mirroroferised7 wrote:I'm interested in strong IP programs. Also, my fiancee and I both have spent the last five years in Chicago and need a change.
And again, I've never been to San Francisco, it's why I started this thread. And Berkeley and Stanford, according to the google maps I've looked at, are both less than 25 miles from San Francisco.
In that area, 25 miles is not a quick trip. If you're taking public transit, getting to downtown SF from Palo Alto is 40 minutes to over an hour. Berkeley is quicker. From both schools, driving to SF ranges from fine to hellish, depending on the time of day. In light traffic you're looking at 30 min driving from Berkeley and 40 from Stanford, but traffic (especially on the bay bridge or the 101) can be a bitch and a half. I've had those trips take well over an hour. And then parking is a disaster.
The distance can be prohibitive when you have a busy schedule. So I'd consider the culture of the areas where you'll actually be living and spending the vast majority of your time, not the culture of a nearby city you'll visit far less often than you'd like. Trust me, neither place is much like San Francisco.
Palo Alto is not a college town, but it can still be fun. It caters largely to the wealthy SV crowd, so many of the restaurants are outside of the price range of the average broke student, but there are still good places to eat and a few good bars. (Pro tip: Mountain View has way more cheap & delicious food.) Unless you really like old movies or lawn bowling, there is nothing to do in town except eat. The culture is 99% focused on tech entrepreneurship. Some days, you will see more people in Palantir swag than ordinary clothes. This can be fun or this can be suffocating. You won't know until you've spent time there.
Berkeley is a college town. It's quirky and super enjoyable to explore. Literally just wandering and window-shopping is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. There's a staggering variety of high-quality food (and some particularly excellent pizza. and ice cream!) in all price ranges. There is more social activism (although it has, for better or for worse, toned down since the 60s) and there are lots of homeless people. People still care a lot about the tech industry, but it isn't the valley. People are friendlier.
If you've never been to the Bay Area at all, I strongly
recommend you visit. It is a fantastic place, but different than anywhere else I've ever been. I recommend spending at least one night in a bar or coffee shop in each town, eavesdropping. You probably won't glean everything you'd like to know from one weekend, but it would be better than nothing. I've had friends who went to Stanford and Berkeley who then turned around and moved to Boston or New York because they couldn't stand the culture. I have friends who could never imagine living anywhere else. Only you will know where you fit.
Best of luck.