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Concerned about fit

silvercustardsilvercustard 7 replies4 threadsRegistered User New Member
After lurking on CC for a while, I noticed a lot of students and parents on here place a lot of emphasis on the "fit" of a school.
This was news to me because I'm looking at a variety of schools with very different atmospheres, because I don't know where I would be happy at.

Here are some things I'm looking for:
- a good linguistics, foreign languages, cognitive science (and by extension CS programs with emphases on AI/NLP), and social science programs because those are the majors I'm currently considering
- a college with not a lot of GEs & a flexibility to double major/minor/change majors that is not Brown
-generous aid would be nice, with the school meeting 90-100% of need.
- preferably in a suburban or urban area; if not, they have to be in a good college town
- safe campus/surrounding area
- I don't consider myself to be an intellectual, but I would like to have peers who would motivate and challenge me. However, if I went to a place with a /too/ nerdy student body or an extreme stress culture I would be in over my head.
- On the other hand, I don't want every conversation I hear to be "lololol Phi Delta Epsilon has the best coke/weed/booze everrr" but I would like a nice party scene
- I don't mind an active Greek life or a religious affiliation as long as they don't dominate campus life
- strong school spirit & plenty of athletic events to attend and club sports to try out (especially running clubs?) Nice gym facilities would be great as well (:
- nice dorms and food
- liberal but not too polarizing climate
- good internship/research opportunities because my intended major is not the most marketable
- I'm not too sure about the weather but I don't want too humid summers
- preferably in CA or the Northeast but if not, it's ok
- I wouldn't like huge class sizes but I'm not sure if I want to go to a super small college if they don't have other colleges nearby whose students I can interact with
- a commuter school would be a turn off unless they have strong programs/internships

Here's my college list:
UCs (SD, I, SB, D, SC), CSUs (Fullerton, SDSU), USC, Purdue, Northeastern, Brandeis, UofR, Syracuse, CMU,
Pitt, Pitzer, Scripps, Macalester, Bryn Mawr

I might add these schools:
Tulane, BC, Carleton, Haverford, Occidental, IU, SJSU, Bucknell

Based on what I'm looking for in a college, would those colleges be a good fit for me? Thank you!
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Replies to: Concerned about fit

  • NJDad68NJDad68 458 replies8 threadsRegistered User Member
    You sound very self aware and very smart and personable. I think Tulane is perfect for you, as it has the mix of a good social scene and excellent academics.. The strength of the neuroscience program at Tulane is right up your alley. They have wonderful foreign language and area studies as well. The choice is yours: you can really dig in with great research opportunities and go all pre Ph.D, or you can enjoy the city and social scene, kick butt in your classes and go to grad school, and everything in between.

    Also look at Brandeis, Tufts, and USC.

    Best of luck to you!
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  • aquaptaquapt 1959 replies37 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    UCSD has the largest and most prominent CogSci department in the UC's, but the downsides are a social environment that is generally acknowledged to be a bit more oppressive than other UC's, and a very computation-heavy CogSci department with growing numbers of students who are spilling over into CogSci because they didn't get into CS, not because they genuinely wanted CogSci. It's also the toughest admit on your UC list, and I suspect it veers toward the nerdy stress culture you want to avoid. My thought would be, save it for a grad-school destination if you want to continue in CogSci beyond undergrad.

    SB doesn't have a CogSci program per se, but they have beefed up the "brain sciences" end of psych https://www.psych.ucsb.edu/undergrad and also have linguistics, so you should be able to get what you need. There's interesting CogSci-ish research https://www.psych.ucsb.edu/centers Very active social scene - some love it and some feel it's too much, so YMMV.

    Irvine has great academics for what you want - CogSci, CompSci, Informatics, "Language Sciences" - all great - and a nice social atmosphere - a little more commuter-ish than the others, but still lots going on on campus.

    Davis has CogSci, CS, and Linguistics all adjacent in Arts & Sciences for ease of blending - and a friendly, collaborative, and spirited yet laid-back social environment.

    Santa Cruz could also be great both academically and socially, but a bit more hippy-counterculture (and yet simultaneously STEM/CS-leaning) than Davis.

    (For that matter Merced has a well-developed CogSci department too; but their Linguistics offerings are more limited than the other UC's.)

