College choice: UC vs. CSU

Did you go to college far away or closer to home? Are your teenagers already in college or will be going to college in the next few years? Please share what would you choose in this situation. 

My daughter is 15. She is the only child and we are very close. Her grades are good  but not stellar (GPA 3.6). She will be 17 when she graduates high school. She has a few health issues plus ADD, anxiety and depression that made last year in school very difficult which affected her grades. Had higher grades before. 

There is a midrange state University 25 minutes from home. It has a major of her choice. She can live at home and drive to the campus or live freshman year in the dorms to get college experience and the rest of years at home. It still will be less expensive then any other school.  

Common sense says to me that it is the way to go and there are benefits of going there including:

1)living nearby so I can help easier if she needs help (given her health and emotional issues it is my main concern now), 

2)saving a lot of money and graduating without loans. Her future job of choice is not one of the high paying jobs but she really wants to do it. We do not qualify for financial aid. 

4)at that local school it is easier to get classes needed (less impacted), easy to change majors if she decides to and it is less competitive and less stressful environment

4)she can visit often her dog and me which will make us much happier :)

However downsides are:

1)since the school is smaller and less well known there will be less opportunities for internships and the name of the school is important for getting a good job after. She wants to get to the best school possible to have a better chance for future job prospects. Her grades would allow her to get into a better schools but they all are farther away.

2)kids become more mature and learn more lifeskills if they are away from home and this is what most of her classmates going to do-go away for college. Would she be in a huge disadvantage if she stays locally for undergrad and may be go away to a bigger school for Grad school? She told me yesterday that wants to experience other places. How important is to get this experience at 17 vs 23 to be successful as a young adult in the US?

Plus, I am a single mom, so my own desire to be close to her, and my mentality of being raised in the country where children stay at hometown if they can, also contributes but I do not want to be selfish and want to choose what would truly be the best for her. 

Would you encourage your child to go to a good local less expensive school that we have enough savings to pay for fully or to take loans and go away to a better known bigger much more expensive school? 

We are deciding between California State University vs UC (except UC Berkeley, UCLA or UCSD- scores are unfortunately not at the range for those). What would you do?

Moderator Note: See also past advice "Which college?"

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RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

Tough choices. You know your daughter best. Make your decision from love, not fear. Yes, going away to college is an experience, but not every 18-year-old are mature enough to manage the roadblocks of being away from home i.e. parties.  

Here are my personal thoughts: debt-free college, or at least minimum debt (less than $30k). Community college is also an option, keeping her close to home, giving her time to acclimate to college life. Berkeley Community College is a solid choice, as it's a feeder into the UC system. As far as CSU vs. UC, it depends on your daughter's interest/major. If it's not engineering, medicine, law, or business, CSU is adequate. I'm a former high school life skills teacher, and it's unfortunate that grades have become like an Olympic competition. But grades are not a predictor of a student's success. Life skills are. good luck.

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

Our daughter had some of the same challenges as yours, except that her grades in high school were MUCH worse; she nearly didn’t graduate. She went away to a junior college, and while the first year was almost a repeat of her HS years, somehow starting in her 2nd year she completely turned herself around. She finished her lower division transfer courses at the JC, getting help with her ADHD as well as guidance to ensure she completed the transfer requirements. She got into all of the schools you mention: UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego. She is now very happy at UC Berkeley. (She applied as a regular junior admission, not using the guaranteed admission program that community colleges offer).

Two things: I think the experience of “going away” to college is extremely important (she was in another city for JC).  I wouldn’t envision your daughter getting as much out of her experience if she lives with you, particularly during her upper division years. 

And I believe the college she attends absolutely does matter. Kids at UCB, UCLA, etc., are going to have opportunities that a child at CSU East Bay (or other) simply won’t have. 

I’d consider the community college route. The guaranteed admission to a UC campus (does not include Berkeley or UCLA) holds if she maintains a 3.0 there. Both the community colleges and UC campuses will have programs that provide accommodation for her ADHD, should she desire that.  

Best of luck. 

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

Have you considered the community college transfer route? Your daughter could stay at home an additional two years, save a ton of money, then transfer to her pick of UCs (or CSU or private college) for the remaining two years. It is MUCH easier to get in to the highly selective UCs as a community college transfer than from high school. HS grades and test scores will not be considered, only her community college grades. OTOH CSU is a great option. Keep in mind your daughter is going to mature quite a bit from age 15 to 17 and have her own opinion. I have one CC kid and one CSU kid.

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

Graduating without loans is huge, especially if her future job will not pay well. But allowing her to make her own decision is also important. And a year in the dorm is indispensable.  I suggest you talk to her about the pros and cons and let her make her own decision. My son when to college near home (but didn't live at home) and is a competent adult now. He spent most summers in town, but did have a summer internship in Europe. Some time abroad could compensate for going to school close to home, even if it is just a summer program. 

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

I did a combination of close-by CSU and UC, my daughter, an upcoming CSU freshman, is considering the same, and it might work for your daughter as well. I spent my first two years living in the dorms at a CSU, and coming home to work in Oakland on the weekends/vacations. I spent my Jr and Sr year at a close-by UC, one quarter in a dorm and then in an apartment, still working in Oakland on the weekends, but getting away a little on my own and working in Orange County and Hawaii over the summers.

