Help my daughter choose a school
September 17, 2010 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Sending daughter to college ...but which of these?

Daughter will soon graduate from high school, looking at a few schools, and we would like to hear from anyone with experience at these places.
My daughter interested in psychology. She is also wonderful writer, loves photography and writes her own music.

She has visited Univ of Miami, Charleston College, and will visit Clark (Mass) and The New School (NY).
Her grades are not great but sufficient. She absolutely hates cold weather but likes NY for its funkiness and bustling activities.
Any experiences, good or bad, at any of these schools?
posted by Postroad to Education (24 answers total)
I took some classes at The New School. Very cool place, but there's no community feeling AT ALL, if she's looking for one.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:50 AM on September 17, 2010

I've had a few friends go to New School (for both BFAs and MFAs) and are now gainfully employed in their fields with solid educations behind them. However, the curriculum requires you to come in with a lot more discipline for independent work than most other college educations I've seen.

NYC gets good and cold in the winter, by the way. Probably not as bad as Massachusetts, though.
posted by griphus at 7:51 AM on September 17, 2010

Yeah there is no community vibe to the New School. Of course, that's not really necessary in New York City.

Does your daughter have any experience with New York City? Many people tend to have an idealistic view of New York City, but the reality is that New York City is a very expensive place to live, especially for college kids, and especially if your daughter is susceptible to getting jealous over much wealthier college kids who spend freely.
posted by dfriedman at 7:52 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Does she have political leanings? I ask because my nephew, who grew up outside NYC went to UM to hook up with more Fox News types like he is. Whereas NY, is, you know, NY ;)

Many people tend to have an idealistic view of New York City

yea, living in Manhattan on a tight budget is its own experience. Unless you're really loaded it is not Breakfast at Tiffanys. As I recall NS (or at least one of its facilities) is right at the base of Brooklyn Bridge (?) in which case she could have a pretty cool time living just on the other side
posted by victors at 8:09 AM on September 17, 2010

Well, FWIW, Charleston, assuming you mean the C of C in SC, is a public campus, despite its overall vibe, while the others are private, so you're probably talking about some major difference in $$$.

Otherwise, besides location and size, there's not much in the way of apples & oranges to your daughter's list; likely many students applying to NS would also apply to Clark, etc. (perhaps less so with C of C). And the psych major is pretty ubiquitous on most campuses.

Given how you've framed your question, it sounds like it might come down to actually visiting each one so she can decide what qualifies as too "cold."
posted by 5Q7 at 8:12 AM on September 17, 2010

Oh, man, (most of) DUMBO is getting as expensive as Manhattan, victors. But, generally, moving to Brooklyn (Bushwick was College Kid Central a few years back, don't know about now) is de rigueur for NYC college students -- especially liberal art/art school kids -- at this point. I honestly don't know any who aren't loaded who bother staying in Manhattan dorms past freshman year.
posted by griphus at 8:14 AM on September 17, 2010

College of Charleston is excellent. University of Miami is huge, but the airport is bigger than Charleston's. Check out Eckerd College in St. Pete, and New College in Sarasota, both are really good, and no, I have no stake in either.

I agree about the New School, I think it's better for older students who have a life, not a "real" college experience for a teenager.

Where are you and what does she want to study?
posted by mareli at 8:16 AM on September 17, 2010

If she's looking at Clark, she may wish to take a look at the ton of Boston area schools.

Harvard, BU, MIT, and BC aside, there are about 20 other colleges of varying styles, focus, cost, and quality that she may find a few more to look at. And if she wants to be in a city, then I think she may like the Boston area better compared to Worcester.

She may find Pine Manor College in Newton to be a good fit for her if she's a liberal arts focus. Simmons is also a solid undergraduate school. There are many more.

(Full disclosure. I work for a university in Boston. I do not work for any university or college named in this comment.)
posted by zizzle at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2010

The New School costs a lot of money.

A lot a lot a lot.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:29 AM on September 17, 2010

Oh, and there are college within The New School that cater to college-aged students; a good friend of mine went to Eugene Lang, and my sister has a BA/BFA from Lang and the New School. Socially, they're fine--particularly during the first year when everyone is on campus--but seriously expensive. It's not unusual for students to take out loans for living expenses in NYC, and to come out $100,000 in debt.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:31 AM on September 17, 2010

yea, I didn't mean to imply dumbo specifically and that link I now realize is pretty terrible (sry bout that).

my point was that:

likes NY for its funkiness and bustling activities

Williamsburg is the new village ;)

fwiw, my kid's applying now and his reach school is Columbia so we've been doing similar investigations.
posted by victors at 8:32 AM on September 17, 2010

I would give your daughter two very specific and very different recommendations based on what she wants to do with that psych major.

