Hello! I’m making a thread because I need some advice for the complicated situation I’m in at my current college. For context:
- First-year student at east coast T-20 LAC (remote for the second semester)
- High school GPA: 3.4 UW
- College GPA: 3.9
- Prospective major: Math & Religion double major or Religion major with Math minor
- OOS female from CA
- Recently diagnosed with ASD 1
I’m debating whether I should transfer or stay at my current college. I do want to acknowledge that COVID-19 probably impacted my experience at the college, but I think there are red flags I experienced that would have existed notwithstanding the pandemic. If anyone could provide some input, it would be greatly appreciated.
- Supportive community; I went to a really cutthroat public high school in California so this new environment was a really welcome change. Students are collaborative and there have been very fews times where I felt my peers did not want to help me with a problem set/assignment.
- Professors; the professors in the math department are really good at teaching and provide summer research opportunities. Super accessible with office hours and whatnot. Many professors emphasize that student-professor relationships should be less binary and “power” more evenly distributed. In general, I’ve found the professors to be really talented and generally invested in what they do. The only exception is the religion department (more on that later).
- Small student:professor ratio; most of my courses, even the math ones, had a max. of 10-15 students in the course. And this was just for higher-level introductory courses. Another nice thing is that, because the class size is so small, no one really skips class so every session is consistent and we’re productive.
- Strong alumni network; there are many alumni in politics, investment banking, law, but, most importantly, academia.
- Preparation for a career in academia; the college graduates one of the highest numbers of students who go on to earn PhDs from LACs, especially in STEM fields like math. The humanities department PhD production is high as well. The college makes the list annually, I believe. I would like to become a university professor and I know that the job-market for this profession is extremely small every year. There’s a lot of “it’s who you know, not what you know.” I think any advantage, no matter how small, in regards to moving up in academia is significant. Graduating from this college will better prepare and proposition me for a master’s degree and PhD both of which I would really like to do.
- College culture*; there’s an honor code and, in general, without a strike (this will also show up in the Cons list), I think it’s pretty nice. I don’t want to get too much into it, but one nice thing is that the college instills the value of mutual respect for one another. Students are also intellectually stimulated, at least in class, so I feel like in-class discussions are good.
- Insanely expensive; I did not receive a merit scholarship and I’m not on financial aid. Tuition alone is around $60k annually. I was remote this semester so no fee for room&board, but tuition was only reduced a minuscule amount. My parents believe in education and if I stayed for the entire four years, they could afford it, but there comes a point where reality cannot justify the tuition. Cost-benefit analysis here is key.
- Religion department; the religion department at the college is incredibly small and the course offerings are not as diverse/plentiful as I would’ve hoped. Yes, given the size of the student body/majors within the department these things may be generous, but from my own experiences and having talked to declared majors/upperclassmen, there are really only a couple of professors who seem to be competent and dedicated. Most importantly, the religion department has a slant towards a certain religion. The college was originally founded by a Christian denomination so the influence of this denomination are still felt in the academics to this day, especially in the religion department. I would like study in a department where religion is studying objectively with no bias.
- Strike; last semester (fall 2020) there was a campus-wide strike that lasted two weeks in the name of racial justice. I don’t really want to get into it as it’s not a time I particularly like to remember, but here’s the link to an article if you want to check it out: college strike. Anyway, the strike ruined my perception of the college. Its claims about mutual respect and integrity went completely out the window to me. The campus was pretty much in chaos and the environment the strike created was really hostile. Students were getting bullied for going to class (yes, for going to class and with tuition being $60k) & eating in the dining halls (yes, which costs $16k), first-amendment rights were being revoked (student newspaper would not publish dissenting opinions on the strike), the college president was receiving death threats and students who disagreed with the strike would be “canceled.” There was an incident where a student was actually being targeted by a professor for something he said about the strike. The college president/administration failed to keep the student body safe and the college free from harm. While the intentions of the strike organizers may have started off fine, it resulted in destruction at the college in more ways than one. Really, the most frustrating thing is that the college let the strike go unpunished and was sympathetic to the aggressors, not the students who just wanted to attend class and eat in the dining hall.
