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Help please: planning first college trip to the US (visiting from the UK)


Replies to: Help please: planning first college trip to the US (visiting from the UK)

  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 9,266 Senior Member
    My take on USC is tarnished by the fact that both my parents went there. To me, growing up in the backyard of USC was uncool. Plus, I do not like the location at all. It's stuck in freeway hell, and if you don't have a car, forget about seeing the sights of So Cal. LA public transport leaves MUCH to be desired. It's not like it's walking distance to the beach or anything remotely interesting. Maybe the tarpits?

    Having said that, the USC-UCLA rivalry was fun, even when I was a kid. I instinctively knew that UCLA was the enemy. Go Trojans! Still have Tusk by Fleeteood Mac stuck in my head.
  • suzyQ7suzyQ7 Registered User Posts: 3,941 Senior Member
    They extended the subway to Santa Monica @Lindagaf !
  • CaliDad2020CaliDad2020 Registered User Posts: 1,012 Senior Member
    @lindagaf @suzyQ7 and Uber/lyft + zip have changed the transpo landscape completely too. My D's biggest complaint is she's working too hard to enjoy LA as much as she'd like. (Also, downtown/arts district and even Koreatown is completely different than the "bad old days" when I used to hold my breath racing away from Al's Bar after a misfit's show, hoping no one would throw an empty bottle through the window of my covair!)

    but you are right, USC is a freeway-demarcated deep urban campus, and anyone thinking they'll leave their organic chem lecture and catch some waves before homework better hit UCSD or UCSB. And if you want to hike the hills without getting in a car and battling rush hour traffic, Cal poly-SLO, Cal Poly-Pomona, Davis or Santa Cruz are all better options.

    btw, D's other biggest complaint is the food. She's pretty unimpressed with meal plan. Can't wait for kitchen next year, although there's plenty of good eats close to campus, for a non-red meat/pork eater the school food is apparently a bit redundant.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 9,266 Senior Member
    OMG @CaliDad2020 , Al's Bar! Totally derailing the thread, but I did the same when I went to a Dead Kennedy's gig once. And @suzyQ7 , thanks for the update on the LA metro, forgot about that.

    OP, your D's choices couldn't be more different. Bowdoin is probably the polar opposite of USC!
  • brantlybrantly Registered User Posts: 3,738 Senior Member
    Bowdoin is probably the polar opposite of USC!
    Yes. She needs to visit.
  • Old_parentOld_parent Registered User Posts: 133 Junior Member
    Probably too late for the OP but if you're traveling between colleges in the US it's helpful to use an app like Voyager. You input all of the locations and it creates an itinerary. I used it for my daughter's east coast college tour and it worked great.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 41,511 Senior Member
    I think LSE would be better for grad school. In addition, since OP's daughter is quite undecided (business, pharmacy, finance...) the UK system wouldn't work very well.
    Bowdoin or USC would offer very different experiences but both uniquely American and unlike the UK experience. For a British kid in an IB program, I think Bowdoin would be best - what European students look for when they look for a US college. As for best friend at USC = ey, that's what Spring break's for! That being said, USC will still have more of a community feel and a lot more flexibility than UK universities.
  • suzyQ7suzyQ7 Registered User Posts: 3,941 Senior Member
    @valent2016 did D get into Tufts?
  • Red87Red87 Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    @valent2016 - I just came across this thread and would be more than happy to share our experience with you. My son is a first year at Bowdoin. He went to one of the top day schools in London (and did the IB). Ironically, he has a cousin the same age who is a freshman at USC (also happy). My son is in heaven at Bowdoin. It is an incredibly friendly and community oriented school. The academics are strong. Bowdoin has an intellectual atmosphere without great pretense or competitiveness.

    As far as name recognition goes in order to get a place in graduate school or a sough after job, I have always believed/experienced that any top school, LAC or University, will open the door. In short, "those that need to know, know". A USC, or any major University with successful sports program, will have higher name recognition, but, will that really help when applying for the job/graduate school? Having gone to a LAC myself, I also believe many/all of the schools you have mentioned will have an active alumni base that will help out the College and its' students. Paradoxically, my friends that went larger schools never felt the networking advantage. In fairness, I don't know any USC grads my age and I can't specifically comment on Bowdoin's placement first hand (not yet at least..). My recommendation is to save the big name University for grad school and go for the full undergraduate experience at a LAC.

    As your daughter chose the IB, I am guessing she will appreciative the Liberal Arts nature of a US education. I know from my son's friends studying in the UK, that many are disappointed to be only taking one subject (though not all, some love the deep dive into their favorite subject!)

