UCSB vs Bryn Mawr vs Scripps vs Stony Brook - pls help!

Hi everyone,

The people here on CC have been immeasurably helpful in these past few crazy, unpredictable months of college applications. That’s why I figured I’d ask for help one last time.

I’ve been accepted into some great schools, and I’ve narrowed it down to these four-- UCSB, Bryn Mawr, Scripps, and SUNY Stony Brook. Because of COVID, I am not going to be able to visit any of the schools (except for perhaps Stony Brook, as I am a NY resident and can take a drive up there without needing to break any travel regulations). I was wondering if any current students or parents could offer some insight or advice regarding any of these schools?

For reference:

  • I am fortunate enough to not require financial aid (though of course I don’t want to be stupid about any of this, and I understand that Stony Brook is HALF the tuition price of the rest. However, this is not my deciding factor.)

  • I’ve always wanted to go to a big school, but I’d be fine with a smaller school as long as I have access to a city. I don’t want to feel isolated or like I can’t meet new people.

  • I would be comfortable in the environment of a historically women’s college – I’ve heard that Bryn Mawr and Scripps are extremely progressive, and as a gay person, that is definitely important to me. However, I’m worried that HWCs – Bryn Mawr in particular – might be TOO liberal. Don’t get me wrong, I lean 1000% left on all social issues, but I identify as an independent/libertarian. How isolating will this be?

  • I want to pursue a career as an author, and I want to study either English, Creative Writing, or Foreign Language in college. And I know everybody probably says this, but I mean it when I say these interests are not going to change, lol. I think Stony Brook has the best Creative Writing program out of these four choices, but I also have heard that Stony Brook is very much a commuter campus on the weekends (on top of being a heavily STEM-focused school) and I think that would impact my experience.

  • I am going to work through college. I know Bryn Mawr is close to Philly, which I assume would be a great place to look for work, but would there be limitations in finding jobs at UCSB, Scripps, and Stony?

  • I’m not a HUGE partier, but I definitely would like access to parties and I want to have fun. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Bryn Mawr’s party scene and how accessible/enjoyable Haverford parties are, so can anyone tell me a little more about that?

  • Lastly, and I know this sounds sort of silly, but the WEATHER. I’ve never had a dream school but I have ALWAYS imagined myself attending school someplace warm. This is honestly why I’m leaning towards UCSB as my favorite out of my options. 4 years away without seasonal depression would be a dream come true!

Sorry for the long post. Once again, absolutely any advice would be deeply appreciated. Thank you in advance!

I can’t speak to the schools specifically, BUT I live very near Bryn Mawr College, and my best friend went there for undergrad (and her husband went there for grad school). So, I could tell you about the area if that helps at all…

Bryn Mawr is in an odd location, where it’s quite residential (lots of large fancy houses nearby), but just blocks from Lancaster Avenue, which is the main drag of the Main Line. Lancaster Ave is NOT scenic or quaint at all, and when you are driving on Lancaster Ave through the town of Bryn Mawr, you think yourself, this is ugly, I can’t believe this is the Main Line that I’ve heard about in movies.

Anyway, center city Philly is an easy train ride from Bryn Mawr (the town and college), so going into the city for work or a night out is very doable. Philly has gone through a gastronomic renaissance in the past decade and there are great places to eat. And it’s a cool walking city, with popular biking/walking paths along the Schuylkill River and hiking in Wisshickon Park.

The weather around here is ok. Winters have varied a lot in the past several years. One winter was relatively temperate and almost no snow, other winters we had 4 major snowstorms in 2 months. It’s hard to predict. If you have a dream to go to school in a warm climate, then Philly is NOT for you. While it CAN be gorgeous and warm and sunny, that is not the prevailing climate. It’s quite varied, honestly. I don’t think we have the overtly depressing weather that places like Seattle tend to have, and we do have a beautiful fall and spring, though. But if you don’t want cold, don’t want to have to worry about slipping on snow and ice, then I’d go to UCSB!


Wow, thanks so much for the in-depth response! This was very helpful, I appreciate it!

Scripps college is part of the consortium of colleges and is one of five colleges that are “housed” together-such that you can cross the small street and take a course at one of the other colleges. The students there are very bright, imaginative, and creative. It’s different in the way the consortium works, but the students who go there seem to like it. It is a very small school. Once you get to the campus, and inside the community of colleges, the aesthetics are very nice but . . . .

It’s FAR out in the burbs of LA County; my kids didn’t like the location, didn’t like the size-it was really small. They didn’t like the “environment” because it sits out in the middle of a bunch of strip malls and suburbia.

Parking was an issue on campus, every time we went to visit-for each of my three kids, which is funny because you need a car or Uber if you plan to go anywhere. All three of my children would have taken their cars.

