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Going to the CSUs

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Going to the CSUs


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San Diego State University or ???

Jan 2012

My child has just been admitted to SDSU - and U of Oregon. They both seem like good schools to me and I think my child would do well there. I am having a hard time convincing my child that they are fine schools (my child feels ''entitled'' to better, even though has not applied to privates!!??). We are still waiting on UC decisions too. If we get into UC Davis is this better? Anyway I would like to hear from students or parents of kids at these schools to get more info. We live in Berkeley. Thanks need info


Hi dear, I have four (count em) four kids in college right now. I'm a maven. SDSU is a big school, and will cost you less as it is in state and a state school. Its a VERY GOOD SCHOOL. A great place to be if your child is very social, and Im sorry to say, pretty, or likes to be around pretty. The girls are all blonde, the beaches are blonde. A great place to fall in love. The weather is out of control wonderful. Hard to get all the classes you need because of the size. Your kid needs to be a super navigator to not drown. If he/she can focus in paradise, thrives in physical pleasures, and can work in a party, it's a wonderful place to spend the fecund years. You said U of O.... that's in Eugene. Totally different scene. Now that is NOT Oregon State, which is in Corvalis, right? U of O is NOT a state school, its a University. Will cost you more. The owner of NIKE went there. If your child is a musician or athlete, this is a TOTAL NO BRAINER. The weather sucks, but many kids love that invigorating, full of oxygen, lush learning environment. Kayaking is wonderful there. Flora and fauna divine. Eugene is boring, yet the campus is really beautiful, has awesome spirit and has a lot more character than San Diego. The kids there are (in my opinion) down to earth and super smart AGAIN, A VERY GOOD SCHOOL. Naturally you see less skin there (remember these are the skin years) so less emphasis is put on body type up there. The kids I know there are either football players or marching band participants. If you have seen their new sports complex..... WOW!

My opinion of UC Davis is that it is BLOODY hot up there and it smells like cows. Its great for science and animal work, but not nearly as interesting as your other two options. Kids are like snowflakes; or as my husband says, ''they remind me a little bit of people''; each one so intricately unique. A good question to ask is where does your kid like to vacation most? By a river or at the beach.... both are really great schools.

If you want to talk further, I'd love to hear how things are going and fill you in on my kids personal pros and cons. Mine are all over the map (though their gigantic bodies are all here now with all of their glorious languages, political arguments, general laziness and laundry) Best to you, and congratulations to your baby. It's not easy to get into either of those. He/she certainly did the work. Welcome to ''the next envelope of worry'' reen


I would agree with you that these are all good schools, and these days with the competition out there all schools are harder and harder to enter.

That being said does your son have specific goals for career or what he wants to study? He may not but if he does that can help you set some criteria on which to evaluate the schools he is accepted at.

I would also suggest that you consult his high school advisor or counselor if he has one at his school. Often this person will ask questions or help you evaluate along lines you had not thought of.

If you son wishes to go to get PhD, or enter a competitive professional program, a degree from a University of California school may have more ''weight'' providing his grades are good, study area appropriate, recommendations and any exam scores he needs are high. There is not ''one'' ingredient for future success. But it does help if a student can find a niche or feel confident.

Setting up some criteria - maybe along the lines of studies offered, looking at some statistics on ratio of students who graduate in 4 years, go on to grad studies, what schools they go on to, living conditions, extracurricular activities. Maybe some other criteria that you can make a comparison will help.

Of course it would have helped if he did this before he applied - but sometimes this is just what happens when the other kids start to brag on their acceptances, and people have second thoughts or get teased. You can go to the most elite school and not do well, or attend a very unassuming program at another school and totally blossum.

My daughter just graduated from UCSC and she was accepted at several elite schools, but after making comparisons she chose to attend UCSC and for a lot of reasons I think it was an excellent choice, and she did well in her studies. In the end it is not the reputation of a school that creates the educational experience, it is the ''match'' between the school and the student. Setting up criteria and a chart will help your son discover more about himself as well as digging a bit deeper into what each school offers.

If he does not get into a UC and really wants to - it is easier to transfer from a Community College in Junior year than it is to transfer from the State system. There are a number of reasons why that is true, but not enough room to explain it here. Supportive

Editor Note: a review was also received for University of Oregon


Humbolt CSU

Dec 2011

I am wondering what anyone knows about Humbolt CSU. My son applied there, and though he is quite bright, has not gotton good grades recently. Is the school good? Is it a healthy environment for most college students? How friendly is the student body? Are there more drugs there than other schools? Thanks anon


I attended HSU (Humboldt State University, a party of the CSU system) and loved it! I attended 1996-2000, so it's been a while! But I still have LOTS of friends who stayed in the area, moved back to the area, or now work on campus and they say most things haven't changed much.

I personally thought the school was great! Some of the fields of study are top notch like Forestry, Wildlife, Fisheries, etc. But they have good teaching, nursing, business, and art programs as well.

The student body is very friendly and it is easy to fit in. The biggest problem most students have is dealing with the lack of facilities for recreation. Humboldt County has amazing beaches and forests, and there are lots of outdoor recreation options. However, there aren't a lot of "indoor" activities which can be a problem for some student (especially since it rains normally 250 days a year). The closest mall is in Eureka and there are no "big box" stores in Arcata. My friends and I often drove to Oregon to go shopping for our big Fraternity social events. So that is something to consider.

