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Less than stellar grades - college options

March 2013

My son, a BHS student, and young for his class, is finally getting better grades now that he is in his junior year. I expect he may end up with a 3.2 or 3.3. A UC is most likely out of reach for him, so he is thinking about business at some of the following CSUs: Fullerton, Northridge & San Diego.

One of the things that has been consistent from childhood and beyond is that he is a good actor and has been involved in lots of local theatre and has done some film work and voice-overs as well. He would like to keep that up in college. He did like UC Irvine when we visited for a sibling, which does have theatre, but the question is, with his acting, would he have any hope of getting in? Would love any feedback on the above schools as well, and if you have a child attending that would be willing to chat with my son, we would be so grateful. Please mail me directly. Thanks very much!


Hi there! I was a little confused by your question. Your son is going to have a 3.2/3.3 GPA and you think he will probably end up at a CSU. That's likely, but he should try the UC application process just in case.

So are you wondering if his acting skills would help him get into a UC? I think you should be checking with the drama departments to see about that. For example, at UCLA, there is an audition process for their drama department. I don't know whether being accepted into the drama department means you can get accepted to the school, however. In other words, the drama department may love you, but I don't know if that means UCLA will automatically let you in the door for a degree. So: ask the departments yourself, to make sure you get the best information. You might also be able to find this out online on the colleges' and departments' websites.

And as an aside, my daughter is a drama major at SJSU and very happy there.


Daughter got into UCB, but wants to go to SDSU

March 2012

My high school senior is a very bright and well rounded kid. She has full scholarships to UC Berkeley and to San Diego State Univ. She and I are torn between a seemingly world class university and a really fun SoCal school. I feel that it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity at UCB but I also want her to be happy and choose what she thinks is right for her. She thinks Berkeley has too many ''nerd'' (read smart/not fun) kids. I think she also might not want to be too close to home (we live an hour north). How strongly should I push my values? What can I do for her to help her decide?


I got my B.A. from CSULB and PhD from UC Berkeley, so I have some familiarity with both systems. I lived at home as an undergrad but stayed in the freshman dorms for my first two quarters at UCB. The most striking differences I saw were 1) UCB lower division classes were much larger, with less chance for teachers to get to know you, and 2) higher pressure at UCB tended to inhibit students' interest in graduate school. Your daughter will get an excellent education at CSUSD if she doesn't let the ''fun'' get in the way of studying, and if she goes on to graduate school then the lesser reputation of CSUSD won't matter. As an alternative to think about, if it's not too late: did she consider UCSD? My brother was there as an undergraduate; went to UCB for grad school, and is now a professor of mathematics at CSU Humbolt. I have no way to compare the pressure and size of its classes with UCB, but if your daughter wants to get out of the area and still attend a UC school, it might be a good choice. Congratulations to your daughter and best wishes. Francesca
I'd let your daughter choose. It's her life. Probably neither will be a mistake. Make sure she does her due diligence--perhaps she can shadow someone at each campus for a few days so she really knows what each place is like.

I have an ex whose parents insisted he go to the school of their choice (UCB, actually!) when he'd gotten into Reed College where all his friends were going. He never got over the resentment. He had other issues, too, but I don't know how his parents really expected he'd ignore his dreams and happily live for four years a different life than he wanted. That's every day, getting up and being somewhere you don't want to be. I now know several kids who got into UCB and whose parents heavily pressured them to go there, but who wanted to go to UC Davis and were very happy there. Their parents survived the crushing blow.

UCB has its own very driven, intense and not very friendly vibe--it's not right for everyone. For comparison, I remember my stepson getting into Lowell High School in San Francisco. Wish we'd never sent him there. He went in an A student and came out a completely discouraged C student. He didn't go on to college. He would have done better at a less pressured school where he could get good grades and fit in. ''The best'' is not always the best for a particular kid.


