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Pre-med college decision: more selective UC, lower GPA vs. less selective UC, higher GPA?

Which University of California campus is best undergrad for pre-med education, advising, etc.?


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PreMedParent

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Looking for advice for my daughter who will begin undergrad as a freshman in fall 2017. She's going in with stellar academic record from one of the nation's top school districts, so it will be a shock to her system when she experiences "failure" for the first time in college - and it will happen sooner or later, guaranteed. Should my daughter go to UC Berkeley, or choose a slightly less competitive UC in order to raise her chances of standing out and getting a higher GPA? I am under the impression that in comparing the UCs, medical schools care more about GPA (and MCAT scores) than which UC you went to, at least if you compare the schools that have accepted her:

Berkeley - Regents' scholarship candidate, waiting to find out if she was awarded it ($10K over four years, if she gets it)
UCLA (has a med school)
UC San Diego (has a med school)
UC Davis - Regents' awarded ($30K over four years) (has a med school)
UC Santa Cruz - Regents' awarded ($20K over four years)
UC Irvine (has a med school)
Still waiting to hear from UC Santa Barbara
(Note that Regents' scholars get priority class enrollment, guaranteed housing all four years, research funding in some cases, and other perks.)

Anyway, her top choice is Berkeley right now, but she has yet to explore the others, so I am telling her to keep an open mind.
Berkeley Pros:
- Institutional status comparable to Ivy League schools globally
- Academically, the most rigorous (at least by reputation), and seems to be equally strong across all departments
- Excellent research opportunities, provided you are a motivated student who aggressively pursues them
- If medical school doesn't work out, best UC to have on your resume as a job seeker, provided you gain some practical, marketable skills in your undergrad as a fallback when your dream path doesn't pan out
- Strong alumni network in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we live and where she wants to stay after her higher education is complete
- Vibrant town, socially and politically active community

Berkeley Cons:
- Huge class size in pre-med required courses (intro bio, chem, etc.)
- Vicious curve = chances of maintaining a high GPA diminishes; discouraging for someone dreaming of becoming a psychiatrist
- No attached medical school, which means you have to cross the Bay to go to UCSF for most clinical research opportunities and exposure to medical faculty
- Every pre-med we have spoken to has told us how miserable life in the required science classes can be
- From what I hear, no or very limited pre-health professions advising to speak of

Pre-med classes are miserable everywhere; they are designed to weed people out, and they are not always taught by professors who give a hoot about their students. On top of that, if you take such classes at a place like Cal, they can be even more challenging.
 
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PreMedParent

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By the way, she has also been admitted to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a full ride ($80K Frost Scholarship). However, everyone is telling us that in spite of all the positive things the school has to offer, at the end of the day, a student coming out of a CSU, even Cal Poly SLO, has a lower chance of getting into a good medical school than a student coming out of a UC. Not sure if that is true.
 

Skarl

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I think it's great that you're being a proactive parent for your daughter but ultimately you should let her decide. When it comes down to it, you can get into a great medical school from any of those UCs but how happy she is and consequently how well she performs largely depends on her fit with the school. The best way to do this is to visit, talk to students, and let her get an idea of each school herself. As someone who made a similar decision and a current student at UCLA from a "top [high]school district", my advice is to always question what you hear from others. Just because you go to UC Berkeley/UCLA doesn't mean your GPA will inevitably suffer, and similarly for the opposite at "easier" UCs. You can never really know until you try things out for yourself; and while it's wise to research these things beforehand it's easy to fall into simplistic generalizations which differ from personal experiences. More significantly, I would highly consider any scholarships or Regents awards in your decision, as these things have clear and measurable benefits such as priority class enrollment (very important for getting pre-req classes), housing/parking spots, and money saved.

