Brown University vs UC San Diego: Which School is Right for You?

July 14, 2023
By AdmissionSight
Group of students walking in the campus.

Brown University vs UC San Diego: Which School is Right for You?

Choosing between prestigious universities like Brown University vs. UC San Diego can indeed make the college decision process quite challenging.

Both universities offer unique experiences, but which one is the right fit for you? In this article, we will compare and contrast the location and campus, academics, student body, admissions process, affordability, housing, student life, career prospects, athletics, research opportunities, and alumni network of Brown University and UC San Diego.

Location and Campus

Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island, which is known for its picturesque New England charm. Meanwhile, UC San Diego is set in La Jolla, California, a beautiful coastal city near San Diego.

Brown’s campus spans over 140 acres and is an Ivy League institution with a storied history dating back to 1764. Conversely, UC San Diego’s campus is spread out over 1,200 acres and is known for its cutting-edge research centers.

While Brown’s campus is more historic, UC San Diego’s campus offers a modern feel that reflects the surrounding area’s technology and innovation.

In addition to their physical differences, the two campuses also have distinct cultures. Brown University is known for its liberal arts education and emphasis on critical thinking and intellectual exploration.

On the other hand, UC San Diego is renowned for its STEM programs and research opportunities, attracting students who are passionate about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Despite these differences, both universities offer a rich and diverse student experience, with a wide range of extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations to get involved in. Students walking on the streets.


Both Brown University and UC San Diego offer rigorous academic programs. Brown is known for its open curriculum that allows students to take classes across multiple departments and programs, while UC San Diego primarily focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.

Brown offers over 80 concentrations and an additional 50 interdisciplinary programs. UC San Diego has six undergraduate colleges and over 130 undergraduate and graduate programs. Both universities have excellent faculty and research opportunities.

In addition to their academic programs, both Brown and UC San Diego offer a variety of resources to support student success. Brown has a Writing Center, a Math Resource Center, and a Science Center, all of which provide tutoring and academic support to students.

UC San Diego has a similar range of resources, including the Teaching + Learning Commons, which offers academic coaching, workshops, and peer mentoring.

Furthermore, both universities prioritize experiential learning opportunities for their students. Brown offers a variety of study abroad programs, internships, and research opportunities, while UC San Diego has a strong emphasis on undergraduate research and offers opportunities for students to work with faculty on research projects.

These experiences allow students to apply their classroom knowledge in real-world settings and gain valuable skills and experience for their future careers.

Admissions Process

Applying to Brown University and UC San Diego requires submitting transcripts, test scores (SAT/ACT), essays, and letters of recommendation. Brown University has mentioned that they do not require standard test scores anymore but advocate for a “holistic” assessment of the student’s character, context, and academic performance.

UC San Diego has a higher acceptance rate than Brown University and takes into account essays and extracurriculars on top of academics. The decision-making process for both universities is need-blind, meaning that they will not consider an applicant’s financial situation when making admissions decisions. Two students walking in the campus.


The two universities take different approaches to housing. Brown University guarantees on-campus housing for all four years, while UC San Diego only guarantees on-campus housing for the first two years of undergraduate study.

After that, students are expected to find off-campus housing. Brown University offers traditional dorm-style housing, while UC San Diego offers apartments and suites. UC San Diego also has off-campus apartments near the campus.

In addition to the differences in on-campus housing, both universities also have unique options for off-campus housing. Brown University has a program called “Off-Campus Living” which provides resources and support for students who choose to live off-campus.

This program includes a database of available rental properties, information on tenant rights and responsibilities, and assistance with finding roommates. UC San Diego also has resources for off-campus housing, including a website with listings for apartments and houses for rent, as well as a roommate finder tool.

Another factor to consider when it comes to housing is the cost. Brown University’s on-campus housing is generally more expensive than UC San Diego’s. However, Brown does offer financial aid and scholarships to help offset the cost of housing for students who need it. UC San Diego’s on-campus housing is more affordable.