You know your daughter best--but also I'm sure realize that teens tend to be focused on short term objectives--and their peer group. So I think it is crucial for her to realize that in today's economy, a degree from UCB vs SDSU can make a huge difference for job opportunities, graduate school, etc. My niece just graduated from UCB and I was so impressed at the opportunities she had, and the quality and variety of her friends--NOT nerds. Your daughter will have to be self-directed to take advantage of the opportunities (at either school) and do the work--but if she can, I would think long and hard before turning down UCB for SDSU... parent of unemployed 2010 grad
Your daughter is obviously extremely bright and gifted if she received full scholarships to both SDSU and Cal. However, it sounds like the excitement of leaving home has clouded her judgment a smidgen with regard to her decision. If her justification for going to SDSU was that they have a great department in her chosen field of study, I'd say ''good decision'' and ship her to San Diego. However, which location is more ''fun'' does not seem to be a good basis for the choice.

Like it or not, there is a reality that a school with a national reputation, like Cal, opens more doors in the job market, particularly if she ever decides to move out of state. In these economic times, you want as many advantages as you can get. I have seen the benefit of a Cal education repeatedly although I graduated from there years ago. You also do not mention what your daughter wishes to study, but the opportunities to work with world class experts in some Cal departments is unmatched.

With regard to her perception that Cal students are all ''nerds,'' has she spent much time on campus? Has she gone to sporting events like football and basketball game? There is a large ''Greek'' presence on campus, and I can assure her that most of the sororities are not filled with ''nerds.'' Furthermore, people who might have appeared ''nerdy'' in high school often appear far different in college, grad school and ''real life.'' Is she going to avoid jobs where only smart people work?

I'm sure that other writers will champion SDSU's benefits and tell you to not be an educational snob, but I fully support your position. Choosing a school based on a perceived ''fun'' factor is not a logical or mature decision, IMHO. Oh, and while it was years ago, I had LOTS of fun at Cal and my parents were closer than one hour from there. Cal Bear


This is the very grown-up practical advice but the fact is that this decision is not just about her experience during those four years - it will open and/or close certain doors in the future and she needs to consider that as well. Look at where graduates from both schools are getting into graduate school - there are a lot more opportunities if you have a degree from UCB than SDSU (a notorious party school) -look at the quality of the professors and the academic experience you will be getting. College is about learning and preparing for your future - it should be fun, but it isn't a four year party before life starts - it is the foundation of your remaining academic career and professional career. The reputation of where you go matters and there are a lot of employers who toss resumes if they don't have the ''right'' caliber school listed regardless of how smart or qualified you might be - she will have plenty of fun at UCB and she will do herself a favor in not limiting her future opportunities by going tot the highest quality school she can. Names Matter
My oldest daughter went to SDSU and my youngest daughter is at Berkeley. So I'm familiar with both schools. And they both are good. The question is ''What school is right for your daughter''?

My oldest daughter was a good student - but not a scholar. She majored in English at SDSU and received her degree timely. She had a good time and learned to surf (it is a hard drinking party school). But she did not distinguish herself academically and found it very difficult to get a good job. She finally had to take additional business courses via community college to qualify for a entry-level federal job.

My youngest daughter is a scholar with ambitions for research and graduate studies. Berkeley and UCLA in particular (my son went to UCLA) look to develop researchers. It is highly competitive and intense - but there are many opportunities for research internships, and there are connections between corporations, federal labs and academic work. My youngest daughter is involved in two high-profile research projects and loving it. But she loves to come home on weekends to decompress, study and unwind. My oldest preferred to party with her friends on weekends (still does).

So now what does your daughter want to do with her life? What's she want to study? Both schools are big, crowded and offer a huge choice of majors. If she's interested in a research career, UC has much more to offer and carries more prestige *if* you are a top student and can survive the gauntlet. SDSU has excellent programs in the humanities, business and many biology programs such as biotech and marine biology. But the temptations of partying are huge.

The upshot is *where* would your daughter be most motivated to study and achieve in her areas of interests? If you can take a day to visit both campuses as an adventure (including dorms), and talk about what she has a passion for studying, you both will discover the right answer.