Note that CSU to UC is not a "transfer," and I did lose some units in the switch but it was worth it because the UC had better opportunities in my chosen major. Just because she chooses a college now, doesn't mean she is stuck with it for four years. CSU East Bay and Sonoma State are both lovely campuses, with nice dorms, and very close by; just decide year-by-year what works for her and her health situation.

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

You sound like you have been dealing with a lot. And as the parent of two teens -- one with lots of struggles -- I think it is fair and good for you to be thinking about these things. However, is is WAY TOO SOON to be making any decisions. And this is not entirely your decision -- I'm not hearing what your daughter wants in here.  Take her to visit colleges if you can -- local ones if you cannot travel. See how things play out next year (her junior year?). Have her apply to ALL THE CHOICES and then decide what's best based on where she gets in and all the many considerations (financial, access to services and support, major, location, career prospects, etc.). Please allow this process to unfold on its own. She is still maturing. She's doing amazingly well in school given the challenges you mention. Does that GPA include Freshman grades? CSU and UC will not look at those. Take a deep breath and understand your daughter will decide in about 18 - 21 months. And even then, things can change. Relax and try to enjoy the ride.

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

You know you are overthinking this, right? Regardless of what you want, or what you encourage, your daughter is going to have her own opinions, and both her opinions and situation could change between now and college applications. And she has to get accepted into the college of her (or your) dreams.

That said, college nearby and living on campus sounds like the happy medium between you being nearby if she needs you while still forging her independence. While I realize that the financial realities of the Bay Area and education costs in general means that a lot of kids need to live at home, I think college should be a time to transition to independent living. College dorms are like the training wheels of adult living. My opinions may be colored by having grown up in a rural area and having attended the nearest state school 2 hours from my home in a small town in the middle of nowhere--essentially no one lived at home and commuted.

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

Hi there!

I'm going to be a vote encouraging you to go with the affordable option!  There is plenty of evidence that being close to family and connections is valuable (and normal in many cultures), and there is also plenty of evidence that having a big name diploma (and debt) is not worth it in the way it once was.

I love the book Better than College by Blake Boles... if you're looking for affordable and varied ways to supplement your daughter's independence, skills, and networks... the things that most help young adults be successful in our challenging and rapidly changing world.

Take care! 

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

I think it is a tricky decision. To my taste, the American society has this pressure to send the kids away at 18, sometimes 17.It does not make any sense, but it is what it is.

In my experience, my older boy went to Chico ( the party school) he was not a great student and being away did not help. My daughter went to University of Oregon ( good student but not good enough for UC's- whatever that means...- she left Oregon because the lifestyle and weather, went 1 year to Berkeley City, got accepted for junior year in lots of schools but wanted to remain in Bay Area, graduated with honors from University of San Francisco...all that in 4 years.

The freshman experience is a bit silly, lots of freedom, alcohol, fun, new friends, great basic classes...Is that worth all that money? personal decision.

I think it will be better if everyone stays home for 2 more years. At 20 you are a bit more clear of what you want, we all had establish better relationship in the family, the parents can enjoy seeing the kids growing 20 the kid moves out, away, get roommates, challenging classes...and everybody had save a lot of money!

If the kid is organized and take the required classes for their degree, they can transfer to the UC's

Good luck!

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

I feel like you have left out one great option: go to a local community college, then transfer to a UC!

The overall cost is probably about the same as CSU all through (though I am not sure of that).

She would get the prestige of graduating from a UC and likely have smaller classes at community college than she would at a CSU.

Downsides: most of the community colleges don't have much of a campus/student life feeling to them, though the CSUs don't have too much of that either. You might check out Sierra College near Sacramento -- that is a community college with dorms, though it may feel too far away to you. Also, transferring midway means adjusting to a new school, making new friends, etc.

It sounds like she wants to go to a UC and you want her to stay at home. Having her stay at home for community college and then transfer seems like a good compromise? But if she REALLY wants to go away then I think you should support her (emotionally -- you don't have to spend money on a plan you don't agree with!). And remember, none of the UCs are really that far away from the Bay Area. I have heard great things about UC Riverside in terms of it being smaller, more personal attention, etc.

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

I would encourage you to consider community colleges as well. My older daughter was admitted to UCs, but ultimately decided to start with community college. She's currently a student at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz. She is earning good grades, getting the full student experience (all of her roommates are UCSC students), and getting ready to transfer. She'll take 5 years to finish her BA because she had a light course load while she was working, but if a kid's going to take extra time in college then community college is the place to do it! And she'll end up with a UC degree, good life skills, much lower debt, and the confidence that comes from navigating her own path. 

RE: College choice: UC vs. CSU ()

SFSU, Sonoma State, and SJSU all have a significant population of students living in dorms. They are close enough that you can get there when you need to, but your child will have more of a college experience than if they commute. UC Santa Cruz, and UC Davis are also close enough to come home for the weekend if your student wants to be at home.

If finances are the major issue, then two years of Community College before transferring is possible. However some CC students have trouble moving forward from there.

You may be surprised at how much your daughter matures between 15 and 17.