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Thread: UCI vs UCSD?

  1. #1
    econ scholar dogbones's Avatar
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    UCI vs UCSD?

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    Hi all:

    Does anyone have any insights on the econ phd programs at UCI vs UCSD? And how is living in Irvine vs La Jolla? My research actually fits UCI better, but UCSD is ranked higher maybe because they have lots of distinguished professors (not that UCI doesn't have any either)? I like that UCI funds all students 100% for 5 years guaranteed, and UCSD despite being very rich doesn't offer that (75% of first years are funded and after that only partial is guaranteed). I noted that La Jolla is expensive (Irvine too) and maybe kind of boring? Admissions to UCI appears to be approx. 30% while UCSD is much lower around 12-15% at best, not 100% sure my numbers are correct. I took the virtual campus tour on both of their websites, and favored UCI. What are some ideas you have about these two schools?

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    Re: UCI vs UCSD?

    UCSD is a T15 program and UCI is a T50 program as per USNews. I would say that generally most people would say that UCSD dominates UCI. As a result, UCSD is more competitive to get into, with an annual pool of 800+ applications. I would hazard a guess that UCI's application pool is no more than 300, based on similarly ranked California schools (e.g. UCSB is ranked higher than UCI and has generally had <300 applications per year).

    Go ahead and take a look at the placements as well. Realistically speaking, how "boring" an area should not play a role in your decision-making calculus, unless absolutely everything else is equal. Maybe if this was an undergraduate program that would be a valid concern. This is a PhD program. Look at the research output, rankings, faculty, placements, and yes, funding.

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    Re: UCI vs UCSD?

    I saw on a Petersons website that UCI had 148 applications some unnamed year, and from there accepted 30%... I thought that couldnít be true but maybe itís not as far as I had thought? I did see that the placements for UCI were quite good, on par with or even better than what Iíd need to go into academia... thank you coloradoecon for your helpful feedback!!

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: UCI vs UCSD?

    Let me make this simple for you. Outside of idiosyncratic personal reasons to attend UCI in particular, you should go to UCSD if you face this choice. And at the risk of being blunt: if your personal reasons for being in Irvine rather than San Diego are so strong that you're willing to disadvantage yourself professionally to a great extent by attending UCI --- despite the fact that the two schools are not even especially far apart geographically --- then you should probably reconsider whether or not academia is for you. The fact that you even have to ask suggests to me that you need to do more research about the realities of economics academia.

    I have been on both sides of the academic market. Repeatedly. Here's what I've learned. Pedigree matters. A lot. It affects: the quality of training you get; the quality of your peers; the availability of networking opportunities with potential editors, referees, and collaborators; whether or not you have access to input from advisors who know what's going to publish in top journals in your field six months from now (maybe because they have a direct influence over this); and how likely it is that your application gets taken seriously by employer X when you are on the job market (this happens in all employment sectors, not just academia).

    In a hypothetical where you took two candidates with identical portfolios from these two schools, I'd bet that the UCSD candidate would do better if not much better on the job market. Moreover, economists won't even apologize for this. Instead, they'll argue that reading 800 job market papers (many of which they'll emphasize are badly written) is impossibly time consuming and consequently that low-cost filtering on observable signals (i.e. where you went to graduate school) is completely legitimate. They'll also argue that the well-connected scholar is more likely to publish, develop a valuable network, "look good" to outsiders, and so on. And we haven't even begun to address the fact that if you cloned a prospective graduate student and sent one clone to UCI and the other to UCSD, their portfolios probably aren't going to be identical at the end of graduate school.

    The only point that works in favor of attending a lower ranked school is that in some situations, it might be easier for an exceptional student to attract attention (and glowing letters of recommendation) from faculty at a low ranked program. While I think that there might be elements of truth to this, I'd also wager that (1) this is idiosyncratic to the program if not the advisor and (2) the balance still weighs heavily in favor of attending the better school. Furthermore, planning on being an exceptional student is a bit of a fool's errands for most applicants.
    Last edited by to2012; 07-10-2020 at 07:44 PM.

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