San Diego State University

Outside the Bay Area, CA
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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

 

 


San Diego State University or ???

Jan 2012

My child has just been admitted to SDSU - and U of Oregon. They both seem like good schools to me and I think my child would do well there. I am having a hard time convincing my child that they are fine schools (my child feels ''entitled'' to better, even though has not applied to privates!!??). We are still waiting on UC decisions too. If we get into UC Davis is this better? Anyway I would like to hear from students or parents of kids at these schools to get more info. We live in Berkeley. Thanks need info


Hi dear, I have four (count em) four kids in college right now. I'm a maven. SDSU is a big school, and will cost you less as it is in state and a state school. Its a VERY GOOD SCHOOL. A great place to be if your child is very social, and Im sorry to say, pretty, or likes to be around pretty. The girls are all blonde, the beaches are blonde. A great place to fall in love. The weather is out of control wonderful. Hard to get all the classes you need because of the size. Your kid needs to be a super navigator to not drown. If he/she can focus in paradise, thrives in physical pleasures, and can work in a party, it's a wonderful place to spend the fecund years. You said U of O.... that's in Eugene. Totally different scene. Now that is NOT Oregon State, which is in Corvalis, right? U of O is NOT a state school, its a University. Will cost you more. The owner of NIKE went there. If your child is a musician or athlete, this is a TOTAL NO BRAINER. The weather sucks, but many kids love that invigorating, full of oxygen, lush learning environment. Kayaking is wonderful there. Flora and fauna divine. Eugene is boring, yet the campus is really beautiful, has awesome spirit and has a lot more character than San Diego. The kids there are (in my opinion) down to earth and super smart AGAIN, A VERY GOOD SCHOOL. Naturally you see less skin there (remember these are the skin years) so less emphasis is put on body type up there. The kids I know there are either football players or marching band participants. If you have seen their new sports complex..... WOW!

My opinion of UC Davis is that it is BLOODY hot up there and it smells like cows. Its great for science and animal work, but not nearly as interesting as your other two options. Kids are like snowflakes; or as my husband says, ''they remind me a little bit of people''; each one so intricately unique. A good question to ask is where does your kid like to vacation most? By a river or at the beach.... both are really great schools.

If you want to talk further, I'd love to hear how things are going and fill you in on my kids personal pros and cons. Mine are all over the map (though their gigantic bodies are all here now with all of their glorious languages, political arguments, general laziness and laundry) Best to you, and congratulations to your baby. It's not easy to get into either of those. He/she certainly did the work. Welcome to ''the next envelope of worry'' reen


I would agree with you that these are all good schools, and these days with the competition out there all schools are harder and harder to enter.

That being said does your son have specific goals for career or what he wants to study? He may not but if he does that can help you set some criteria on which to evaluate the schools he is accepted at.

I would also suggest that you consult his high school advisor or counselor if he has one at his school. Often this person will ask questions or help you evaluate along lines you had not thought of.

If you son wishes to go to get PhD, or enter a competitive professional program, a degree from a University of California school may have more ''weight'' providing his grades are good, study area appropriate, recommendations and any exam scores he needs are high. There is not ''one'' ingredient for future success. But it does help if a student can find a niche or feel confident.

Setting up some criteria - maybe along the lines of studies offered, looking at some statistics on ratio of students who graduate in 4 years, go on to grad studies, what schools they go on to, living conditions, extracurricular activities. Maybe some other criteria that you can make a comparison will help.

Of course it would have helped if he did this before he applied - but sometimes this is just what happens when the other kids start to brag on their acceptances, and people have second thoughts or get teased. You can go to the most elite school and not do well, or attend a very unassuming program at another school and totally blossum.

My daughter just graduated from UCSC and she was accepted at several elite schools, but after making comparisons she chose to attend UCSC and for a lot of reasons I think it was an excellent choice, and she did well in her studies. In the end it is not the reputation of a school that creates the educational experience, it is the ''match'' between the school and the student. Setting up criteria and a chart will help your son discover more about himself as well as digging a bit deeper into what each school offers.

If he does not get into a UC and really wants to - it is easier to transfer from a Community College in Junior year than it is to transfer from the State system. There are a number of reasons why that is true, but not enough room to explain it here. Supportive

Editor Note: a review was also received for University of Oregon