    Overall, if I had to pick a campus for you based on your post, I would say Davis. It seems to strike the right balance socially and to have everything you want and need academically. If you got into all of them, I would look closely at Davis as a starting point, and then...
    - If you felt like, nah, I want a more socially-intense environment, go to SB
    - If you felt like, "But I REALLY want to end up in high-tech with my CogSci degree, go to SD
    - If you felt like, "I want tech, but with less stress-culture!" go to Irvine
    - And if you felt like, "Nope, I want redwoods-and-tie-dye tech, not Orange County neat-and-tidy tech," go to SC

    Speaking of tech... my D2 almost went to Northeastern, so we've looked closely at it. IMHO, Northeastern is great if you are up for heavy enough CS to do one of the CCIS combined majors, i.e. CS+Cognitive Psychology or CS+Linguistics. The CS core sequence is front-loaded in order to get students ready for co-ops. JMO but if I wanted less CS than this, I would choose a different school for CogSci/Linguistics. I feel like the investment in CS buys you a lot in terms of the best co-op opportunities. But it's a big investment if CS isn't your thing. Culture at NU is very upbeat and fun, but in a preprofessional-ambition kind of way that can grow wearying if it isn't your thing.

    Rochester is the open-curriculum-but-not-Brown school that you describe. Strong in all of the right academic areas. (But better on the merit aid side than the need-based aid side.) Visit and assess the vibe for yourself - they're very good at conveying the personality of the place. My D2 said, "I really like it but at the same time it's just not quite me." If it's you, it's a wonderful place.

    CMU... as with UCSD, CogSci is *very* computational. If you like that, it's a great program. (Decision Science looks, on paper, like a more social-sciency alternative, but in real life it's very very business oriented.) Their website/PR really sells the "interdisciplinary" theme, but it's much less interdisciplinary in real life than on paper. It's the kind of social environment that is shifted toward people who wouldn't have gone Greek at other schools, going Greek there in order to have the social life they want. Hopefully you can visit and compare/contrast CMU and Pitt, which is a great school that I didn't know enough about when my d's were looking... but we walked around campus when we visited CMU and were like, "Oh, this is actually really nice!!" Oh, CMU's aid is stingy too.

    Other suggestions:

    Vassar was the first school to establish an undergrad CogSci program. Maybe worth a look: https://cogsci.vassar.edu/about/

    Lawrence University in Wisconsin strikes a really nice balance between intellectualism and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. Their Freshman Studies program with a shared reading list for all sections helps to bring the entering class together. Good CogSci major, strong sciences. https://www.lawrence.edu/academics/study/cognitive_science Lots of spirit around both arts (music conservatory) and athletics. I visited there with my D1 and it was the most comfortable and welcoming campus visit we experienced anywhere. (And Appleton has more to offer, as a small city, than you might assume.) Their "retreat center" campus and their London campus are additional selling points. https://www.lawrence.edu/admissions/about/1-lawrence-3-campuses It seems like their are plenty of parties and events, but the social scene is multi-dimensional because there are also tons of formal and informal performances that people attend to support their friends, as well as sporting events and quirkier traditions like the annual trivia contest. Super nice place if you can take the weather (which is equally true of Rochester).

    Among the WUE schools, U of Arizona seems to have everything you're looking for. The WUE sticker price is about the same as a UC, and there are automatic merit awards. https://financialaid.arizona.edu/types-of-aid/scholarships/freshman-transfer Tucson is really nice small city in an absolutely gorgeous natural setting, and the UofA campus is beautiful and has the laid-back vibe you describe, while still having plenty of academic rigor. (One friend who visited commented specifically on the great gym facilities, fwiw, and running is a thing around Tucson - I actually have a friend who does a majority of his photography business shooting running events in the area. His photos almost make me want to run, and trust me that's saying a lot, lol) Lots of good stuff in both the Linguistics and CogSci majors/departments:
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  • NJDad68NJDad68 458 replies8 threadsRegistered User Member
    I think Case Weatern Reserve has a strong Cognitive Science program as well, but I am not sure of the social scene there.
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  • PengsPhilsPengsPhils 3982 replies28 threadsForum Champion Northeastern, Forum Champion Math/Computer Science Forum Champion
    Yeah, you've done a great job here, they all seem to fit pretty well.
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  • proudmama2016proudmama2016 166 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    You're off to a thoughtfull start, @silvercustard! You have a long list, and the schools offer some very different environments. Some are very large (the UCs), and other quite small (Pitzer, Scripps, Mac). Have you been to visit any of them yet? While I don't know your personality and characteristics, I can give opinions of some of the schools, which I'll do in just a minute. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to visit a school. The students, the vibe, the feel of the school can make or break it for a visiting prospect. I know my son had the opposite reaction to a school that on paper (er, maybe online is a better choice of word today) would have been a "match." He saw the student tour guides, looked around the auditorium during the info session, and said he didn't feel like this was his community. He visited Macalester and knew within 10 minutes that was his place. He had an exceptional college experience at Mac -- it was a true fit for him.