The weather is good, but it does get warm because it’s FAR inland from the coast. Traffic, on the freeways, to get there, can be a nightmare. You will be able to find a job there because there are a bunch of strip malls or you could try to get a campus job.

You may want to ask others here, on this website, who have experience with Scripps. I only had one student go there and she took a while to get used to the environment and ended up transferring. Take a look at the virtual tour and see what you think and if it’s something that works for you, then great! I had to look at both sides, when I was with my children. It wasn’t a good fit for them; they needed their larger universities.

Re UCSB: (My eldest wanted to go to Santa Barbara, so we visited, but she ended up at SUNY Buffalo because of the scholarships and she wanted a change!) My neighbor, two doors down just graduated from there. Yes, it’s a beautiful campus and does sit on the ocean. There’s a lot of partying going on, but most of the students are serious about their education.

People assume that in Southern California we get a lot of perfect weather. When you live on the ocean, you get fog, that may take a while to burn off so it’s chilly. The ocean water temperatures are cold. it’s not a “sandy” beach on the UCSB campus. There are gorgeous days with sun, warmth, ocean breezes and no snow. It does wonders for your attitude and your outlook, but. . . .

The school doesn’t sit near the main part of Santa Barbara, so unless you have an on-campus job, you will need a car or an Uber to get to the jobs. Parking is a really big issue. It is a small tourist town and finding parking, in an expensive real estate area, is a challenge. We didn’t ask about shuttles into town, but I’m sure there probably are frequent shuttles from the school.

Because it’s a small community, and on on the coast, there isn’t a “direct” way to get there. There are some flights from Santa Barbara Airport, but the airport is really small, so it’s limited in how many flights a day come and go from there. Most people drive up from LAX, and it’s not a short drive. It’s over 100 miles on the “101”. The 101 freeway has been blocked by fires, landslides, or bad accidents so you get stuck.
With Scripps College, there’s an airport in Ontario and most people fly Southwest into Ontario, avoiding LAX (and the always-congested 405 freeway). Remember that Scripps College is in “INLAND” LA County, and Los Angeles County is huge, so there are multiple airports and freeways to get you to the school.

The best thing that you can do, when inquiring about where you should go, is getting advice from people that actually went to those colleges. As an outsider, I can only tell you what my views, and what my children and their friends felt about those colleges.


Got it, thank you for this. The difficulty to reach UCSB has been my parents’ biggest concern, but I didn’t realize that finding work would also be a challenge due to location. I’ll definitely take all of this into account, as well as the fact that Scripps is pretty isolated.

Thank you!

Please remember that there are on-campus jobs that you could apply to, especially in the labs, and eateries. People try to get on-campus jobs because, if they have to go into town to work, the cost of gas, parking and maintenance is expensive. Right now, our gas prices in SoCal are just under $4 a gallon. It makes sense to apply for an on-campus job. (I just drove through from Northern Cal and LA County yesterday, and I really noticed the increased amount of hybrid and electric cars plugged in at the gas stations.). I’m in San Diego County.

You probably could look up the job boards right now, online and see what’s available for Fall term. The schools recognize that the students haven’t had a lot of diversity in their work experiences and are very good about employing new students. You may be able to apply for fall jobs as of now and see what’s up on the job boards.

I forgot to mention that most of the UCs are on the quarter system, so you only have 10 weeks to prove yourself and it goes fast. We-parents, recommend that students take lighter loads, in their first year on campus, because of newness and the changes involved in household chores, roommate issues, and getting to know the campus. It does affect your grades. My children’s HS school was on a quarter system so they were accustomed to that system, but my middle daughter noticed that her roommates at Davis were struggling.

Ucsb. Isla vista area is really nice!

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Depends on major though. Liberal arts or college of letters and sciencss? Then ucsb

Everything you say seems to say “Scripps” to me.
You’ve got the libertarian/independent vibe, parties through the 5-college system but without the prevalence you’ll find in Isla Vista, tons of on-campus jobs, good weather compared to SB and Philly, access to a big city (though not IN one) with most students using Uber and Zipcars so no need to have a car on campus or depend on a roommate to get somewhere, lots of creative people, excellent English and liberal arts classes with small interactive classes (v. Lectures).


Grew up in Philly, live in San Diego. UCSB is an amazing school and the campus the most beautiful I’ve seen. I wish I could go there. My daughter probably would’ve if she got in. Would be an amazing college experience. Also it’s liberal enough there without going overboard

Okay, thanks!

My HS also operates on a quarter system, so I think I’m pretty used to it, but I’ll definitely take into account the adjustment period. And checking out job boards is a great idea, so I’ll look into that!

Interesting, thank you!

I’ll sign up for more Scripps virtual events to learn more about the school!

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Thank you! This is nice to hear from someone who’s visited the campus!

