Status of D's choice - Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley

<p>Yes, we too are choosing. The crunch for us is that she is truly undecided, May 1 is looming, and Stanford has admit days April 28-30th. She has been to the Princeton April Hosting, and to Cal Day. We are OK to let her decide, finances are not the constraint - although clearly no one can be indifferent to $100,000 - and are on board for the gut feel approach to decision-making.</p>


<p>I know that come April 30 she will be on a Stanford high. And given that there is little time to recover before committing I want to get the pro and con chart readied before April 28. So I am asking the help of the esteemed cc board to make sure I do a good job for her.</p>

<p>Here's the profile, as best I know it after 17 years. Strong-willed, makes good relationships with teachers and students. Poised. Pretty much equal in math and humanities - but slight edge to math and most interest in biology/psychology/neroscience. Creative. Good actress and loves to do it. Dancer, beautiful movement quality, injury preventing the pre-professional ballet she did for a while, but never wants to stop dancing. Politically liberal. Committed to doing good somehow after college. No defined career plans. Likes to belong, likes to have power and be in charge. Co-editor high school newspaper, likes to direct movies with her friends and family in them. Wants to speak fluent Spanish when she gets out of college. Loves novels with a strong emotional component. Very much a regular-seeming girl, hangs out with the "popular" girls but no boyfriend so far. If you saw her you wouldn't think brainiac, but if you talked to her you would think, hmm, insightful and poised for her age. The brains part is evident when she chooses - it always sort of surprises me because she is very intelligent but not nerdy at all. (Caveat: I love nerds so mean nothing other than description by the statement. Nerds shall inherit the earth. Anyway.)</p>

<p>Princeton Pros and Cons: East Coast is different and unfamiliar - con, but new experience - pro. Diverse student group - pro but unfamiliar. No ballet for credit - con but great dance troupes that play a big role in campus life - pro. OK psych, excellent mobio, also evolutionary and ecology bio, neuroscience certificate can be part of any of these majors. Eating clubs actually turn out to be a pro- she liked the kids. Also the newspaper - she liked the kids. There is a program for a semester in Costa Rica studying tropical ecology. The academics at Princeton can't be beat - kids were "so smart". Classes "were amazing and made my brain feel good". Some kids were "cool", some kids "had no exuberance, no joy".</p>

<p>Stanford Pros and Cons: In our backyard, some good friends going, pro and con. Best graduate psych department in the country, famous human biology program. Great ballet. Don't know about dance troupes yet. Don't know yet about the kids.</p>

<p>Berkeley Pros and Cons: Nearby beloved family members - pro. Politically liberal - pro. Have not gotten enough data on bio/psych/neuroscience, nor on the makeup of the kids. Cal Day was a zoo. Not sure how to get hands around Cal. Main worry about Cal - so big she cannot have an impact on the institution, which is her true love above and beyond any specific academics.</p>

<p>Thoughts? Knowledge of the departments in which she is interested? Knowledge of the social group makeup of the schools? Factors we should list on pros and cons chart that we have missed? Thank you very much in advance.</p>

<p>It's been beaten to death, I know.... but I just can't see navigating the difficulties of getting into courses, the anonymity, etc. of Cal. I know the money is better, but if it's not a factor...</p>

<p>Also, were it me, I would not try to choose on strength of deparments. She is undecided and they are three stellar schools. I would choose on atmosphere, feel, like you and I agreed on another thread - the place for the wings to spread.</p>

<p>I know she will make a great choice and I know you will be there with just the right quiet support for her to do so.</p>

<p>The biggest difference between Stanford and Princeton as far as I can see is the weather. I happen to like New England weather, but not everyone from northern CA does. I agree that unless finances are a consideration, Stanford and Princeton are the better choices for undergrad.</p>

