California colleges

mission church at SCU
mission church at Santa Clara University
On this page: Santa Clara University, and some southern CA colleges (Cal Tech, Chapman, Loyola Marymount U, Mt St Mary, Occidental, Pepperdine, U of San Diego, U of Southern Calif (USC), and the Claremont Colleges.

Santa Clara University: "The Jesuit University in Silicon Valley". Yes, home to Google, Apple, eBay, HP, Intel, etc.

I visited Santa Clara University in June 2010 for a Jesuit Schools Conference. We flew into San Jose and  you could also fly into San Francisco, about an hour away.

What a sunny, beautiful place! The whole week, it was 80 degrees and sunny. Heavenly weather.
Santa Clara is a Jesuit university, medium sized (5600) and most freshmen live on campus (94%). The surrounding neighborhood is suburban and houses many upperclassmen. The architecture is Mission style, with Spanish red tiled roofs and adobe colored exteriors. Palm trees, rose bushes, fruit trees and lush plantings enhance the campus. It's flat, and many students skateboard and bike around campus. To get from one end of campus to the other, however, is only about a 15 minute walk.

Residential Life
Many freshmen live in the 14 story tower which is the tallest building in Santa Clara. All the other buildings on campus are 4 stories with the same Mission style architecture. We lived in upperclassmen suites, which had 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room and kitchen. They were very spacious. Courtyards and places to hang out outside were everywhere.

It is unusual to find a college with business and engineering and liberal arts. Engineering majors can study abroad junior year, which is not common. Our tour guides were a political science/Catholic studies major and an English/music major. One wants to teach or work with troubled juveniles. They were friendly, outgoing, and loved their school. They were involved in lots of activities on campus, and off campus, they volunteered with various non profits.

Cheverus connections
Dave H graduated Cheverus in 2005 and went to SCU. He graduated with a communications degree & film minor and stayed in Santa Clara for a job, making promo videos for a software company. He loved his 4 years at SCU and loves California! Abe C graduated Cheverus and is now at SCU on their crew team. MK L '14 is at SCU.

Half are from California. 12% of the freshman class are from Jesuit high schools. Students are happy at SCU, with 94% of freshmen returning sophomore year.

Notable Items
SCU is the only university with 2 satellites in space. They work with NASA Ames, nearby, to monitor them.

In March 2011 I visited the following southern California colleges with Jesuit High School Counselors from around the world: Cal Tech, Chapman, Loyola Marymount U, Mt St Mary, Occidental, Pepperdine, U of San Diego, U of Southern Calif (USC). I also visited Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Pomona, & Scripps - they are all on the same campus; find my comparison chart here.

Located in Pasadena, home of the Rose Bowl and numerous film settings. The college is located in a wealthy, residential neighborhood. Our tour guide was studying string theory at age 8. Of course he earned an 800 on Math 2 SAT, every applicant does.

Student Body: small at 950 undergrads, with a 5:3 male:female ratio. Assertive, personable, photographic memory and quick learners. Most performed research in high school or had jobs in labs as summer interns. Most were on their high school robotics team, math Olympics, took the American Math Contest (AMC) Exam and have taken every math and science class at their high school and nearby college. They go out of their way to challenge themselves; it's what they do. They have demonstrated a passion for science and math through those jobs, and by teaching themselves what they could not get from their high school curriculum. Half of freshmen do research and are funded in the summer to do so. 25% author a peer-reviewed journal article. 85% do research by graduation. This is not a politically or spiritually active campus.

Honor Code is a big deal at CalTech. They have take-home exams and keys to the labs. The work is so hard you have to discuss with others and ask for help from professors. 

Student Panel. Students also applied to Rice, Berkeley, U of Chicago, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford. They all said they were not grade obsessed, actually sleep a decent amount of hours, and are not cut-throat competitive but more collaborative because they have to be - the work is that difficult. "You don't have to know it all, and it's ok to admit that and ask for help."

  1. sophomore chemical engineering major who spent her summer doing chemotherapy research as a freshman and spent a semester in South Korea. "I thought I was a freak of nature in high school but once I got here, there are kids just like me."
  2. junior bio major from Massachusetts who had a summer job in the bio lab at Mass General where he helped test a tumor-killing drug which is being testing in Europe, and he plans to go to medical school. 
  3. sophomore chemistry major from California who talked about the popular extra-curriculars: volleyball, fencing and orchestra.
  4. senior from California who spent his first summer in Singapore working on nanotechnology and is now an HIV researcher. He said when he tours grad schools, CalTech students are treated differently, like young scientists. He grew up in Asia and plans to attend Berkeley for grad school. 