The most important thing to remember for both is that the first year is very stressful. Work to develop close lines of candid nonjudgmental communications wherever she goes. Good Luck


SDSU is a great school with truly good programs. She will have access to strong classes, overseas semesters, etc. If she wants to go on to grad school at a bigger unoversity she can, most likely. If it were me i would do my best to let her decide. Both are great choices. Perhaps she knows she needs a shift on reference point. Anon. Mom
I went to UCB in 1985-1989 and, speaking as quite the nerd, was totally shocked at how much fun happened there. The Greek system was practically unavoidable and even as a shy freshman, I was constantly getting invited to parties and having a great time. Especially if she's interested in humanities rather than engineering, I think she'll really enjoy campus life and make strong friendships at UCB.

Obviously it's been decades since then, but since you live so close by, maybe you and she can visit some of the sororities and fraternities to see what it's like now. I bet it's still hugely fun. Since graduation, I've had tremendous opportunities thanks to having UCB on my resume and I'd hate for her to sacrifice that when the cost is the same just because of a perception that at least for me turned out to be totally untrue. (signed) Berkeley English major, now Google employee


My son graduated from a CSU, one of the highly impacted ones, of which SDSU is at the top of the list. It took him 5 years because he could not get into his classes for his major. A few years later this situation has gotten worse, some of his friends took 6 years to graduate. She is not likely to graduate in 4 years from SDSU, she will have great difficulty getting classes or choosing a professor. The school has a reputation for partying and drug dealing.

My daughter is at a UC and will graduate on time with a degree that has a much better reputation.

She needs to look at graduation rates and how a degree will impact the rest of her life. Like many of my children's friends who also got into UCB, they at first didn't want to go to school 2 Bart stops away from home, but after careful consideration, most decided to go to UCB (except for those that got into UCLA). Some of the kids come home often for meals and laundry, others treat it as if they were 1000's of miles away and never come home. She can make it what she wants but she will likely have a better future from UCB. anon


Other responders have given great advice and I just wanted to add that it is important to think about what she wants to do after her undergrad years. If she is trying to get into business or some competitive industry where it DOES matter where you went to undergrad, then a UCB degree will carry more weight than SDSU. In other fields it matters much less. If she is not trying to get into one those competitive fields, then let her go where she thinks she will be happiest. There is no denying that a degree from UCB has prestige attached to it, but if she doesn't care, why should you? --UCB grad with a daughter headed to SDSU

UC Riverside or UC Merced?

March 2012

My child was offered acceptance at UC Merced and UC Riverside, any pros or cos for either schools. Major is undecided but interests are computer science / business. College Bound


UC Merced and UC Riverside are very different! Have you read the material on the UC website about the majors and programs offered at each campus? I believe Merced has fewer choices of majors. Has your child visited each campus--that would be essential because the atmosphere at each is quite different. Given that Merced is the youngest UC campus, it may not have as strong a reputation as Riverside. But the key question is--which does your child prefer? The child's preference and the availability of majors or courses should be the key deciding factors. Anonymous
My son LOVES UC Riverside and wouldn't hesitate to tell you so. The quality of instruction, the feeling that everyone belongs to a community, the friendliness all are important to him. k.

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


UC Berkeley - dorm is ''required''?

June 2010

I've just heard from my neighbor whose daughter got accepted to UC Berkeley as a freshman for this fall that the university ''requires'' that she live in a dorm. It makes me seriously worry since I specifically want my child to live at home when her time comes to attend the university. I want her to avoid the dorm life experience, I rely on her everyday help in the family, she works for the family business and will continue working, and I don't have the funds to pay for the dorm unnecessarily (and it would be a shame to put her in student loan debt just for the unnecessary expense). Could someone please verify the info I received? Is this a new policy? How can they require this? Anon


