Help Me Choose My College!

Hi guys, I’ve narrowed my choices of admitted schools to the University of Washington and Washington State University. I can’t decide between the two, and while I know it will come down to my personal feelings, I would like some input.

My major is history and my minor is either going to be political science, international relations (only available at the UW), and/or Spanish.

My plans after college involve me going to law school. Currently, I am looking at NYU Law, Columbia Law, Duke Law, and UCLA Law.

I plan to make the most of my college experience academically. By this I mean I will be doing a lot of studying, challenging myself, aiming for excellent grades and LSAT scores, and being involved in extracurricular clubs such as debate or mock trail and community service based clubs. While I would like a campus with a strong student body, I care more about learning in college than having a “party scene.”

The University of Washington is one of the most respected schools in my state. It has highly qualified professors, a beautiful campus, and is in the heart of Seattle (meaning I will get a cultural experience as well as opportunities to many urban internships). A concern of mine is that I heard the professors are so intelligent that sometimes they aren’t the best teachers, and that they are more research-based. I do also fear that it is a large university and I may be lost in the crowd there, but I also feel it will be a challenging environment.

Washington State University, on the other hand, has a reputation of being a party school and is in the middle of nowhere. However, I have been named a Distinguished Regents Scholar there, meaning all of my tuition for the four years I will attend there is paid. Only ten students in the state are chosen each year for this award. I have also been awarded a few other smaller scholarships through the school as well as an independent $5,000 renewable scholarship I could use anywhere. This brings my net yearly cost to around $8,000 versus about $21,000 net yearly cost at the UW. The professors, financial aid office, and everyone I met when I visited were incredibly welcoming and kind to me. They appeared eager to have me be a part of their university. I am also a part of the Honors College here, and I am not currently an Honors student at the UW (I decided not to apply for some reason this year but intend to next year if I choose to go there). My concern here is that I will not be surrounded by as many academically-minded students and I will not be pushed as much.

Both schools have sent students to prestigious law schools, but the UW definitely has a bigger reputation of doing so. So what are your opinions? I can afford both schools, WSU would just be less burdensome on my family and myself as I enter law school. Should I go to the academically challenging urban school that may not give much attention to me? Or the less prestigious rural school that seems eager to have me?

Personally, I enjoyed both campuses, I just enjoy the location of the UW better. At the root of things though, I am concerned about my future. What would you do in my situation?

Wash State is not likely going to be a bigger party school than UWash. Both are big Div I schools…that equals parties. You’d have to go to a very religious bible school or an LDS school to avoid that atmosphere.

Virtually all residential schools are party schools. You get a bunch of 18-22 year olds living together and you’re going to have parties. That doesn’t mean that the students aren’t serious. I’ve never quite understood the belief that students can’t be academic-minded and party. I know a lot of successful adults who are quite social on weekends.

For international relations your only choice is UW. So it’d depend how committed you are to that subject. In addition, I’d be wary of wash state being so far away from the political process. It’s really rural. Even though seattle isn’t Olympia, there’s a lot more going on in that area (some could argue, way more) . Pullman really is far from anywhere else.

Agree with both comments above, with an addition and an exception. The exception is to the comment that all residential schools are party schools except for religious ones (paraphrasing). That’s just not the case at all with several of the LACs in the northeast at least. Several schools just don’t collect students who want to spend a lot of time partying . . . . the LACs without Greek life, for example tend to not be that into partying. This doesn’t mean there isn’t alcohol or other substances there, but that the general atmosphere is more about studying and less about getting drunk and acting foolish. There’s very little of that. However, at big state U’s partying is to be expected. But they also offer large populations and there will be a group of people that really do want to study.

The addition is that if you want to go to a top law school, then you would need to do what you plan on doing already, which is to distinguish yourself in some way above 98% of the others who want to attend top law schools. And that may be possible at the lower cost school. First, grades. Second, LSAT. Third, find something that you’re interested in and garner some expertise and distinguish yourself in some way. The comment that UW is better for int. rel is true . . . however, you may be able to make up for the less distinguished department with good strategy. When you apply to Top Law school, your expertise will show. Spending that $53K in going abroad, for example, will prob benefit you more imho than attending a huge department where you’re just another warm body potentially. Going abroad gives you a way to not just study a culture but to be able to interact with it–cultural fluency. Also: you will get language skills. The better you speak X language, the better will be your career in X-area’s int relations and int. law.

It’s not always best to go to the big school with the biggest department in whatever field. If you sometimes go to a school with a smaller department, you may find a grateful department eager to help you. In contrast big school with big dept may be jaded by the sheer numbers of students. Smaller department may be eager to help a promising, directed student. This is something that you will need to go and find out before making a decision. Go to admitted students day and make appt with the dept that interests you. Ask: what can you do in Pullman for someone interested in Int Relations?? Regardless of where you go to school, you will need to be that proactive self-starter to achieve your goal. but you knew this already . . . from reading your post.