Speaking personally to UCLA, you have to be very proactive as a pre-med. Extracurricular opportunities are limited and in high demand from the large pre-med population here. There are lots of worthwhile and truly unique opportunities, but even more eager students. Academically, if your daughter is from a "top school district" as you say, then I think she will do fine. Many of my lower division classes are review of AP classes I took in high school and the workload overall is arguably lighter. That being said, you have to consistently put in time and effort to study and keep up with readings; but honestly I do not think "failure" is "guaranteed" at all. Overall, I think to succeed here and as a pre-med in general you have to be independent, proactive, and self-driven. I don't want to make any assumptions but if your daughter isn't self-driven and you are largely doing the research for her/pushing her, then she will flounder in college. I say this because I come from an area where parents often push their kids to succeed and neglect giving them the opportunity to develop their own confidence and drive. If I am wrong, kudos for being a supportive and proactive parent and either way best of luck to your daughter in college!
 
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efle

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How certain is she of med school? If she changes her mind about that, Cal would be the better option for most other things.

How do her test scores compare to Cal's range, would she be coming in way above median?
 
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Geo16

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To be honest, I would always say that Cal isnt a great destination as premed but Cal would be great if you think about the alternative. Let us assume the plan B too.
 

gonnif

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Looking for advice for my daughter who will begin undergrad as a freshman in fall 2017. She's going in with stellar academic record from one of the nation's top school districts, so it will be a shock to her system when she experiences "failure" for the first time in college - and it will happen sooner or later, guaranteed. Should my daughter go to UC Berkeley, or choose a slightly less competitive UC in order to raise her chances of standing out and getting a higher GPA? I am under the impression that in comparing the UCs, medical schools care more about GPA (and MCAT scores) than which UC you went to, at least if you compare the schools that have accepted her:

This is borne out by data from a series of AAMC surveys, where 120+ medical schools were asked to rate factors for admissions(1)(2). GPA, MCAT score, grade trends, are ranked highest factors, public medical schools, such as UC, ranked prestige and selectivity as factors of low importance, while private medical schools ranked in as an highest factor in 2013. This difference was lessened in the 2015 survey. Essentially, public medical schools care what state you are from and private medical schools care what school your are from. However, GPA/MCAT score, in my view, are at least a magnitude of higher impact on admissions than does selectivity of institution. A 3.5 at Berkeley does not overcome a 3.7 at UCI. It also should be noted that matriculation rate for in state residents at UC medical schools in about 15% where the national rate runs at about 40% (3). However, college isnt simply a mechanism to get a GPA for medical school and should not be reduced to such.

(1) Using MCAT® Data in 2016 Medical Student Selection
https://www.aamc.org/download/434596/data/usingmcatdata2016.pdf#page=3

(2) Using MCAT® Data in 2017 Medical Student Selection
https://www.aamc.org/download/462316/data/2017mcatguide.pdf#page=4

(3) Applicants and Matriculants Data
https://www.aamc.org/data/facts/applicant

(4) Using Scores from the Old MCAT® Exam in Medical Student Selection
https://www.aamc.org/download/462756/data/oldmcatguide.pdf
 
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efle

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However, college isnt simply a mechanism to get a GPA for medical school and should not be reduced to such.
Just to add my opinion to the above great post:

I chose a school pretty similar to Cal, in terms of selectivity and reputation for being a difficult premed path, while my sibling went for the full ride to a little-known small college. Comparing our courses there is no doubt it takes more work to survive premed at the former, by a mile. But it was 100% worth it in my opinion to spend four years in that kind of student body, surrounded by a bunch of other nerdy over-achievers. If your daughter is coming in on the higher end of test scores and high school preparation (science APs), might not be certain about premed and/or has a lot of desire to be in that kind of crowd for her college experience, then go Berkeley (or UCLA depending which campus vibe she prefers).
 
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coffeeandcodeine

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Something I didn't know when I was choosing my undergrad was the sheer number of premeds produced by the UCs. UCLA, for example, produces the most premeds of any school in the country. So if you attend UCLA, get involved in some common local pre-med activities, and succeed academically, you're going to be competing with a huge number of applicants who have resumes just like yours. It's going to be pretty tough to distinguish yourself, simply due to the fact that you have access to the same resources and activities as the numerous other premeds at UCLA. Does that mean you can't have a successful med school application from UCLA? Of course not. But you're going to have to work much harder to make your application stand out. Having knowledge of this from the outset helps -- that way you can avoid doing stereotypical/common UCLA premed activities and get involved in something more unique and meaningful.

