UC or CSU? Which is best for you?

CSU Chico is one of the many California State Universities you can choose from.

By: Staff

     A new school year has begun, and for the class of 2019, that means that the adventure of applying to college is just getting started. When deciding where to go to college, it seems as if there are endless things to take into consideration. For students applying to public 4-year colleges in California, it is important to know that UCs are more expensive than CSUs because CSUs are funded by the state. UCs do tend to have a better reputation than CSUs, but this is only an opinion, not a fact.  Based off of your academic goals, budget, and learning style, one of these public school systems will be the better match for you.

     First let’s acknowledge the size of the schools. The University of California’s smallest campus is UC Merced, which opened in 2005, and enrolls about 7,000 undergraduates. However the other 9 UC’s typically enroll a whopping 20,000-30,000 undergraduates. CSU’s, on the other hand, average around 10,000 to 20,000 students, disregarding Cal Maritime with 1,070 undergraduate students and CSU Northridge with 41,000 students. Overall, UC’s tend to have a much larger student population, which leads to the next distinction between the two systems.


     If you attend a UC, you will be committing yourself to attending many lectures with hundreds of students. UCs focus on research and theory and have professors, assistants, and graduate students present their findings in a lecture hall with hundreds of students. At a UC, you will find yourself learning mostly through notes and presentations. Since these classes are so huge, no one will know if you don’t show up to class or don’t take notes, so you have to be self-motivated in order to get your proper education. CSU’s are oriented around hands-on, practical learning, and are more similar to a high school-style classroom, with classes of about 30 students taught by one professor. Because CSUs believe in learning by doing, you will have less notes and textbooks to read, and more hands-on activities and experience in your chosen major or career. In the CSU system you will be working directly with students and professors, doing presentations and working in groups. Knowing how you learn can be a major factor when deciding between a UC or CSU.

     Since CSUs prepare you for more non-research-oriented careers, they offer mainly bachelor’s degrees, compared to UCs which offer professional and doctorate degrees along with bachelor and master’s degrees. If you are interested in going to engineering school, law school, medical school, getting an MBA or PhD, then a UC is a better fit for you because you would be learning from experienced and top-notch professors in that field of study. Whereas if you are interested in completing college in four years and starting a career, then a CSU is a better fit because CSUs offer majors that you can’t get at a UC. Some majors specifically offered at CSUs include sports medicine, personal training and fitness, business, marketing, and public relations. Although both are public colleges, they offer very different majors, so when making your decision you need to consider if the college you choose will prepare you for your career.

     Overall, if you are into research, discovering your own findings, and wish to further pursue a higher education after college, then a UC is a good match for you. However, if you are not interested in continuing with further education after your four years at a university and wish to start a career after, then a CSU is a better fit for you.


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