UC Berkeley Vs. USC

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Discus: College Search and Selection: May 2003 Archive: UC Berkeley Vs. USC
By Applenut (Applenut) on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - 10:20 pm: Edit

Trying to choose between Berkeley and USC and having the most horrible and difficult time ever.

I am going for architecture at both but both schools have advantages and disadvantages in that area and I'm not so worried about the arch program at each since I know both places will be fine.

What should I choose? I liked Berkeley but the atmosphere didnt seem to be as upbeat and relaxed and fun as USC the 2 days I visited berkeley (rainy cal day and the monday afterwards). Does Berkeley have as good a social scene as USC and is it as much fun? or is it all studying?

By Mzinn (Mzinn) on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - 11:07 pm: Edit

yeah it's true that the social scene at Berkeley isn't as good as USC. Berkeley is more intellectual though. I guess it depends on what you consider fun. I talked to an architecture student at Berkeley and he told me that they spend most of their time in the studio working on projects. I don't know if it's like that at all schools of architecture. Considering USC is a private university, you'll probably be able to get more attention (at a higher cost though).

What else do you know about the Architecture program at Berkeley?

By Applenut (Applenut) on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - 11:22 pm: Edit

well... architecture anywhere is an extremely intensive program. USC's 5 year program seems a bit more intensive than berkeley's 4 year since USC's starts right away and at berkeley arch classes dont begin till junior year.

Arch program at berkeley is very well known, ranked, but a 4 year unaccredited program. USC's isnt ranked but from what I have learned and read it seems to be extremely well organized and just as good if not better than Berkeley's.

Now, I'm basically set on architecture but I fear the future and what i may feel like a year or 2 from now. At USC it seems relatively easy to switch majors. berkeley it seems like a struggle.

and when I visited both campuses..... Berkeley students didnt seem to be too happy.... and USC students seemed happy and full of spirit.... worries me.

I want to choose berkeley but as of now I'm leaning towards USC just because for 4 years it seems to be more enjoyable rather than just going to a highly ranked school with amazing prestige. Is there more to berkeley?

By Mzinn (Mzinn) on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - 11:36 pm: Edit

Well... you have to remember that it was raining. The whole atmosphere would have seemed happier if it was sunny.

USC's 5 year program seems a bit more intensive than berkeley's 4 year since USC's starts right away

I would have expected Berkeley's to be more intensive since they cram the curriculum into 5 years. The guy I talked to was a freshman and he was already taking classes that required projects and such. Also... would it make a difference later on if the program is not accredited?

Personally, I would take the program that allowed me the most freedom to take classes in other areas. After all... what's the point of going to a great university if you're limited to certain classes.

By Applenut (Applenut) on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - 11:50 pm: Edit

that's a good point about the freedom to take classes in other areas..... im not really sure which school provides that though. Berkeley has more general education requirements in their arch major than USC... and USC is basically a structured program but it seems as if all architecture programs are and therefore dont provide much freedom.

At Berkeley they offer arch students a civil engineering minor which appeals to me.

At USC they have a ton of minors and also a Building Science major which crosses civil engineering with architecture.

So, its hard for me to see which one provides more freedom due to the limitations of the major.

accredited matters if you dont want to get a masters. Coming out of USC you can get ur internship time and take the architecture license exam.... coming out o berkeley you must go get a masters and then do the internship and architecture license exam.

from what I hear the 5 year program (USC) is a great program and edges out the 4 year program but students who do the 4 year program plus 2 in masters tend to pass the license exam more and firms seem to prefer the 4 + 2

By Mzinn (Mzinn) on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 - 12:03 am: Edit

my friend mentioned one important point about the architecture program at Berkeley: it's known to be more artistic and alot less technical than the programs at other universities. alot of the classes at Berkeley are like that actually. They focus more on theory. (maybe that's why it's not accredited.) Many of the other students I talked to also said that at Berkeley, they stress teaching the students a new way of thinking.

USC does offer alot more flexibility in double majors and minors. I guess it all comes down to which style of education you prefer.

