Stanford vs. UCLA: Which University is the Best Fit for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Young woman holding her books on a school campus.

Stanford vs. UCLA: Which University is the Best Fit for You?

Choosing a university to attend is a major life decision that can impact your future career and personal growth. In this article, we will delve into all the factors you should consider before choosing between Stanford vs. UCLA so you can make an informed decision.

Both are highly sought-after schools with notable prestige and academic excellence. However, deciding which university is the right fit for you can be daunting between location, academic programs, campus culture, safety, financial aid options, and more.

Location and Campus Features

Stanford University is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, California, surrounded by technology giants such as Google, Apple, and Tesla. The campus features stunning architectural design, including the Memorial Church and the Cantor Arts Center, which houses over 38,000 works of art.

In contrast, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is nestled in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, with a stunning view of the Santa Monica Mountains. Its campus is renowned for its iconic Royce Hall and the Hammer Museum, which showcase contemporary art exhibitions.

Both universities offer a wide range of extracurricular activities for students. Stanford University has over 600 student organizations, including the Stanford Solar Car Project and the Stanford Debate Society. UCLA has over 1,000 student organizations, including the Daily Bruin newspaper and the UCLA Radio station.

Both universities also have top-notch athletic programs, with Stanford winning the most NCAA Division I championships of any university and UCLA having a storied history in basketball and gymnastics.

Stanford vs. UCLA: Faculty and Academic Programs Available

One of the biggest draws of these universities is their top-notch faculty. At Stanford, students can learn from Nobel laureates, MacArthur fellows, and Pulitzer Prize winners such as Yo-Yo Ma and Sonia Sotomayor. The university offers over 90 fields of study, including Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Economics.

Likewise, UCLA boasts an impressive faculty roster, including Nobel laureates in Physics, Medicine, and Chemistry and MacArthur Fellows. The university offers over 125 majors and minors, including Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Sociology.

In addition to their impressive faculty and academic programs, both Stanford and UCLA offer a wide range of extracurricular activities and resources for students. Stanford has over 600 student organizations, including clubs for sports, arts, and community service.

The university also has state-of-the-art facilities, such as the Cantor Arts Center and the Anderson Collection, which house world-renowned art collections. Similarly, UCLA has over 1,000 student organizations, including clubs for cultural and religious groups, academic interests, and sports.

The university also has a world-class medical center and research facilities, such as the California NanoSystems Institute and the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

Stanford vs. UCLA: Admission Requirements and Acceptance Rates

Admission to both universities is highly competitive and selective. At Stanford, the acceptance rate for the class of 2025 was 3.4%, with the average GPA of admitted students being 4.18. In contrast, UCLA’s acceptance rate was 14.3%, with an average GPA of 4.18.

While both universities require outstanding academic achievements and extracurricular activities, Stanford also has highly selective short-answer essay prompts to gauge applicants’ intellectual curiosity and creativity.

Female student smiling at the camera while holding her things.

It is important to note that admission requirements and acceptance rates can vary depending on the program or major that a student is applying to. For example, some majors at both universities may have higher or lower acceptance rates than the overall university acceptance rate.

Additionally, some programs may require additional application materials such as portfolios or auditions. It is important for prospective students to research the admission requirements for their desired program thoroughly and to prepare accordingly.

Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid Options

Attending a top university like Stanford or UCLA comes with a high price tag. Currently, Stanford’s undergraduate tuition is $58,846 per year, while UCLA’s undergraduate tuition is $13,239 for California residents and $42,994 for out-of-state students.

However, both universities have robust financial aid options for eligible students, including need-based aid, scholarships, and work-study programs. In addition, Stanford has no loans financial aid policy, which means students aren’t required to take out loans to finance their education.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance goes beyond just tuition. Students also need to consider expenses such as room and board, textbooks, and transportation. At Stanford, the estimated cost of attendance for the 2021-2022 academic year is $78,218, while at UCLA, it’s $34,062 for California residents and $63,817 for out-of-state students.