If she combines her love of the arts with psych and does something in design, marketing, etc., then she should go to the school that will provide the most connections via internships and work study to those areas. It might make sense to go to a private institution in this case as long as she's realistic about her eventual ability to pay off the debt.

If she thinks she wants a career in research psychology or some sort of clinical practice, she needs to start looking for big public schools that are strong all around in science. I went to the best UC I could get into because it was affordable, and I graduated with no debt which is the ONLY way you can go on to do grad school or a professional degree while staying financially solvent (yes, people do go into grad school with high undergrad debt but they're in for a lifetime of painful repayments that only sit there compounding while you get your advanced degree). Big state schools have the resources to give her a quality preparation for a career in science or clinical practice, and they won't break the bank which is a really big relief when you graduate and have the flexibility to pursue whatever without being tied to a job just to make loan payments.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:49 AM on September 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

Seconding slow graffiti. I don't know how their psychology program is, but I suspect that she might like the University of Florida, where I got my graduate degree. Gainesville is a very funky town with plenty of stuff to do for college students, and it has an excellent creative writing faculty.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:54 AM on September 17, 2010

Clark has, or at least had some serious towny/gowny issues. Maybe Worcester is better now, though.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:16 AM on September 17, 2010

Has she visited any of these schools? When I was applying to colleges, I had a fairly long list of ones I'd be ok with. I had been to most of them, but there were still a few left to see. The school I ended up going to was in the middle of the pack (I didn't know a whole lot about it), but I applied anyway, got in, and did a campus visit. After I sat in on some classes and met some of the people, it skyrocketed to #1. (Same thing happened in reverse to another school after a visit there.)

If you can afford it, sign her up to sit in on classes and do a prospective student overnight (talk to the admissions office, see what the options are) at the schools she's interested in. There's really no way to know how good of a fit a place is on paper.
posted by phunniemee at 9:46 AM on September 17, 2010

I'm from the Worcester area and wanted just give you my two cents about the city. Worcester has its ups and downs, but I'm not sure that I would recommend that your daughter moves here outright unless she visits it first and decides she likes it. Living in the area (depending on where you go) is really within the affordable range, but I've personally never been enamored by Worcester.

If your daughter really wants to move to the North-East (which I highly recommend) you two may want to check out the Boston area or Western Mass. As one of the previous people said, there are many many many schools around Boston, good public transit, and it's a nice city overall. I recently moved out to Western Mass (to attend UMass Amherst) and I love it out here. It may be more towney then what you may be looking for, but there are many colleges in the area, it's easy to get around, and I've personally come to like the people out here very much.

Where ever your daughter chooses to go, best of luck!
posted by Isos at 10:38 AM on September 17, 2010

With regard to Clark: it's undeniable that the Main South neighborhood can be crappy and depressing as any Northeastern city that suffered the collapse of light industry can be. But, it is a great school, and the fifth year free Master's program is a really great deal. The city can be grimy but it certainly has its charm and history, and it makes for a very cohesive student body, given the lack of competition for students interests. Plus the small size of classes makes it easier for undergrads to access professors than at a larger institution.
posted by stinker at 11:34 AM on September 17, 2010

I agree with the idea of a big state school as a good option for a psych major. I teach at a small liberal arts college, and I think we do a pretty good job with our majors too, but you do have to consider the additional cost (potentially; if you can get good aid then it might be fairly equal). If she's planning on grad school she will want a program where there is ample chance to get to know the faculty and to do research within a lab. Compared to some majors, psychology is relatively un-focused on the name recognition of your undergrad degree, so you want to go for experience (in research or internship) over high cost, if possible.
posted by bizzyb at 1:27 PM on September 17, 2010

I visited Clark. It is SO UGLY but the school's general ethos is really cool. This list just looks really random to me - not really any unifying themes. She probably needs to think more about whether she wants to be at a school of 2200 like Clark or 15,000 like Miami; whether there she wants to spend more time engaged in campus life or the city, what size and type of city she wants to be in, North vs. South, the general personality of the school, etc. If she's looking for something a little offbeat (based on your mention of "funkiness" and inclusion of Clark), I highly recommend the book Colleges That Change Lives. Even though I didn't end up going to any of the schools it discusses, reading it as a high-schooler really revolutionized how I thought about picking a college - finding one that was would feel right for me rather than just trying to pick a cookie-cutter, prestigious-sounding school.
posted by naoko at 1:39 PM on September 17, 2010

I went to Clark, and I absolutely loved it in all ways--even living in Worcester, which despite its issues really is a neat place to live and study. If she chooses to go there, she may end up with a fondness for its grit and will bristle when people dismiss it out of hand. I wouldn't change anything about the experience.

