I have the same question.
How would you choose between UCSD and UIUC?
In what major? Overall ranking puts the two schools in similar tier. Both very impressive to have on your CV, but they both have their strengths. I would pick UIUC over UCSD if it's for CS, EE, that type of majors. I would pick UCSD over UIUC for bio, biochem. For the rest of the majors, both schools have their strengths and weaknesses, but UIUC is usually more known for its superb engineering programs, while UCSD is known for it's bio/medical science related programs. UCSD's CS program isn't weak though. It's a hard choice. Both schools, incidentally, are sites picked by NSF to host national supercomputing center. (I believe the other one is at Pittsburg) For what that is worth for undergrad (maybe not too much), this indicates a pretty strong CS program. However, I would think that UIUC CS is much better known (as the birthplace of Internet browser), and is much better endowed. The CS department alone occupies an entire, modern building, which is bigger than other colleges' buildings on campus. You figure the emphasis!
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