UC San Diego vs Occidental: A Side-by-Side Comparison

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

smiling woman inside university

UC San Diego vs Occidental: A Side-by-Side Comparison

If you’re considering attending a university in California, it’s highly likely that UC San Diego and Occidental College are on your radar. Both institutions are renowned for their academic programs, faculty, and student life. But how do they stack up against each other? In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into a side-by-side comparison of UC San Diego vs Occidental, helping you make the right choice for your future education.

Brief Overview of UC San Diego and Occidental

The University of California, San Diego was founded in 1960 and has since grown into one of the best public research universities in the United States. It is located in La Jolla, California, a coastal city just north of San Diego. UC San Diego offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs across six undergraduate colleges, five academic divisions, and five graduate and professional schools.

Occidental College, established in 1887, is a private liberal arts college located in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The college is noted for its rigorous academics, small class sizes, and strong sense of community.

Occidental offers over 40 majors in the arts, humanities, and sciences, emphasizing experiential learning, such as internships, research projects, and study abroad opportunities.

UC San Diego is known for its strong focus on research, with over $1 billion in research funding annually. The university is home to several research centers and institutes, including the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the Center for Energy Research.

UC San Diego is also recognized for its commitment to sustainability, with a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025.

Occidental College has a long history of social activism and community engagement. The college has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, with a student body that represents over 40 different countries.

diverse group of students smiling while their photo is being taken on campus

Occidental also offers a variety of extracurricular activities, including over 100 student-run clubs and organizations and a thriving arts scene with numerous performances and exhibitions throughout the year.

Location and Campus Size Comparison

One of the most significant differences between UC San Diego and Occidental is their location and campus size. UC San Diego’s campus covers over 2,140 acres, making it one of the largest campuses in the UC system. It features cutting-edge research facilities, beautiful landscapes, and direct access to the Pacific Ocean.

Occidental, on the other hand, occupies 120 acres of land in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles’s northeast neighborhood. The campus is much smaller, offering a more intimate, community-based feel. However, students in Occidental have access to all that LA has to offer, including art, music, and cultural events.

Despite the size difference, both UC San Diego and Occidental offer unique advantages to their students. UC San Diego’s large campus provides ample opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking and surfing, while Occidental’s smaller campus allows for more personalized attention from professors and a tight-knit community.

Additionally, UC San Diego’s location in San Diego offers a laid-back beach town vibe, while Occidental’s location in Los Angeles provides access to a bustling city with endless opportunities for internships and networking.

Academic Programs Offered by UC San Diego vs Occidental

UC San Diego and Occidental differ significantly in their academic offerings. UC San Diego offers comprehensive academic programs through six undergraduate colleges, five academic divisions, and five graduate and professional schools.

It emphasizes research across all disciplines and offers many opportunities for undergraduates to work alongside world-renowned faculty members in their respective fields.

Occidental, on the other hand, is a private liberal arts college and offers a broad range of majors and minors in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Its curriculum is designed to provide students with a well-rounded education, and it offers a close-knit learning community with small class sizes, individualized attention, and direct interactions with faculty members.

A professor giving instructions to a student.

Despite their differences, both universities offer several academic programs that overlap. For example, both UC San Diego and Occidental offer majors in psychology, biology, and economics.

Additionally, both universities have strong environmental studies and sustainability programs, with UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Occidental’s Moore Laboratory of Zoology leading the way in research and education in these fields.

Furthermore, both universities offer a variety of study abroad programs that allow students to gain international experience and cultural immersion. UC San Diego has partnerships with universities in over 30 countries, while Occidental has its own study abroad center in Oaxaca, Mexico, and offers programs in over 40 countries.

These programs provide students with the opportunity to expand their academic and personal horizons and to gain a global perspective that is increasingly important in today’s interconnected world.

Faculty and Student Ratio at UC San Diego vs Occidental

Another essential aspect to consider when comparing universities is how their faculty-to-student ratio stacks up. UC San Diego employs over 6,000 faculty members and serves around 41,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Its impact on society is significant, with its research programs leading to groundbreaking discoveries in science, technology, and medicine.

On the other hand, Occidental College has a much smaller student body, almost 2,000, and its student-faculty ratio is 9:1, one of the lowest in the country.

This means that students receive individualized attention and mentorship from their professors, creating strong working relationships and academic successes.

However, it is important to note that a low student-faculty ratio does not always guarantee a better education. Some larger universities have implemented programs and resources to ensure that students still receive personalized attention and support from their professors. For example, UC San Diego offers small discussion sections and office hours for students to meet with their professors one-on-one.

In addition to the student-faculty ratio, it is also important to consider the diversity of the faculty and student body. Universities with a diverse faculty and student population offer a more inclusive and well-rounded education.

UC San Diego has made efforts to increase diversity among its faculty and students with initiatives such as the Chancellor’s Diversity Office and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force.

Admission Criteria for UC San Diego vs Occidental

Both UC San Diego and Occidental College look for academically talented students who will positively impact the campus community. UC San Diego is a selective university with an acceptance rate of around 34%, and it considers academic achievement, extracurricular activities, and personal background when evaluating applicants.

