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Two days left to make a decision: Vanderbilt vs. UCLA (CA resident)

Discussion in 'Allopathic School-Specific Discussions (<2017)' started by hedgehog101, May 14, 2014.

  1. hedgehog101


    Dec 21, 2013
    Hi all,

    First time posting in this forum. Two days before the 5/15 deadline, and I'm torn between two schools. Would appreciate any input.


    - I am from Socal and strongly would like to stay in CA, especially having completed undergrad in MA. I much prefer the culture here and the chance to be near family.
    • Mom works abroad and can easily fly into LAX; grandparents and Dad live approx an hour away.
    • WEATHER. I have mild SAD and the winter in undergrad was really miserable. I love sunshine probably more than the average person - grew up swimming and surfing in the ocean.
    - I would like to match in Ophtho (preferably, of course this depends on board scores, but I have done a lot of related coursework and research) and would benefit from doing rotations, having mentors, etc. at Jules Stein.
    • If not Ophtho, I would still strongly prefer to match in a UCLA or UCSD- affiliated hospital.
    - Incredible network of hospitals affiliated with UCLA - probably the best clinical training in CA and west coast.
    • More diverse patient population
    • Great mentoring / career-oriented blocks in the curriculum.
    - Mom supports this decision and has offered to pay full tuition (I will pay her back on 0% interest... I know, I am incredibly lucky). I don't plan to have kids and likely wouldn't have a problem repaying within a few years. I also live pretty frugally.
    - Larger class (165) - chances to meet many people, less stifling.

    - Traffic, especially during clinical years.
    - High cost of living in and near the Westwood area.
    - Full tuition, even in-state, is pricey ($150K total)
    - I have to take one term of community college physics this summer to meet the prematriculation requirements...
    - Larger class - afraid the community will be less cohesive and integrated.
    - Traditional curriculum.


    - 75% tuition scholarship - amounts to $130K. Obviously this is important.
    - Lower cost of living.
    - Less traffic.
    - Small class (90) - lots of bonding and support.
    - New curriculum - start clinical rotations in second year! I think this, while scary, is a big bonus even though it means an abbreviated first year summer, when I'd really like to go abroad for global health research.

    - Patient population less diverse.
    - Fewer training locations.
    - I went for revisit, and felt lukewarm about my potential classmates. Culture seemed fine but not laid back Californian either. I did not like the city of Nashville - it doesn't correspond to my interests (hiking, open water, modern art, etc. I am not interested in country music or live music in general and this was heavily touted.) And it's relatively far from other major cities.
    - I would not like to stay in the South or anywhere on the East Coast past medical school.
    - Far from family. Mom would not have time in her schedule to visit, ever.
    - Small class - maybe too stifling.

    So... is $150K (no loans or interest, but a twinge of guilt - I also won't be taking out loans for living costs) worth a better location and perhaps better clinical training opportunities at UCLA? I know the tendency on SDN is to take the money and run. But my parents are offering me the chance...
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  3. pyrrion89

    pyrrion89 MS4 2+ Year Member

    May 29, 2013
    Hey dude, I turned down a 1 yr curriculum Southern school (Duke) over UCLA. I say come join me at Geffen :claps:

    My biggest choice was where I would be comfortable. Being close to family in SoCal is a huge point for me, and I really enjoyed the positive atmosphere (not talking about the air, lol!) I got at UCLA. The students are really laid back, down-to-earth, and not as intense and neurotic as those I met at other places. Quality of life at UCLA seems great, besides the traffic. UCLA's hospital system is arguably the best in the West and UCLA Med is just as prestigious as Vandy. When I was at Vandy the kids seemed stressed from the new condensed curriculum.

    Your family's finances really make the $130k less of a big deal, though I can't downplay the magnitude of that scholarship too much... I will say to many people, including myself, happiness is a big deal and can be worth it. I turned down a full ride at another school to go to UCLA, making UCLA about $80k more expensive for me (probably like $120k after interest).

