Colgate vs Santa Clara University vs UC Santa Cruz

My son is having a very hard time deciding even though these schools are very different from one another. The main issue is that he applied for computer science (accepted UCSC for CS and SCU) but has a strong interest in Biology and Ecology. He seems less certain now of major choice. He currently attends private school and would have an easier transition at a private college. A residential experience is essential and S prefers at least hybrid. We are a full pay family and he is likely to go to graduate school. Mom and dad are not in the tech industry. S has visited all of the schools and had a full tour at the private schools.

SCU pros - Outstanding CS internship opportunities, healthy rank for CS, BS degree CS, closer to home, small classes with professor access, high satisfaction rate with graduates from his high school, merit aid, outdoor club with trips to Northern California sites

SCU cons - hotter inland climate, very structured curriculum with limited room for bio and elective classes, required religious courses, potential for required language courses if switches to bio in A&S, last minute switch to full closure last year due to Covid, not requiring vaccine, suburban location with compact campus

Colgate pros - More flexibility and time to decide on major/minor, stronger than SCU for life sciences, handled Covid very well last year with in person classes, smallest class sizes and professor access, geographically diverse student body, beautiful campus, nicer dorms and food, more prestige, 4 seasons

Colgate cons - No weekend visits home, two flights plus a drive travel home, CS degree is a BA with light math required, limited/no outdoor activities during winter

Colgate “neutral” - unsure about Greek impact but may participate, S says neutral on weather though he has never lived in that climate, no statement yet on vaccination requirement, remote location (a negative except potentially helps with Covid bubble)

UCSC pros: Admitted into CS and life sciences not impacted that we know of, lots of flexibility for GE course choices, AP and CC credits count, in the cooler climate he wanted, loves the wooded campus, year round hiking, closest to home, will require vaccination, least expensive option even with housing cost, cool community

UCSC cons: No guaranteed housing (but freshman may get priority), larger classes and may be remote, poor communication on Covid plans, lower job placement for CS then peer institutions and less assistance with placement, potential difficulty getting classes needed and may take longer to graduate, no student hub on campus, only 1 year housing on campus, possible placement as a triple in a double room

This is an interesting final three. My S was very openminded and never had that feeling that any visited campuses was “the one”. It seems all about trade offs. He is waitlisted at 4 really great schools.

If anyone has input on the BA CS degree and job placement at Colgate in particular, I would very much like to hear that. Any input welcome. TY

You should be able to get outcomes from Colgate.

It sounds like, many kids, the major may be changing, and that’s ok.

Are you in-state? What’s the money like at all three?

Sounds like you’ll want to see your son - so in that sense, maybe Colgate is out.

We are in California. Family is open to the out of state move. Colgate and SCU are comparable because housing will cost more at SCU but he got a discount there. UC much less. Finances are not really the driving factor.

It sounds like Colgate is the best fit both socially and academically, how important are weekend trips to you?

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Finances should “always” be a factor. Just because you can spend it doesn’t mean you should. I think in CS, you’ll find jobs regardless. I think a lot, in any function today, is dependent on the kid being a go getter.

Colgate is a fantastic and beautiful school - but if you are concerned with weekend trips, then you might be concerned with home sickness, etc. You will not be able to access your son there - he might even end up doing Thanksgiving with a new friend, etc…

To me, if he wants the elite, liberal arts experience - then Colgate - but you have to face the homesickness potential (at any school) and he has to be mentally strong enough to fight through.

I’d be at UCSC over Santa Clara - I just believe that costs should be a factor and outcomes are “gamed” in how they are reported and that a grad from UCSC, with a bit of effort, will have no problem finding their place.

Recruiting today is mainly online - outside of the very top schools.

Good luck to you.

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I think mom is more concerned with the distance than S. :slightly_smiling_face: We are big on the experience and can get over the distance if it seems like the right fit. I would describe S as an extremely hard worker, though not necessary yet a go getter.