Occidental’s admissions process is also selective, with an acceptance rate of around 38%. Alongside academic achievement, it emphasizes leadership, community service, creativity, and originality when assessing applications.

Additionally, UC San Diego and Occidental offer holistic admissions processes, meaning that they consider the whole person rather than just their grades and test scores. This means that the admissions decision can also consider factors such as overcoming adversity, unique life experiences, and personal growth.

Both universities also encourage applicants to submit supplemental materials, such as essays, letters of recommendation, and portfolios, to showcase their talents and achievements beyond what is listed on their application.

a student making a portfolio

Tuition Fees and Financial Aid Comparison

Another crucial factor in deciding on a university is the cost of attendance and the availability of financial aid. UC San Diego’s tuition fees for in-state students are around $15,000 per year, and for out-of-state students are around $46,000 per year. Occidental’s tuition fees, in comparison, are higher, at around $60,000 per year.

However, both universities offer robust financial aid packages to help students pay for their education. UC San Diego provides financial aid to over 50% of its students, while Occidental meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance goes beyond just tuition fees. Students also need to consider the cost of housing, textbooks, and other expenses.

UC San Diego offers a variety of on-campus housing options, including residence halls, apartments, and family housing. Occidental also provides on-campus housing, which is limited and not guaranteed for all students.

Additionally, both universities have resources available to help students find off-campus housing options that fit their budget and needs.

Extracurricular Activities at UC San Diego vs Occidental

Both UC San Diego and Occidental offer a wide range of extracurricular activities for students to participate in. UC San Diego has over 600 student organizations, including academic clubs, cultural organizations, service groups, and performing arts groups.

Occidental also has diverse student clubs and organizations, including community service groups, academic organizations, and music and theater groups.

Both institutions offer unique opportunities to engage with fellow students outside the classroom, build skills and leadership qualities, and form lasting friendships.

Happy millennials friends walking together outside of university

One notable difference between the extracurricular activities offered at UC San Diego and Occidental is the emphasis on sports. UC San Diego has a robust athletic program, with 23 varsity sports teams and a large number of intramural sports options.

Conversely, Occidental does not have a football team and places less emphasis on varsity sports. However, Occidental offers various recreational sports options, including yoga, rock climbing, and martial arts.

Another difference between the extracurricular activities at these two institutions is the availability of research opportunities. UC San Diego is a top research university, and students have the opportunity to participate in research projects across a wide range of disciplines.

Occidental also offers research opportunities, but they may be more limited in scope. However, Occidental does have a strong emphasis on community engagement and social justice, and students can participate in service projects and advocacy groups to make a positive impact on their community.

Sports Teams and Athletics Facilities at UC San Diego vs Occidental

If you’re someone who enjoys sports and physical activities, then you’ll want to consider the sports teams and athletic facilities at each university.

UC San Diego is known for its competitive sports teams, which participate in the NCAA Division II level. It offers a range of sports, including soccer, basketball, volleyball, and swimming. Students also have access to state-of-the-art athletic and recreational facilities, including fitness centers, swimming pools, and sports fields.

Meanwhile, Occidental has a proud history of athletic achievement in many sports, including basketball, soccer, and swimming. Its athletics program emphasizes personal growth, teamwork, and sportsmanship and offers students an array of organized sports activities.

Its main facility is the Rush Fitness Complex, which features fitness equipment, racquetball courts, a swimming pool, and a rock-climbing wall.

Additionally, both universities offer opportunities for students to get involved in intramural sports. These are recreational sports leagues that are organized and played within the university community. UC San Diego has various intramural sports, including flag football, dodgeball, and ultimate frisbee.

Occidental also offers a range of intramural sports, such as volleyball, softball, and kickball. These leagues provide a fun and social way for students to stay active and meet new people outside their academic studies.

Volleyball players ' hands are above the volleyball net

Student Life on Campus: Housing, Dining, and Social Life at UC San Diego vs Occidental

Living on campus is a significant aspect of college life, and both UC San Diego and Occidental offer a range of housing and dining options. UC San Diego provides on-campus housing for around 16,000 students, including traditional dorms, apartments, and suites.

Its dining options include a range of eateries and cafes, including vegan and vegetarian options, and it emphasizes locally sourced and sustainable food.

Occidental also offers on-campus housing for all four years of a student’s undergraduate experience. Students can choose from traditional dorms, apartments, and theme-based housing communities. The college’s dining program features diverse menus with organic, vegetarian, and other healthy options.

Aside from housing and dining, UC San Diego and Occidental offer a vibrant social life on campus. UC San Diego has over 600 student organizations, including clubs for sports, arts, and cultural interests. The university also hosts various events throughout the year, such as concerts, festivals, and guest speakers.

Occidental also has diverse student organizations, including clubs for community service, politics, and the arts. The college’s location in Los Angeles provides students with access to a wide range of cultural and entertainment opportunities, including museums, theaters, and music venues.

Furthermore, both universities offer resources and support for students’ academic and personal growth. UC San Diego has a comprehensive academic advising program, as well as tutoring and writing centers. The university also provides counseling and mental health services for students.