Scripps, Bryn Mawr and UCSB all have the same retention rate – 92% (while Stoney Brook’s is 90%.)

While it’s true that Claremont is surrounded by strip malls, the town itself is pleasant with lots of independent shops and restaurants. There’s also a train from Claremont that goes into LA.


Congratulations on having several nice options!

If you are a student strong enough to get into Bryn Mawr, IMO you should rule out Stony Brook. I grew up in the public school district that surrounds Stony Brook’s campus, and when I was in high school I interned in a science lab there and took a course there. (LOL- when they posted the grades by student # on the door, my two high school friends and I had higher grades than all the actual college students!). I live 40 minutes away from Stony Brook now. I have known probably over 100 people personally who have attended it. I have known some absolutely brilliant people who attended it (e.g., two of my son’s friends are there by default and they are really smart, and one of the smartest people I have ever worked with in my career went there in order to be able to live at home). But by and large it is a commuter school filled with decent students who were not at the top of their Long Island high school classes. The brightest students who are there generally are there for one of three reasons:
-They used it as a safety school and had a bad admissions cycle in which they were rejected by all their other choices,
-They want to live at home for personal reasons, or
-Their parents were unaware of how U.S. college admissions work and did not realize their child could receive financial aid at a top private college and therefore required their child to apply to only SUNYs.

Stony Brook is especially strong in STEM. It has good resources and grad work in STEM and the medical school.

But it also has huge classes, an impersonal feel, ugly buildings, you have to ride a bus to get across campus, and, except for a healthy contingent of international students, it can largely empty out on weekends as all the local commuter kids go home. They are trying to build more of a campus life and community feel, though, so maybe they are succeeding. Ask some current students.

Certainly, you could still get a good education at Stony Brook. Education is about the student more than about the school. You may have to be more of a go-getter to take advantage of opportunities there, but I am sure you can find them.

The experience at a small college like Bryn Mawr or Scripps, however, will be qualitatively different. Much more class discussion and individualized attention and personal feel. And each of those colleges is part of a close relationship with one or more physically adjacent co-educational colleges.


I’m a UCSB alum and I don’t know anyone who had jobs in the city of Santa Barbara. Most worked on campus, at restaurants/stores in Isla Vista or in Goleta. There is a bus stop on campus that is easy to take if you want to go to Santa Barbara but, again, it really isn’t a place where students hang out. Campus Point is an easy walk and Goleta Beach is a short bike ride from campus.

Most students at UCSB get around by bike or skateboard.

As far as flights, Southwest recently announced that it is flying into Santa Barbara.
SWA Announcement


This was extremely helpful, thank you. The “commuter school” feel was the thing I was most worried about, so it’s good to know that my concern isn’t completely unfounded. My dad is a Stony Brook grad and I did have a feeling that he was a little bit biased, lol.

Thanks again!


Okay, good to know! Thank you so much!

My daughter is a senior at Scripps. She has had a wonderful experience. She’s had a car since freshman year and never had any issues with parking… A huge advantage that I cannot understate is the unique five college consortium, which you cannot find anywhere else in the country… that’s because all five colleges are within a square mile so easily walkable. She has taken classes on all campuses, got a research job (but it was cancelled due to Covid)at CMC, joined 5C clubs and had thesis readers from pomona (and scripps). She is a TA for a lab (She’ll get to teach once but the prof does the teaching - she has office hours and tutors.)
Although each individual campus is small, collectively they become the size of a midsized university and there are a lot of benefits to that. The quality of teaching has been excellent.
She’s on the moderate Democrat side and has had no issues. I think you’ll find most lacs are liberal…
And the weather and location are lovely… It is a quiet town but beautiful and easily walkable. Close to Ontario airport… southwest flies out of there.
UCs are huge and appeal to a lot of people, but if an LAC is for you, I would strongly recommend Scripps. I have heard Bryn Mawr is also excellent and is also in a consortium with haverford (also swarthmore and upenn to some degree) but it’s not as convenient as the Claremont colleges.
Personally I wouldn’t pay out of state for a UC, but that’s me. You get so many advantages from a liberal arts education that I think make it worth the extra cost.


Note on Bryn Mawr. It was many years ago but I suspect it’s still the same based upon friends whose kids have gone there and the nearby schools. My sister went to Swarthmore as a freshman. It’s a great school and she was up to the rigor. But she did not feel like she fit in. We grew up in a very nice upper middle class suburb of Philadelphia with some of the top schools in the area if not the country. At Swarthmore she was surrounded by kids that were educated at elite private and prep schools around the country. she felt very out of place, ended up transferring to Rutgers University. She was much more at home there and excelled. Not criticizing the environment at schools like Bryn Mawr but best to appreciate who your peers will be there and whether that’s where you’d be happy.

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