Despite the high cost, attending a top university can have significant long-term benefits, including higher earning potential and greater career opportunities. In fact, a recent study found that graduates from top universities earn an average of $28,000 more per year than those from less prestigious schools.

Stanford vs. UCLA: Student Life and Extracurricular Activities Offered

Both universities have a vibrant student life and offer a wide range of extracurricular activities to enrich students’ college experience. At Stanford, students can join over 600 student organizations, participate in community service projects, and attend annual traditions like the Mausoleum Party and the Big Game against the University of California, Berkeley.

Likewise, UCLA has over 1,000 student organizations, including CASA (Community Awareness Through Sports and Athletics), the Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC), and the Student Alumni Association (SAA). UCLA also hosts annual events like JazzReggae Fest, Spring Sing, and Dance Marathon.

Moreover, both universities offer sports teams and facilities for students to stay active and healthy. Stanford has 36 varsity sports teams, including basketball, football, and swimming, and state-of-the-art athletic facilities like the Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation.

Similarly, UCLA has 25 varsity sports teams, including soccer, volleyball, and water polo, and top-notch athletic facilities like the Wooden Center.

Additionally, both universities have a strong commitment to the arts and provide opportunities for students to explore their creative interests.

Stanford has a robust arts program, including the Cantor Arts Center, the Anderson Collection, and the Stanford Theatre. UCLA also has a thriving arts scene, with the Hammer Museum, the Fowler Museum, and the Royce Hall, which hosts various performances and events throughout the year.

Stanford vs. UCLA: Alumni Network and Job Placement Opportunities

Both universities have a vast alumni network of accomplished professionals who have excelled in diverse fields, including politics, entertainment, business, and technology. Stanford alumni include Elon Musk, Susan Rice, and John F. Kennedy, while UCLA alumni include Jackie Robinson, James Franco, and Mindy Kaling.

Three students using a laptop in a table.

Both universities have a robust career center that offers career counseling, resume reviews, and job fairs to connect students with top employers.

According to Forbes, Stanford University is ranked as the top school for graduates’ earnings, with an average early career salary of $85,000 and a mid-career salary of $150,000. UCLA ranks 25th on the same list, with an average early career salary of $60,000 and a mid-career salary of $110,000.

Additionally, both universities have strong alumni mentorship programs that provide students with valuable guidance and networking opportunities. These programs allow students to connect with alumni who have similar career interests and receive advice on job searching, interviewing, and career advancement.

The mentorship programs also offer students the chance to gain insight into different industries and learn about potential career paths. Overall, the alumni networks and job placement opportunities at both Stanford and UCLA provide students with a strong foundation for success in their chosen careers.

Campus Safety and Security Measures

Campus safety is a critical factor to consider when choosing a university. Both universities have dedicated campus safety departments and emergency resources for students. Stanford has its own police department, and UCLA has a 24/7 police presence on campus.

In 2020, Stanford reported four violent crimes and 186 property crimes on campus, while UCLA reported four violent crimes and 123 property crimes. Both universities have implemented enhanced safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including regular testing and contact tracing.

In addition to the measures mentioned above, both universities have also implemented safety apps that allow students to quickly and easily report any safety concerns or incidents. These apps also provide real-time updates on any safety alerts or emergencies on campus. Stanford’s app is called “LiveSafe,” while UCLA’s app is called “BruinSafe.”

Furthermore, both universities have campus escort services available to students who feel unsafe walking alone at night. These services provide a safe and secure way for students to get to their destination on campus. Stanford’s service is called “SafeRide,” while UCLA’s service is called “BruinWalk.”

Stanford vs. UCLA: Research Opportunities and Facilities Available

Stanford and UCLA are renowned for their cutting-edge research in various fields, from biomedicine to artificial intelligence. Stanford operates more than 20 research centers, including the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) and the Stanford Center for Automotive Research (CARS).

Likewise, UCLA houses over 100 research centers and institutes, including the California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI) and the Institute for Society and Genetics (ISG). Both universities offer undergraduate research opportunities and encourage students to pursue independent research projects.

Additionally, Stanford and UCLA have state-of-the-art facilities that support research activities. Stanford has a 4,000-acre campus that includes research facilities such as the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource.