Location: Near Disney and where the Anaheim Ducks play hockey. 45 minutes from Los Angeles.

Known for: Famous for their Dodge College of Film & TV. They have 8 film majors and the #1 is film production, then public relations, TV, film studies (critics, education), sports broadcasting. Classroom spaces are boardroom style and lots of studio space and high tech.

Student Body: 1300 undergrads and each produce and screen a film. 1/3 are in Greek life but there is no Greek housing. 45% from out of state and it used to be much higher % from CA. Introverts may feel out of place here. An energetic place but not Animal House. No D1 football.

Admissions: less than 10% admit rate for film production major. Want to be a screenwriting major? Write one and submit it along with  your application for admission. Public Relations or Advertising major? Submit an ad. Film Studies? Write a critique. 

Student Panel (all were white & from California. Cross apps were LMU, USC, SF State, UC Davis, Pepperdine)
  1. senior PR major in a sorority, won a National Student Advertising competition with an ad she wrote for State Farm. From Long Beach, CA.
  2. boy from Riverside, PR major
  3. sophomore pre med major in a sorority, found molecular bio a problem
  4. male screenwriting major from San Jose
  5. senior from Newport Beach who transferred from SMU (Texas) as a bilingual education major.
  6. another Newport Beach kid in a sorority who is an education major
Loyola Marymount University-Jesuit in L.A.
Loyola Marymount has a sprawling campus with palm trees, wide plazas, lush gardens and overlooks the LA Valley and the Hollywood sign is off in the distance. The buildings are 3-story Spanish style with orange terra cotta roofs. 

Jesuit benefits: the $22,500 Jesuit Award goes to one admitted student per Jesuit High School.

Who likes LMU? Must be excited about diversity because this is not an all-white college. Most live on campus.

Fun sports: Water polo and volleyball (in the sand, year round!) are sports not typically found in northeast colleges, but are very popular in California.

Student Panel
  1. Asian girl from Chicago, film production major who likes the caring people
  2. Indian girl who likes the small class sizes & lots of discussions versus lectures
  3. male freshman from NYC who likes that there are tons of interesting extracurriculars
  4. male freshman who spent a summer in China and fall semester in Germany
  5. male from Sacramento majoring in psych and sociology, likes the service trips
  6. male from Redondo Beach who is a screenwriter, says students hardly ever go home even if they live nearby
  7. their advice for a successful transition to college: get involved right away (just join anything), step outside your comfort zone, do it by yourself and avoid texting your parents for every little decision, don't be shy about talking to your professors, if you liked Jesuit high school you'll love LMU.
  8. they admitted they are stereotyped: skinny, shallow, small, no fraternities, no football...we are not USC
Professor Panel
  1. a black male cinematography and film making professor. His classes are 12-16 students who graduate with their own film. He finds it smaller and more collegial than USC. He educates ad men, web film students and novelists. 
  2. an Italian female bio professor who has a 7-student genetics class who all do research with her and will present papers at a national conference.
  3. a white male psychology professor who teaches a capstone class that integrates science, religion.
Cheverus connections: Brad K '13 is on the crew team.

Mount Saint Mary's
high above LA on a winding canyon road, with buildings set into the hillside, and the Getty Museum above is this all girls Catholic school. What a spot! They also have a small campus downtown, for a 2 year degree, or the first 2 of your 4 years at MSM. The downtown mansion that is the center of campus is where the Princess Diaries, The Godfather and Benjamin Button were filmed. Very recognizable building!

Popular majors: nursing, music, sciences, political science, business

Student Life: dorms on both campuses, more commuters at downtown campus, 60% are first in their family to go to college, no athletic programs except intramural sports. (just for LA kids?)

Student Panel (all Hispanic girls, and tour guides for Admissions)

  1. senior sociology major interned at an area high school, thought she wanted to be a nurse.
  2. junior political science major from LA, pre law, thought she wanted a co-ed school but loves MSM
  3. senior nursing major from Santa Barbara, 4th generation nurse and aunt is an alum
  4. junior sociology major interning with LAPD, wants a career in probation, was an orientation leader

Occidental College
in sunny Burbank, California, also site of many film settings, technically in the city but in a hilly, woodsy, private area called Eagle Rock. They are looking for more theatre majors. Top 3 in the country for diversity in a small liberal arts college.