Additionally, off-campus housing options near UC San Diego tend to be more affordable than those near Brown University.

Student Life

Brown University and UC San Diego offer varying student life experiences. Brown University is known for its social scene and extracurricular activities, including a robust Greek life community. UC San Diego has over 600 student organizations, making it easy for students to find and engage with groups that align with their interests.

The campus at UC San Diego is large, and students can easily run into each other. But Brown University is relatively small, leading to a tight-knit community.

Additionally, Brown University has a strong emphasis on community service and civic engagement. Many students participate in volunteer work and community outreach programs, both on and off campus.

This focus on giving back to the community helps to foster a sense of social responsibility among Brown students and contributes to the university’s reputation as a socially conscious institution. Group of students smiling at the camera.


Brown University is an NCAA Division I institution, and UC San Diego is Division II. Brown has over 30 varsity sports teams and is part of the Ivy League. UC San Diego has 23 varsity sports teams and is part of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). Both universities offer excellent athletic facilities and coaching staff.

In addition to varsity sports, both universities also offer a wide range of club and intramural sports for students to participate in. Brown has over 40 club sports teams, including ultimate frisbee, fencing, and equestrian. UC San Diego has over 30 club sports teams, including rugby, water polo, and badminton.

Furthermore, both universities prioritize the well-being and safety of their student-athletes. Brown has a dedicated sports medicine team that provides comprehensive care to all varsity athletes, including injury prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.

UC San Diego has a similar program, with a team of certified athletic trainers and physical therapists who work closely with student-athletes to ensure their health and safety on and off the field.

Research Opportunities

Both Brown University and UC San Diego have research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. Brown University has several research centers and institutes, including the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and the Brown Institute for Brain Science.

On the other hand, UC San Diego has several research centers focused on biotechnology and other sciences, like the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

In addition to these research centers, Brown University also offers research opportunities through its Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards (UTRA) program. This program provides funding for students to conduct independent research projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

Similarly, UC San Diego offers the Summer Training Academy for Research Success (STARS) program, which provides research training and mentorship for underrepresented minority students.

Furthermore, both universities have partnerships with local research institutions and companies, providing students with even more opportunities to engage in cutting-edge research.

Brown University has partnerships with organizations like the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Rhode Island Hospital, while UC San Diego has partnerships with companies like Qualcomm and Pfizer.

These partnerships offer students the chance to work on real-world research projects and gain valuable experience in their field of study.

Alumni Network

Both Brown University and UC San Diego have robust alumni networks that provide graduates with job opportunities and networking events. Brown University has thousands of alumni who remain involved with the university, and they are spread out across the world and across various industries. UC San Diego has an extensive network of over 200,000 alumni that work in a variety of exciting fields.

These alumni networks also offer mentorship programs, where recent graduates can connect with experienced alumni in their field of interest. Brown University’s alumni network has a mentorship program called “BrownConnect,” which connects students and alumni for career exploration, internships, and job opportunities.

UC San Diego’s alumni network has a similar program called “Triton Mentors,” which pairs students with alumni mentors who can provide guidance and advice on career paths and job search strategies. A female student smiling at the camera.


Both Brown University and UC San Diego have their unique advantages and disadvantages. Brown boasts a smaller and more tight-knit community, a historic campus, and an open curriculum. UC San Diego, on the other hand, has an extensive international presence, a larger campus, a more modern approach to education, and a particular focus on STEM fields.

Ultimately, deciding which school is right for you depends on your personal preferences and academic goals. We hope this article has provided helpful insights to make this decision easier for you.

It is important to note that both Brown University and UC San Diego have strong academic programs and a diverse student body. Brown is known for its liberal arts education and emphasis on critical thinking, while UC San Diego is recognized for its research opportunities and cutting-edge technology.

Additionally, both schools offer a range of extracurricular activities and resources to support student success. Ultimately, the decision between these two schools should be based on a careful consideration of your individual needs and priorities.

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