Schools like Berkeley that are notorious for grade deflation are also not necessarily the best choice. If your daughter was competitive for the Regents scholarship, that means she's a great student. But Berkeley is filled with great students, and if only X% of those students will be able to achieve As in each class, that makes life more difficult. While I met a few UCLA and UCSD students on the interview trail, I didn't meet a single Berkeley student, and only one Princeton student (another top school with similar levels grade deflation). This might be due to sampling error (I attended eleven interviews with an average of ~16 students at each) or the fact that schools like Berkeley and Princeton offer their students more attractive opportunities in other fields. But I would definitely keep in mind that Berkeley is not a GPA-friendly place. One of my closest high school friends, who was a National Merit Scholar and a Regents Scholar at Berkeley, came out with a 3.3 GPA (which was not competitive enough for him to apply to med school, or even the grad school programs he preferred).

The truth is that no school name will compensate for a GPA that low when it comes to med school admissions. The numbers (GPA/MCAT) are most often more important than where you went to undergrad. There are exceptions to this, of course -- med schools that prefer their own undergrads, or ivy leagues with exceptionally strong reputations and/or connections. For example, if you're talking about a candidate from Yale with a ~3.8 vs a candidate from CSU with a ~3.95, all other things being equal, the Yale candidate will probably be more attractive. But that's because both these GPAs are already competitive. If the Yale candidate had a 3.4, the CSU candidate would likely be more attractive.

All this said, UCLA and UC Berkeley are way better names for your daughter to have on her resume should she change her mind about applying to med school. There are plenty of careers out there -- tech, consulting, pharma/science industry, academia, etc -- that most high school seniors have not considered. The huge percentage of people who 'drop' premed after freshman or sophomore isn't just comprised of students who didn't pass the weed-out classes. Many people discover in those first couple years of college that their true passion lies outside of medicine.

I realize this all sounds a little negative and disparaging, but I really truly wish that someone had pointed out these things to me (or my parents) as a high school senior. I was totally clueless. In the end, your daughter should go somewhere where she thinks she'll be successful, happy, and intellectually stimulated. If I were in her shoes, with the knowledge that I have now, I would probably choose UCLA. It lacks the grade deflation that Berkeley has, but is pretty indistinguishable in terms of reputation/prestige. The name doesn't close any doors when it comes to fields outside of medicine. Since classes are easier, there is more time to work on developing a unique medical school application that will stand out from the multitude of others. The quality of the student body will be similar to that of Berkeley.

At the end of the day, though, these are all great schools, and if your daughter works hard she can get to med school from any one of them. Congrats to you both on having some great options to choose from!
 
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getdown

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GPA is the name of the game to get your foot in the door. No one gives out interviews because you went to a "harder" school or only took "challenging" classes. Be smart not ambitious.
 
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PreMedParent

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Thanks, everyone, for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Useful insight. We'll be visiting UC Davis and UCLA. Too bad my daughter wasn't offered Regents at UCLA. Priority enrollment makes a huge difference at a UC.
 
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Thanks, everyone, for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Useful insight. We'll be visiting UC Davis and UCLA. Too bad my daughter wasn't offered Regents at UCLA. Priority enrollment makes a huge difference at a UC.
I went to a huge UC school and I was able to get by just fine without priority enrollment. Enrollment is based on the amount of credits you have (more credits = earlier registration date). Not having priority enrollment may set your daughter's schedule off a bit, but it's honestly not that big of a deal.
 
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altblue

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I'd just go to UC Davis if I were her. It's much less of a risk GPA-wise as the competition will be more manageable, since the students overall at UC Davis aren't quite as strong as UCLA's
 
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DoctHouse

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a student coming out of a CSU, even Cal Poly SLO, has a lower chance of getting into a good medical school than a student coming out of a UC. Not sure if that is true.

It is true. It's significantly lower, but if your daughter is on the top of her class then she has nothing to worry about. After all, you've mentioned she has a stellar academic record. If she stays on the top of her class and rocks the MCAT, she'll get considered for sure.
 
