If it's okay, I'd like people's thoughts on my VERY preliminary list

Went through the search engine. It wasn’t as thorough as I’d like, but my top 11 schools (i.e my whole list) were:

Cal-Poly: SLO
CO State
George Mason
Iowa St (my least appealing choice)

I’m planning on Foreign Language or Ethnic/Area Studies as my major

A preliminary list is fine, but a few questions before anyone can give their thoughts.

Home State?
College budget/year?
Career goal with major?
Current classes and grades?
Future classes?

Do you want Large/Medium/Small school?
Private or Public?
Sports/Greek life?


Sorry @Gumbymom! I’m from MT, roughly 3.3 GPA so far (sophomore). Want large, urban campus (why I don’t think I’d like ISU). By the time I finish HS, I hope to have taken 6 APs (both Spanish, WHIST, EUROHIST, APUSH, Stats). Greek life and Sports largely irrelevant to me. Want to work bringing diversity and inclusion to spaces that need it. (I understand that last point is vague)

Hi. We have toured both Colorado State and Cal Poly SLO, and I would not say they are in big cities. They are both lovely areas, but they have a small city, agriculture-focused rural feel. I know nothing about those majors, though.

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Welcome to CC @applier2! Thanks for the deets about CSU and SLO. Sounds like I’m not a good fit for those environments.

Cal state Northridge and Sac state are the only CSU’s on your list that are part of the WUE where you get discounted tuition. The rest of the CSU’s will be full pay around $40K/year with no financial aid other than Federal aid if you qualify so make sure these schools are in budget.


SLO uses 9-11th grades and all the rest of the CSU’s use 10-11th grades in their GPA calculation.

SLO under a 3.8 GPA will be a Reach school along with CSU Long Beach but you still have 1 1/2 years before you apply to get your GPA up.

If you want more Urban, look a San Francisco State, CSU East Bay and Cal Poly Pomona instead of SLO and Long Beach. These schools would be more target schools based on your academics so far.

You have time to do more research and determine which schools would be the better fit. Budget is #1 so make sure you have this locked down before applying anywhere.

Best of luck.


TY @Gumbymom for your thorough breakdown! It’s INCREDIBLY helpful. My family is lower-middle class BUT we have a 529 set up.

University of Oregon - Eugene, Oregon
University of Hawaii - Manoa - Honolulu, Hawaii
Arizona State University - Phoenix, Arizona
University of Arizona - Tucson, Arizona
University of Utah - Salt Lake City, Utah

  • All on the western side of the U.S., 3.3 GPA would probably get you in. Pretty Urban cities too.

If I wanted to plan a trip this summer (hopefully I can) and visit the CA campuses, how much driving would we be in for?

Sacramento/Bay Area is roughly 7 hours to LA area. CSUN and LA very commuter — in my opinion kind of lack in the college experience. That’s an issue with a lot of the CSUs.

I’m interested in your inputs into the search engine. What are you looking for in a campus besides urban? What kind of campus culture or vibe? What, roughly is your EFC and budget? And is the “warrior” like SJW?

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Things I would like

urban/suburban campus
Secular control
Racially/culturally/disability diverse
Large enrollment, mostly (or entirely) residential
Progressive politics, activist (coed) student body
Want to be able to go hog-wild listing majors

And yes, I’m proudly a social justice warrior (a good thing IMHO)

The WUE tuition schools in California that are more residential are Humboldt State University, Sonoma State University, and University of California Merced, but only Sonoma State University is in a suburban area (the others are in rural or small town areas).
What is your budget?

@ucbalumnus my guess would be about $15k/Year

$15k per year would be hard to fit a college even at WUE rates into, once living expenses are added in, unless you find a significant merit scholarship.

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@ucbalumnus you think I wouldn’t take out loans?

You can only take $5,500 in loans first year, increasing slightly later years.

Also, political activism may not be that high paying a career for many, so you do not want to take on a lot of debt.


My D22 has looked at a lot of California/PNW colleges and has some of your same specifications (and values).

As mentioned, CSUs are mainly commuter. Check their websites to see the percentage of students who live on campus.SLO, SDSU, Chico State have a traditional feel but only SDSU is urban. I haven’t seen Long Beach in a long time but that area has a fun LA/beachy vibe. Sacramento is building more dorms and has a hip/upcoming feel. Lots of access to the workings of the Capitol if you are interested in politics. San Francisco is an amazing city but I understand that there are not many dorms available and housing off campus is super expensive.

I think a great fit for you might be Occidental in the greater LA area. Maybe Lewis and Clark in Portland?

Which Oregon do you mean in your list?

My understanding is that George Mason is very conservative— that doesn’t seem to be a match for you.

Thanks @Southoftheriver! The Oregon I meant was the flagship in Eugene. Thanks for mentioning that GMU is a bad temperamental fit for me. I don’t know/expect to be an activist per se, just that an activist environment appeals to me. Occidental sounds promising, thanks!

@ucbalumnus maybe I’m asking a dumb question but: if loans are capped (and so low) how do people afford college?

Some of the usual ways, whose accessibility varies across different students:

  • Parental money.
  • Commuting to local in-state public colleges while living with parents.
  • Attending a college with good need-based financial aid (typically, these are highly selective).
  • Attending a college that gave a large merit scholarship (typically, these are colleges much less selective than what the student can get admitted to, plus use their money on merit scholarships).

@ucbalumnus thanks for the answer. That makes sense. I’d hopefully be able to take advantage of routes 3 & 4.