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