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Cookiess

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Something I didn't know when I was choosing my undergrad was the sheer number of premeds produced by the UCs. UCLA, for example, produces the most premeds of any school in the country. So if you attend UCLA, get involved in some common local pre-med activities, and succeed academically, you're going to be competing with a huge number of applicants who have resumes just like yours. It's going to be pretty tough to distinguish yourself, simply due to the fact that you have access to the same resources and activities as the numerous other premeds at UCLA. Does that mean you can't have a successful med school application from UCLA? Of course not. But you're going to have to work much harder to make your application stand out. Having knowledge of this from the outset helps -- that way you can avoid doing stereotypical/common UCLA premed activities and get involved in something more unique and meaningful.

Congrats to your daughter on having many options and receiving many scholarships! I attended a UC for college and now attend a UC med school.

I agree with a lot of what has been said by other posters. GPA and MCAT are important, and are more important than the college you attend. Med school admissions committees will evaluate each applicant holistically in the context of their academics, extracurricular involvement, leadership, background, etc. A student with a 3.9 from a CSU would be more favorably viewed than a student with a 3.4 from a more well known school.

With that being said, I wanted to add my opinion to build off of the quoted post above. While UCLA does have a lot of premedical students who are, in essence, competing for some of the same pre-med activities, I think UCLA offers an abundance of opportunities for personal growth and leadership. There are so many student organizations and student interest groups (over 800) that students can join to explore their interests and pursue their passions. One of the strengths of UCLA is the resources and funding available for students to lead student initiated projects. In addition, UCLA has all the resources that can help pre-medical students to excel, including research, leadership, community service, clinical experience, etc. These resources and opportunities can help students become very well-rounded.

UCLA does have a lot of premedical students and a lot of medical school applicants every year come from UCLA. However, also consider the point that UCLA is well-represented at each of the UC medical schools. For instance, the undergraduate institution that was most represented for the 2016 entering class at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UC Irvine School of Medicine was UCLA. I don't have the stats for the other UC med schools, but I'd say UCLA is probably well represented at those schools as well. I just wanted to add some thoughts to the discussion.

Taking a step back from all of that, I think fit and happiness are extremely important when deciding between colleges. At the end of the day, I would that recommend you and your daughter visit each school that she is seriously considering and checking out the student life/vibe/campus life. Have her think about where she would be happiest for the next 4+ years.
 
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aalamruad

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Looking for advice for my daughter who will begin undergrad as a freshman in fall 2017. She's going in with stellar academic record from one of the nation's top school districts, so it will be a shock to her system when she experiences "failure" for the first time in college - and it will happen sooner or later, guaranteed. Should my daughter go to UC Berkeley, or choose a slightly less competitive UC in order to raise her chances of standing out and getting a higher GPA? I am under the impression that in comparing the UCs, medical schools care more about GPA (and MCAT scores) than which UC you went to, at least if you compare the schools that have accepted her:
giphy.gif


This is really condescending. Don't treat your daughter like that. There's no reason she needs to eventually fail.
 
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Jalby

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I would think that Berkeley, UCLA, and UCSD would be the best choice if Med school was in her future, and also if it wasn't. I can't tell you how many people came in pre-med from day one at UCLA.

One recommendation I have that I didn't do but wish I did. Don't take a hard major and take the easiest classes possible the entire way through. If the course isn't needed for the MCAT and is hard, don't take it.
 
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aalamruad

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I would think that Berkeley, UCLA, and UCSD would be the best choice if Med school was in her future, and also if it wasn't. I can't tell you how many people came in pre-med from day one at UCLA.
That's not really a good thing
One recommendation I have that I didn't do but wish I did. Don't take a hard major and take the easiest classes possible the entire way through. If the course isn't needed for the MCAT and is hard, don't take it.
100% agree with this though
 
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PreMedParent

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I'm hearing a lot of positive things from different people about UC Davis. Funny thing is, no one has selected it in my survey above. :) Go figure.
I do have a question about all the schools with respect to academic integrity, ethics, and student cooperation/ collaboration. (I wish my daughter would get on these forums, but she prefers to talk to live people. Yes, an 18-year-old in the year 2017 prefers live, human interaction to social media.)

