College Search Advice for Dedicated Writer

Need feedback on Mills, Pitzer and Macalester....all on my daughter's list.  We heard the dorms at Mills were empty as most kids leave to go home. ( not an option for my kid)  other concern is the surrounding area around the campus.  2. Pitzer- what is the social environment really like and has the financial aid office improved? how open to diversity?  3.Macalester....any grads out there? how is it for a quiet quirky CA student who has never roughed a long cold winter?   4. Any names for schools for dedicated creative writer?   From a mom facing her own empty nest

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This won't answer all of your questions but you might take a look at Oberlin and Kenyon, both of whom have strong writing programs. Kenyon, especially, is known for the writing program. Brutal winters for both of them but the kids seem happy at both. Lots of BHS kids at Oberlin and I know of one at Kenyon, though there may well be more. Oberlin reputed high on the quirk factor. 

We just did the college search with our daughter, who is also interested in pursuing a career in creative writing. Two schools not on your list that I suggest looking at are Oberlin and Kenyon, both of which are eponymously named for their respective Ohio towns. Our daughter chose Oberlin, where she is now a freshman and having a great time. 

Two others, both in downstate NY, are Bard and Sarah Lawrence. None of us could relate to the social scene at SL, but it has a very strong writing program. Bard was definitely a top contender for her, but in the end Oberlin just felt more like 'home' to her.

About weather: Personally, I don't think it should be an elimination factor, *especially* for California kids. Everyone should have the experience of real seasons for a few years.

I'm a mature student at Mills and I can say it seems like a wonderful and supportive environment to have a traditional college experience. It's true that a lot of students live off campus but I get the impression that many start on campus and then move into apartments with their friends their sophomore or Junior year. I've also lived in the area (Laurel District) and quite liked it. If your daughter is coming from an insulated suburb it will definitely feel more urban to her but I feel perfectly safe in the neighborhood (you just use common sense like you would in any urban setting). Most students don't seem to hang out in the local neighborhoods in any event, there are shuttles that goes to Berkeley and Bart regularly so students seem to travel further afield when they are going off campus. The only thing I would say is that it is a quiet campus, more studious than raucous but the traditionally aged students all seem to really love it and make wonderful friends and have great connections with their professors due to the small class size. Plus, the campus is just gorgeous. I went to Vassar for my first BA and the beautiful insulated campus and surrounding urban area is very reminiscent. It wasn't a problem there or at Mills. Good luck to her on her college search!

Hi there,

I am a Mac grad living in Berkeley and can answer questions. I'm active in Alumni activities and have insight to the school.  Contact me at sb.carter [at]

Proud Macalester Alumn. 

Hi there,

I attended Macalester and it was a great fit for me. It's a popular school for many Bay Area students, especially those from BHS and some independent schools. I'm was raised in the snowy Midwest so winters were not a concern . But the people I met from all over the world didn't let cold or snow stop them from engaging in all things winter. The campus is compact so going from one building to another won't force you too be out in the cold too long. Dorms are close to dining hall. In fact many people would leave their dorm without jackets to walk the very short distance for meals.  It's a beautiful well maintained campus and just walking to your next class can be a chance to take in the surroundings and fun things students might do like build an igloo or snow "people" holding signs about an upcoming student event. The campus has lots of open space/grass. I had classes so small that when it was warm, we'd have them outdoors. Try that at Cal or a larger urban campus. Academically it is phenomenal. Small classes, brilliant professors, and best of all, attending classes with people from everywhere. )I attended an Ivy League graduate school and was more than prepared after 4 years at Mac. I sometimes pitied many classmates for not having the intimate experience I had (most went to East Coast colleges- large and impersonal).  I've stayed active as an alumnus and  support them by volunteering and financially through contributions.  Have your daughter request an Alumni interview and I think that will help her gauge if it's the place for her. I don't regret ever going and never apologized about my small liberal arts education. 

Proud Mac alumn and Berkeley resident

I can't speak to questions #1 - 3, but I can for #4. I am a Berkeley native who went to Goucher College, just outside of Baltimore in Towson, MD. It has a great creative writing program (one of my majors was English with a Concentration in Writing), a gorgeous campus, and a close knit student population. It has enough winter to where you can say you experienced winter, but not so much that you ever get snowed in (although it is Maryland and they're prone to overreaction when it snows). They also have an extremely strong study abroad program; I think at this point studying abroad is required for all students. Goucher isn't terribly well known out here, but it might be worth looking into for your daughter.

Hi origami - Pitzer is one of the Claremont Colleges. I went to Scripps (decades ago) It's pretty nice socially though like most private colleges, not as diverse as you'd hope. Pitzer is the most socially progressive of all the schools. It is perforce a student body with a lot of rich kids, mostly white. I worked as a waitress in the dorms at Scripps and the kids on scholarship were a pretty great group. There were not and may not now be many black and Hispanic students though as a group the Claremont colleges had a strong program of admissions officers going to high schools in the LA area and finding students of color. They could have given them more emotional/academic support - they may have improved that. Don't know about Pitzer financial aid office. The diversity for me (lol) was learning to get along with rich kids from the east coast.Not sure how good I was at it. good luck.

Macalester is a sweet little school. My daughter turned down a big scholarship there but has good friend who went there from Berkeley and loved it. Her friend is soccer player. It is cold....really, really cold. good luck. Mills is diverse, has strong LBGQT community. Mills may be academically less rigorous than other two. good luck. 

I can't say enough good things about Macalester!  It was a great experience for me, and yes, there are many grads here!  Actually one great thing about Mac is that there are grads EVERYWHERE. People who are drawn to Mac tend to be folks who then go out and travel and live and work all over the world. The percentage of students from other countries is exceptionally high for a liberal arts college in the states.  And even within the US there are kids from all over the country.  The campus is beautiful, and you could just stick around there, but you also have the twin cities at your doorstep so if you want to get out and roam and feel anonymous you've got plenty of options for that as well. Yes, the weather could be a challenge if that's not what she's used to - so that will depend in part on her willingness to be up for that being part of the college adventure.  Is it good for quiet and quirky students?  I would say definitely.  There is a high quirky quotient at Mac.  As to quiet, I think she'll easily find her people.  You might look into going to the next Macalester event that I know of, which is Mac in the City - SF on Oct 6 (  It's set up for alums but I would think they would welcome interested prospective students.  Best of luck on the search!