    After reading your list of preferences, I agree with others who mentioned Tulane. My D's starting there in two months, so I'm biased. Judging from your list, I'm assuming that you're an excellent student. Many of the schools listed have <15% admit rates. Please take this the right way, but make sure you have a RANGE of schools, that you like and are willing to go to. 3 reach, 5 match, 2 safeties. But there are SOOOO many great schools, this should be something you can do. Let's guess that you have a 3.9 UW GPA and scores around 1400? You have taken a rigorous course load and taken several APs and have 4s and 5s. Here's some opines on your list:

    UCs (SD, I, SB, D, SC), CSUs (Fullerton, SDSU): Other posts have comments on these
    USC: Super sporty and very rah rah. D found it slightly arrogant about itself, but the kids we know love it there. LA culture flourishes there.
    Purdue: great engineering school. Completely different type of student body than USC -- more down to earth.
    Northeastern: great co-op program; neice transferred and found it to be provincial and too much beer drinking.But, it's a Boston, one of the best college cities.
    Brandeis: S almost went here, neice went here and loved it. Study hard... it's a cool school, but very studious. Similar student body to Tufts, Brown, Mac, URoch, Hopkins -- quirkey and smart, independantly minded.
    UofR: See comment above. Great school, perhaps a bit more arty than Tufts and Brandeis.
    Syracuse: My dad lived in Syracuse. Not much along the I90 in winter but snow. A solid safety. City is not great. Big on greeks, if you're interested.
    CMU: Great school, cool city, blend of tech heads and theatre students make it unique. Not big on sports.
    Pitt: very popular and solid match if not safety for you. good merit aid.
    Pitzer: Please visit. My D did not feel it at all. A good friend of hers loved it. It's unusual but cool mission and the consortium is really great.
    Scripps: Awesome and lovely. i know some found it too small, but part of Claremonts, so lots of other around! Same science dept at Pitzer. Make sure you play up wanting to attend a W's college in your application.
    Macalester: Smart students, diverse and global student body, great location. As said above, student body is social justice oriented -- many of them want to change the world and look for an education to help them learn how to go out and do it later in life.
    Bryn Mawr: Good school, but I've heard it's a bit quiet. How about other seven sisters? Smith has exceptional sciences and is in the 5 college cluster with Amherst, Holyoke, UMass, Hampshire. Wellesley is strong in every dept, plus you can take classes at MIT. (Linguistics at MIT!)

    You said that you might add these schools:
    Tulane: Yup. Sounds like it might be a good fit with your preferences.
    BC: Excellent school; fairly preppy/all american in a great location. Sports. Boston. Say no more.
    Carleton: Great one, too. Student body is less urban oriented than Mac students, but many people compare the two schools. Student body is somewhat different, however. Country mouse and city mouse.
    Haverford: Wonderful school, but small. Quaker influence is really cool. We found it very quiet and peaceful, maybe a bit too quiet for my S.
    Occidental: Solid match for you. It's a cute campus and has a diverse and global perspective.
    IU -- don't know much about this, but it's been a popular larger state uni on CC
    SJSU: others might know more; honors school has a good rep.
    Bucknell: Good school, bright kids, party hardy. Big on greeks.

    Consider: Wash Univ of SL, Emory, and the other suggestions from other posts. One other thought, if you could determine if you want small, med or large size school, it would help you focus your list. I understand if you can't, and it gives you options as you decide what you want from your college experience.

    Hope this gives you some info.
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  • kalonskalons 625 replies21 threadsRegistered User Member
    you sound a lot like me when i was looking for schools. macalester, occidental, tulane, and uofrochester sound like really good options (they're all schools i looked into, and i ended up applying to macalester and uofrochester), and they all, collectively, cover a good range of selectivity.

    i'll add my two cents about your list:
    cmu: pleeeaaase, visit this school if you can. i think cmu is one of those schools where a person either really loves it or absolutely hates it. based on what you've described you want, i don't know if you'd like it.
    carleton: a very, very good school. however, it is on the trimester system, which introduces a naturally fast-paced/"stress-inducing" environment. many people who were choosing between carleton and grinnell (the school where i'll be attending that tends to have quite a bit of overlap with carleton) cited the trimester system as a big part of why they chose not to attend. you either like it or do not. the student body is very quirky.
    bucknell: i did not look into bucknell more than i originally thought i would because i read greek life dominates campus and the campus leans more right of center; however, ymmv. visit (if you can) to see if you like it. if you can't visit, do a lot of research about the social life on campus.