My daughter is hearing horror stories about Berkeley friends encountering classmates who try to sabotage their labs, tear up or steal their homework and notes when they step away to go to the bathroom, try to mislead with wrong information, and generally refuse to help. And apparently, there is a segment of the pre-med population that cheats to get ahead. I take these tales with a grain of salt, but I am curious to hear from current students and alums about the extent to which any of these things are true. Gross exaggerations? I know I'm picking on Cal. My daughter cares a lot about the character of her classmates, and whether she will find students who are intelligent, ambitious, AND willing to work with others to form genuine bonds and study groups. Common sense says that she'll find people of all types anywhere she goes, but culture is defined by frequency of certain personality types. What will she encounter at each school?
 

PreMedParent

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This is really condescending. Don't treat your daughter like that. There's no reason she needs to eventually fail.

With all due respect, yes, she does. It looks like you are a medical student. I am guessing you are not a parent.

By failure, I don't mean or wish for literally flunking her classes. I mean not living up to your own expectations, performing below what you thought you were capable of, and finding out that life is much more difficult than you thought once upon a time, when you were riding high at the top of your class. Or getting rejected from every medical school you applied to the first time. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but in my family, you are expected to fail at some point in order to learn humility, how to cope with crisis, and how to pick yourself up and apply the lessons you learned from the experience for future improvement. I went to an old Ivy League college (whose name is used in vain by everyone for some reason). We would joke that 1610 people show up freshman week thinking they are all that, and within a couple of weeks, 1600 of them realize how stupid or average they actually are. Everyone needs to experience a bruise to the ego from time to time. I sure did, and it made be a better person. My teenage daughters are exceptionally intelligent, hardworking, and talented, but so are many other kids. My wife and I remind them of that daily and try not to shower them with praise for every little thing they do (unlike many of our friends). But we celebrate the big accomplishments with pride. We expect our daughters to face adversity and learn to deal with it. And I expect them to understand that in the long run, life is not a competition against others, and it is not a sprint. Rather, it is a marathon - a continuous process of gaining knowledge and skills, improving yourself as a human being, learning through trial and error, and contributing to the world in a positive way. Failure is not the end of the world; it's an educational opportunity that strengthens the wise. The sooner in life you face it, the better.

Of course, their parents are there to support them every step of the way to help avoid as many pitfalls as possible, offer guidance, and minimize the damage. That's why we don't want to push them into an environment where they feel like they're drowning. My daughter will decide where she goes to college, and I want her to be happy there. But I will research the heck out of every school and provide her with my input. My parenting style is far from perfect, but my girls haven't turned out so bad, so I must have done something right. They don't boast, bully, drink. smoke, party, exaggerate, or lie. Their ECs are 100% dedicated to helping people and animals in need, and social justice causes. And most importantly, they go out of their way to help others, sometimes at their own expense. Hopefully, when my new high school graduate leaves the nest, she will hold on to these values; but it's time for us to let go and allow her to find her own way.

End of lecture. (And thank you for using President Obama. The person in the White House right now tends to bring out the worst in me, and I don't like losing my temper.)
 
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shaheene87

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So here's what I think. I've done a lot of research myself as pre-medical student, in terms of figuring where I want to transfer to and why (I'm a community college student), what each UC offers and what's best for me. Also, congratulations to your daughter on kicking major butt and having all these windows open for her.

I found that UC Berkeley doesn't have a lot of variety in B.S. Degrees in the sciences. I personally love biology so I'm pursuing a BS in the bio field. I felt Berkeley was rather limited in the degree choices, whereas I felt UC Davis and UC Irvine have the best choices form what I've researched. A major in the biological sciences at UCI gives you the ability to concentrate on Molecular & Cell bio, human bio, microbio, genetics, and a few others I cannot remember right now. I think that's great because as she takes more and more lower division bio classes, she'll find what's she really interested in be able to "specialize" in a degree program like that. If she doesn't want to do bio, UCI has several other majors to choose from, including a pretty decent list of minors (which are always fun to me). On top of that, this Orange County has a LOT of opportunities for clinical experience. I personally work as an ER Tech (I got my EMT my first semester of college in 2015!) full time and go to school full time, and we have a few trauma hospital, including UCI which she could get a job at, and several smaller hospitals in which she can get clinical experience. On top of that, UCI has TONS of research opportunities for science majors.

