Editor’s note: This is a guest article by Matt, a 4th year political science major. Want to write for us? Submit your idea to email@example.com.
How, how, how are you supposed to choose a university? I had enormous trouble with this coming out of high school. I took agonizing months choosing between my available options, and when I finally settled on one, I found out quickly that I hated it. What can you do? I was 17 and made a bad guess.
After taking an extremely circuitous route through my 20s (featuring appearances in real estate, lawyers’ offices, financial planning, and school administration) I decided that it was time to buckle down and finish a bachelor’s degree, since everything I’d tried up to that point was a dead end, or worse, boring.
With that in mind, I set back in on school shortly after my 24th birthday. I’m from Temecula, so my options were either Palomar in San Marcos or Mt. San Jacinto College in Menifee. I ended up selecting MSJC because it was closer and in spite of it strongly feeling like 13th grade, I chugged through it. One thing no one really tells you about community college is you should anticipate taking three years in preparation to transfer. It can happen in two years, but because of class reductions, timing, and other issues, planning for three years is both safe and smart.
So after grinding out my two-plus years at MSJC, last winter I filled out my University of California application. Berkeley, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Irvine were my campuses of choice, evenly spread along the spectrum of “absolutely no chance” to “safety school.” Long story short, I ended up getting in at Irvine and Riverside (and waitlisted at UCLA! Let’s not forget about that), which left me with a choice.
Source. Orange County or Riverside?
Irvine was appealing: near the beach, cooler weather, burgeoning tech industry. I had lots of general acquaintances in the Orange County area, but I didn’t know anyone. Contrast with Riverside: near snowboarding, never cold (I understand this is an extremely optimistic view of Riverside’s late summer), and much closer to my local friends and family.
The final piece to the puzzle was cost of living. In Riverside, I live about a mile from campus in a one-bedroom apartment by myself. In Irvine, that would cost about three times my current rent. I can’t emphasize enough how awesome living by yourself is. No roommates leaving stuff places, no stray hairs in the shower, nothing but relative peace and quiet.
Not wanting to make the same mistake I made coming out of high school, I pretty thoroughly scoured my options by visiting both campuses twice and speaking with students and faculty. I’ve just never gotten along super well with Orange County, and Irvine is really the epitome of the area. I think if I were in a different program - engineering or a hard science - the decision would have been much closer.
After the dust settled, UC Riverside won my heart with its substantial commitment to volunteering, the campus and local culture, and frankly, living by myself really locked up the race for Riverside. Add that to proximity to my family and friends, the weather (it’s a dry heat and the RTA buses are like freezers!), and UCR’s diverse and fascinating student population, and Irvine never stood a chance.