Occidental offers similar resources, including academic advising, tutoring, and writing support. The college also has a wellness center that provides counseling, health services, and wellness programs for students.

Career Services and Alumni Network Comparison

UC San Diego and Occidental both provide students with career development resources and opportunities. UC San Diego’s Career Center offers assistance with job searches, resumes, cover letters, and interview preparation. It also provides access to internships, networking events, career fairs, and other professional development opportunities.

At the same time, Occidental’s Career Development Center provides similar services, including career counseling, job search assistance, and networking opportunities. The college also has a strong alumni network, which provides recent graduates with mentorship, career advice, and job opportunities.

However, there are some differences between the two schools’ career services and alumni networks. UC San Diego’s Career Center has a larger staff and budget, allowing for more extensive resources and programming.

On the other hand, Occidental’s smaller size and tight-knit community may provide more personalized attention and connections through its alumni network.

Additionally, Occidental’s location in Los Angeles may offer more opportunities for internships and job placements in the entertainment industry.

Research Opportunities at UC San Diego vs Occidental

As research institutions, both UC San Diego and Occidental offer students numerous opportunities to participate in research projects alongside faculty members. UC San Diego is one of the top research institutions in the United States, and its undergraduate students can work on research projects in a broad range of disciplines, from biology to engineering.

View of a teacher using a microscope while two students are watching her.

Occidental also provides undergraduate students with hands-on research opportunities through its Summer Research Program. Students work with faculty mentors on research projects spanning a range of disciplines.

In addition to these research opportunities, UC San Diego and Occidental offer students the chance to present their research at conferences and symposiums. UC San Diego hosts an annual Undergraduate Research Conference, where students can showcase their research to a wider audience.

Occidental also hosts a similar event, the Summer Research Conference, where students can present their research findings to their peers and faculty members. These events provide valuable experience for students interested in pursuing graduate studies or careers in research.

Graduate Programs Offered by Both Universities

Both UC San Diego and Occidental offer graduate programs, although UC San Diego’s graduate programs are much more extensive. UC San Diego’s five graduate and professional schools offer programs in various fields, including medicine, law, and engineering.

Notably, UC San Diego’s School of Medicine is a highly-ranked medical school in the United States. Occidental offers master’s degrees in teaching, arts management, and public policy, as well as an MBA program in partnership with Claremont Graduate University.

UC San Diego’s graduate programs are highly competitive and attract students from all over the world. The university offers graduate students a wide range of research opportunities and resources, including access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment.

Additionally, UC San Diego has a strong alumni network who are leaders in their respective fields, providing valuable connections and mentorship opportunities for current students.

Occidental’s graduate programs are designed to provide students with practical skills and knowledge that can be applied in their chosen careers.

The university’s MBA program, in particular, emphasizes hands-on learning and real-world experience, with opportunities for internships and consulting projects. Occidental also offers several resources for graduate students, including career services, academic advising, and research support.

Internship Opportunities for Students at UC San Diego vs Occidental

UC San Diego and Occidental both provide students with a range of internship opportunities, connecting them with potential employers and exposing them to real-world experiences.

UC San Diego has a wide network of industry partners, including biotech, healthcare, and technology companies. Its Career Center also provides resources for finding internships, including lists of available positions and networking events with industry professionals.

Meanwhile, Occidental offers internships in many fields, including arts, journalism, politics, and science. The college’s Career Development Center provides resources for finding and securing internships, including resume and interview workshops and industry-specific job fairs.

campus journalists working on a project

Additionally, both UC San Diego and Occidental offer internship programs that allow students to earn academic credit while gaining practical experience in their field of study.

These programs often include a combination of on-the-job training and academic coursework, providing students with a well-rounded learning experience. Students can work with their academic advisors and career centers to find internship programs that align with their interests and career goals.

Conclusion: Which University is Right for You?

After reading this side-by-side comparison of UC San Diego and Occidental College, you should have a clearer sense of each institution’s strengths and weaknesses. Both universities offer outstanding academic programs, extracurricular activities, and career development resources. But they differ significantly in their size, location, and curriculum.

It is important to consider the social atmosphere of each university as well. UC San Diego is known for its large student body and diverse community, while Occidental College has a smaller, tight-knit community.

If you thrive in a bustling environment with many opportunities to meet new people, UC San Diego may be your better choice. However, Occidental College may be the better fit if you prefer a more intimate setting where you can form close relationships with your peers and professors.

Another factor to consider is the cost of attendance. UC San Diego is a public university and therefore has lower tuition rates for in-state students, while Occidental College is a private institution with higher tuition costs. It is important to weigh the financial implications of attending each university and consider any available scholarships or financial aid options.

Ultimately, the right choice between UC San Diego vs Occidental depends on your individual interests, goals, and preferences. We hope this article has been informative and helps you make an informed decision about your future education.

AdmissionSight provides valuable guidance to students facing the decision between UC San Diego and Occidental College. By considering factors such as academic programs, industry connections, and campus culture, they assist students in making an informed choice.

Furthermore, AdmissionSight offers personalized strategies, essay review, and interview preparation to enhance students’ chances of gaining admission to either university, maximizing their potential for success.


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