NO! Students are NOT REQUIRED to live in the res halls. It's highly recommended as there are many services on site for first year students (computing centers, academic centers with tutors, dining halls with organic food, plus the room!), and it's a great way for new students to transition into college life and make new friends. That said, many students commute to Berkeley (3-5% of new frosh). If your student is living at home and working in the family business, you want to make sure to encourage her to get involved in campus activities. These are what often lead to making life-long friends and even finding a career later on. Check out this website: http://commuter.berkeley.edu Work for UC Housing
This isn't an answer to your question, but just another perspective. You say that you want yr child to avoid ''the dorm experience'' and that you ''rely'' on her every day help. Feels like you haven't come to grips with the fact that she's growing up and moving on. College is a big deal, and, as a UCB graduate I can tell you that it is a very demanding environment. It's also a huge school, where it can be hard to form lasting friendships. The ''dorm experience'' is a key part of forming relationships and creating the support network that helps young people navigate through the university and their new independence. Living away from family is part of that independence. I'm trying to imagine your daughter doing her course work, working int he family business and still offering you the ''every day help'' you expect, and frankly, it sounds like a train wreck. She needs the space to grow and mature on her own, and to experience the social part of college.

Whether or not she lives in the dorms, please try to give her the room to be a young adult in what should be one of the most exciting and intellectually stimulating experiences of her life. Been There


Hello, I am a Manager at the Cal Housing office and can emphatically say that at UC Berkeley, Freshmen students are not required to live on campus. It's recommended that they do and the overwhelming majority of Freshmen choose to do so to take advantage of the community and programmatic functions. Nancy
No, UC Berkeley does not ''require'' students to live in the dorm but it is highly recommended. Living at Cal is valuable for the student to grow and develop independently from the family and allows the student to make friends and work with mentors which is necessary to career development. I know of many people who developed friendships in the dorms that resulted in a number of successful Berkeley startups in Silicon Valley.

I can understand ''needing'' a child to stay with you, especially if that child works in a family business. However, by expecting that child to sacrifice their studies and friends for you, you are now putting at risk your current business as well as their future career opportunities. Do you really want to impede your child's studies by forcing dictates like living at home arbitrarily?

If you have not done so, I urge you to talk with a financial aid adviser to discuss how to finance your child's education. You should also talk to your child's high school counselor about why top private universities like Stanford and Harvard require freshmen to live in student housing.

Finally, if your child has not yet been accepted to Berkeley, you may be premature in your concerns. The Fall 2010 stats show Berkeley had the highest average grade-point average for incoming freshmen, at 4.19. UCLA was the ''most selective'' campus. UC is reducing admission for California residents as well to compensate for state budget losses. There are no guarantees to admission to Berkeley even for the brightest California kids anymore. Mom of Berkeley and UCLA students and Berkeley alumna


why don't you call UC Berkeley... but remember, the University has recently built hundreds of new dorm beds... and they need to fill them and and and... by the time your daughter goes, rules might change skeptical
You might be interested in a slightly different ''dorm'' experience, the Berkeley Student Co- op, http://berkeleystudentcooperative.org/ It's a non-profit institution that's been around for many years, offers older & less-luxurious but still very convenient dorm-type rooms and meals, requires students to help out with the cooking and housekeeping work, and costs much less. It tends to attract more self-sufficient and responsible students, thought there is plenty of variety of all kinds. It's likely booked up for the fall but there are always some people who leave after the first term so a transition at that point might be a possibility. Happy co-op alumna

Curious about rankings for the UCs

April 2010

Hello, I recently read a letter in the Teens Newsletter that referred to UC San Diego as a ''mid tier UC'' campus. This made me wonder (I've been out of college for *many* years!) - how does one find out about the ''rankings'' of the various UC campuses? Even State colleges? Which UC campuses are ''top tier'', if UCSD is ''mid tier''? What are the other ''mid tier'' UC's? And, mostly, where is this information derived from? Thanks much for the assistance. Curious about UC rankings


Rankings depend on what the campus is being ranked on. Berkeley and UCLA are usually the hardest to get in to, while Riverside and Merced are the easiest to get into, so UCSD etc are in the middle. That might be one ranking.