Fit is a bit hard to determine. SCU is probably safest. UCSC and Colgate maybe a bit more risky social fit-wise but he’s not introverted and will find his people I think. Probably on this point, he would do better with a community that is easy to get involved or hard not to even.

CS >> biology for major-related post-graduation job and career prospects, although the computing industry sometimes has crashes in which CS graduates have difficulty finding jobs (versus biology which is always a difficult job market for BA/BS graduates).

Regardless of school, if he has interest in both subjects, he may want to do CS as the major, and use free elective space for biology courses of interest.


The one skill everyone needs to learn is sales. My nephew once said to me - Uncle TSBNA44, I don’t want to be in sales like you and my mom.

I explained to him - we’re all in sales - in his case, the product was Joey. My nephew got an accounting degree from UNLV - he worked hard (in seeking a job) and found two great ones.

A school like Colgate will have better initial contacts - although in that area maybe not as good as Santa Clara. I’m sure at UCSC you have to fend more for yourself.

But if you save $60 or $80K over four years, it’s worth it - no matter how wealthy you are.

These kids will have to fend for themselves in life. And college is so expensive.

You live in CA - I’d take advantage of the UCs…yes they have the bureacratic pitfalls - but so do the mid size schools. I took U Miami off my daughter’s consideration set in part due to their horrific lack of response.

Colgate is a fine school- get a warm coat and take advtg. Otherwise, go to USCS and save the $$

We just visited SCU last week with my D21 from the east coast. It is far less preppy & far more racially diverse than Colgate. And they are working on increasing geographical diversity. My D has received some aid due to being from the northeast. Also, in the small class she attended there were several students from the northeast and other areas, including a student who grew up very close to where we live. Though if D does attend she will be the first from her school to do so - it’s only been in the last few years that students from her school have begun to apply, but I think in the next few years it will become more popular.

As far as the religion classes, that was a concern for us as well. We are atheists and my husband is especially wary of all organized religion having grown up the child of a minister. So, we looked into the requirements & they seem more grounded in providing a solid liberal arts education than in teaching religion. Plus there are a variety of very interesting classes that fulfill the requirements. I believe that the classes offered will merely help my D to hone her critical thinking skills, and that’s a good thing regardless of the field you go into.


Ethnic diversity is a neutral for S since he grew up with a pretty diverse group of friends and classmates. The religious courses are a negative since we are not Catholic and he went to Catholic high school so he’s very done but could tolerate the 3 quarters of religous-lite at SCU. He really doesn’t want to take language again and should get out of it at Colgate, but SCU won’t accept his level three (not delivered as an AP) though they exempt engineering majors. UCSC these are not an issue.

@Snowynyc this is like the flip for us of Colgate. The locals we told are like talking about toothpaste. His HS has never sent anyone there. Plenty of kids go to SCU from his high school and GC reports all seemed very happy. The kids seemed super happy when we toured, but it definitely is not the campus enviornment my S was hoping for, however pleasant. He’s more outdoorsy.

I should have added as a SCU plus that I do like the “whole person” Jesuit approach. They talked about teaching the engineers soft skills, etc. Their graduates are very popular I believe.

Have you looked at Colgate’s academic calendar - that may provide you a idea on how often he would be coming home and for how long? We have 2 kids heading East (we are West coast) next year for their freshman year - amazed at the amount of long breaks especially for one daughter - arrives end of August, parents weekend in October, 1 full week for Thanksgiving (other daughter only has 3 days), 4 weeks over the winter holiday and 2 weeks at Spring break and done in mid-May.

Let’s just say, we don’t think she will miss us much (and we may be fine too!), as imagine she will come for all the breaks her freshman year. Her sister’s school has much shorter breaks except for the 4 week winter break and we are already thinking we will travel east and explore another region for Thanksgiving. We are looking at them living East as a fun place for us to visit and explore too,


Thanks. Breaks look pretty good. We have two smaller airports involved so flights are a bit limited but should be doable since both go through major hubs. I’m sure after the first year we might be more relaxed about distance too. This is my oldest so all new here.

