American University, UC Davis and Scripps College

Hello! I’m a high school senior struggling to make my decision. I was only accepted to 4 out of 13 schools that I applied to, and while I like American and Scripps, I don’t love either of them like I feel like I should. I’ll be studying political science next year, which I’m super passionate about. I know American is better on paper, as it’s in DC and they gave me some merit aid, but I didn’t love it like I loved the schools that I was waitlisted at or rejected at. I love the community at Scripps, but academically it seems like a poor location and not a very challenging environment, plus I would have to pay full tuition. Davis was originally a safety for me, but it’s a lot cheaper than either option and it’s not a bad school. Additionally, I was waitlisted at Wellesley College, which I adored. I’ve submitted a LOCI and additional letter of rec, and I am still holding out hope. Thoughts?

Here’s an answer from a UCLA professor to someone else. But I think it may apply. But please understand that I totally get that you want to get into the schools you most desired. Maybe Wellesley will come through. I would put my deposit on uc Davis. If it doesn’t happen you will go to Davis and at some point soon realize you haven’t thought of that other school in a long time and love your unique experience at UCD

Here you go

“I suggest that he read Stumbling on Happiness and recognize that we humans cannot predict what will make us happy. I suspect the opinions of an 18-year-old about “liking” or “disliking” a particular UC are based upon rather superficial factors and are not predictive of what his actual experience there would be. Every large University will offer a rich set of experiences, peers and opportunities.

This young man may benefit from learning how to make the most out of the opportunities that present themselves rather than beginning this phase of life a sour grapes attitude. The opportunity to attend any of the extraordinarily high quality campuses in the UC system is extraordinary — and there are so many other candidates who would be thrilled to have his seat and will enjoy it if he throws it away.”

I think Davis is the winner too. Scripps and the 5Cs are great, but at full-pay the cost is double what you’d pay for Davis, and you’re not even that excited about it. That makes no sense. “Some merit aid” at American doesn’t sound financially competitive with Davis either, and it’s not demonstrably a better education than you’d get at UCD. You don’t need to be in DC for 4 years straight. Go to Davis and do their Washington program.

If Wellesley comes through, then you can ponder whether going full-pay for a dream school is worth doubling the cost. But in the meantime, focus on appreciating all there is to like about UCD. It has a tremendous amount to offer, and arguably one of the best undergraduate experiences in the UC system.

That’s a great suggestion, to choose UCD and then do their Washington Program one semester.

Also, Davis’ location right outside Sacramento will position you well for political involvement, internships, etc. at the state level. And despite what your previous frame of reference may have been, Davis can’t really be considered a safety anymore. There are a lot of shocked and unhappy students out there who expected to get into UCD and did not. It honestly seems like a great option for you. I know your results have been disappointing to you, and that is tough to take, but don’t underestimate the quality and reputation of UC Davis - it is most definitely “not a bad school” at all. It’s hard to see how your other schools could provide double the value; if you excel at Davis, you will have access to terrific opportunities in your field and probably have a wonderful experience along the way. In my D’s friend group alone, there are students who turned down Cornell, UCLA, and Berkeley for Davis, and their reasons were sound. Best of luck to you!

If you loved Wellesley your reaction to Scripps seems rather puzzling. Scripps is a woman’s college just like Wellesley, offers small classes and excellent academics, plus a terrific alumna network - it’s basically Wellesley on the west coast, with HMC for Olin and McKenna for Babson ;).
Full pay= depends whether your parents can afford it with belt tightening or if it’s affecting their retirement or would require a loan.
If you don’t feel it’s worth the investment or don’t have the money, no regrets: UCDavis is a good choice,too. It’s less expensive, offers a Washington semester, is in a lovely college town, and it’s a UC.