In sum regardless of where you go:

  • Get top grades;
  • Score in the 98th to 99th percentile on your LSAT (yes it is possible. just practice like this is the most important thing ever. You can master this test. It’s just a test and a skill set like any other. Just start now and decide you will master this, and then practice until you do.) It’s not that Top Law School has a cut off for scores per se, it’s that there are so many students who are scoring at high levels, that to distinguish yourself, you need to score that high too.
  • Get internships in your field–if you’re dong Int. Relations–then go abroad as often as possible for extended stays. Int. Law in an area study will mean that you speak the language(s) of the country or countries that interests you. Wash is on the Pacific Rim. Is that your area of interest? See if you can learn Japanese or Chinese or Korean (if you don’t speak these already). Work as an undergrad in those countries. Japan has the JET program for after you graduate. China and Korea–you can always teach English if you find nothing else. Once there, you can find other work–volunteering and then working in a law firm or in a public interest organization, preferably the legal arm of that organization, or with a government agency or the like. The US has organizations in other countries, like the ABA and the Red Cross, but local projects dealing with environmental issues, women’s issues, any other issues, are terrific too. Living for an extended period in your country of interest will help a lot in terms of increasing your skill set and in terms of showing your expertise to a top law school. Take time between undergrad and law school and live in country of interest, even if you have to go there as an English instructor and then network for jobs while there. Having no student loans will help with this process.
  • Starting now, target the specialties of the law schools that interest you. Warning: this sounds harder than it is! The bottom line is to just find your interest and then go along that track as it interests you. But here are some ideas for how to start that process: Look online at your favorite law school’s “programs” and “centers”. Read their “news” put out by their PR departments and see what professors are distinguished in what. See if the school offers fellowships in the areas you’re interested in. (The FLAS is one offered nation-wide by the Federal Government, covering people learning languages that are not the usual ones–Asian languages, Russian, Arabic. The FLAS covers graduate programs including a stipend sometimes. But there may be others . . …) Download a professor’s papers and read them. At first it will sound like another language. You may not understand it, but over time, you will begin to see what law is about and the issues that are discussed. You will also see who else is active in the field, by looking at the co-authors of the papers. This will help guide your undergraduate degree, making choices about what you take that both interests you and will interest your target law schools. Most undergrad programs require some sort of capstone or thesis project at the end. You may find inspiration by reading the law papers of your targeted professors. One professor for example is interested in the court system of rural Russia . . . this might inspire you. The co-authors will be at other law schools. You may discover, for example, that there are classes that can help you that you might not have thought about for law, statistics for example, (so that you can make sense of data you collect) or in game theory, you may see it as vital for international relations and negotiations. Building this kind of depth, sophistication and expertise (plus scores and grades) will vault you to the top of the pile of applications regardless of where you went to school IMHO.

It may be that when you research Pullman and what the Int. Rel department can do for you, you find the answer is nothing at all. In that case, UW is your best bet. But you may find you are key to your success and that Pullman can help you more than you realize.

Question - the 8K vs 21K - will your parents be funding your college education through income and savings, or do these numbers represent loans - either for you or for them or both?

If they are willing and able to pay either amount, then considering UW makes sense. 21K per year inclusive is a relative bargain for a highly respected state flagship. However, if it involves loans, I would look seriously at Washington State.

Additionally, being a named scholar and in the Honors Program will provide special opportunities and will probably contribute to getting to know your professors well, very important when you need letters of recommendation for law school.

I agree with the above poster that you should take a closer look at the departments that interest you in both places with respect to the faculty and course offerings.

Pullman is not far from Moscow, ID, which is a nice college town.

@mamaedefamilia My parents will be funding my college through income and savings, and I will hopefully get a job too. I just received another $2,000 independent scholarship, so my numbers are down to $6,000 at WSU vs. $19,000 at the UW. No loans.

I also looked into the programs. My major, history is ranked around #30 for the UW but #110 for WSU in the United States. Also, Pullman has no International Relations department, just Political Science.

I talked to a family friend who went to law school, and she advised me to go onto the K&L Gates Law Firm website and search for lawyers by their undergraduate school. WSU’s searched brought up 7 lawyers with one named partner, while the UW search brought up 43 lawyers with more than half of them making partner. Does this say something significant, or is it just that future lawyers don’t typically attend WSU?

Skip the job, go to Wash St, enjoy the scholarships, and study hard.

I’d go with UWashington as academically it’'be a better fit.