On the other hand, has a 419-acre campus that includes research facilities such as the UCLA Brain Mapping Center and the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Furthermore, both universities have partnerships with various research institutions and organizations, providing students with access to a wider range of research opportunities.

For instance, Stanford has partnerships with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), while UCLA has partnerships with the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Stanford vs. UCLA: Athletics Programs and Sporting Events Offered

Sports are an integral part of university life, and both Stanford and UCLA have outstanding athletics programs. Stanford has won 126 NCAA team championships, the most of any university, in 20 different sports, including swimming, gymnastics, and tennis.

UCLA has won 118 NCAA team championships in 20 different sports, including basketball, baseball, and volleyball. Both universities offer a wide range of club and intramural sports for students to participate in, from Ultimate Frisbee to Quidditch.

View of baseball sports equipments placed on the grassy ground.

In addition to the traditional sports offered at both universities, Stanford and UCLA also have unique programs that cater to specific interests. For example, Stanford has a highly competitive sailing team that has won multiple national championships. UCLA has a renowned surf team that competes in the National Scholastic Surfing Association.

Both universities also host a variety of sporting events throughout the year, including football games, basketball tournaments, and track and field meets. These events are not only a great way to support the university’s teams but also to experience the excitement and camaraderie of college sports.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Campus

Ensuring that all students feel welcomed and included on campus is a top priority for both universities. Stanford has launched numerous initiatives to address diversity, equity, and inclusion, including the IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in a Learning Environment) framework and the First-Gen and/or Low-Income (FLI) Office.

Likewise, UCLA has established the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, which provides support to underrepresented students and promotes inclusion on campus through programs like the LGBTQ Campus Resource Center and Women’s Leadership Campaign.

One of the key components of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus is through the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff. Both Stanford and UCLA have implemented programs to increase diversity among their faculty and staff, such as the Stanford Faculty Development Program and the UCLA Diversity Hiring Toolkit.

In addition to these institutional efforts, student-led organizations also play a crucial role in promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. Both universities have a wide range of student organizations dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion, such as the Stanford Black Student Union and the UCLA Asian Pacific Coalition.

Stanford vs. UCLA: Student Housing Options

Both universities offer a variety of housing options for undergraduate students, including residence halls, apartments, and co-ops. Stanford has over 80 student residences, including themed houses like the Black Community Services Center and the Casa Zapata Chicano/Latino Residence.

Similarly, UCLA offers various themed living communities, such as the Gender, Sexuality, and Society Community and the Global Health Living Learning Community. Both universities have resident advisors and peer support to help students adjust to college life.

In addition to the themed living communities, both universities also offer off-campus housing options for upperclassmen. Stanford has a program called Cardinal at Home, which allows students to live in apartments or houses in the surrounding community while still being connected to the university.

UCLA has a similar program called Bruin Commuter Services, which provides resources and support for students who choose to live off-campus. These programs offer a unique opportunity for students to experience independent living while still being part of the university community.

Career Services and Professional Development Resources Offered at Both Universities

Preparing students for their career goals is a crucial aspect of the college experience, and both universities offer various career services and professional development resources for students.

Stanford’s Career Development Center provides career counseling, workshops, and career fairs. UCLA’s Career Center offers similar services, including job and internship listings, resume and cover letter reviews, and career exploration workshops.

In addition to these services, both universities also have strong alumni networks that students can tap into for career advice and job opportunities. Stanford’s Alumni Association offers career resources and networking events, while UCLA’s Alumni Career Programs provide career coaching and mentorship opportunities.

Furthermore, both universities have partnerships with companies and organizations that offer internships and job opportunities exclusively to their students. Stanford has partnerships with companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs, while UCLA has partnerships with companies like Disney, Warner Bros, and Deloitte.

Stanford vs. UCLA: Campus Sustainability Efforts

Creating a sustainable campus environment is a shared responsibility of all students, faculty, and staff. To that end, both universities have implemented sustainability initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint and promote environmental responsibility.