Another way might be some measure of faculty quality, student faculty ratio, social engagement, funding, etc. You can look at various things online for students thinking of applying.

I think it is best to match the student to the kinds of majors, the atmosphere, whether or not they have friends there, extracurricular opportunities, cost, etc, rather than by some sort of ranking. Also, students will have a very different experience in college and afterwards depending on the major they choose, and that is more important than one UC.

Here at Cal, the forestry major and other small majors provide more opportunity to interact with faculty and other students, while larger majors could be alienating for some students. Clubs and extracurricular activities can also provide a student with a home. In almost any major you are able, with planning, to fulfill the requirements for the graduate or professional career of your choice, including law and medicine. My undergrad major at UCSD was obscure and had 2 students in it. I am friends with faculty members there to this day, and now I am a professor in an unrelated topic at UCB. My doctor majored in French Literature. Pick the place your kid will like. been there


It really depends on the department. At some of the less prestigious UCs the departments are higher ranked than at the more prestigious ones. Also, just because a department is ranked top in the UCs doesn't mean it's number one for undergraduates. The faculty might get the most grants and have the most awards, but percentage wise, only a small number of undergraduates may go on to top ranked graduate schools. In fact, it may only be at the graduate level that the department lives up to its rank. Anon

Berkeley vs. Davis for freshman in biology/pre-med

April 2010

My teen got accepted at both UCB (molecular biology)and UCD (pre-med). Does anyone have a basis for freshman experience comparison of the two? My teen can live at home for UCB or the dorm at UCD; plans to become Pediatrician. HELP! cj


I have observed and participated in the frosh experience at UCB two times. Does your kid thrive in huge classes and mindless, all out competition? (some do) Is she good at forming study groups, learning all kinds of tricks to do better, and lots of memorization? UCB is the place for her! I'm afraid that otherwise she will get discouraged by the giant classes that are not only hard to get into but really hard once you get into them. For some kids, seriously, it is great, but think about it and maybe discuss it with her. Living at home is much cheaper, but healthy? Also depends on the kid.

UCD is also going to be competitive in the pre-med ranks, but she has a better chance of getting through it, in my opinion.

Most pre-med students entering Berkeley (about 70% of those in the sciences, and that is a lot of people) change their minds, maybe for the best, but I think that there are many who would be doctors if they had done their lower division years someplace else--even a community college (and saved money!), because they would not have been subject to the absurd competition here. And I do not believe it is competition where the best potential doctors, graduate students, or people necessarily prevail. Some students do get through and have a wonderful experience in the end of course. You should try to fit your kid to the school. signed, been through it. UCB mom and faculty


Our daughter was in a similar position, having to decide between biology at either Berkeley or UC Davis. She chose Berkeley, is living on campus and loves it. She keeps saying that Berkeley is so great because everyone there wants to learn. If your daughter chooses Berkeley, I strongly suggest that she live on campus. Eventhough she is only a short distance away from home, she is still at college and can be as independent as she wants. Some of my daughter's friends that are from the Bay Area go home every weekend, and many are like my daughter, who gives us a call when she wants to come home for some home cooking or to do laundry. Davis is also a great school, so you really can't go wrong. Dad in Oakland
It's like matchmaking, depends on what your kid wants. I attended UCD and loved the small-town atmosphere, biking everywhere, proximity to the Sierra and the Bay Area. A lovely campus with a college town feel. I loved it. The school of medicine is now in Sacramento, but still close enough. Cal Aggie

UC Santa Cruz colleges, dorm housing

May 2009

TO: Wise parents of current or former UCSC students. We're a little befuddled by the ''college'' choices and the affordable dorm housing choices, ie quad? small double? small triple?. Daughter has been accepted into College Eight. She's a homebody, neatnik and a bit obsessive with cleanliness, bordering on OCD. More interested in environmental issues than social justice. She'd like to meet people and make new friends, though not the type to drink to excess. Her drink of choice is chai. Any suggestions on a suitable college and which dorm accommodation would be ideal for her? Or, does it make a difference... how good is UCSC with matching roommates? UCSC Newbie Parent


''She's a homebody, neatnik and a bit obsessive with cleanliness, bordering on OCD.''