- Location/campus; the college is located in the suburbs of a medium-large city on the east coast. The location of the college is stifling. On the weekends, most students party and, because I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs (religious background), my weekends are just filled with studying/9 pm bedtimes. (Seriously, on Sunday mornings I would wake up at 5am and do yoga on the lawn). They say the city nearby is “close by” but it’s still a 20-ish minute train ride away and the train tickets are not cheap so just another expense. The campus is absolutely tiny. I hate the layout of the campus. All the buildings are squashed in one area which does make getting to and from the buildings convenient, but it makes the campus feel suffocatingly small. It really feels like you’re in the middle of no-where and trapped in a tiny bubble of privilege. Another silly thing, but the area is terrible for running. Running was actually what helped me combat my depression during my first semester, but I found it really hard to run anywhere since the area is terrible for run in (tiny streets/no sidewalks and no trails/hills nearby). I basically just ran in circles around campus.
- Culture; drinking/alcohol/party culture is rampant which, I know, are not abnormal for most American colleges. Given the small size though, it feels like these things are what anyone on campus ever wants to do on the weekend, even during the pandemic. If you’re not doing these things on the weekends, you’ll find that there’s nothing else to do. While I was there, I felt more alone and sad than I ever felt. I think at a larger college, there would be more people to meet and the opportunity to find different niches of people. That brings me to my next point, the college is very, very cliquey. It seriously feels like a stereotypical American high school movie at times. A reason why I even chose the college was because I did not want to attend a college that had the culture of a high school. I thought people would be more mature, but the people here really do form their own friend groups and don’t venture outside of them. Moreover, a large percentage of the student body is on a varsity sports team. I like sports and I’m on a club team myself, but I think the percentage of students playing a varsity sport kind of creates an us vs. them culture among the student body. I definitely wouldn’t say student athletes are all jocks, the ratio just, once again, makes the college experience feel more like a high school experience.
California Community College:
- Affordable; the cost of community college is incomparable. I think it would make much more sense to save for a year and figure stuff out while I’m at it.
- Mental health/disability; my mental health has been terrible for as long as I can remember. I was recently diagnosed with ASD Level 1. I do not want to get into it too much, but this next year is going to be really important for me to establish what I want to do with my life/how I can move forward. Being at home, I can continue to go to therapy and the doctor’s office to receive medication. I’ll be in a familiar environment to receive treatment.
- UC pipeline; I live near one of the top-rated community colleges in the country and it’s the top feeder into UCs. I would like to attend UC Berkeley or a different out of state university with a strong religion department (more on that later).
- Finding my footing affordably; I mentioned my mental health/disability already, but really, I think being at home will help me find my footing. People say college is about “finding yourself,” but does doing so have to cost $70k+? I could also change my mind and decide I don’t want to study religion.
- Proximity to home; I was really homesick my first semester due to all the cons I listed previously. I know these are just growing pains, but I really think a year close to home would benefit me.
- UCs (for the most part) do not have religion departments; UCs do not have religion departments, and if they do, they are not particularly strong. UCLA has a religion department but it is not well known for it. UC Berkeley doesn’t even have a religion department. I could always decide I don’t want to study religion, but I would like to attend a school that does have a department.
- Slimmer chances of getting into an out of state university; I know the chances of getting into a school like UChicago (especially as a transfer student) are slim at best, but would attending a community college make it even slimmer? Is getting into a T-20 university harder as a community college student or as a T-20 LAC student? I think I know the answer, but I know that the transfer process is different from applying “normally."
- Logistics; are my credits from my first year at T-20 LAC transferrable to the community college and, therefore, a UC? If not, will I have to do two years at a community college and “repeat” my first year? I know this is a question that would be better suited for the community college, but if anyone knows anything it would be much appreciated.
- Stigma; will community college ruin my chances of becoming a college professor? Will master’s programs and PhD programs look down on me for transferring/going to a community college?
- Home situation; relationship with parents is okay, not the best. They are trying to understand my diagnosis and how to support me. It’s difficult for them. I feel safe, but I know they wish I was “normal” again.
- Lack of extracurriculars; for what it’s worth, there were few e.c.’s at my T-20 LAC last year due to COVID, but I still think there would be more there than at my local community college. I’m not worried about this too much, but should I be?