I desperately need help choosing!! UCSB vs UW Seattle Honors vs Lehigh vs Bryn Mawr (plus some more)

Okay so I have two days left to choose and I’m sort of freaking out trying to pick since I haven’t visited any of the schools I got in (except UW, which is in state and an hour away from my house). I’m planning to major in something humanities (either english or anthro w/ a bio emphasis if offered) and a minor in polisci while being premed. I’m planning on med school and being involved in public health in some capacity (might try to do a master’s in between there somewhere).

My schools are all very different and I’ve received VERY conflicting advice and opinions about them so I would love any help/other opinions picking! My main choices right now are:


UW Seattle Honors (although I really wanted to go somewhere new/further away where a bunch of my high school doesn’t go, this is the cheapest)

Lehigh (just got off the waitlist today so I could deposit somewhere else to think it over more since I have until May 10 to say yes here, concerned about party rep and falling rankings a bit though)

Bryn Mawr (got some decent merit money here but I’m a little concerned about the women’s college aspect and some people have said it felt way too small/stifling although I love the consortium + being able to theoretically take classes at Penn)

Also still considering a bit:

Mount Holyoke (also in a great consortium, just heard it felt even more isolated than Bryn Mawr, although I could do my sport there as a club sport while I couldn’t at Bryn Mawr)

UC Davis (may be able to walk on D1 for my sport, not a given though)


Boston University (spring admit CGS though and I would prefer a normal campus, plus extreme grade deflation is a turn off + extremely expensive)

Pepperdine (spring admit, concerned about how religious it is there)

Overall I’ve always sort of wanted a more “traditional” college experience but I honestly would consider myself very adaptable and think I could end up being perfectly happy somewhere a little less traditional too. I don’t really party a ton (or at all, but I DO live in a town with less than 1000 people so not a ton of opportunity I guess) and I’m a bit on the more introverted side but I definitely intend on going outside my comfort zone socially (so that’s where I’m a little conflicted on the party rep schools vs the super quiet rep ones, since I would probably like the latter a bit but I also need to push myself socially). I also submitted (IMO decent) appeals to USC, UCLA and Cal and am on the waitlist for Tulane and Scripps and those would honestly be my top choices if a miracle happened so we’ll see but I don’t hear back for a bit for those. Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to read all this and comment any help!

If COA is a significant factor, then UW-Seattle Honors.

Based on your reservations, Pepperdine, BU, Bryn Mawr & Lehigh should not be among your top choices.

UCSB, UC-Davis, and UC-San Diego are great options in many respects, but not financially.

Hard to make a recommendation based on the information shared in this thread.

Obviously, you had a reason to apply to each school. Are those reasons still valid ?

UC’s will not give you any financial aid and are really better for graduate school than as an undergraduate OOS.

I think your strongest choice is Bryn Mawr : close to a great city, integrated with Haverford that you can literally walk to or take a 5mn shuttle to, beautiful campus, rigorous academically, not a party school but lots of opportunities to discover and have fun.
(Plus, you have MHC and Scripps as favorites, so clearly women’s college appeal to you).
Is it affordable without parental loans?

@maddie99: Do you have quick access to a Fiske Guide To Colleges ? If so, it may help with respect to some of your choices. (For example: Applying to Pepperdine & to Bryn Mawr and to Lehigh seems a bit unusual to me & suggests that you may not have adequately researched your targeted schools before applying.)

P.S. How do you describe yourself to others ?

Are you intense & competitive ?

Do you consider yourself a “social justice warrior” ?

Liberal, conservative, moderate, don’t care or ?

Religious ?

Pepperdine’s overlap schools include: Baylor, Calvin, Loyola Marymount, SMU, University of San Diego & Wheaton (Illinois) among others.

Bryn Mawr’s overlap schools include: Barnard, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Swarthmore, Wellesley, & Haverford.

Lehigh’s overlaps include: Wake Forest University, Boston College, Tulane, Coll. of Wm. & Mary, Cornell, Northeastern (Boston), Villanova & Bucknell.

Congrats on a lot of acceptances!