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When I looked at the religious requirements at SCU for my D, there were some classes such as “Jews, Judaism, and Film” or "Magicians, Athletes, & God’ that sounded to me like interesting classes, assuming one had to take religious courses as a core requirement.

Any course with “film” or “athletes” seems like an interesting way to fulfill the core requirement at SCU, if that’s your S’s final choice.

BTW, I used the “toothpaste” line with @homerdog on her D’s “Journey” thread as a humor. Her D’s final choice was Colgate. :slight_smile:

In all honesty, I think UCSC is a great school. I workout most days in the gym with a graduate of UCSC, who loved it. But I/we sent my D18 to Michigan, because the UC bureaucracies “scare” me. The UC’s are cheap(er), but then the whole class registration, housing, getting to see advisors and professors was a concern for our family. I/we saw value in the extra money sending my D18 OOS.

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@sushiritto my nightmare is my S snoozing through registration and getting no units. He is super on top of things academically but I could see that somehow on practical stuff it might slip. UCSC was quite squirrely about reopening this year - especially classrooms - more than other UCs. A lot of our friends are passing on it due to the poor / more closed messaging. They have finally said they will prioritize freshman for housing. Whole thing made me really nervous. I’ve also seen on Reddit that kids have trouble getting their classes. He has some APs and CC units so that might help a bit. Some kids from publics will have more potentially.

Out of curiosity, roughly, door-to-door, how long does it take to get to Colgate from where your located?

@sushiritto best case about 10-11 hours, plus whatever wait time for ground transportation in NY, if any. Longer if more than one stop or more than a one hour layover.

No outdoor activities at Colgate in the winter? Not true! There are tons!

And S19 at Bowdoin is two flights away. Chicago to Baltimore to Portland. Usually about nine hours total. He says it’s no big deal.


Flights seem to be available when I check so far with just the one stop in Chicago or Denver so that’s good. Doable.

Is it not the frozen tundra? LOL. He hates being hot, so as long as the dorm is not overheated I think he will be fine with the weather. I noticed some of the Colgate dorms have individual temp control, so that’s great.

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The major problems that the world will have to solve in your son’s lifetime will revolve around the climate crisis. Given that he has interests in both ecology and biology, I would pick a college that have options for him in this area. Both UCSC and Colgate have majors in environmental biology. SCU doesn’t seem to me to be as strong in this area.

Between UCSC & Colgate, while both offer strong CS programs, UCSC offers the CS engineering track which Colgate does not. If that is important, then your decision is made. If the engineering track is not important, then the decision comes down to the obvious differences in cost, size, and location. Do you want to fight the hassles of the UC bureaucracy or the hassles of travels between CA and an inconvenient upstate NY location? You choose. Should you choose Colgate, your son will have the opportunity to discover that there are lots of outdoor activities available in winter.

The other treat for an outdoorsy kid is the fact that Colgate is within an hour of the Adirondack Park, which predates any of our national parks, was the model for building the national parks, and even to this day is true to its founding mission of water and land conservation. The park is larger than any national park outside of Alaska and offers a myriad of outdoor activities. Named after its mountains, it is famous for mountain hiking and it’s Olympic Ski Center as well as snow shoeing and cross country skiing. But it also offers opportunities for water sports on its numerous lakes and rivers, including long distance kayaking and canoe camping. And it has has the best white water rafting in the Northeast.

All the best with your decision.


@Bill_Marsh thank you I appreciate that perspective. My S’ app reads so bio that UCSD accepted him into their Seventh College. Unfortunately, he thought it was too large and they make it clear that you can’t get CS classes and need to stay in your lane on popular majors. Hate to see that awesome opportunity passed but it didn’t seem like his path given his uncertainty and preference for smaller classes.

I think part of the problem is our family ignorance about CS job placement. I have seen a few posts about people with BA degrees in CS having to explain themselves. It might matter less once he had some experience. He’s also very, very strong in ELA and can hold his own in math, but is not tippy top. Colgate has a CS-math major but that is not for him I expect.