Fill out the housing application with clear details, get it in early, and be willing to pay more money if it provides better choices. Read the Housing website multiple times and discuss the details and options with your student.

There are drug and substance free floors, single gender floors, and these fill up fast. If enough requests are made early enough they will consider converting floors to accommodate demand, but if you are last minute you get what is left.

If your daughter is really OCD you need a professionally documented diagnosis. And if you think so you may wish to follow up since it can be a lifetime issue. UCSC provides services for disabilities.

For the last few years UCSC has had record numbers of admissions so housing is scarce. They have been ''converting'' singles to doubles, and doubles to triples. ''Converting'' means putting in bunkbeds, the rooms are the same size as they were constructed. However the housing staff for each school is very professional and does their best to match up compatible people. They also will rematch later on but this takes time and may be disruptive. It is very isolating for freshman to live in a single room, and UCSC has a lot of experience with what works so contact Housing as soon as possible with your questions.

Reminder - this is college now. So staff is much less interested in what parents have to say and much more interested in what students have to say. Your student will get a much stronger response to a well worded request than you will. This is one of the biggest changes from HS to college. A student may actually get less than what they need if the requests are all coming from mom and/or dad. At some point your student will need to deal with people who are different than they are, it's a huge part of going off to school. After 18 years, all contact must come from the student and you are only privy to what is going on if your student provides written permission. UCSC parent


Son nervous about UC Santa Cruz - wants to wait

May 2009

I could really use some advice. My son is a senior, graduating in a month. He is extremely creative but by our high school standards, a pretty average student (3.5, 1860 on SAT). He is extremely creative especially in video production and theater type of work, however, he is also really analytical (i.e. he doesn't relate to really artsy people).

He applied to two U.C.s and got into Santa Cruz, didn't get into Santa Barbara. To, me Santa Cruz is a perfect fit for him. We went to the campus visit and afterwards, he said he just didn't like Santa Cruz. Now he wants to do community college. He says he wants to go to a better school ... whatever that means. Honestly, I think he is stalling.

I think he is afraid to go. I am really torn on whether to push him out of the nest and make him go or to let him stay home for two years with this community college. Most of my friends say let him do community college, some kids just take longer. My gut says make him go to Santa Cruz. I already told him he could make the decision, but now I'm regretting that thinking I should have said ''You're going''.

This is a nice kid with good friends but he's never had a job or any great responsibility - even though I keep telling him he has to get a job. Short of me applying for him, he just won't. I'm pretty fed up. Shelly


I would say that you should let him go to community college first, and in the meantime, have him think of other options. Santa Cruz is a special kind of place, with a particular flavor that may not appeal to your son, though it appeals to you. When he says ''better'' school, he may mean less non-traditional. I would have him look over literature from schools across the country to see if he can put his finger on what would be a good fit. Though private schools can be very expensive, perhaps he can win a scholarship if he does really well at the community college. Or he can try to get into a different UC. In any case, for a student feeling unsure of himself, the community college is a good start. The course material for the foundation courses is basically the same, but the classes are smaller and there is not the social piece to contend with in the same way. As someone who teaches college-aged kids (and who has seen kids crash and burn), I would say that parents should start to bow out of the decision process as much as is feasible at this point. He has a preference that makes sense, and I would go with that. Linda
I have a student at UCSC who loves it. Furthermore as a parent I think the school knocks itself out to provide very quality service to all of its students. We looked at 10 private schools and were accepted at 5 out 6 applied to. None of them were as proactive as UCSC in making sure our student was taken care of. Really encourage a visit and tour, talk to students on campus.

There is all kinds of common talk about UCSC as ''low priority'' UC, a party school, ungraded environment. It's nonsense. Most of the UCSC grads I have met whether recent or from the 70's loved their experience. It is a well known center to launch science careers.