Can your parents pay for college + med school?

If not, follow the money. Med school = GPA + MCAT + $$$$$$$

You give lots of ‘cons’ for all your options- but no real ‘pros’- just the idea of the consortium and maybe being able to do your sport. You don’t indicate any real interest in any of them. If they are so indistinguishable to you that you can’t drop any of them, maybe they aren’t really where you want to be.

Which is (are) the least expensive?

@Publisher Thank you so much for your responses!

COA isn’t a giant factor since my family could make most of the options work (definitely some with more stretching than others) but I mean obviously with plans for med school cheaper undergrad is preferable. And I totally get that my list doesn’t make a ton of sense (long story short I had no guidance at all building my list and realized I applied to too many extreme reaches and then just UW as a safety (which in retrospect was maybe more of a target) and I didn’t really understand the concept of match schools until very late, so I added on some last minute matches without a ton of research and then this whole situation happened.) One of my main concerns about UW (and most of the UCs too) is the giant weed-out STEM classes though so although it’s the most logical option cost-wise, I’m wondering if the smaller LAC’s might be wiser choices for getting into med school. Someone sent me a few descriptions from Fiske but I never actually ended up getting the book.

Honestly while I probably wouldn’t describe myself as outwardly cutthroat or uber competitive or anything like that, I do think I would be much more motivated in an academic environment more on the competitive side, although my current high school is definitely not that so it’s sort of hard to predict. I’m definitely more on the social justice / liberal side (assuming that alone takes Pepperdine out of the mix lol). I’m also not very religious; I could definitely tolerate a religious or Jesuit type school but probably would get a bit tired if that aspect was integrated into everyday life in a super in-your-face type of way.

@MYOS1634 Thanks for replying! UW Seattle is the cheapest by far (FAFSA didn’t qualify me for significant financial aid most places) at around 100k for my degree while BU & Lehigh = around 300k+ and Bryn Mawr/Holyoke at about 220-240k and UC’s around 260k. And yes, Bryn Mawr has definitely gone further and further to the top of my list the more I’ve learned about it; I’ve just seen such mixed opinions and reviews online and never visited which make me a little nervous, but I could pull it off price wise.

I’m not you but I’d pick Bryn Mawr based on areas you want to study plus the overall academic quality, location, and sheer beauty of the campus. Plus merit money.

Competitive, social justice/liberals do well at Bryn Mawr.

LOTS of people do well at Bryn Mawr. Although, like Haverford, it is academically rigorous (maybe a little less so), it is not a competitive atmosphere.

Quote from the Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020 regarding Bryn Mawr:

“We are social-justice minded, fiercely independent trailblazers who do not take no for an answer, asserts one Bryn Mawr student.” “I am absolutely certain that we will run the world someday.”

“The academic environment climate of Bryn Mawr is competitive and intense.”

Bryn Mawr is more collaborative than competitive but at the same it’s definitely intellectual and definitely not a party school. It’ll require a lot of hard work because the students are strong academically and aren’t the type who “slack off”. The classes aren’t weedout indeed (no deliberate “culling”) and there’s a LOT of support (small classes, office hours with fewer students, tutors, etc) so the environment is very different from UW’s, but don’t expect a picnic :)… more like… Easter egg hunt. :slight_smile:

Based on what you say about yourself, Bryn Mawr and Scripps do sound like the best “fits” for you.
Pepperdine and Lehigh less so.

If Bryn Mawr is affordable that’s what I’d pick. If Scripps happens, compare costs and pick the least expensive along the two.

@collegemom3717 Thank you! And yes I definitely should have listed my pros/cons a bit better (or at all lol), I was sort of worried about my post getting too long!

Honestly, having not visited any of the schools or spent substantial time either on the East Coast or even California to get a sense of the overall school/area culture (I live in WA state which to me at least seems pretty isolated/it’s own thing compared to other areas of the country and I’ve never really traveled anywhere) and just going off what other people tell me, a lot of my choices are sort of starting to blend together a bit at this point. I definitely do have pros beyond the stuff I wrote in that list though.

