payscale’s survey found that “early-career” UCLA graduates (those with 0-5 years experience) earned a median salary of $62,000, while “mid-career” alumni (those with 10+ years experience) earned a median salary of $116,100. 

 

UC Berkeley

 

According to Payscale’s College Salary Report, UC Berkeley had the 7th highest salary potential among four-year colleges in California and placed 29th out of the 1,566 universities PayScale surveyed nationwide. Payscale’s survey found that the “early-career” median salary of UC Berkeley alumni was $65,400, while their “mid-career” median salary was $130,100. 

 

How to Decide Between UCLA and UC Berkeley 

 

When choosing a college, rankings such as those provided by U.S. News are helpful but only paint part of the picture. After all, knowing that Princeton University is the top-rated national university is of little value if your dream school is a small, rural college. When going through the college selection process, it’s important to find a school that meets your particular needs—whether it’s a major, extracurricular, study abroad, or something such as the college’s cafeteria catering to your diet. 

 

Both UCLA and UC Berkeley are part of the UC systems; because of this, there are a lot of similarities between the two institutions. However, the two schools are separated by about 400 miles—about double the distance between New York City and Boston—which also means the universities have an abundance of characteristics that make them unique. 

 

UCLA is especially strong for students who… 

 

UCLA is popular for a host of reasons—there is no denying that the school’s ideal weather plays a part in its appeal. In addition to fun in the sun, the school’s gorgeous campus, diversity, and affordability (for in-state students in particular) make it a dream school for many. UCLA academics are like their campus: diverse. The top six most popular undergraduate majors are biology, business economics, political science, psychology, psychobiology, and economics. Off-campus, Los Angeles is enticing for students looking to pursue careers in entertainment, tech, and business. Or simply, for those looking to live in a global city.

 

UC Berkeley is especially strong for students who… 

 

Unlike the sun of SoCal, Berkely is better known for the finicky weather of the Bay area (think fog). The school is also known for its diverse student body—whether it’s founders of high-tech companies like Apple and Intel, activists like Abbie Hoffman, actors like Gregory Peck, and authors of great American novels such as Jack London, UC Berkeley offers a blend of the eclectic and entrepreneurial. Of course, there is also science; the Berkeley Physics Department counts nine long-term faculty members and seven alums as Nobel Prize winners. The city of Berkeley offers the charm of a small city filled with a wide range of eating and entertainment options while also offering easy access to large global cities such as San Francisco and Oakland—and for the tech-minded, Silicon Valley is just an hour away. 

 

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.