    It sounds like you are seeking permission to join us! COME TO UCLA #notbiasedinanyway ;)
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
    alt12345, ChemEngMD, Entadus and 5 others like this.
  4. Fabio Lanzoni

    Fabio Lanzoni 2+ Year Member

    Apr 26, 2014
    UCLA. If you want to match back in California (especially UCLA/UCSD, that is a no brainer). Besides you have the support of your family behind this option. Also LA is a much better city for clinical exposure than Nashville. Go with your heart on this one (20k over 4 years is nothing)

    Last edited: May 14, 2014
    alt12345 and lostintranscrip like this.
  5. byaaaaaaah23

    byaaaaaaah23 SDN Gold Donor Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

    Jul 31, 2011
    Well I'm an MS1 at UCLA so this is also my biased perspective: I agree that UCLA sounds like your better fit in this situation. Most importantly: if you want to match and eventually practice at UCLA, then you should definitely come here for med school. I think something like 75% of our current MS4 class matched in California, 40% in LA and 25% at UCLA. This is a no brainer. Especially since you're interested in ophtho, Jules Stein is incredible and they are finishing up a new lab there which I believe should be done by the end of 2014 (not 100% sure of hte timeline but a professor I was talking to said he was getting ready to move his lab soon).

    Class size is entirely a personal preference thing but I don't really think it'll have a huge impact on your education or career since we're only talking 90 vs 170 and not 30 vs 170. I was actually scared of going to a school with too few students in case I didn't like any of them :p

    If you are really concerned about SAD, then that could potentially have a big impact on your education. I knew I would be miserable studying in the NE, and I have been so glad I'm in LA every day that I step outside and there are no clouds in the sky (hint: this happens every day). I can't imagine trying to get to the library or class in the snow or rain. Not sure how the weather is in Nashville but I think LA would win hands down in this department.

    $150k with no interest is not a significant burden. If you really want to come to UCLA you shouldn't let it stop you. You will pay back loans within 5-10 years but where you go to medical school, and most importantly, how you do in medical school, impacts the rest of your life. If your mom is willing to help you out here, then you should absolutely not feel guilty about taking her up on that offer.

    It sounds like you really prefer UCLA over Vanderbilt but are just worried about going against the common wisdom of "pick the cheapest option." This is your life and your career you're talking about and happiness will go a long way towards making you the most successful doctor you can be.

    Hopefully you get someone from Vanderbilt in here to offer their perspective too.

    Edited to respond to some of your other concerns: can't really comment on the traffic during clinical years situation, other than to say that during some rotations you'll probably have to be at the hospital so early/late that you won't hit any traffic. The early clinical rotations at Vandy sound nice but since you already have a good idea of what you want to go into, you won't really benefit from that, and you may find it hard to do a condensed preclinical curriculum. Here we also have a funded global health summer program with about 10-15 spots so keep that in mind too. You can also set up your own global health project and UCLA will help fund it because everyone is guaranteed a research stipend after first year. And seriously, just take that physics class. You just have to get a B so it doesn't look bad. It's seriously not worth saving yourself from taking one summer class when it comes to a decision like this.
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
  6. byaaaaaaah23

    byaaaaaaah23 SDN Gold Donor Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

    Jul 31, 2011
    Also please feel free to ask me any questions you have about UCLA either here or through PM.
  7. Hipocrates

    Hipocrates "The H is not silent"

    Jul 25, 2013
    Hey lostintranscript- Do you happen to have the actual 2014 Geffen Match List results? No one seems to have them. Any idea what the big secret is? Thanks.
  8. byaaaaaaah23

    byaaaaaaah23 SDN Gold Donor Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

    Jul 31, 2011
    TBH I don't feel comfortable sharing that if the school hasn't chosen to make it public. I hope you understand. I know that prospective students really like to look at these to gauge a school's competitiveness, but without knowing the preferences of each of the graduating 4th years, it's really hard to say how competitive UCLA was in the match. If you go onto the Geffen facebook page and scroll down to their Match Day post, you can find the figures I cited above, as well as the % of students going into certain fields. I don't know why they haven't shared it, but I was impressed with it and was particularly struck by the number of students staying at UCLA for residency, which I interpret as our medical students really enjoy their time at UCLA and want to stick around. We have a pretty good chunk of the class going into primary care (probably because of the PRIME and Drew programs) but there were also a lot of competitive/surgical specialties represented (lots of ortho and anesth, a few neuro and derm, and even some rad onc and vascular surgery). There were also a few ophtho matches (relevant to the OP).

