Final Decision Jitters-need input!

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Discus: College Search and Selection: April 2004 Archive: Final Decision Jitters-need input!
By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Monday, April 12, 2004 - 08:33 pm: Edit

My S is doing last minute visits and is still wavering some :Choices are (psych major)
Trinity University Texas cost 18,000 Yr
Pomona College 36,000
Claremont McKenna 33,500
Money is an issue but we have the potential to swing it somehow with many sacrifices and loans
The age old question is, is the experience at the Claremont colleges worth 18,000 more,($72,000 over 4 yrs.) my son does thrive on challenge and probably does better the more work he has, although he is by no means a workaholic, is very social. What would others do with these choices. We know it is an individual decision and there are no right answers but we are stuck. We have appealed aid at Pomona and Trinity,

By Momx4 (Momx4) on Monday, April 12, 2004 - 08:40 pm: Edit

Friend of D's is also debating whether it is wise to take out loans to go to BU or NYU or go to in-state publics- SUNY Geneseo or SUNY Stony Brook. My husband's advice: due to our government's high level of spending, we will probably be in for a big inflation in the coming years in which case the actual value of your debt will be much lower when it comes time to pay it back. Therefore, his suggestion is to go with the loans if you feel the education is better at the private colleges.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 12:22 pm: Edit

It really is an individual choice. Which school does your son feel most comfortable at? I guess in the end that is all that really matters.

However, here are some facts to consider:

Pomona's psychology department is larger - 12 faculty members vs. Trinity's 7 - even though Pomona is a smaller school. Plus, you have the faculty and classes of strong psych. schools like Pitzer and Claremont McKenna on hand as well. At Pomona, psychology is one of the largest majors - about 6% of students major in psychology. Pomona is definitely ranked higher than Trinity on subjective ratings like US News & World Report.
Pomona's cognitive science lab does some very interesting research on campus. Pomona is simply one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.

Trinity is a fine school and has a decent psychology department. It has a beautiful campus and a laid back student body. There's plenty of challenge there if it's a fit for your son. However, probably not as much academic challenge as at Pomona because, frankly, Pomona's acceptance standards are much, much higher than Trinity's so he'd be around a higher caliber of student at Pomona. Trinity's student body tends to be more conservative than Pomona's and there's more of a drinking and partying culture at Trinity than at Pomona (although there's drinking and partying there as well!).

Both schools offer field work courses which will help with grad school placement. Frankly, however, Pomona is simply the stronger school academically and for psychology specifically.

However, if your son likes Trinity better, that doesn't mean he can't receive an excellent education there - and save some money in the long run. Only your family can decide which school feels best for your son --- and whether there's enough of a difference to justify the extra cost or savings.

Tell your son to go with his gut instincts.

So, good luck!

By Gadad (Gadad) on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 08:36 pm: Edit

Research shows that the greatest predictor of a student's aspirations is not the quality of the school, the quality of the instruction, or even the quality of the campus experience - it's the campus peer group. So the question becomes, do you want to become more like the composite alumni profile of one school as opposed to the other two?

By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 08:47 pm: Edit

I like that Gadad! I will definitly show that quote to my husband. He is more worried about finances then I am. Carolyn , you are the reason initially we started considering Pomona! You e-mailed me about the school and sparked an interest. I showed it to my son and he started to research it a little more. He had not yet been accepted so when he did get in he started talking to teachers.If he likes it as much as we think this weekend when he spends the night we will try to swing it financially. Thanks you so much for your valuable input!

By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 09:32 pm: Edit

Gadad, any specifics on the research, how to accesss it-I'd be interested?

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 10:02 pm: Edit

Arizonamom - This is such a tough decision. My daughter recently viewed one of the college walking tour video's of Trinity and absolutely loved what she saw --- even though Trinity has only a tiny art department, one of her interests - she was ready to sign up and start tommorrow. It does look like a friendly and easy-going campus.
If your son really prefers Trinity, I say let him choose it. But if he prefers Pomona and you can swing know the drill.

I am not sure but GaDad probably meant comparing statistics about the student bodies like these:

Fall 2003 freshman class:

Class rank:

Pomona: 82% of freshmen ranked in the top 10% of their high school class, 97% in the top 25%.

Trinity: 49% ranked in the top 10%, 83% in top 25%, 97% in top 50%.

Average high school grade point average of freshman class:

Pomona: 3.9.

Trinity: 3.5

Average SAT scores (25-75 percentile):

Pomona: verbal 690-760. Math: 680-760, combined 1370-1510.

Trinity: verbal: 580-690, Math: 610-690, combined: 1190-1380

Average ACT scores reported:

Pomona: 30-33.

Trinity: 27-31

Retention and graduation rates:

Pomona: On average, 99% of freshman return for sophomore year, within four years 84% graduate,

Trinity: 87% of freshmen return for sophomore year, within 4 years 64% graduate.

Bottom line: while the top end of the freshmen class is similar at both schools, the "bottom end" at Pomona is going to be higher than at Trinity, meaning - perhaps - more intellectually advanced students for your son to keep up with.