Like for Lehigh the concept of having both a social life and solid academics (plus small classes) is very appealing, and at places like UCSB there’s a lot of appeal with the beach and overall atmosphere while also being highly ranked, but I also could really see myself at somewhere like Bryn Mawr which I get the sense is just very intellectual-feeling and has a lot of super driven students.

Also, while I’m pretty set on med school at this point, my HS was very rural + limited in class options and clubs/other opportunities so I’ve been trying to factor in that aspect, since as dedicated as I think I am to med school now, it’s definitely a possibility I might change my plans after having been in college for a year or two and exploring classes/careers I may not even know exist right now (although I’m pretty certain I’ll attend grad school of some sort no matter what). I will probably be on my own finding a way to pay for med/grad school though (maybe a tiny bit of support but I have younger siblings that may or may not head off to college in a few years).

@maddie99: There are websites which permit students to comment about their schools (colleges & universities). I do not think that I can cite the website here, but the comments can be illuminating & help you to assess where you will be most comfortable or find what you are seeking.

If unsure of your preferences, then larger schools are better as everyone should be able to find others with similiar interests.

You can make a big school small, but you cannot make a small school big.

I agree with others that Bryn Mawr sounds like your best bet. I’m basing that off what you’ve said here. The consortium is easy. Otherwise, MHC. It sounds as if your sport is important to you. Both have nice campuses. BM has the advantage of being close to a city.

Make your life easier. Be ruthless right now and get rid of any you have reservations about. You want a traditional college experience. Go for MHC or BM. You do mention sports/big rah rah schools a bit, so maybe MHC should be your choice.

Waitlists aren’t guaranteed of course, but I suspect there will be a lot of WL movement this year. Don’t count on it though. Deposit at a place you’d be happy to attend.

@Publisher Yes, I’ve been looking at quite a few of those websites and they’ve definitely been helpful. That’s also some very good advice about being able to find ways to make a big school feel smaller and I’ve definitely thought about that while trying to decide! In your opinion, do you think that consortiums (such as the ones at Bryn Mawr and Mount Holyoke or the Claremont Consortium with Scripps) actually do much to help make a smaller school feel bigger, or is more of a thing where it’s just up to how each individual utilizes them?

@Lindagaf Thanks for the input! Do you feel like Mount Holyoke is a bit more of a traditional atmosphere with more school spirit/more active social life or is it pretty similar to Bryn Mawr? I’ve sort of been having trouble finding info beyond the basic stuff (ie location, consortium benefits, size etc) about the differences between MHC and BMC in a more general vibe/atmosphere sense.

I’ve kind of gotten the sense that maybe social events at MHC are a bit more on campus/self-contained due to the more rural location while at BMC students tend to go off campus more due to Philly being so close plus many other large colleges in the vicinity, but I could be totally wrong about that?

The Claremont Colleges offer students an interesting mix of schools. CMC & Harvey Mudd are specialized, but clearly among the best at what they do. Pomona, Scripps & Pitzer offer a wide variety of activities & academics. So, yes, the Claremont Colleges make 5 small colleges bigger. (Some of the schools are combined for athletic purposes.)

I really like Mount Holyoke, but wonder how much interaction in terms of cross registration occurs. (I just don’t know.) But social life is enhanced by the presence of the other nearby schools.

Bryn Mawr & Haverford College interact, but these schools are best for a certain type of person and are well known for intolerance of non-politically correct opinions. Great academics & bright students, but clearly one-sided, closed minded viewpoints. Great for some, but certainly not for all.

P.S. In answer to your question: The Claremont Colleges tend to share activities moreso than the other two consortiums. At the Claremont Colleges, the consortium makes the small schools bigger.

At MHC & at Bryn Mawr, it depends on individual initiative for the most part.

If you are admitted to Scripps & it is an affordable option, then it should be given strong consideration in my opinion based on your shared information.

@maddie99: There is another thread “UW Seattle Questions” which you may find helpful. Just three posts, but interesting & enlightening.

UW-Seattle Honors is worthy of serious consideration–even moreso due to its low COA for you.