Scripps vs UCLA -- Parental reservations

My daughter has been accepted to both Scripps and UCLA. She is strongly (very strongly) leaning toward Scripps. She wants a LAC because she is undecided about her major; she likes the idea of a smaller and supportive environment; feels it will be easier to get into an excellent graduate school from Scripps.

But I’m having trouble reconciling myself to her decision – UCLA seems so much more prestigious and she worked so hard to get in. She’s also from a public high school and I worry how she will click with a student body that has so many elite private school graduates.

Ultimately it will be her decision of course but I want to make sure I give her good advice. Am I making a mistake in allowing her to turn down UCLA?

I can’t really offer advice other than to say everyone I know in academia loves Scripps. There must be something to it.

Good fit helps students truly excel (in a well rounded sort of way). A smaller school often offers closer relationships with professors and more opportunities to be involved with advances work and receive mentorship.

She is probably correct about the graduate school point.


It’s your daughter’s decision, unless there’s a financial issue where Scripps is unaffordable.

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Unless there is a financial impact, the only other time I am okay with an oversized parent influence in the decision process is if they are making a huge error. That usually involves following a boyfriend/girlfriend. I don’t think that is the case here. You could argue both ways that she is making a small error.


My daughter went to Scripps after attending a public high school. She made close friends who attended elite prep schools, and equally close friends who attended public high schools. Some were able to pay full COA without batting an eye; some received substantial financial aid, Questbridge scholarships, etc. There didn’t seem to be any social divide along class lines or public vs. private. One advantage of the LAC environment is that campus life doesn’t tend to involve a lot of additional costs. I think there can end up being more economic segregation at some UC’s, where students disperse to off-campus housing which varies in cost, forcing them to form groups with others that have compatible budget constraints (or lack thereof).

Having small classes and personal interaction with faculty from day one was a distinct advantage over the UC environment, where lower-division classes are larger. Having the flexibility to explore and declare any major she chose, vs. be admitted to a particular division or program, was a perk too. Being able to take classes across the entire consortium, and choose an off-campus major at will, has been a huge benefit. There is so much support available, as well as opportunities like funded internships. Students do indeed get into top grad programs. The undergraduate thesis is a great springboard to grad-level work, and the topics students pursue are fascinating. The thesis archives are available online if you’re curious: Scripps Senior Theses | Scripps Student Scholarship | Claremont Colleges

That said, UCLA is a top-notch university, and the cost differential can be significant depending on the student’s financial profile and whether merit aid was offered. One has to weigh the strength of the preference vs. the magnitude of the price difference. I just wouldn’t hesitate to support your daughter in choosing Scripps, if she prefers it and if the cost is acceptable to you. What does she want to study?


Great input from everyone. Thanks.

I agree on “fit” – my daughter is not very sharp elbowed and could definitely use an intellectual environment that draws her out. It is good to know that there is no public/private divide, socially.

She doesn’t really know what she wants to study. This is another reason why she’s interested in a LAC. It would be on the STEM side of the spectrum and she’s mentioned the the 3/2 Engineering program at Scripps as something of possible interest. But really she has broad interests and could go in a number of directions.

And it will of course be her decision – I just want to be sure she/we are considering all the angles.

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Majors, Programs, and Departments lists Scripps majors. The usual science and math majors are there, but computer science or geology would have to be done as an off-campus major at one of the other Claremont colleges.

With respect to engineering, 3+2 programs would be an extra year of cost, meeting some GPA requirement or competitive admission (depending on the “2” school), and careful planning to ensure completing all requirements for both degrees.

However, changing into an engineering major at UCLA is likely to be a difficult competitive admission process.

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Thank you for laying out the differences so clearly. The potential extra year of cost would be painful, but it seems like Scripps would be an easier path to engineering, if that is what she decides to pursue.

It sounds as if she is making the right choice for herself and I need to get on board.

Are the costs the same (or any difference is not an issue financially)? That is one area where parental input has to be taken into account because it’s not the kid who is paying the bill.

I do think that people tend to play up the advantages of private schools and imply that it’s impossible to have the same experience at a large public school. I also think people tend to assume their kids will need lots of support, after all they wouldn’t be on CC if they weren’t concerned about supporting their kid.

But it is possible to achieve just as much if not more at UCLA, have those close relationships with professors, and get great jobs and admission to grad school. And what has impressed me most about UCLA is just how happy everyone is and how much school spirit they have. The NCAA basketball final four run was amazing and that is going to make next year even more fun on campus.

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I didn’t go to UCLA, but I did go to Cal, and I was premed for a couple of years. The lower division science classes were weeder classes and they were cutthroat competitive (model answers for a Chem 1 exam were stolen from a locked glass display). I was not outgoing as a student. In 4 years I had one conversation with a full professor—and that was only because my major would not allow the graduate student leading my thesis seminar to formally approve my topic.
I got a wonderful education. Had some excellent professors, but I doubt many of them knew who I was. If I had not wandered into an internship almost entirely by accident, I’m not sure how I would have obtained good reccs for law school.
Your daughter seems to have a good feel for what suits her.


I think that whether or not your kid puts themself out there is an important consideration in attending a big public university. S has attended his professors’ office hours regularly over the last year or more and has received great recommendations (one professor even proactively got in touch with a company he was applying to, without being asked, in order to recommend him, because she had worked there and knew the CEO). He’s also working on a research project that he proposed with another professor this quarter.

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Yes, that is what I have heard about UCLA students.

Financially there is a big difference in cost, but she/we are lucky enough that this really isn’t the primary consideration.

That sounds like my daughter, who is incredibly smart but also hesitant socially and even more so in the classroom. I think smaller classes and an academic culture that emphasizes collaboration would really help her in this regard, as would a women’s college.

I think you are right. Thanks for your useful input.

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I agree with most of this, but just from looking at the ratio of prof to students, cultivating close relationships with professors is going to be a LOT easier at Scipps. As noted by one UC alum below, she talked to 1 professor in 4 years. I doubt that would be possible at Scripps.

I personally dont place that much weight on relationship with professors, but for those who do, seems obvious LAC is the way to go.

In case this helps someone, my daughter is at Scripps. She started out shy and hesitant but has really gained so much confidence. Before she enrolled I told her one advantage of an LAC is to get to know the professors and she just laughed at me saying she won’t do that. four years later…She has gotten to know professors and developed very close relationships with several of them, inc her major advisor. They have really taken on the mentoring role 100% and (under their guidance) she was able to do an in-depth senior thesis which she will be able to publish this summer.
She participates in classes and has taken on leadership roles. For her at least, the LAC was the way to go and Scripps has the amazing, easily accessible consortium.


I wonder what did your daughter choose at last? I have faced Scripps vs Cal as a full-paying international, and chose Scripps today.



Congratulations! My daughter pushed the “decline” button for UCLA and also enrolled at Scripps!

I’m sure you both will have a wonderful four years.