But again, if your son really prefers Trinity, don't let pure "numbers" sway you and him - make the choice based on what seems most comfortable to him and you. After all, he's the one that's going to have to live there for four years. At least, that's what I'd do with my own kids. <grin>

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 10:06 pm: Edit

By the way, Claremont Mckenna's numbers as well:

82% ranked in the top 10% of their high school class, 97% in top 25%

Average h.s. GPA: 3.9

SAT scores:
Verbal 650-740
Math 660-740
Combined: 1310-1480

Act scores: combined 28-32

94% of freshmen return for sophomore year, 78% graduate within 4 years.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 10:15 pm: Edit

Just for fun, thought you'd like to see how the schools stack up against Harvard:

Class rank: 90% of freshmen were in top 10% of their high school class, 98% in top 25%

Average H.S. GPA: 3.9

SAT Scores:
VErbal 700-790
Math: 700-790
Combined: 1400-1580

ACT scores: combined 31-34

97% of freshmen returned for sophomore year, 86% graduate within 4 years.

Good luck!

By Tsdad (Tsdad) on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 10:30 pm: Edit

OK your son chooses one or the other schools based on his interest in psychology. Let's see, he's now 17 or 18 years old. In September he shows up at that school and as part of his core requirements he takes a course in philosophy, or anthropology, or linguistics. He has an epiphany. This what I want to do not psychology. In the spring semester he takes a course in Near Eastern religions. Another epiphany. Now I know, this is really what I want to do.

My point is that unless he is committed to some professional discipline that is taught best at one school rather than another like film, music performance, or drama don't choose the college based on a major like psychology.

Teenagers change their minds, and in any case 1000s of colleges teach psychology and many teach it very well. Most importantly, a career in psychology requires graduate education and that's where you effort and money should go assuming of course that at 21 he wants to do the same thing he thought he wanted to do at 18.

Go for the school that feels best and gives a great all-round education for the money.

By Humbleservant (Humbleservant) on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 01:43 pm: Edit

Trinity is a great choice! Good school, great price. Pomona is prolly not worth the money, because that's much you'd pay for an Ivy education.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 09:11 pm: Edit

Humbleservant - you do know we're talking about Trinity University, a liberal arts school in Texas, not Trinity College in CT, right?

Pomona is one of the top ranked liberal arts schools in the country - it basically offers the liberal arts equivalent of an ivy education.

However, TsDad's advice is good - go with where you think you'll be happiest in the long run because majors can and do change (honestly, all of Pomona's departments are excellent but Trinity has the advantage of having a business major if that becomes a choice).

By Nola515 (Nola515) on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 09:25 pm: Edit

Well, if you're really interested in psych., Trinity has very good research facilites and opportunities for getting involved with clinical work, and is very well ranked overall ( My friend's brother went there and loved it. I agree with the argument that for an undergrad degree, you don't have to go to the most expensive or super-elite school to do well...consider paying half as much and save money for the future.

By Iflyjets (Iflyjets) on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 10:03 pm: Edit

Nola, I'm so glad to see you write this because that's the conclusion we came the money for grad study. My D plans on a PhD in cognitive psych or industrial engineering and then work with industry. She decided to save a large portion of the educational funds we could come up with to help her through grad school. Hopefully, the research she has recently begun with a graduate team at a local university will help her get a head start on her vitae for grad school in combination with what she does during her undergrad years (she is a HS senior this year). She is particularly interested in undergrad independent study/research opportunities and internships.

Arizonamom, it is because my D believes that there are schools out there (and has found the one she likes) that will provide opportunities as good as or better than more expensive schools (such as Emory, as per our previous posts) that she is confident she can achieve her goal. I believe that is true in your son's case, too. It may just take more effort on his part, more self-initiated research and independent study to create the rich academic environment he craves. Ironically, it is because of these independent research projects that they may actually appear very competitive with any school's graduates when it comes time to compete, again, for grad school.

By Gadad (Gadad) on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 10:18 pm: Edit

Arizonamom - The gurus of outcomes research on college student experiences are Pascarella and Terenzini. They spent years crunching two decades of research on college experiences, school types, academic preparation, etc. and generated a number of findings in a 900-page volume called "How College Affects Students (1991)." I'll try to look up a reference on college peer group impact and post it for you.
- Bruce

By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 10:46 pm: Edit

Wow, thanks for all the input. I think they are both great schools as is CMC. We will see how he feels this weekend when he visits Pomona. I do like that California is only a drive away, about 8 hrs. If my son decides against Trinity, I hope my daughter goes there as it is an incredible school. I will let you know how the weekend goes and what he decides. I think all the arguments are valid but are applicable to certain kids. I do think my S needs competitive classes and challenges as he rises to whatever level he needs to . He may do better at a Pomona while my daughter would do just fine at the state school. I would love to read more about the research and again thank you all so much. It is great to have you to bounce ideas around with!!

By Palladio (Palladio) on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 09:15 am: Edit

a large cache of information about peer effects studies can be found at

I suggest a very close reading, as these works focus on some fairly specific "peer effect" conditions/observations and the authors, to their credit, do caveat their "findings" appropriately. Like much fine print, these facets of such studies tend to be lost in the rush to generalities.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 10:26 am: Edit

Thank you for this excellent link. Lots to read and think about there. Very interesting.

By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 11:21 am: Edit

Great articles,I echo Carolyn,Thank You!

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