@MYOS1634 - as a parent who is paying a substantial but not full-pay out-of-pocket for Scripps, I can definitely defend its merits. I think OP’s “not very challenging” assessment is dead wrong; in fact, I’d say she has underestimated the school across the board, which is why she was surprised not to get merit aid. But I think that paying >70K/year for any college is a stunning amount of money that is hard to justify on a purely pragmatic basis. (I would think very, very hard before full-paying for Wellesley over Davis, too.) To pay that kind of money, you have to both believe on a pragmatic level that the school offers value that approaches, in this case, double what a highly-regarded UC has to offer, AND you have to be truly in love with the school. At that price, IMHO it has to be both, and OP can’t check either box. When I think of all the other things she could do with that second pile of cash she wouldn’t be spending at UC Davis… it just doesn’t make sense to me that she should try to talk herself into being both convinced and in love. Davis + X, where X = another $150K worth of life-and-educational enrichment, wins over putting all her eggs into a basket she’s ambivalent about. I have already seen, among my d’s friends at Scripps, where that ambivalence can lead. It’s a bad setup. It amplifies every annoyance and disappointment of your college experience - and they will come - because you’re paying so, so much and you went in with the seeds of buyer’s remorse already planted. Your claustrophobic freshman triple, the low-key-annoying Core professor you have because your first-choice section filled up, the lack of big-city excitement in Claremont - the same sorts of things you’d take in stride at UCD - can feel like a personal affront when you know that your parents are “belt-tightening” to afford top dollar or spending money that you could have had left over for grad school, summer programs, or a year-long trip around the world. There’s not enough of an objective difference in gravitas between a Scripps degree and a Davis degree - it’s more important what she does while she’s there. In OP’s field, she’ll likely go to grad school anyway; and there’s no reason she can’t get into a top grad program if she distinguishes herself at Davis. The kids I know who have gone to Davis are terrific, bright and ambitious young people - everything I could hope for in college peers - and they have loved it there. I think OP has been underestimating both schools - neither should have been considered a safety in the first place - and both are excellent choices. And IMHO she is over-estimating American by putting too much weight on the DC location. (I mean, if you picked up American and put it somewhere else, what else would distinguish it? To be fair, there may be a good answer to that question that I’m unaware of - but there should be if she’s going to consider spending way above UCD prices to go there.) Just my assessment… but as a parent (even one whose family has decided in favor of Scripps and would do so again), there’s no way I’d pay double for Scripps over Davis unless my kid were 1000% “feeling it,” and even then it would merit a very serious discussion about the “opportunity cost” of that differential.

Davis is definitely on the upswing, and the entire UC system is now full of extremely bright and motivated students, and Davis is a sought-after campus that kids are pleased to have the opportunity to attend. I know a senior there who has loved it, gotten involved in the campus leadership, was a White House intern and was just accepted to a masters program at Harvard. She had been waitlisted or rejected at all the Claremont schools (didn’t try for HMC). So she is yet another demonstration that selective schools deny admission to many, many extremely bright and capable students. As you’ll see emphasized here on CC repeatedly, a school is what you make it. I am a Pomona grad, and I agree that Claremont is pretty ho-hum, although it does have a cute town village. But it’s southern California suburbia, and not, as the Scripps mailer claims, a charming small town. Nope. It’s part of the greater Los Angeles/Long Beach/Pasadena/Riverside metropolitan behemoth. Having said that, it’s easy living. Great weather, lots of potential opportunities if you’ve got an hour to spare to drive there (and, ideally, a car). The Claremont Colleges are exceptional and rigorous, and the consortium model is the real deal, so you’d have a lot of opportunities at the other campuses if you pursue them. Plus, access to professors at a small LAC like Scripps is extremely good, and the intellectual experience you can have by doing research with and getting to know those professors really adds to the intellectual experience (and gives you more bang for your buck). Small class sizes are a Scripps advantage as well, and the empowering women’s college feel too. Each of your choices is pretty different than the others…large well respected public, tiny selective LAC, private urban school. Gabby Giffords is a Scripps alum, so clearly the school does something right with respect to training a woman in politics. If Scripps strains your family’s finances, then I’d be tempted to choose Davis , but if it’s not a strain or a potential issue, I’d go with Scripps.