By Socalmagus (Socalmagus) on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 - 02:43 am: Edit

USC is a easy going school, but USC Architecture is not.

5 year arhitecture programs are hardcore. you will not be able to minor in anything and still pass your design studios. 90% of your time will be spent on architecture classes (probably: design studio, building science, drawing etc.) and other 10% is either spent on:

your other classes
sleep (most people choose sleep)
social life

and a lot of firms do perfer the 4+2. just a 5 B.Arch means that you basically sat in studio for five years, missing the rest of the college experience. it makes narrow minded people IMO

plus Berkeley is strong accross the board, while USC is only strong in film (USC law and dentistry can be argued for, but those are grad schools). i say berkeley. avoid a 5yr program unless you don't need a college education.

5yr programs are for second rate schools. very few top colleges have it, and i think it is for a good reason.

By Katwkittens (Katwkittens) on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 - 09:52 am: Edit

I would have to disagree with the above poster who mentioned that 5 year programs are for second rate schools. As that Cornell, Virginia Tech, Cal Poly SLO and Notre Dame all have five year programs I think that comment is incongruent to a variety of rankings. And not the rankings specific to Arch but general across the board as well.

The Almanac of Architecture and Design has been ranking architecture programs, both Barch and MArch, for four years and the list has changed from then to now. Very interesting. And it includes according to them "the best schools and colleges for Architecture in the United States". The study was based on the hiring experiences of leading architecture firms across the country...respondents were asked to indicate which NAAB accredited programs (in the past five years) produced graduates most prepared for professional practice. I was able to locate 3 of the four lists using the google search engine.
2003 List
1. Harvard - MArch
2. Cal Poly SLO- BArch
3. Univ. of Cincinnati - BArch, MArch
4. Cornell - BArch
5. Yale - MArch
6. Kansas State - BArch
6. Univ of Texas at Austin - BArch, MArch
8. Univ. of Michigan - BS in Arch into MArch
8. Univ. of Pennsylvania - MArch 3 yr program
10. Auburn - BArch
10. Columbia - MArch
10. Rice - BS in Arch first, then BArch after
10. Univ of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign - MArch
14. Ball State - BS in Arch then 1 yr+ MArch
14. MIT - BS in Arch then 2yrs+ for MArch
14. Texas A&M - BS in envir. design then 2yrs MArch
15. Virginia Polytechnic Institute/State Univ - BArch
2002 List
1. Cornell
2. Harvard
3. Univ. of Cincinnati
4. Syracuse Univ - BArch (cool program)
5. Georgia Institue of Technology - MArch
5. University of Michigan
7. Iowa State - BArch
8. Univ. of Illinios (same as above)
8. University of Virginia
10. Texas A&M
10. Yale
12. MIT
13. Columbia
14. Univ. of Notre Dame- BArch
15. Univ. of Pennsylvania
2001 List (have only some of the list)
1. Cornell
2. Harvard
3. Yale
4. UK
5. University of Michigan
6. Univ. of Cincinnati
7. Columbia
8. MIT
9/10 UK
11.Univ. of Penn
12/13 UK
14. Univ. of Virginia
15. Texas A&M
2000 List
1. Cornell
2. Harvard
3. Univ. of Michigan
3. Univ. of Cincinnati
5. Univ. of Penn
6. Yale
7. Rhode Island School of design - BArch
7. syracuse
7. Univ. of Virginia
10. Kansas State
10. Columbia
12. Univ of Illinois
13. Penn State- BArch
13. Princeton - March
13. Univ. of Notre Dame
The BArch programs are all 5 year programs and the MArch ones can range from 1 to 3 years depending on the school. We also used the Gorhman (sp?) report for Arch school rankings as well. Very diverse choice.
I do realize the distinction you are making as far as just majoring in arch and seeking your license....so far between all the rankings we have found only those leading to actual licensure are being evaluated and ranked. The difference between a MArch I and II program are for those who have an undergrad in arch and those who don't. Some just combine them, so even if you were an arch major undergrad you could be in the same program with some who has no arch experience at all also seeking their MArch in order to gain licensure.
I know my DD does not want to go this route (preprofessional+MArch), this being one of the reasons. The other reason, many preprofessional majors do not get accepted for grad school in MArch and have to wait til they are accepted and complete their studies before they can seek employment requiring the license. (see NAAB statistics and demographics) My DD doesn't want to run that risk, not after years of preparation.