My personal choice is UC Davis. Like UCI, they have a lot of majors from which you can choose (like Global Disease Biology, kind of a mix of public health and biology, which is a major supported by their school of medicine). I also find this school and UCI to be quieter in terms of parties. I'm not sure what kind of a student your daughter is, I don't personally party, but I would be much more likely to party at UCLA or Berkeley than I would at UCI. UC Davis is also right next to Sacramento, which has several hospitals within it that she can get experience.

As far as "prestige," the only way UC Berkeley would trump UCI or UCD would be if applicants had the EXACT same application. and I'm talking personal statement, grades, EC's, EVERYTHING. then the school would be an actual factor because the UC's are all so great in themselves and so similar. Wherever she chooses, I know she'll do great. Bigger schools are going to be a bit more competitive. And what does that mean? Harder curves. Actual curves. Anyway that's my opinion. :)
 
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Jalby

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But going to a school like UCLA, Berkeley, and UCSD with a lot of premeds also will give your daughter plenty of sources of advice and opportunities. I don't know if that exists as much at UC Davis.

I also wished I had joined a fraternity at UCLA. Your daughter should do that wherever she goes. It gives her a set of friends who are older than her and not directly competing with her for grades. They also keep old tests from the different classes and can tell her which is the very easy classes and which professors to avoid. That could be worth 0.1-0.2 GPA. (No, I do not have data or double blind studies to back up this statement. IDGAF)
 
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I'm hearing a lot of positive things from different people about UC Davis. Funny thing is, no one has selected it in my survey above. :) Go figure.
I do have a question about all the schools with respect to academic integrity, ethics, and student cooperation/ collaboration. (I wish my daughter would get on these forums, but she prefers to talk to live people. Yes, an 18-year-old in the year 2017 prefers live, human interaction to social media.)

My daughter is hearing horror stories about Berkeley friends encountering classmates who try to sabotage their labs, tear up or steal their homework and notes when they step away to go to the bathroom, try to mislead with wrong information, and generally refuse to help. And apparently, there is a segment of the pre-med population that cheats to get ahead. I take these tales with a grain of salt, but I am curious to hear from current students and alums about the extent to which any of these things are true. Gross exaggerations? I know I'm picking on Cal. My daughter cares a lot about the character of her classmates, and whether she will find students who are intelligent, ambitious, AND willing to work with others to form genuine bonds and study groups. Common sense says that she'll find people of all types anywhere she goes, but culture is defined by frequency of certain personality types. What will she encounter at each school?
I have friends who went to various UC's (Cal, LA, SD, Davis, SB), and I've never heard any stories about kids going that far to destroy each other for the sake of grades. The only real horror stories I've heard are the ones about Cal's grade deflating profs.

At least at my school (UCSD), we have very strict academic integrity rules, which I would assume is true for the other UC's as well. A lot of my professors took cheating very seriously. I did witness a couple accounts of students cheating in classes (i.e. finding a copy of an old exam key, trying to change their answers on their exams after they got them back, etc.), but in nearly every single case, the profs didn't just let it slide. I've seen cases where those students had to go to academic court hearings of some sort to prove that they didn't cheat.

I never felt like I had any cutthroat competition at my school. Students were generally nice, and most of us were more than happy to help each other. We always had groups or partners for labs, and that really encouraged cooperation. I'm guessing that the atmospheres at Cal and LA are a little bit more competitive just because they have so many bright kids, but your daughter will find a similar mix of various premeds at every UC.
 
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PreMedParent

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I also wished I had joined a fraternity at UCLA. Your daughter should do that wherever she goes. It gives her a set of friends who are older than her and not directly competing with her for grades. They also keep old tests from the different classes and can tell her which is the very easy classes and which professors to avoid. That could be worth 0.1-0.2 GPA. (No, I do not have data or double blind studies to back up this statement.