<p>Stanford has a quarter system which makes it easier to try out different types of courses and switch to something else if you decide you don't want to pursue that subject further. And the courses are all different amounts of units, so it is possible to take quite a few courses at once if you want to. At Princeton, I think all courses are counted the same, and it is usual to take four courses a semester, so it is harder to try out different areas. It is also easier to study abroad or away from Stanford (e.g. in Washington DC) on the quarter system, as you are only committing for 1/3 of a school year (a quarter) instead of 1/2 (a semester). It is easier to double major at Stanford, as there is no thesis requirement. However, if you WANT to do an Honors thesis at Stanford and double major, you can do the thesis in one of your majors (my son is considering doing this, has decided to double major, has not yet decided about the thesis). But Princeton emphasizes and requires independent work (junior papers and senior thesis) which is good.
I am pretty sure that Stanford has a significantly higher percentage of students majoring in science and engineering and lower percentage majoring in humanities and social sciences than Princeton.<br>
Stanford has that whole emphasis on Residential Life, with a faculty fellow and a whole staff of RAs, Peer Academic Advisors, Peer Health Counselor, and Residential Computer person for each dorm, and the dorms each have a pretty structured social life, so that the dorm becomes an automatic social unit for freshman. I don't know if this is true at Princeton these days.
I think the students will be at least as diverse and smart at Stanford as Princeton, however less will be from California at Princeton so they may seem more "diverse" to your daughter.
I can't think of anything else right now :)</p>

<p>Alumother, about time you started this thread. :) Your daughter has visited the three schools. She really doesn't have a favorite?
If in the end she doesn't have a favorite, you almost have to drop Stanford because it's near your home. It comes down to two factors, how much $100,000 means to you and how important it is to go to school on the opposite coast of where you live. </p>

<p>I am sure Berkeley is strong in the academic subjects you mentioned. </p>

<p>She has been to Princeton twice. What's the hangup?</p>

<p>Of course, if she loves Stanford she should just go there.</p>

<p>In other words, I am no help. Wow, I am glad it isn't my decision. :)</p>

<p>If money is no object, Princeton, on the Chelsea Clinton "other coast" theory. A different kind of education as an added bonus.</p>

<p>I suspect the ballet will take care of itself. (Been there...watching that.)</p>

<p>There is something to be said for the "other coast" theory. My son said that the dirt at Princeton "smelled the same as at home" (25 minutes away) and he didn't feel like he had "gone anywhere" when he visited there.</p>

<p>I think your D should apply my S's criterion of snow. In his case, he wants snow (ergo, no to Stanford). Will be going to college 15 minutes' walk away, with "dirt that smells the same as at home" and same weather. :).</p>

<p>The quarter system can be wonderful. But some students do not care for the quick sequence of midterms and finals.</p>

<p>MOT, thanks for the detailed info, I know you have a resident authority:)</p>

<p>MOT, marite, Thanks, I had not thought about the quarter system. The dirt, yes, well there's the dirt. If it's me I would always go for the "other coast theory", but something is making my D unsure of going, I don't know what. Weather, as long as she doesn't have to wear any more sunscreen than currently, she's OK with snow or no snow. </p>

<p>dstark, so I don't know what is the hangup with Princeton. She just appears to be truly open to the decision and is absorbing data. So jmmom, yes, it will be the gut. I just want to make sure the hard data is in place to center the gut, if you know what I mean.</p>

<p>And since we have made housing choices and car choices and job choices and family-of-origin gift choices on purpose to be able to let finances not be the constraint at this very moment, well, it's amazingly calming to see everyone vote for Princeton or Stanford. So perhaps I won't bother to rev her up on Cal.</p>

<p>At this point, your D has three excellent choices of which most kids would take any one. It comes down to what your daughter is ready to do right now. It it time for her to spread her wings and go east for a new life, or does 4 more years in CA feel right to her? To me that is really the question. Princeton will be all new, weather, east coast, students, environment, familiarity. It'll be a lot easier to make the transition to S or B. And maybe she feels it just is not the right time. As to the choices between S and B, I think the atmosphere at the schools are different enough that she will be able to pick which one she prefers if cost is not a factor. B is bigger, more bureaucratic, more locals and Californeans, less traditional college. For your D , she is choosing among lifestyles and change, and she really should be the one to make the choice. It'll be interesting to see what she chooses and why and I hope you share that with us.</p>

<p>I'm not so sure that the votes for Princeton or Stanford over Cal are for reasons other/different than the elite quality of the schools. Leaving Princeton out of the equation, if it were me (that is, if I were the student), I'd go with Cal in a heartbeat -- because I love the hubbub and excitement of Cal.... I have never been able to feel comfortable with Stanford, even when my parents took me there as a teen to visit, because there just isn't enough activity going on on campus -- too quiet, too spread out for my tastes. My own kids both are city kids, so I know they would tend to gravitate toward the more urban environment of Berkeley. Obviously this has nothing whatsoever to do with academics or the quality of education ... it's just gut level feel and comfort level. (I'm not commenting on Princeton because I have never been there, so I have no clue what the campus is like). </p>