First of all they have had grades for many years, the academics are structured, more structured than most private schools costing 3 times as much. Requirements for graduation are not as easy as other UCs, that may surprise you, The student body is friendly, accepting, and really very normal. It's a beautiful campus, and the city of Santa Cruz has lots of opportunities for movies, beach, boardwalk, groceries and eateries.

The pressure and competition to get into any UC right now is tremendous. If he prefers another UC, he can gain priority to transfer for second or third year if his grades are good. It is much easier to transfer from one UC to another, than to get in as a freshman. I have talked to several people who graduated from UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UCSB by first going to UCSC, Riverside or Irvine.

I suspect his friends are giving him crap. My student's friends dished crap and half of them wish they picked UCSC now. The beer boozing on most of the campuses is way out of control. A bit more discreet at UCSC. Not the nerdiest school, but many very serious and responsible students. Amazing lecturers. I am very pleased with my student's roommates. World class programs in many, many areas. In the end right now your son's peers opinions are very valuable to him, in another year, he may only be talking to one or two of the HS friends. So try to sort out the source of this.

A day listening in on lectures really made the difference for my student. If he has been to the campus several times I would agree that maybe a Community College would be better. You might also look at the University of Texas, University of Oregon, University of Vermont, and SUNY systems, little late, but for folks out there who can't afford private, these out of state tuitions are not awful. UCSC positive, goodluck making a good choice


My understanding is that it is only possible to transfer from a UC to another UC in the junior year and that UC doesn't take transfers from other colleges at the sophomore level. Does anyone have a different experience with this. My son did not get into a UC of his choice. He was surprised that he didn't get into UCSC but we heard of students with GPAs of 3.8 who didn't get in. We were told that his best chance would involving going to junior college for two years, and then transferring to a UC. He did get into SFSU but it sounds like there is almost no chance of transfering from a CSU to a UC as the system feels you are already taken care of. Any ideas? Money is an issue, so we will be staying instate. another parent
In response to the question about your son not getting into a UC of choice and the problem of not being able to transfer until the junior year...you might look into Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. it's a state school, and its liberal political, green ambiance appeals to some kids who are also interested in UCSC. The out-of-state tuition there is nearly comparable to the UC system. My son and several other graduates of Berkeley High went to Evergreen and loved it. Cathy

Experience with UC Merced?

April 2009

Does anyone have personal experience with UC Merced? My daughter received an acceptance letter from them, although she hadn't applied there. She was rejected by all the other UC's, so is seriously considering it. We're wondering specifically if it feels isolating, and if it will feel very different from the more diverse community she is used to in the Bay Area. anon


Here is response from my son who is going to UC Merced currently: Currently a sophomore at UC Merced. I was also rejected from all the UCs and chose UC Merced over San Francisco State. The size of classes makes it feel like a small private school at a UC price. Most professors are well educated from respectable universities. There is some diversity on campus (majority of students are from Bay Area, Sacramento, and Los Angeles). The campus itself is about 4-5 miles from the city of Merced. There is a shuttle that goes between campus and town. The city of Merced is a very conservative place. It is missing the diversity that we are used to (and love) in the Bay Area. There is also no Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or anything resembling Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market. Merced feels like it's stuck in the 90s. I would not highly recommend UC Merced if your daughter is looking for a big city school like UCLA or UC Berkeley. Instead, her best bet would be to attend community college for two years and then transfer to a UC. Hope that helps, and best of luck. Anon
My son (Berkeley High Graduate) is now a 3rd year student and has thrived well. The Campus itself is isolated, it is about 10-15 minutes away from downtown Merced via car, but the student body population is very diverse. Many of my son's friends are from San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, Alameda, Berkeley as well as Los Angeles and San Diego. Staff is also a diverse bunch!

He's been an RA for two years now. He just learned that he's been accepted to be a SR RA for the 09/10 school year. I'm sure he'd be happy to answer any of your daughter's questions regarding the school. E-mail me and I can send you his e-mail. js


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