I don't believe this will be lacking at Davis. They also have a high concentration of pre-meds, although no one (literally) comes close to UCLA in sheer numbers. It's an interesting point though. But I am curious: don't all sororities have drinking, partying, and weird hazing rituals? She doesn't like that stuff, not even the smell of beer. Can someone like her find a match? I sound naive because I went to a school with no (official) Greek life, so I don't have all the facts.
 
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People who say that you should be safe and go to the less challenging school to protect your GPA are assuming that if you go to the more challenging school, you will see a proportionate decrease in your GPA. I do not believe this to be true. Since you say that your daughter has a stellar academic record from one of the nation's top school districts, I don't think that she will fail to rise to the challenge. Students like her are likely to perform well in whatever environment she finds herself in. So the bigger issue I think should be which school will be cheapest for you (if there is a school that is significantly cheaper than the others) and which one she fits in best at.
 
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PreMedParent

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Not really. It can mean a world of difference at community colleges.

@"I'm ugly and I'm proud" posted a similar comment above. I'm hearing very different opinions on this from different people, so I'm going to take that to mean different students have different circumstances that drive different experiences. Major field of study is certainly one factor. Why do some people have a difficult time getting all the credits they need to graduate in four years, and why is priority enrollment positioned as a perk at all, if this is not a problem? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Also, the other poster said the following, which I would like to understand better:
I went to a huge UC school and I was able to get by just fine without priority enrollment. Enrollment is based on the amount of credits you have (more credits = earlier registration date).
So does this simply mean the more senior you are, the earlier you can register?
 

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Out of curiosity, why are you posting on this and not her?


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cactusman

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Out of curiosity, why are you posting on this and not her?


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I'm betting this is a CollegeConfidential parent who doesn't realize that parents' posts are not the norm on SDN.
 
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coffeeandcodeine

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By the time their daughter is applying to med school, hopefully she will be making her own posts and gathering her own information. However, the daughter is still in high school and this is a really tough decision. I don't see the issue with her parents gathering information for her, especially if the daughter doesn't feel comfortable joining the online community at this time. From @PreMedParent's posts, it sounds like the daughter is also making an active effort to inform herself about these schools using her in-person contacts.

Edit: It also doesn't seem like her parents are trying to make the decision for her, but rather trying to help her acquire the necessary information to make an informed decision. This is a critical distinction, in my opinion.

This is a classic case of helicopter parenting. I can't figure out why so many people are feeding into it.
 

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Ultimately, it should be her decision and the decision of where to go to college shouldnt be entirely predicated on what will give her the best shot of getting into med school, though you and your daughter probably know that already.

In my opinion, I don't think it is worthwhile for stellar students to go to "less competitive" schools just to achieve higher GPAs. It isn't worth it. She will likely excel at any school she goes to. She should go to the school which is going to open the most doors for her throughout her life. I am a senior in college and if I were her the decision would be between Cal and UCLA, no question, and I would choose Cal because NoCal >>> SoCal.

It is very important for the school that she chooses to have more going for it than being likely to give her a high GPA. In all seriousness, most people who start off pre-med don't finish pre-med. Sometimes that is because the process is too long, tough, and the career requires too many sacrifices. Other times, it is simply because people change in college and discover new interests. I went to one of those "competitive high schools". The school culture and especially the parents make it seem like Medicine, Finance, and Engineering are the only things in the world, but when they get to college they will discover that there is a great deal you can do with your life. Much of the time, people will choose to abandon medicine for something they are more interested in or passionate about.
 

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By the time their daughter is applying to med school, hopefully she will be making her own posts and gathering her own information. However, the daughter is still in high school and this is a really tough decision. I don't see the issue with her parents gathering information for her, especially if the daughter doesn't feel comfortable joining the online community at this time. From @PreMedParent's posts, it sounds like the daughter is also making an active effort to inform herself about these schools using her in-person contacts.

