Today we are comparing University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Whitman College (Whitman) in Washington State from real world outcomes perspectives – looking at medical and science graduate school placement as well as starting salary and mid-career earnings.
There are some big differences between the two schools and the edge for earnings by a slim margin goes to UCSD while the edge for graduate school by much larger margin goes to Whitman. The biggest trade-offs are that UCSD offers a name that is recognizable because of its link to UC system and its graduate school while Whitman focuses on undergraduate education and roughly doubles the chances of admission to graduate schools. Whitman offers much better options for undergraduates to do their own research as well. The cost of Whitman is double the cost of UCSD. UCSD is a German model research university and Whitman is an English model “West Coast Little Ivy” having formal ties to Columbia University Law School as well as 3/2 program in engineering with Fu School of Engineering.
First, the most important things to know:
1) US News rankings of colleges are deeply flawed because they do not consider “real world” outcomes such as earnings after college, graduate school placement, happiness with the institution, and quality of the social networks. Focus on real world outcomes and you may find that you have a better college fit—see notes below about earnings and graduate school placement (MD, JD, MBA, PhD).
2) Double-check to see if liberal arts colleges (Whitman) or research universities (UCSD) are the right types for your particular journey
through life including your career and/or graduate school goals. For descriptions of the six college types, you can read page 75 of my book Brand U: 4 Steps to the College of Your Dreams
3) The trade-off between liberal arts and research is significant. What you are essentially giving up when you attend a liberal arts college is social prestige—the graduate research at UCSD means that everyone has heard of the school; UCSD is famous for its graduate research. Whitman, by contrast, is focused on teaching undergraduates and helping them do their own research resulting in per-capita PhD productivity that exceeds any UC except for UC Berkeley. Source NSF Bac Origins Study; see Table 4: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf13323/
4) Rankings that matter more to parents and students should include career earnings and graduate school placement. Families should consider “real world” outcomes like employer earnings, PhD science and engineering productivity and medical, law and business school placement and the people or social network that you get by attending either type of college.
COSTS OF ATTENDANCE
UCSD is almost half the price of Whitman for California State residents – Whitman is $65,000 per year and UCSD runs about $35,000.
If you got just one degree, either from UCSD or Whitman, here is how each school stacks up in terms of producing earnings for graduates:
49th – University of California – San Diego – $52,400 starting salary and
59th – Whitman College – $42,400 starting salary and $101,000 mid-career
There is a negligible difference in salary at mid-career. One thing to point out: many more employers will come to UCSD. If ___ attends Whitman and looks for a job she must “pound the pavement” on her own rather than expect an employer to come to her. (source: Payscale rankings: http://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report/bachelors)
GRADUATE SCHOOL ADMISSION
Let’s compare UCSD to Whitman for PHD sciences productivity and placement in medical school:
Medical school admission rates:
Whitman: tends to be at least 60%. Schools like Whitman typically have the very highest admission rates for MD admission; for example,
Bates College is 70% – 100% and Davidson’s is 60%
UCSD: 33% accepted to MD programs. Note: among the University of California campuses, UC Berkeley has the highest admission rate to medical school – 50%.
Based on my research with similar colleges, my estimate is that attending Whitman would double one’s chances of medical school, law school or
business school admission. For example, Whitman is the top feeder college in Washington state, not University of Washington, to University of
Washington Medical School.
Since a PhD is the toughest thing to get in terms of time commitment and cost, it is good to look at which school— UCSD or Whitman — might give
her best chance for a PhD.
Whitman ranks #36, among all US colleges, for graduating students who go on to earn a PhD in the sciences. In contrast, UCSD does not place on the top 50 list.
(See Table 4: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf13323/)
INTERNATIONAL GRAD SCHOOL FELLOWSHIP RANKING
Looking at Fulbright rankings is also a great way to get a picture of undergraduate quality:
Fulbright Awards won in 2015-16. This is a one-year grant to do research overseas.
As you know, Whitman is not the same size as UCSD—it is about 10 times smaller so Whitman is about 10 times more successful at getting people a
Fulbright grant to study overseas than UCSD.
Rhodes Scholarships 1904-2016 – this is the toughest scholarship in the US to get — only 32 a year — grants two years at Oxford.
In fairness, UCSD is a much newer school than Whitman. Whitman was in existence in 1904 but UCSD came much later—in the 1960s.
HAPPINESS WITH SCHOOL
I added this category and think it is important. Since USCD is a commuter school—more than 70% do not live on campus and Whitman is a residential school with more than 70% living on campus, there are some differences in terms of how students feel about each college:
64% would return to Whitman
48% would return to UCSD
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