Recent Alum Taking Questions

Hey all,

I browsed this site a decent amount when making my own college decision and thought that I would come back to try to answer what questions I have about SCU culture, opportunities, etc., especially with the perspective of being a few years out (2015 grad).

(The following info will make me easily identifiable and this thread can be traced back to me, so please be polite and courteous)

Here’s a bit about me, so you know what experience I can speak from:

  • I’m a 2015 grad who double-majored in Political Science and English with a minor in Italian.
  • I was a part of the ALPHA RLC for 3 years: two as just a resident and one year as a CF (identical to what most schools refer to as an RA)
  • I was heavily involved in intramural sports (as a player and a manager/organizer) and student government during my time at SCU
  • I studied abroad in Bologna, Italy for my fall quarter/semester of junior year
  • I love SCU in general, but definitely acknowledge that it is far from a perfect institution/community

In terms of what I have done since SCU:

  • I spent two years as a full-time volunteer (one year domestic and the other international in South America), worked on a local political campaign, and interned at an international non-profit in Washington, DC.
  • I have applied to law school for the upcoming fall and was accepted to a number of top schools (Harvard, Berkeley, UChicago, etc.) and will be taking a full scholarship to the University of Michigan. I mention this just to show that there really isn’t a ceiling to having a degree from SCU, at least not in the eyes of other great institutions.

Anyways, I’ll try to check in every couple of days for the next few weeks to see if there are any questions. I’m not an expert in all things SCU (especially with regard to the worlds of business/engineering), but will do my best to be helpful.

Finally, for what it’s worth, no one is asking me or paying me to do this, but I think forums like this can be very helpful to get info and ease anxiety (as it did for me several years ago!)

Hi @“oldbay+boh” ,

Thanks for offering to do this! I don’t know if you’re still around, but if you are, could you talk about what the student body is like there and what student life is like? My son is nerdy in a good way (extroverted, has good social skills, and also likes to play long games of D&D and other RPGs, improv theater games, nerf guns, etc.), and we’re having trouble getting a read on the student body to understand if Santa Clara is a good fit for him. Is it preppy there? A traditional mix of people? Quirky, nerdy, or artsy people? My son is going into computer science.

I think there’s a pretty good mix of students at SCU, and I definitely knew people who had interests similar to your son. My friends who did theater were all really pleasant and quirky. There may be parts of SCU that he’ll avoid - Greek life being the most obvious. But none of those elements are so dominant at SCU that he won’t be able to find a home and a group of friends there.

I wouldn’t say that SCU is preppy (at least not since having lived on the East Coast and seen what real “preppy” looks like). The student population is disproportionately wealthy, though, as most private schools are. I never had peers who were living some sort of ostentatious lifestyle, partying on boats, etc. but I did have to get accustomed to some people having more money to spend on room decorations, having nice laptops, etc, though I never got the impression that anyone looked down on anyone else. Then again, the nature of undergrad sort of mitigates this somewhat: expensive sweatpants are still just sweatpants and won’t look any different than their Target counterparts during an 8 am class on a Monday morning. I think that overall the campus community is very supportive and kind.

I’d recommend going to Preview Weekend or whatever they call it these days. I decided that SCU was a good fit then as did many of my peers. Also, your son might want to do some quick research on any groups that do RPG get-togethers. I know at least one Philosophy professor at SCU who loves D+D. I think that being proactive in that way can pay real dividends on the back end in making sure that you find a good fit.

Supportive and kind sounds like my son. Thanks for the great info and helpful tips-- we will definitely try to find some clubs of interest and that D&D playing professor!

I posted a similar question on a separate forum, but as a political science and English major, what was your experience majoring in the liberal arts at SCU? During my tour, it all seemed very focused on engineering and business students because of the location in Silicon Valley. Did you feel like you still had lots of opportunities, like internships and student organizations related to your major? Are liberal arts majors looked down on by STEM majors at SCU?

@Ekinstedt It’s interesting that it seemed so engineering and business focused. I think that a lot of attention is being given to the new $100+ million STEM facility, but unless things have changed significantly, the majority of students are still in the College of Arts and Sciences. SCU is not like Cal Poly, where the focus really is on engineering and other disciplines, though they exist, are not the focal point of the institution.

I don’t think you’ll be disadvantaged at all as a liberal arts major at SCU. Business and tech are the money makers in Silicon Valley, but that’s really not any different anywhere else. You’ll have plenty of student groups, etc. that will appeal to your interests there. There’s definitely no “looking down” on liberal arts majors - in fact, my anecdotal experience is that liberal arts majors (and business students) tend to be the most active in student life and student leadership on campus. Engineering students tended to be the most siloed in their own world, though those are generalizations, obviously.

One thing to remember with regard to liberal arts vs. engineering + business (no matter where you go) is that things like internships, while available, are going to look very different: Business majors might be able to pull a big internship with Deloitte or McKinsey or engineering students with Lockheed that will give them the inside track to a relatively high salary after graduation. A Poli Sci major might intern over the summer with a government agency (I’d recommend looking into the White House internship after the current administration exits) or with the City of Santa Clara during the year. An English major might help a professor with writing a couple chapters of a textbook or do a summer Fulbright program learning about Shakespeare in the UK. I know Broncos who have done all of these things. It requires being proactive, but all these opportunities are available to SCU students.

That said, liberal arts “internships” are not going to be well-paid gigs that are likely going to lead to job offers. They will give you experience, connections, and help you discern your interests. I applaud anyone who pursues the humanities and am very satisfied with having taken that direction myself, but it’s probably good to understand upfront that you won’t be making $70k right out of school like some of the business students. That’s a function of pursuing the humanities, not the difference between SCU and any other school.

Sorry, that was quite a lot, but I hope it’s helpful. Good luck!

Congrats on an incredible bio and great choices for law school! My upcoming May grad is planning to go to law school but will start work after graduation first, while figuring out how to pay for law school. :slight_smile:

@“oldbay+boh” Thank you so much for that thoughtful response! That’s a relief to hear, it’s amazing that Santa Clara can be so well-rounded in that way!

What about diversity? I visited SCU when I was considering college 25 or so years back and thought the class I sat in on was great but all the kids I met seemed to be suburban white upper mid to wealthy students from private catholic high schools. I don’t think my son would like that if still the same.

I graduated from Santa Clara 33 years ago and definitely it was true back in the day where the school was overwhelmingly Catholic and Caucasian.

It has grown more diverse over the years and the demographics have changed. Not sure but I think it has become more balanced. Although when I took my son for a college tour 4 years ago, we were for sure the only Asians in our group. The son was thinking about applying anyways, but I bet he would have been deferred had he done EA.

BTW the Engineering School is predominately Asian.

Given that the alma mater wants to have a national presence, they want to make sure that students of all creeds/ethnic background are welcome.

Although religion classes are mandatory, there is no effort to convert students and Jesuits are known for their intellectual curiosity. I remember having dropping in for a drink with Father Coz (may he rest in peace ) and having some fun discussions about life. Which makes me a real SCU old-timer.