I would defiantly say that Marijuana is more prevalent on Humboldt's campus than it is on most other campuses. But that said most students used Marijuana and Alcohol for recreational purposes rather than anything else. Other types of drugs are not prevalent on campus and can be hard to find. I did know people who did way too much and other's who didn't touch it at all, again I think it's all about your student and what they are into.

I would be willing to talk more about any questions or concerns about HSU if you would like. I was a leader on campus and would even be able to refer you to friends who may have the same interests as your child and friends who work on campus. Please feel free to email me. klz


Humboldt State University is a wonderful school. Two of mine went there from BHS, one for undergraduate and graduate work, the other for a Master's Degree (now has a PhD from another university). Classes are smaller than urban colleges and faculty members are very approachable. The quality of the education is excellent. Furthermore, Arcata is a charming community centered around a town square. Arcata is a very friendly community. Parents will love visiting as the restaurants are great and there's a lot to do in the area from visiting the marsh lands, walking the redwood groves, strolling the beaches, exploring the town and surrounding neighborhoods, driving further north to Trinidad. There's lots to explore going and coming as well. The ride from the bay area is gorgeous. Ours loved Humboldt and appreciated all that it had to offer. Yes, there are drugs there as anywhere. That's a discussion you need to have with your college student wherever he or she goes. Former Humboldt CSU Parent
Have you visited the CSU Humboldt campus and Arcata/Eureka? Drive up with your kid and take a look. They are both relatively small (by Bay Area standards) towns. Humboldt has a great environmental science program but if your kid requires a more urban setting, it won't be the school of choice. Both my boys (one a pot smoker and one absolutely NOT) took a look and both said NO. They are both at Chico - one likes it well enough to stay and the other will move on (probably out of state) after this semester. Humboldt is FAR away and kind of in the middle of nowhere - which may be okay. My best advice? Take a road trip & stay a few days. Then decide. Susan

CSU's and UC's: really graduate in 4 years?

April 2011

My son has been accepted to a variety of schools and we are now wondering which schools of the ones he likes will be the most economical. Does anyone out there know if you can really get your classes and graduate at CalPoly and/or UC Santa Cruz in 4 years? He has been accepted to a few privates with aid but they run a bit over the UC tuition for us, so it wouldn't be worthwhile unless the others really don't let a student get the classes needed to graduate. CalPoly would be the cheapest and he likes it, and he could take some city college classes in the summer. I'm just wondering if it's hype or true or not, and if anyone has experience with these two schools in particular.


Our well-respected private college counselor told us to expect it to take five years if our son selected a UC or CSU school. I don't have any other experience, but wanted to share her opinion. We are taking it seriously. Remember that much of this worry is due to current and expected budget cuts, so the experience of kids just who graduated, for instance, may not be as relevant. They attended under a different budgetary situation. Best of luck with it. It sure doesn't make the decision any easier! Anne
YES. Your son can definitely graduate in 4 years from either UC Santa Cruz or Cal Poly SLO. This is a reasonable question given the horrible budget reductions looming at both UC and CSU. But Santa Cruz and Cal Poly are still great deals and the students lucky enough to be admitted will get excellent educations.

UC has a very good record on graduation rate and time-to-degree. At UC overall, the majority of students graduate in 4 years or 4 year plus one quarter and 80% graduate in 5 years or less. For students who take longer than 4 years, the issue is generally not an inability to get classes but rather a desire to take more classes than the minimum needed--for example because a student is completing a double major, is taking additional courses to help prepare for graduate work, or was away from the campus for a term or more studying abroad or whatever. This is not to say that individual students don't have frustrating moments trying to get into a needed course. (I'm sure at least one UC parent will write in with a horror story.) But students who persevere (register for classes early, put themselves on waiting lists, appeal to professors, and try again if closed out the first time) and are flexible (willing to take an 8:00 a.m class!) can generally get what they need.

At CSU, the picture is a little different: courses can be tough to get into, graduation rates are much lower, and many people take longer. But Cal Poly is not a typical CSU--its stats look a lot like a UC campus. There are a number of factors at work here: the drive and preparation levels of students matters a lot and they tend to be high at UC and at specialized CSU campuses like Cal Poly; additionally the culture at private institutions and UC/Cal Poly has an expectation that students will graduate in 4 years (less true at many CSUs). And don't forget the price effect: data shows that the more expensive an institution is, the more motivated students (and their parents!) are to finish on time.

My guess is that unless you are getting great financial aid offers from the private institutions you're looking at, UC or (especially) Cal Poly will be less expensive. And the best way to ensure your son does well in school is to send him to the place he really wants to go. Congratulations on having these options--as budget reductions shrink the size of public education in California, they will be available to fewer and fewer students. Higher Ed expert


Our student is graduating within 4 years at UCSC. It means being on top of your requirements. If necessary taking summer classes or student abroad options for credit will help add up the necessary credits. But when you consider the difference in tuition at a UC over private ''splurging'' on a summer abroad course may be affordable as well as a great experience.

Will this get harder? Anyone's guess. But if you read catalogs carefully you will find it is also fairly common to take 5 years at a private school which may also have many requirements and not offer enough sections to cover the demand. At $35 to $50K per year - that is an even bigger ''ouch'' if money is a consideration. Depending on the private school and how rigid the degree you still need to stay on top of the requirements to graduate.

UCSC students can take classes at any UC in the summer ( unless this changes )- even Berkeley - and there are transfer options within the UC system if Santa Cruz is not his first choice. Though Santa Cruz is a stunning Campus and the Administrators and Staff provide a lot of service. Read over the website carefully for all the options and requirements. Good luck. Banana Slug MOM


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