Thursday, July 24, 2008

Claremont Breakdown

Today our "by the wayside" college tour continued, after a brief stop at UC San Diego yesterday. To many, the Claremont Consortium reflects an unknown quantity. The colleges, with the exception of "reefer haven," Pitzer, the colleges are ranked highly by authorities such as US News. Still, they don't attract the same name recognition as their East Coast brethren, such as Williams and Amherst Colleges.
Anyway, the Claremont Colleges are located on the Northeastern fringe of LA County, in the town of Claremont (surprise, surprise,) nicknamed the "Town of Trees and PhDs." From the drive through the town to campus, it seemed like a well-serviced town with a pleasant, relaxing ambiance. As my grandmother put it, "a little bit of Midwest within easy reach of Hollywood." To summarize, this is a safe, comfortable town where it seems everyone knows someone, if not everyone. In a region known for its inherrent lack of community, this little town provides a pleasant respite.
The actual campus area is on the fringe of town, with the five undergraduate colleges, two grad schools and amalgamated buildings packed tightly together. Given this, the difference between the five colleges is amazing. Pomona College strikes a similar pose to Stanford - grand, Spanish architecture and tall trees and an unquestionable academic reputation. Claremont McKenna is essentially the same, just with 400 less students and a Republican slant. Scripps and Harvey Mudd Colleges did not apply to my interests so it would be unfair to make any assertions about them, but I can tell you than Pitzer was also very impressive. Once the proverbial plastic wrap wears away, the place will feel great. The architecture was much more blocky than its partners but that helped it feel less precious. Although the college seems to be somewhat lost in translation due to a cycle of redevelopment, the place should make a worthy safety college for any high school whiz. I only had two concerns - the prefab feel that will hopefully wear away, as well as the quality of faculty - why should the college rank so much lower than its partners? Given that most classes can be taken at other colleges, all this shouldn't be too much of a concern, and there were plenty of positives, especially the emphasis placed on the school's extensive Study Abroad Program.
However, it seemed like the school didn't take itself too seriously. I can't help but cringe when I see a professor in shorts and flip-flops, so I think I'll let Pitzer play second fiddle to Pomona. Still, I did figure out a lot during my 3 hours exploring the Claremont Colleges. My ideal school size lies between 5000 and 15000 students. Big enough for all the resources you could possibly need yet small enough so that professors --might--- know your name or so that you should get into your desired classes. Essentially, schools like JHU and Stanford have become a lot more attractive to me on this trip, as well as UC San Diego, although that will require further investigation given that I barely got out of the car in the La Jolla campus.
In any case, I can happily say that only one school was knocked firmly off the list by this trip, and that would be UC Santa Cruz. Just too quiet for a kid in search of the big time.

No comments: