Thoughts on St. Mary's?

My child was accepted into St. Mary’s under EA with a very nice merit scholarship. It was a safety school, but he visited and really liked the campus. Can anyone who has attended or who has children at St. Mary’s speak to some of the various elements of the college? Is it lively? Are classes challenging? In short, how do students like it? I see SMC is fairly high on the U.S. News list (#9 for regional colleges in the West), and I am guessing that with an increase in applications and an increased endowment, their status will continue to rise vs. CSU and lower-tier UC campuses. Thanks for any insights.

it is a good school and offers a kind of unique educational opportunity as a small Catholic college in a somewhat isolated community in the Bay Area. If he likes the size, he’d probably hate most of the CSUs and UCs. The coursework is as challenging as you make it. A neighbor’s kid graduated 2 years ago and loved it.

At full tuition, it is hard to rationalize but, with a but, with a big scholarship, I can see it’s appeal.

Keep an open mind as the other acceptances roll in - then make your call.

Good luck.

Thank you for the insights. We are certainly open minded at this point. Pacific just offered a similar merit package, and while the Pacific campus is beautiful, it lacks some of the safety of Saint Mary’s. I guess we will see what some of the other financial trade offers are as we get some CSU, UC, and OOS acceptances as well.

@BayAreaLocal We are in a similar situation. I wish there was more activity on this thread, because I am having a hard time getting feedback on the school. My daughter only applied as a safety school, but after the tour decided she really liked it. She likes the area, plus the January term. I, too, have similar concerns. I spoke with someone who’s daughter just left after a year and a half because there wasn’t enough going on. I think the student is a bit of a party girl, so not sure how that factors in. The mom I spoke with didn’t have anything really negative to say, just that there wasn’t a lot going on and it wasn’t a good fit for her daughter. Even though the immediate area is isolated, it’s pretty close Walnut Creek and Berkeley. Being from the Bay Area, you probably know the geography better than I do (we are in Sac).

My other concern is the academics. My daughter is pre-dent, so I want to make sure she is prepared for dental school (UOP would have been great - but Stockton…). Her other top choices are Pepperdine and LMU.

Good luck to your son. I’ll be sure to post here again if I hear any other feedback.

I’ve only heard good things about St. Mary’s of CA. That’s not information, but it’s better than having heard bad things! It’s always been high on our list of attractive schools–in terms of looks and academics.

@disney4cam I do wish there was more activity on the thread, too. We are also in at Pacific, but St. Mary’s seems like a much better choice. As for the lack of things going on in Moraga, I see that as a good thing. It takes away some of the distractions! Ultimately, there are always things going on at any campus, and basketball game day certainly seems to bring action to St. Mary’s. The campus and the area are beautiful. We made a visit when classes were not in session, so we are going to try another visit some time in Feb. when students are around to get a better feel. I have taught at a few CSU and UC campuses, and one of the major issues there is class size/availability. The small classes and guaranteed class access at a place like St. Mary’s does make for a a smoother student experience.

Good luck with the process. All apps are now in, so it is just about waiting.

Seems like there are a lot of us with the same quandary. My son also got merit scholarship and we went to Scholarship Saturday yesterday so he could compete for an additional department scholarship. We’ve visited 12 university campuses over the last 18 months and, for me, St Mary’s seems the nicest for a place to spend 4 years. Serene and yet close to SF. I think my son feels the same. We have some concerns, though, that it is pretty low profile, compared to the UC’s. Most Californians don’t know anything about it. It’s good to now, though, that Google now recruits on campus which opens opportunities. Also, my son, who is studious, tends to have Asian friends (our family is Caucasian/Chinese) and he’s worried that SMC is only 10% Asian – vs over 50% at UC-Irvine or Berkeley. So I think he has some concerns about making friends. I agree with another commenter, though, that SMC’s profile/reputation/prestige is likely to increase as more and more students/parents like us go there.

I will jump in here, too, as someone eager to hear more. We are east coasters…and had been looking for a couple CA options. Read about it in the CTCL book. That’s about all I can say, though I do know CA somewhat. Feedback on what it might be like to attend if not Catholic and not conservative. I will stay tuned with you all as other final options roll in.

I live near St. Marys - so I can only give you some advice from what I hear around town. I don’t think being Catholic is an issue. I also don’t think it’s an ultra conservative school either - I have never ever heard that and know people who work there.

It is a fairly boring area, although we are close to San Francisco - but need to make an effort to get there. It’s also near Walnut Creek, where there is some good shopping. I think it would be difficult to live here without a car. There are buses, but they just don’t run a lot around here.

It IS a low profile school - I grew up in the SF Bay Area, and never even heard of this school until I moved here. It is on the CTCL list. It is a beautiful campus (and small) but the dorms are horrible looking. My daughter stay there one summer for a summer camp and I was appalled! Hopefully those have changed.

I know people that teach/taught and work there now. I think it’s a “fine” school. Nothing exceptional from what I can tell, but also I do think they try really hard to get a community together. It would have been a good fit for one of my kids (not the others) but ultimately it was too close to us that I didn’t want to run into her at our local Safeway. I see the students around town all the time, and they seem really happy. I see them at the local park running (we have lots of great paths around here) and playing volleyball, and at the local grocery store. Seems like a nice set of students. I am surprised the Asian population is so low as someone pointed out - but we are in the Bay Area, so as a whole, I don’t really think this will be a problem. I don’t think the small campus is that isolating, as it’s so integrated with our community.

I wish I could be more help!

I went to Cal undergrad English & got my MBA at St. Mary’s in the 90’s. I loved St. Mary’s (I’m local). I’ve been back recently for area college fairs and still find the college so comfortable. It is a small school, but the teachers are very caring and very qualified (you don’t feel like a number - at Cal I had two upper division classes in my major with 700 people). St. Mary’s basketball team has done really well recently. I wish my daughter wanted to go there, but for her it’s too close to home.

Thanks for all of the comments here, everyone. Our son liked the campus, but now that he has visited a few other more urban places (such as USF and Pacific), he seems to like their lively environment better. Our tour guide at SMC mentioned finding a good fit, and I don’t think SMC is right for our son. However, I could see it being perfect for others.