    schools i think you should look into:
    hamilton: clinton is rather small, but hamilton, ny (where colgate is located) is roughly thirty minutes away. linguistics and cognitive science are offered as minors, and the college has an open curriculum. greek life is offered, but it's definitely not as pervasive (if pervasive at all) as it is on some other LAC campuses (i.e. union).
    vassar: do me a solid and look into vassar. poughkeepsie isn't the best college town, but you can occasionally catch train rides into new york city. the campus is beautiful, the curriculum is flexible, and cognitive science is offered as a major. i think you'll really like it. (disclaimer: vassar will always hold a special place in my heart. it's one of the first colleges i fell in love with. okay, enough reminiscing.)
    case western reserve: cwru has a great cognitive science department, and it's located in cleveland, so you get that urban feel. the school gives out merit scholarships as well. greek life is very popular on campus, but it's super inclusive. it's very different from most college campuses on purpose. many kids who apply to uofrochester also end up applying to cwru because they're very similar.

    schools i'm just throwing out there for you:
    lafayette, lehigh, pomona, williams, amherst, davidson
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  • silvercustardsilvercustard 7 replies4 threadsRegistered User New Member
    edited June 2018
    Thank you everyone for the feedback!

    @NJDad68 Do you know what the New Orleans climate is like? I know it gets very hot but I was wondering whether someone with not much experience with extremely hot summers (I live in coastal CA) would be able to adjust well.

    @aquapt Thank you so much for the in-depth description of each college and the suggestions! I actually am thinking about cognitive science programs with a strong computational or linguistic emphasis, so you read my mind there. (: I was going to apply to U of Arizona but when I ran the npc I couldn't afford it even with the merit scholarships. But if it's not too competitive to get into I'm considering applying to NEU as a CS + linguistics major.

    @NJDad68 @aquapt @kalons I'll definitely check out the cog sci programs for Vassar and CWRU, thank you!

    @kalons I'll keep your advise about the trimester system in mind; that would be something to think about since some of the UCs I'm applying to use quarter systems as well.

    @proudmama2016 I actually have a 3.65 UW (4.0 W) which I'm aware is quite low for some of the schools I'm applying to, and a 1540 SAT, so Pitt and Syracuse are more matches than safeties. I think I'll be okay with the two CSUs as my safeties and I probably will get rid of some of my high reaches like Carleton and Carnegie Mellon. Unfortunately my parents insist that I don't visit any schools outside of SoCal this summer due to time and financial reasons, but hopefully I'll be able to visit ones that are close by (like USC and the Claremont colleges) and the out-of-state colleges over winter and spring breaks. For now, all the colleges sound pretty great c:
    edited June 2018
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  • privatebankerprivatebanker 5188 replies74 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    Boston College would be a high match low reach for you. But it hits all of your targets. Including gym facilities. This fall they unveil the new multimillion dollar student activity center. It will have the best fitness dance and other facilities in the country. Until someone else builds a new one of course.

    The avg which includes all students including athletes and urm was 33 act 1450 sat level for 2018. And very high gpas. But legacy can help you have that on your side.

    Sports are right on campus and it is all about school spirit.

    No Greek life and not known for great partying the first few years. But it’s in Boston.

    It is known to be preppy. But a cool current vibe.

    Academics are rigorous once you there. But you’d be up for it with your demonstrated ability.

    It’s expensive and there’s no merit outside of 15 invitation only scholarships. But they do meet 100 percent of need.

    They do have a separate css form and requires home equity to be counted in the overall asset pool.

    This lowers the amount for some families who perhaps paid more on their home than into savings and 529 plans. FWIW
    edited June 2018
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  • silvercustardsilvercustard 7 replies4 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @privatebanker I'm definitely thinking about BC right now but I feel like their core curriculum might be too stressful
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  • appalachymomappalachymom 169 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Re Tulane and New Orleans weather in the summer: It can be like living in a swamp. The humidity can be 100% even when it is not raining.

    I really love New Orleans and have spent a lot of time there. Temperatures are generally nice from October through April (most of a regular school year). I avoid May through Sept. We visited Tulane and my S liked it but did not apply due to climate. He is definitely a cool weather person and expects to spend a lot of time outdoors in college.

    But Tulane is a great school, in a beautiful neighborhood, in a city with a unique culture and such great food. I'm a bit sad I won't be visiting S there!
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  • HardlystudyingHardlystudying 3 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
    I was going to say Tulane as well but the humidity is a factor for me too. After all, you'll be spending quite some time there whether as a full time or part time student. Awesome school, but not the best weather.
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