<p>But I do have a comment on the opposite coast thing -- my son spent 2 years on the east coast - now he's on the west coast working for a company that is headquartered in Boston and has offices in dozens of cities nationwide. They move him around a lot and he has been there long enough now to have his pick of cities -- but he has now told them that he wants to stay on the west coast. So the lesson from the east coast was basically -- "nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here".... and the thing about snow is that the novelty wears off relatively fast, esp. in a bad winter. Also, no one ever tells us west coasters that the east coast has a lot of cold, icy rain in addition to, and sometimes on top of, the pretty sparkly snow (which melts and turns into icy brown sludge).</p>

<p>It may be that the only way my son could have learned how much he preferred the west coast was by living on the east coast -- I'll never know -- but I wouldn't push a local kid who was waffling between Stanford & Cal to go to Princeton simply on the opposite-coast theory. A better choice might be the local college and study abroad - nothing like an ocean to create a sense of distance. </p>

<p>Honestly, Alumother, if I were you I'd back off and let your daughter figure it out for herself. She has 3 excellent choices, so she can't possibly go wrong. If she comes out of the Stanford admit days with a Stanford high - so be it. But it could just as easily be a Stanford low -- she might come home complaining that the kids there were too preppy or that the admit day programs were lame or something else shes decides she doesn't like -- who knows. If the school is not a good fit, she'll find out.</p>

<p>And if she is still entertaining the idea of Cal after the madness of Cal Day (the one day in the year I would advise anyone trully interested in attendin the school to stay as far away as possible) -- then maybe she really ought to be there. I wasn't quite sure what you meant by "Main worry about Cal - so big she cannot have an impact on the institution, which is her true love above and beyond any specific academics." I wasn't clear about what you meant by her having "impact" on the institution, and if you meant to say that Cal is "her true love". I can tell you that Cal is fine for kids who are outgoing, proactive and assertive -- the "anonymity" that jmmom mentioned really is only an issue for some types of kids. I have no clue as to what your daughter is like - so I can't say. I just know that some kids can thrive in an environment like Cal's, precisely because the institution is so big and offers so many different opportunities.</p>

<p>If the money is not an issue:
Does she want to do a year abroad?: Cal
Does she want to have access to research opportunities and incredible financial resources?: Stanford
Does she want to experience East Coast culture?: Princeton
Does she like cities, a buzz of activity, diversity?: Cal
Does she like suburbs, laid back atomosphere?: Stanford
Does she like small towns, faculty attention?: Princeton</p>

<p>The truth is that she'll make the decison based on some gut feeling of where she belongs. If the money is not an issue, then I don't think she can go wrong.</p>

<p>Two thoughts (worth what you're paying for them...): Since you are a Princeton alum, do you think she has just the tiniest doubt that she won't be having "her" experience, but your's all over again? In the end, I was glad my S did not go to UCLA as his college memories as distinct from mine. Secondly, you mentioned that she wanted to be fluent in Spanish when she gets done. Where better to get extra practice than California? I'm a native - first teaching job involved teaching math in Spanish with just high school and 1 yr. college Spanish. Was thrown in and immersed, best way to learn.</p>

<p>Just to respond to a couple of comments, there are plenty of research opportunities and loads of funding for undergraduate study abroad, community service, etc., at Princeton. And the residential colleges do have a full array of advisors, deans, support staff, and activities. Also, fwiw, I believe the second or third largest number of students at Princeton come from California. </p>

<p>Having said that, it sounds as though your d is a smart girl not to have made up her mind yet. She needs to visit Stanford as a prefrosh. Once she does, I suspect she will have enough data (including the qualitative kind) to make up her mind. (There are some of us on these boards whose kids had a funny problem, though; they really didn't ever want to narrow it down to one school!)</p>

<p>Princeton fan though I am, I will tell you that having a kid at school relatively close to home has a lot of advantages in terms of your ability to see her dance performances, have her come home on the occasional weekend, etc., while she still can be in her own separate campus world.</p>

<p>Another Stanford mom here...see how the admit weekend goes. There was a brouhaha here last year because one girl (who chose Duke) wrote a scathing article in an East Coast paper about how bad her experience during Stanford's admit weekend was! So not everyone has a great experience, and she may or may not come out loving it. </p>

