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Harvard vs. UCSD vs. UCLA

Discussion in 'Allopathic School-Specific Discussions (<2016)' started by oash04, 05.14.14.

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  1. oash04

    oash04 2+ Year Member

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    Hi everyone,

    First off, I'm a fairly regular poster but made an anonymous (or more anonymous than my regular) account to ask for some SDN help. As May15 is upon us, I thought I had made up my mind. I was getting ready to send off my withdrawal letters. However, I find myself kind of getting cold feet last minute... I talked to my mentor (a physician) and some close friends, but I feel like there is some bias based on where I am, what I've talked about in the past with them, etc. That said, I feel extremely lucky to have been accepted to several schools, and it's come down to my top 3: Harvard, UCLA, and UCSD. Hoping I can get some relatively unbiased, anonymous opinions just to help me make sure I'm making the right choice.

    Harvard (the clear winner in my mind up until today)
    Pros:
    • I very much enjoyed the faculty, students, campus, grading
    • An abundance of opportunities available and resources to make anything I want to pursue a reality
    • MGH
    • It's Harvard... Though part of me doesn't care about the rankings, the other part of me thinks the name is something to be proud of and considered
    Cons:
    • COA is higher (about 25k more per year)
    • Far from family and friends, though my SO is willing to relocate with me
    • Not too fond of East Coast weather, but not a deal-breaker

    UCLA
    Pros:
    • Highly respected and closer to home
    • Cheaper, + 10k scholarship for the first year (not much, but something)
    • Ronald Reagan hospital
    • Enjoyed the faculty and campus, like the grading scheme
    • Way better weather
    Cons:
    • students seemed cool but clique-y
    • not as prestigious as Harvard (not too important)
    • traffic
    UCSD
    Pros:
    • Still very well regarded in the area, and a fairly strong reputation abroad
    • Even better weather than LA imo and closest to home
    • Cheapest option, but only a few thousand cheaper per year vs LA
    • liked the students, campus, faculty
    Cons:
    • Not as well known as either Harvard or UCLA - potential limit to matching?


    Pretty much Harvard vs. UCLA at this point, but kept UCSD just for the option of being near family. My goals include ending up in CA to practice, but I highly doubt that Harvard would keep from matching on the West Coast. I'd like to pursue something with an emphasis on trauma (ortho, gen surg, emergency). I don't plan on doing academic medicine as of now, but I enjoy the idea of teaching one day.

    I guess it comes down to whether the cost of the Harvard name, as well as all the opportunities that it may or may not afford, is worth the extra money, worse weather, and being away from family. My initial thought was "Yes!" but now I'm not so sure. I'm also wondering if the atmosphere at Harvard will stifle my pretty laid back attitude (as in, would I be pressured to start being more "gunnery" than if I was elsewhere). I mean, I could only gather so much info from my interview day, when everyone puts on their best face (I didnt get to attend 2nd look).

    Thanks for any and all help.

    EDIT: Wanted to add that my family isn't wealthy and I'll be supporting myself through loans + my SO's wages while I'm in school. I thankfully don't have any debt from UG other than my credit card, which is pretty minor.
     
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  3. Entadus

    Entadus Happy on 5-HT 7+ Year Member

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  4. byaaaaaaah23

    byaaaaaaah23 SDN Gold Donor Gold Donor 5+ Year Member

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    This seems like an entirely personal decision. The cost isn't THAT much different, but how much total are we talking to go to Harvard? 200k total? 400k total? You have to decide how much the name is worth to you. I will say that it's nice to be close to your family in med school so you don't have to worry about spending even more money on flights, and you can go home for a quick weekend and ask your parents to cook for you :)

    If you elaborate more on what made you second guess your decision I might be able to give more specific advice. ).
     
  5. ChEMD

    ChEMD 2+ Year Member

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    I say go to Harvard. Having cold feet is natural when you're about to make a big life decision, but it doesn't mean that it's the wrong one. It'll be a nice adventure to live somewhere other than where you've always called home. Plus, like you said, you can always match back to California for residency if you miss it and want to be closer to your family.
     
  6. oash04

    oash04 2+ Year Member

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    I'm not 100% sure on what made me second guess. I just had this gut feeling like I needed to reevaluate my choice. I mean, I love my family and being close would be nice, but I'd consider it as an added bonus rather than a huge factor. I wonder if I'm making a mistake though. Then I kind of started thinking what the extra debt would mean for my future... I'd basically be giving up a huge part of a decent home for my future family that I would have to make up for by potentially being pressured to choose a high paying specialty (IE i'd be tempted to go for ortho over EM). I mean, I've rationalized all this before but I just have a sinking feeling like I should stick to where I am comfortable because "I'll get there anyway" vs. taking an opportunity that many, many people wish they had by attending one of the most well-regarded medical institutions in the world.
     
  7. oash04

    oash04 2+ Year Member

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    Yeah I agree that it's a natural tendency, and that it would be nice to go live in a new territory, but I wonder if that's the sort of the thing better suited to a summer abroad (which I've never done) rather than committing the next four years of my life. I guess I'm trying to figure out if I'm just getting caught up in the moment or if I'm making a sensible decision.