Stanford has a campus-wide sustainability plan that includes goals such as zero waste and carbon neutrality. UCLA has implemented several initiatives, including a sustainable transportation program and a solar energy program.

View of students walking in the school campus

In addition to these initiatives, both universities have also implemented sustainable food programs. Stanford has a program called “Farm to Stanford” which sources food locally and sustainably, reducing the carbon footprint of food transportation.

UCLA has a program called “The Bruin Plate” which offers sustainable and healthy food options to students and staff. These programs not only promote environmental responsibility but also support local farmers and businesses.

Comparing the Social Life at Stanford vs. UCLA

College is an opportunity to build lifelong friendships, and both universities have a vibrant social scene. At Stanford, students can attend events like concerts and film screenings at the Stanford Theater or join the a cappella groups, including the Stanford Talisman and the Harmonics.

UCLA students can enjoy events like JazzReggae Fest and the Halloween Block Party at Westwood Village. UCLA also has a famous Greek system, which includes 65 social fraternities and sororities.

However, the social scene at Stanford and UCLA differs in terms of campus size. Stanford has a smaller campus, which allows for a more intimate social environment. Students often run into each other on campus and form close-knit communities.

On the other hand, UCLA’s larger campus provides more opportunities for students to meet new people and explore different social circles. With a student population of over 40,000, UCLA offers a diverse range of social events and activities that cater to different interests and backgrounds.

Academic Support Services Available for Students

Students may encounter academic challenges during their college journey, and both universities offer academic support services to help students succeed. Stanford’s Academic Skills Coaching Program provides personalized coaching and workshops on study habits, time management, and test-taking skills.

UCLA’s Academic Advancement Program (AAP) is a comprehensive support program that assists students with academic counseling, peer tutoring, and graduate school preparation.

Additionally, both universities have writing centers that offer one-on-one consultations with trained writing tutors. Stanford’s Hume Center for Writing and Speaking provides support for all types of writing, including academic papers, personal statements, and creative writing.

UCLA’s Writing Center offers assistance with writing assignments, research papers, and graduate school applications. These writing centers are valuable resources for students looking to improve their writing skills and receive feedback on their work.

Stanford vs. UCLA: Quality of Student Health Services Provided

Access to quality healthcare is essential for students’ holistic well-being, and both universities have health centers staffed with medical professionals. Stanford’s Vaden Health Center offers primary care, specialty care, and counseling services.

UCLA’s Ashe Center provides similar services, including mental health services, travel health services, and women’s health services. Both universities have also developed protocols to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, there are some differences in the quality of services provided by the two universities. Stanford’s Vaden Health Center has been consistently ranked as one of the top student health centers in the country, with state-of-the-art facilities and a wide range of services.

On the other hand, while UCLA’s Ashe Center also provides quality care, it has faced some criticism for long wait times and limited appointment availability. Despite this, both universities are committed to providing the best possible care for their students and continue to make improvements to their health services.

Prospective Students’ Questions Answered by Current Students from Both Universities

Choosing between Stanford and UCLA can be difficult, and it may help to hear from current students about life on campus. Both universities offer opportunities for prospective students to connect with current students and ask questions through virtual events, social media, and email.

Additionally, websites like Unigo and Niche offer student reviews and rankings of various aspects of campus life.

View of a female student talking in front of two people.

One important factor to consider when choosing between Stanford and UCLA is the location of the campus. Stanford is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, providing students with unique opportunities to connect with tech companies and startups.

On the other hand, UCLA is located in Los Angeles, offering students access to the entertainment industry and vibrant city culture. It’s important to think about what kind of environment you want to be in and what opportunities you want to have outside of the classroom when making your decision.


Choosing a university to attend is a significant milestone in your academic career, and both Stanford and UCLA offer exceptional academic programs, unique campus cultures, and opportunities for personal growth.

By considering the factors discussed in this article, including location, academic programs, campus culture, safety, financial aid options, and career services, you can make an informed decision about which university is the best fit for you. Ultimately, your decision will depend on your individual needs, goals, and preferences, and we wish you the best of luck in your college search!

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