Applenut-I think, bottom line, you should pursue what "fits" you best, academically, socially, emotionally and career-wise

By Cinephilechick (Cinephilechick) on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 - 07:27 pm: Edit

I had the same problem...deciding between USC and NYU. NYU where I was in Tisch Film and USC where I didn't get into the film department. I SHOULD be going to NYU, but I chose USC because the kids seemed happier there, the weather's great, and I'm in the right location for the future. In a few years, prestige might not matter. Also, USC has strong alumni connections...the alums support other alums. Also, read over what you said about each school. USC seems like your top choice...besides prestige. Put that aside for a moment. I am a firm believer in the fact that YOU are the most important factor in your life, not where you are. I'm sure you'll succeed whereever you go as long as you want to. Good luck!

By Futurearchitect (Futurearchitect) on Saturday, May 03, 2003 - 02:28 am: Edit

Just thought u might want to know, I am going to be in the Architecture school at USC this fall... chose it over University of Virginia, Vtech,U Miami, Cornell, U of Colorado, NCstate, Clemson, U of Florida, Georgia Tech, & Penn State. Architecture is focused on your intense drive to get an individual feel for the practice and push yourself with your own willpower. The only thing I was looking for was the location and environment I would need to work best and see myself grow as an architecture student. Being in LA was a major advantage. Why study architecture in the middle of no where.. I know Berkeley is a good program, it didnt interest me though. I want to study under Frank Gehry's influence. NCstate and USC are supposively the best schools right now for undergrad in terms of faculty. Faculty is the primary factor. I went to visit USC and they seemed dedicated, stayed up late with the students, were accessible 24 hours and almost all extremely distinguished. USC claims to have the largest number of FAIA (Fellows of the AIA) - highest honor, profs. on staff. Theres all types of architects, USC seemed to fit perfectly to everything I was looking for. Hopefully you can feel as comfortable with your choice, good luck

By Kow (Kow) on Saturday, May 03, 2003 - 04:00 am: Edit

UC Berkeley is a better school for arch. in my opinion. its a very good school.
USC has plenty of advantages, don't get me wrong (i'm an advocate of USC, in some respects). But after all that's said and done, the scales should tip to UC Berkeley.

By Mzinn (Mzinn) on Saturday, May 03, 2003 - 02:52 pm: Edit

applenut... where did you decide to go?

By Chiangkaishrek (Chiangkaishrek) on Sunday, May 11, 2003 - 05:12 am: Edit

Being a USC alumni, and having a friend in the architecture school....I would admonish you that USC's architecture program isn't a cruise program.

My friend hardly slept, and spent most of his life living in the architecture school.
I also knew this pretty chic who entered USC's architecture school with great smiles and pretty looks. After her freshmen year, she looked like a depressed soul. The professors in the architecture school are anal, and want projects done "perfectly."

But in terms of double majoring...or finding a minor...it is a lot better than Berkeley. Berkeley is real 'red-tape' when it comes to doing both a major and minor in 4 years.

But if Berkeley has the same toughness as I have mentioned above...definitely choose Berkeley over SC. It's cheaper too.

By 4nn4ban4na (4nn4ban4na) on Monday, May 12, 2003 - 12:31 am: Edit

It bothers me when a bunch of you comment on how expensive USC is. USC is a private university and thus gives out more financial aid than any state school, or any private school for that matter. This is a proven statistic, its not my opinion. I am going to USC and have to pay less than $3000 a year, while my friend who is going to Berkeley and is in more need of financial assistance than I am has to pay almost double what I have to pay. You have to keep in mind all the financial aid USC gives.