Academically, I couldn't have been better positioned; while my friends at other schools were sitting in enormous lecture halls with hundreds of other students, hearing lectures given by teaching assistants and rarely if ever interacting with the professor, my Psych 101 class had an enrollment limit of 80 and was taught bright and early every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning by the chair of the psych department. No TAs in sight--I never saw one throughout my time there, though I'm sure they were there in the background grading tests and running labs for the science classes.

As an English major, I was able to do all sorts of graduate-level research and presented a paper at a medievalism conference at which my classmates and I were the only undergraduates. Clark is a small school that's dedicated very specifically to undergraduate teaching and learning, and it shows. My friends at other (more prestigious in name) schools with big bloated graduate programs had no such experiences as undergraduates, and frequently wondered why they/their parents were paying so much money every year to be, basically, academic afterthoughts.

The fifth-year-free program for a free Masters is amazing, too, and though I didn't take advantage of it personally, several friends of mine did and raved about it.

The town/gown issues weren't too bad when I was there (I graduated in 1996), and I imagine have only gotten better since then. When I left, Clark had just instituted a program where any Worcester high school kid who could meet admissions grade criteria could attend for free.

There's more to school, of course, than academics, and I found Clark to be a great place to socialize too. There's lots of great stuff to see/do in Central Mass, Boston and Amherst are quick trips, and New York is a reasonable distance for a weekend trip.

Memail me for more info if you'd like!
posted by jesourie at 3:45 PM on September 17, 2010

Second more reading-up (eg Colleges that Change Lives) and definitely visiting campuses. See if the admissions office can place her with someone who's in one of the majors/arts programs she's interested in.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:28 PM on September 17, 2010

"Yeah there is no community vibe to the New School. Of course, that's not really necessary in New York City."

Really? Where is a college freshman who doesn't know anybody supposed to meet people in New York City if not at her college?

(I went to the New School for a Ph.D. in psychology, so very different story (small community of Ph.D. students)).

The New School (undergraduate school = "Eugene Lang College") has an odd reputation. A lot of people think it's paying a lot of money for an inadequate education with many kids slacking off but feeling cool because they're wearing all black and smoking cigarettes and living south of 14th street. Going to the New School from outside of NYC seems to have something to do with idealizing a certain aspect of NYC.

Postroad, we're in the same place. My son is interested in psychology and also writes his own songs (hm, maybe our children should get married). We are looking at: Sarah Lawrence (yes, it's expensive; we're applying for financial aid); Clark (I've heard very good things about it, and actually have known two people who graduated from their psych. dept.); Goucher (maybe Maryland is a little warmer than NY? Goucher is one of those Colleges That Change Lives (as is Clark)); and Hampshire (Massachusetts like Clark, therefore COLD).

So I'm not adding much to the discussion but am empathizing with you.
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:01 PM on September 17, 2010

I don't know how their psychology program is, but I suspect that she might like the University of Florida, where I got my graduate degree.

I wouldn't go to UF for psychology. They have really good physical science and medical programs, and a good engineering program, but their social science programs in general are not very good, from friends that go there. It really depends on what she is looking to do in psych- a big state school will usually have a lot more research going on in psych, A decent part of my graduating class from high school went to Miami (I graduated in 2008), and almost all of them have transferred to either USF, UF, or FSU, fwiw.

I'm curious as to why you're only looking at private schools?

(disclaimer: I go to a state school in Florida, but not UF- just what I know of their psych program from other's experiences)
posted by kro at 9:44 AM on September 18, 2010

Sarah Lawrence

My parents and I took a tour here when I was researching places to apply. We still, to this day, refer to it as The College Where No One Smiled. Seriously, I've never seen such a uniformly dour group of young adults before.
posted by jesourie at 7:09 PM on September 19, 2010

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