    Here is the quote from that facebook page: "More than half of the Class of 2014 is entering residencies in primary care, with specialties in family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. Sixteen percent are pursuing surgical residencies.

    Of 183 students, 142 will reside on the west coast, with 135 remaining in California. Sixty-nine students will stay in Los Angeles, with 43 continuing their studies at UCLA. The east coast will welcome 13 students, and six are moving to the Midwest."

    I think the large primary care cohort is due in large part to the PRIME and Drew programs.
  9. guppythefish

    guppythefish 5+ Year Member

    Jun 19, 2011
    Hello avid fans of UCLA....although I am not quite there, but felt inspired reading your posts about the school. I am graduating from UCB 2014 with a double major (MCB and PH) and planning to attend UCLA for MPH program, fall 2014 with full scholarship (can't thank them enough for their generosity). I would then pursue medicine from fall 2016.

    I have just visited LA once for the weekend. Do you have any recommendation for a single housing? Walkable or bikeable distance to UCLA? Within or outside the campus is fine with me.

    Thanks so much
  10. hedgehog101


    Dec 21, 2013
    Thanks for your friendly input, everyone! It's true - I would prefer to go to UCLA, but don't want to take advantage of my parents if not necessary, either. They've been so good to be. I would be happier at UCLA, but it's hard to place a value on that. The matching is a more substantial point, as is better global health opps and Jules Stein, but I know that I will get an excellent education at Vanderbilt as well...

    But called admissions - don't have to take the physics! Maybe it's a sign.

    (@lostintranscrip , could you speak about how you found mentor(s)? DGSOM is so big and full of incredible physicians and researchers (so is Vandy, of course, but on a more manageable scale or so it seems to me personally) - is it easy to feel connected with faculty and staff?)
  11. byaaaaaaah23

    byaaaaaaah23 SDN Gold Donor Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

    Jul 31, 2011
    Yes I definitely think so. PBL tutors have been a great pool of mentors-- you work in a small group of ~8 students with 1 or 2 faculty members for PBL (4 hours/week) during each block, so it's a great opportunity to get to know your tutor. One of mne wrote me a letter of recommendation for summer fellowships and I know people have shadowed their PBL tutors. Some of them are PhDs instead of MDs so I know people have approached tutors about summer research projects as well. Another source of mentor regarding clinical specialty is an online service we have called Virtual Advisor which has the names of all the faculty that have signed up to have students shadow them or just talk about their specialty. A ton of people used this to find shadowing opportunities. Additionally, there are a ton of interest groups (basically 1 per specialty haha) and those are great resources for faculty as well. The Women in Surgery group hosts mentoring/networking nights at the house of a professor about once a semester, and most groups have some sort of shadowing program in place where you just sign up for a date and time and show up and the group has done the hard work about finding a doctor for you to shadow. There's also a career conference every September that a lot of first and second years go to and hear panel discussions, and they have a lunch at the end where all the professors who came are sitting based on specialty, so you literally just grab your lunch and sit down next to them and ask your questions and/or ask if they would be willing to have you shadow them. You can also just contact random faculty members via email but I haven't personally seen anyone try this approach since you'd have to be blind to not find an easier way to shadow.

    In short, there are resources everywhere you turn to guide you in your specialty choice and DGSOM really encourages us to explore. Our dean of students was encouraging everyone to shadow beginning week 1.
  12. alt12345

    alt12345 2+ Year Member

    Apr 1, 2014
    Sorry I'm a little late to the party here, but UCLA seems like by far the best choice to me! Come join us :)

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