<p>You've gotten lots of good advice above and there is not much I can add. I was also a Californian who went East for college and came back after graduation having not liked the winters or the gritty urban life. Some people are more adaptable and/or adventurous than others, and I think we need to let our kids be what they are, after having given our views of the pros and cons, with our child's particular set of individual qualities in mind. I also join with those who think it is in general a good idea to experience a new part of the world for college, but I don't think it is by any means the most important factors if there are other considerations outweighing it.</p>

<p>I think that I agree that for math/science/engineering, I would generally choose Stanford, and for the humanities Princeton. But as someone else pointed out, Stanford also has great psychology, economics, human biology, etc. </p>

<p>My own take on the local part of it is--the kids who went to high school together rarely see each other on campus because they all get busy with their own interests and it isn't that small a place. Also, just as an example, my son will be on the East Coast most of this summer, and is hoping to go abroad during his four years. MotherofTwo's son was on the East Coast for the first part of this academic year. So in fact they do end up traveling and working elsewhere, I think--and then there are far-away jobs and grad schools too.</p>

<p>On the dance part: my daughter is a dancer and I took her to a recent performance of the Cardinal ballet and also of several other groups from swing to jazz to hip hop that are all Stanford dance groups. We enjoyed the performances but my daughter wasn't too impressed with the ballet. I don't know enough to know one way or the other and there is usually a dance performance during admit weekend and representatives from the different groups are on hand to talk to the pro-fros....(p.s., you shouldn't go to Stanford if you can't stand abbreviating everything to a fare-thee-well....)
Good luck and the truth is, she really can't go wrong....</p>

<p>calmom - I mean that she likes the power structure of the institution to be visible. Her true love is management (she doesn't know this yet). So she needs to know the hierarchy and the resources and what she is managing. And I really promise, I am not making her feel as though I am overinvolved. I took her to Princeton, but I pretty much sat in the hotel room except when asked to come on over. My overinvolvement happened when she was in kindergarten - when she knew I wanted her to go to the best college possible even then - but now, ironically, I have a broader understanding of what "best" means, and I will make my peace with whatever she decides.</p>

<p>jamimom, aparent, sac maize&blue, and patient, thanks for the input, because since I agree, she can't go wrong, everything you add here just helps our family process the information and the big changes ahead and to understand. So where you confirm the "let her choose" theme it is helpful. Where you give nuggets (i.e. no matter where they go to school they can travel, nice to be able to see the dance performances, travel = Cal, Spanish = California) it is also appreciated. </p>

<p>I want to thank everyone - kind of like the Oscars.</p>



<p>That and palm trees.</p>

<p>Alumother - Does your daughter care at all about big time college athletics - the excitement of winning national championships and all that? If so, choose Stanford (or to a lesser extent Cal).</p>

<p>Personally, I subscribe to the opposite coast theory.</p>

<p>Well, pace Calmom, but I'll drop in the nugget that of all D's friends who went to Cal...and 45 from her graduating class a <em>group</em>, they seem to be the most disappointed with their college experience so far.
Note: I tend to be pro-UC. The complaints are as varied as the students but the general reactions seems to be "It's okay...I guess," in contrast to various other enthusiasms.</p>

<p>Trivial side note: D's hs orchestra director has a dog named Oskie. Tells you all you need to know about her.</p>

<p>alumother, </p>

<p>I like Princeton because it is the best size for a kid who likes to run things. </p>

<p>I also think there is no better time to go live in the snow than during college-- when you won't be shoveling it! :) </p>

<p>No matter where she goes, because she is not you, she will have her own experience.</p>

<p>One thing jumped out at me from your initial pro/con list:
Stanford: Best graduate psych department in the country

But she's deciding on her <em>undergraduate</em> school right now, so this shouldn't be of any consequence, right?</p>

<p>For kids with some measure of self-confidence and self-control, I'm also in the "opposite coast" camp. (I grew up in NJ and was denied that opportunity by my parents who put two conditions on my college search, "Nowhere west of the Mississippi and not Hampshire.") As someone else asked, can you pinpoint the reasons for her tentative-ness about Princeton? That might lead to another category to add to the pro/con list.</p>

<p>And I'd recommend jmmom's "A way to decide" thread ( <a href=""&gt;;/a> ) -- the idea of making a list and evaluating how you feel about the "scores" on that list seems revealing to me. And envisioning yourself at one of the schools, sleeping on it, then waking up in the morning to imagine instead that you cannot go there and observing how you feel about it, seems to me to be a valuable and easy exercise.</p>

<p>Good luck to her in her decisions... as I know all too well, it's not easy any way you cut it.</p>