By Moreau1985 (Moreau1985) on Monday, May 12, 2003 - 01:28 am: Edit

How did Cal Poly go from a NO NAME, to the top within 1 year??

By Socalmagus (Socalmagus) on Monday, May 12, 2003 - 02:49 am: Edit

Katwkittens, you just proved my point. the only elite school in your whole list with a barch is Cornell (and cornell is known for being unneccessarily hard on its students, so it doesn't supprise me that they'd institute a barch prog.)

also notice that USC is nowhere in that list (undergrad or grad).

look APPLENUT. if you want to be stuck in a design studio for the next five years of your life, by all means go to USC, because that's what's gonna happen. your college years are supposed to be the best in your life, and a 5yr Barch program will make those five years a living hell--no sleep, no social life, your health will go down the drain, and unlike medical or law school there is no big payoff at the end (architects are POOR, unless of course you happen to have a wildly successful father who owns his own firm)

and please forget about double majoring. you'll understand how foolish that dream is about one month into the program, when you pull your first all nighter. from there on out, the all nighters will get all too frequent until you're not sleeping at all your forth and fifth years.

i know all this because i had a buddy that got into Stanford and every ivy league that he applied to, but like a moron he decided to go to USC's arch program. it ruined his life. he was poor as hell, professors cut him no slack, his health (he used to a really healthy football player ) deteriorated until he had to drop out, and now his life is royally messed up. he studied really hard too and was at the top of his class in first year studio, but his health couldn't handle the five years (it really would of helped if he wasn't so poor)

anyway, good luck to you. (btw. there is a reason Gehry gives guest lectures at UCLA instead of USC, even though he's a SC alum.)

Chiangkaishrek, its funny that you would mention that. i used to know a girl who went to the arch program at SC. she lost her looks FAST, poor thing.

By Chiangkaishrek (Chiangkaishrek) on Tuesday, May 13, 2003 - 04:44 am: Edit


In addition to double majoring, a student could major in one area, and minor in another area. There is a program called "Renaissance Scholar" at USC. I majored in Business and minored in Multimedia Engineering. Of course...a business degree from Marshall is not enough (bet you also agree with me huh?..*winks*).

I don't know much about the whole architecture program at USC. I know my friend immediately changed major after suffering a semester at the arch school. He's the one who's told me true horror stories (like what happened to your friend) of studnets suffering at USC's arch. school. I also had a dorm mate who suffered from momonucleosis during his FIRST semester at USC. I don't know what happened to him after his freshmen year. I do know that he became a Redbull adict...I mean it...just to stay awake.

So if you know that Berkeley's arch program is the same structure...go to Cal's arch school. It's a lot cheaper...the community is nicer (trust me) and more things to do in the Bay area.

By Uscarchitecture (Uscarchitecture) on Friday, August 01, 2003 - 04:38 pm: Edit

I just wanted to say that I also had to make the decision between USC and Berkeley. I was accepted into both schools for the Bachelor of Architecture Program. I was also accepted into Cal Poly SLO but the atmosphere was too rural for me. I didn't even visit Berkeley because they were only a 4 year program and I doubted that I could really learn much with only 2 years of architecture classes. I have been going to USC for 3 years now and am going to enter my fourth in about a month. It is true what everyone else is saying about the work load. There were times when I did not sleep for five days straight and made myself super sick. But let me just assure you that it is worth it. The atmosphere at the school of architecture is great if you like community settings. All of the students work together and help each other during all nighters-it is a really positive experience. Plus- there is so much architecture to experience in the downtown area...and they even make the Gamble House available for students to live in (with application). I am going to Italy next spring with the school, and 45 other students are going either with me or to France or Malaysia...so if you'd like to travel you have a great chance at it. I don't really like to party, and although USC is known as a party school the architecture program is more hard core than the other majors (like business)...Just one last thing- the reason I did not bother to go to Berkeley was because I loved USC so much when I first went there...it is a wonderful campus and just great all around. And also- there is always free food in the architecture courtyard so you never have to starve during all nighters!

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