    As it stands, now at 10:51pm on 5/14, I'm about 60% Harvard, 39% UCLA, and 1% UCSD
     
  8. solitarius

    solitarius 5+ Year Member

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    I can see why you're 60/40. None of your reasons for any school is truly compelling.

    GL with your decision though.
     
  9. oash04

    oash04 2+ Year Member

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    Exactly. I don't have a clear reason to choose Harvard over UCLA or vice versa. I'm the type of person who likes to just roll with the punches, and I could see myself at either place. Thanks!
     
  10. AndyQC

    AndyQC

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    I vote for Harvard. Iron sharpens iron, and I imagine that your classmates there would really bring the best out of you. Plus, it's Harvard. While UCLA won't hold you back in any way, your opportunities will be limitless with an MD from Harvard. Irrespective of your long-term career goals, that name really does mean something.

    Good luck with your decision! Sounds like you're in a pretty good place.
     
  11. ChEMD

    ChEMD 2+ Year Member

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    Definitely good points, but I think you're just nervous to be honest. It's a sensible decision either way, you can't really go wrong. Good luck! And once you decide, don't look back!
     
  12. DaenarysDuhh

    DaenarysDuhh

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    If you are 60 for harvard this late in the game, go there! There will never ever ever be a clear winner in your case. Just call it and get a goodnight worry free sleep :)
     
  13. oash04

    oash04 2+ Year Member

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    I think you're definitely right that my classmates will bring out something in me... I fear it would be my competitive side rather than my collaborative side. Can't really say because my first impression of Harvard students was more favorable than that of UCLA students (though I'm not trying to knock current UCLA students by any means), yet I feel like that the true nature of the students after more time would be more "cutthroat" at Harvard, simply because, well, it's Harvard.

    Thanks! And yes, I feel extremely fortunate and grateful to have such a first-world problem.

    I think you're exactly right. My nerves are definitely getting the better of me, which usually never happens. Guess that's what's making me turn to anyone and everyone who will listen for valued input. Thanks!

    Well, I am going to sleep on it. I decided to withdraw from UCSD, I'm going to let both UCLA and Harvard know that I'm having a tough time and that I will make my final decision by noon tomorrow. I know I'll have a "what if" scenario for whichever school I don't end up choosing, but such is the nature of the beast.


    Thank you to everyone who has helped so far! I appreciate it, and I'll probably check this thread once more when I wake up.
     
    AndyQC likes this.
  14. ChemEngMD

    ChemEngMD viva la revolucion 7+ Year Member

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    @pyrrion89 - I know you interviewed at all 3 of these schools so maybe you could be of help!
     
  15. Optimus-Prime

    Optimus-Prime 2+ Year Member

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    Havaaaad
     
  16. mdeast

    mdeast 7+ Year Member

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    I vote Harvard. Great clinical education, excellent research opportunities (including education-based), you'll have the ability to go back West for residency if you prefer. You many not be thinking pure academics now, but that might change (and teaching/education is academic medicine)...Harvard will provide better opportunities for whatever path you want to go down. If you've never lived on the East Coast, this is also probably your last chance. Going to medical school in California and planning on residency there (and likely then settling down and practicing in California) means you'll likely never leave. As you get further and further along in your medical training...more and more reasons will keep you geographically restricted and/or opposed to moving. Medical school is a pretty easy time to do this as there are built-in social support and friend networks that come just from being a medical student (things you don't necessarily get the same of during a busy residency/fellowship/attending stage of your career). I wouldn't be worried about being far from family/friends...you'll make new ones. As someone who has seen way too many Californians who've never lived outside of California, you'll get a perspective that's different than what you're used to...something I feel that is good for both personal and professional development.

    UCLA is of course excellent as well. Amazing hospital, great culture, great research. Going with the $$$ isn't a bad idea. I just wouldn't let the fear of going outside your comfort zone on location be a deterrent to enrolling at Harvard. This will probably be a positive in the long run even if it doesn't seem like that now.
     
  17. oash04

    oash04 2+ Year Member

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    Just to update with my final decision, I've decided to go with Harvard.

    After talking more with my SO last night (who is an East Coast girl originally), we feel like (as @mdeast mentioned) that this will be our best and possibly last opportunity to get out and explore new territory. I also thought that while UCLA definitely won't close any doors for me, Harvard will open up some that no other school will, and even if I don't walk through those doors at least I'll have the option. The added debt will be a burden, but I think with smart planning, it will be manageable. Lastly, I resorted to putting 10 strips of paper in a hat, 6 Harvard and 4 UCLA... I pulled UCLA and felt content. Just content, not like how excited I was about Harvard before.

    Thanks to everyone for their contributions. Part of me still wishes I could join the superstars in sunny CA and it'll be tough being far from loved ones, but I think this is the right decision for me. Withdrawal sent! Good luck to all other applicants, especially those waiting to hear back from UCLA :)
     
  18. mdeast

    mdeast 7+ Year Member

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    Congrats! The hat trick always work for figuring out what you actually want :)
     
  19. AndyQC

    AndyQC

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    Congratulations, oash! You have achieved something that many of us can't even imagine. Well done.

    Best of luck to you!
     
    DermViser likes this.
  20. byaaaaaaah23

    byaaaaaaah23 SDN Gold Donor Gold Donor 5+ Year Member

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    Congrats on your decision and good luck!
     

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