    Anyway, we are thrilled with our son's choice. He's as happy as I have ever seen him. He's thriving academically (IB prepares them well) as well as socially. Please let me know if I can help with any questions.
  • londondadlondondad Registered User Posts: 2,151 Senior Member
    edited April 2017
    @Red87 Great post, very helpful. How is your son dealing with the extreme Maine weather and the relatively isolated location of the school? My DD (who also attends a top London day school) has two offers from top LACs (we will be visiting them next week) and we are, frankly, struggling to see whether she will be happy spending 4 years in a cold rural environment (specifically Middlebury) compared to going to mid-sized East Coast urban universities. Thanks.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 9,266 Senior Member
    edited April 2017
    @valent2016 , @londondad . We are a transatlantic family. I grew up in the backyard of USC, lived in London for 20 years, and have been living on the East Coast for the last 13 years. I can tell you that my British husband and I prefer the weather here to both CA weather and British weather. It's nice to have seasons. In LA, you have two seasons. Cool-ish and Hot. In the UK, you have one season: Wet, with occasional bouts of sun or snow. The cold isn't unbearable in Maine or Vermont. The dry cold of winter here is much better than the damp cold of England.

    As far as Bowdoin being rural, it is not at all, IMO. It's in a town, which is really more like a suburb of Portland. Portland is a really cool small city. And less than two hours away is Boston. Not rural. One thing you have to get used to here: the US is a BIG country. Huge. Our British friends were once amazed when we told them that Buffalo is a six hour drive from our home in NY, but it's still in the same state. My daughter is at college in Maine, and it's a five hour drive. It just isn't that big a deal here to drive long distances. Back in the UK, I could have driven right out of country in just a couple of hours.

    As for Middlebury, it is indeed more isolated than Bowdoin, but even so, it's not that far to Montreal, the closest big city.

    I agree with @Red87 . The people who need to know about these colleges, know. Name recognition will not be an issue.

    Finally, look at the retention rates for these colleges. They are very high. Kids are happy at these schools. They wouldn't stay if they weren't. The reality of it is that the LACs provide many excellent activities and events. There is plenty for kids to do. My daughter finally gave up the idea of being near a big city when she realized that in fact, most kids spend their time on campus, even if they live near a city. After all, their friends, food, and beds are at their college. When we started asking kids about how easy it was to get into the nearest big city, we invariably heard this: "I did it a few times when I was a freshman, but now I hardly ever bother."

    Don't be afraid of choosing the LAC. There is a very good reason why they continue to be popular: they will give you a more immersive educational experience and an opportunity to thrive in a community of individuals who want that experience too.
  • brantlybrantly Registered User Posts: 3,738 Senior Member
    Going to a somewhat "rural" college is not the same as deciding to live in and raise children in a rural part of the country. A college is its own ecosystem. A small, rural college is like its own version of a city. You walk every place. There are lots of activities and cultural offerings. I think looking at it through a middle-age adult's lens distorts what the rural LAC college experience is all about.
  • londondadlondondad Registered User Posts: 2,151 Senior Member
    "distorts what the rural LAC experience is all about"


    I like LACs, and arguably Midd is as good or better than her other options academically. However, she is a city girl who has always taken full advantage of London. I am afraid that no matter how great the social life is at Midd, she might be happier in DC or Boston where she and her friends can get off campus and still go to the theatre, ballet and museums. That is what we need to figure out in the next 3.5 weeks.
  • suzyQ7suzyQ7 Registered User Posts: 3,941 Senior Member
    edited April 2017
    ^ It is something your daughter really needs to consider. I went to a very large rural university. The novelty wore off junior year, luckily study abroad was a great break that spring. Senior year was not great because after the cosmopolitan experience of spending 6 months in a beautiful European city, coming back to keggers and dive bars in the sticks was not appealing. I was totally ready to graduate and get out of that area. And there was plenty to do... But it was the same (and dull after a while) college stuff. Almost everyone at college is younger than you when you are a senior. That doesn't happen in DC or Boston where the transition from student to young adult/professional is seemless. There are other students from other universities neaby that are hanging out at cool pub, bars, restaurants, cultural events etc.
  • Red87Red87 Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    @londondad He doesn't seem to mind the weather. The runnng family joke was, as he visited Bowdoin in July that come, March or April he would have felt duped into a NE school by his parents! I can happily report that this has not happened.

    It may be that this winter was much milder than Winter 15/16. I also suspect Bowdoin is a bit warmer than you'd suspect given the proximity to the Atlantic. Midd was on his list as well so we made the trip. Midd (and Williams and Colby) felt more isolated to us than Bowdoin. That said, he is definitely living in the "Bowdoin Bubble" and very happy about it... We have flown to Boston twice and met him in town (which made the trip easy for us). On the last trip, we went back to Bowdoin with him so we could meet his friends and see the campus in the winter.

    He wanted a community feel for his experience and he got it. I'm sure Midd will be very similar in it's community orientation and its' collaborative spirit.

    I am sure @suzyQ7 is right about less transition from college life to adulthood but, for my kid, who spent hours at the Tate and the Old Vic and many of the other incredible offerings of London, he wa looking for a space to grow intellectually in a intimate environment surrounded with like minded young adults. So far, that's what he is getting and I suspect many are getting at the top LACs. Not for everyone for sure but definitely what he preferred.

    Good luck with the choice. I'm sure it is not easy but it sounds like its' between two good choices and you can't go wrong with whichever path you choose. As they say, that's a "high quality problem"
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