College recommendations for cool quirky teen

We are looking for a college where there is an atmosphere of creativity in the air. A place for a young gay teen who has a passion for self-expression can feel safe to be herself. She is dedicated to her creative writing and also has a strong interest in art-making. Graphic design is an area she is exploring this summer but has also expressed an interest in metal work and jewelry design. She is also a budding political activist. For a final project she created a type of documentary about gay issues. This was presented at pretty conservative Silicon Valley high school. Within her introverted heart lies a lot of courage and passion.  As with many, money is an issue. I am an elementary school teacher and a single mom. But I am open to any colleges you may have already looked or any you have heard about.  She says no rural scene for her and so far says she wants to be near a city.  U of O in Eugene, Oregon did not appeal nor did The Evergreen State School in WA. She gets good grades but works for them.  If you don't mind, please leave your email in case I have any questions.  Thanks!!

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

Not sure how far you're willing to travel, but I would check out Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.

If you're looking to have her stay in the bay area you should check out Mills! It's an all women's college and has a very supportive/community feeling. I believe they also let students cross register at California College of the Arts so she could explore metal arts, etc.. Mills has a strong activist community as well and an excellent womens and queer studies department.

That said, if she is more interested in the arts, California College of the Arts is also a wonderful experience just not as heavy on the academics.

Both, in my experience, offer pretty good financial aid and scholarship packages. Both are very supportive environments for LGBT kids.

As a queer woman I really enjoyed my time at both schools!

Look into Bard College.  My cousin's children went there and they are creative.  They are only one and two years out of college.  One works as a graphic designer and the other, who majored in documentary film making, works at a film museum and teaches disadvantaged youth in film making projects.

Our son, who is a writer, loved Pitzer College and works in the video game industry and has had a number of great jobs including being the editor in chief of the magazine for video game developers, Game Developers Magazine.  (The print magazine was closed.). He is now on a team that is developing new video games.

The first school that popped into my head upon reading your description of your daughter is Reed, just outside of Portland OR.  They apparently have fairly good need based aid, if that would be an issue.  Another thought is to post this same question (or research previous replies) in the forums on College Confidential.  I have found that site to be a wealth of good advice about colleges, for the most part, written by people who know what they are talking about and will have many useful suggestions.  Good luck!

Check out Reed, but (as much I loved going there) I'm not sure I would recommend it for a student who "gets good grades by works for them."  That's not meant as a put-down -- just that Reed is a very intense place and can be difficult even for kids who coasted through high school with excellent grades.  It's also expensive and does not have the endowment (ability to award generous financial aid) of some other schools.  Mills is an excellent recommendation.  I know many California kids (a fair number gay) who have been delighted with Macalester.  Bowdoin would be another place to consider but it may not be metropolitan enough. 

Sarah Lawrence outside NYC - alternative, very good arts and writing programs. also Bard and Kenyon College have good writing and arts programs, liberal, queer-friendly schools.  

Your kid sounds so much like my kid.  We have looked at small liberal arts colleges with great arts programs from coast to coast.  Some schools you might want to look at are Sarah Lawrence and Lewis & Clark.  I agree with the comment about Reed being super intense.  Bard would also be a great fit as would Bennington and Whitman if she could stand a rural setting.  I blogged about our many, many college visits searching for the perfect "hippie" college for my daughter at

I'll second the recommendation for Reed. My son is headed into his final year there and loves it. Creative thinking is encouraged and expected. Lots of different types of kids. It's in Portland, which is a great city for young people. The school is known for looking beyond just gpa and test scores in the admissions process. It is a hard school, work wise, but the kids aren't competitive with each other. They push themselves to do better. My son really grew into himself there  

Bennington College in Vermont fills the bill in every way, except that it's completely rural.  But maybe encourage her to at least look on the website? I loved my years there -- it might be exactly what she's looking for, other than the (beautiful!!) setting.

Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, is similar, but less rural -- it's in a small town but part of a consortium of five colleges, so there are tons of students around.  

Skidmore, in upstate New York, and Sarah Lawrence, just north of New York City, also have the kind of atmosphere you're talking about, and it's easy to get into the city from both of them.

Also check out University of Redlands in southern California -- my college-aged child's artsy/activist friend is loving it there, and got a good financial aid package.

New York University has a wide range of both BA and BFA arts programs (fine arts, media, performing arts, film, writing) in two of its schools, Steinhard and Tisch.  They are not known for great financial aid though, alas.

Emerson College in Boston might be a great fit -- it has tons of specific arts programs, both BA and BFA, very similar mix to NYU (but a much smaller school and smaller city, so less overwhelming).

In terms of west coast art schools, in addition to CCA and Cal Arts, you might look at the San Francisco Art Institute, and Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. 

I recommend your daughter investigate a fairly wide range of places -- both BA and BFA programs, at liberal arts colleges, public universities, and art schools -- because each program will have a different emphasis, a different selection of majors, and a different balance of academics and arts, and it's hard to know ahead of time what exactly you're looking for.  And don't rule out expensive private schools -- some of them will offer so much financial aid that they end up costing you less than ostensibly cheaper public universities, and you won't know until you apply.  

Best of luck!

Hi I'm a graduate of Pitzer College in Claremont. They have a great media studies program and it's a social justice amosphere. It was a bit of a culture shock for me as i was from SF (when it was more diverse) and had intersecting identities but there were so many great opportunities for self expression at Pitzer. LA was a short drive away from Claremont. Its a small school with opportunities at a large school bc it's part of Claremont Colleges. Last thing is the fee...deffinitely has expansive private school price tag but my mom was single mother/teacher and my cost was much less than if I had went to UC or state school.

If finances are an issue, you might want to look at some of the more urban CSUs. SF State has an excellent creative writing department and some good art classes. It has dorms.

UC Riverside also has an excellent creative writing department. I don't know about the urban cultural life there, but I know some of the writers and there are quite a few literary events.