Student Body: half are from CA. 

Student Life: 13 dorms, all but 2 have air conditioning. It is hot there! Three years on campus living required. Top 20 in campus dining. 

Academics: Oxy at the UN: live in NYC and intern for the United Nations fall of senior year. Largest class size is 30, smallest is 6 students. 

Student Panel (all white)
  1. transfer student from DePaul, senior, grew up in nearby Pasadena, acting major. 
  2. kinesiology and dance major, pre PT, admissions tour guide, super enthusiastic about her college.
  3. Diplomacy & World Affairs major from Seattle, played rugby and studied abroad in Turkey and at the UN program. Favorite class was geology.
  4. psych and bio major from Bay Area (CA), transfer, wants to be a bio teacher, played football at Oxy.
  5. theatre major, almost went to Pitzer, from CA
  6. sophomore from Boston, tutors math at nearby school, track star, bio-chem major.
  7. sophomore from Oregon, track star, writing tutor, Kenyon was 1st choice but she loves the 'no snow' climate in Burbank.
Famous alum: President Obama spent 2 years here, and Ben Affleck is a grad.

The #1 thing you need to know about Pepperdine is its Church of Christ contract that you sign, promising to attend weekly 'chapel' and most are lectures, not masses.

Student Body: 7500 students, 20% are Church of Christ, 20% are Catholic. All freshmen live on campus, and most upperclassmen too. Beautiful Malibu campus that overlooks the Pacific Ocean from high on a hill. These are wholesome, perhaps sheltered, faith-filled students. If you have an alcohol violation, you cannot study abroad.

Majors: business, sciences, communications are #1,2,3.

Princeton Review rates it as a very safe campus.

Cross apps are Wheaton in Illinois, Gordon in Mass, U of Dallas.

Malibu features 350 days of no rain! The campus has huge outdoor plazas with fountains, trees, tables, lounges, outdoor pools and tennis courts. It is a dry campus but that policy can make it dangerous since some students party off campus and end up driving drunk, up and down the canyon from clubs.

University of San Diego
Be sure to ask Mrs Caron about USD: she is a proud graduate! 

Catholic college on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Looks like paradise! Juniors & seniors mostly live off campus at Mission Beach.

Student Body: 8,000 students (5K undergrad, 3K grad students), half from CA, half are Catholic.

San Diego is peppered with marinas, marshes, nautical vistas and on the border with Mexico. 

Admissions: 3.8 with some honors & AP courses, 1200 CR+Math.

Majors: engineering, business, international relations, peace studies. 70% study abroad. In the art department, there is a 5:1 ratio of student:professor. Sculpture is big, photography, graphic design also. 

Student Panel. Their tips for transitioning to college: expect to be homesick and lonely but join a club and get to know people in your dorm asap.
  1. freshman accounting major from CA, plays lacrosse, liked that he could take his required science class with a 'science for non-science majors' class
  2. junior from Napa (10 hours north), psych/English major who studied abroad in Madrid. His soc professor taught him how to surf.
  3. male from Milwaukee, business major, noticed there are no spring break service trips
  4. female from Denver, senior business major and Spanish minor, in acapella groups. 
University of Southern California
One of the larger private universities in the country, at 17,000 students. Our tour guide wrote his own play and is a theatre major. The school receives huge grants from Hollywood and just received a $175 million gift from Lucas or Speilberg. I noticed everyone was on skateboards. Fountains, grassy quads made the large, downtown 150-acre campus seem nice. Very high retention rate at 97%. Their athletic teams and marching band are a big deal on campus (and nationally). 

Student Body
70% are from California. 12% are from Catholic high schools. 38% are white and there is a big emphasis on recruiting students who are the 1st in their family to go to college. The only college that attracts more Pell Grant recipients (low income) is Columbia University. Most who were admitted had 700s on SATs and 3.8 GPA in the most difficult classes. They are ambitious and confident. 

Popular majors are theatre, film, engineering, journalism, music, computational bio. 

Class Sizes
huge at 150-300 freshman year. 

Cheverus connections
Katie C graduated BC and then attended the USC Annenberg School for Journalism. 

links verified 4/2016