Edit: It also doesn't seem like her parents are trying to make the decision for her, but rather trying to help her acquire the necessary information to make an informed decision. This is a critical distinction, in my opinion.
I guess I don't see what the advantage is of the parent doing all the legwork to figure this out. This is the perfect time for the kid to start learning how to make decisions like this herself.
 
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coffeeandcodeine

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Agreed there's no advantage, per se, but I certainly don't mind helping them out. This forum can be kind of intimidating, even to young undergrads, so I can see why a high school student might choose to let her parents post for her. C'mon, we all know that we can be a little scary/intense here on SDN..... :p

I guess I don't see what the advantage is of the parent doing all the legwork to figure this out. This is the perfect time for the kid to start learning how to make decisions like this herself.
 
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@"I'm ugly and I'm proud" posted a similar comment above. I'm hearing very different opinions on this from different people, so I'm going to take that to mean different students have different circumstances that drive different experiences. Major field of study is certainly one factor. Why do some people have a difficult time getting all the credits they need to graduate in four years, and why is priority enrollment positioned as a perk at all, if this is not a problem? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Also, the other poster said the following, which I would like to understand better:

So does this simply mean the more senior you are, the earlier you can register?

Of course different students, especially at different schools, have different experiences.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most important, I'd say priority registration at a UC is like 3-4. I work at one and it's largely a non-issue. Yeah, it's inconvenient to have to take a different Bio lab or math discussion course than your bff, but it's not stopping people from earning their degrees, in my experience. Do some students have to be on waitlists, yes. For several courses, not usually. Do some people sometimes not get a certain class they want and have to take it the next quarter/semester, yup.

Priority registration is advertised as a perk as it takes away all potential minor inconviences. Plus, everyone likes to be the first to choose so it's makes students feel special :)

I'd also wager that there are a few thousand people that get this perk (athletes, reagents, EOPS, etc.)

(Community college is much different. Priority registration can be the difference between getting even a single course that term.)
 
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numbersloth

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I come into this from a bit of a different perspective. I chose my college in high school when I was not at all thinking of pursuing the pre-medical path--I wanted to major in Computer Science and pursue computational biology research. Only after taking intro biology courses and working in bioinformatics at a medical institution did I realize that I loved medicine (especially pediatrics) way more than pure dry-lab research.

I ended up at a highly ranked LAC notorious for grade deflation. As I am now a pre-medical student, I can make broad statements about how grade deflation affects various student bodies dependent on their interests. For people looking to go into academia or industry straight away, especially in fields like CS, there is so much camaraderie (late night pset-ing and ordering in food) at a "tough" school with strong academics and nerdy students. As a pre-medical student, I would never wish this school upon others. Pre-medical students literally study all day because that 1 extra hour of studying might be enough to bump you a bit more above the curve. Students are generally reluctant to help each other except in small, exclusive groups that may or may not be tense (I am not part of one since I started down this path late). In all honesty, I wish I would have gone to a large university with no grade deflation and schools of public health and medicine for ample research opportunities, advising, mentorship, and inspiration. I highly regret going to my college at this point in my career.

While your daughter *may* change her mind, I honesty believe that mental health is so so important. Even if she decides pre-med isn't for her, she likely will remain interested in health/biomedical sciences. In these fields, she will be well prepared at any of the UCs.
 
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Not really. It can mean a world of difference at community colleges.
UC =/= Community college. I don't see the point in comparing two different systems and two subjectively different experiences.

@"I'm ugly and I'm proud" posted a similar comment above. I'm hearing very different opinions on this from different people, so I'm going to take that to mean different students have different circumstances that drive different experiences. Major field of study is certainly one factor. Why do some people have a difficult time getting all the credits they need to graduate in four years, and why is priority enrollment positioned as a perk at all, if this is not a problem? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Also, the other poster said the following, which I would like to understand better:

So does this simply mean the more senior you are, the earlier you can register?
Yes. A lot of freshman start off with sophmore status due to credits from AP classes, so you won't really see a significant improvement in enrollment dates until junior year or so.

Certain classes like labs or required GE writing classes are usually in high demand because of limited class sizes and professors. Other classes fill up quickly because they're required for several majors in the same field (i.e. most bio majors at our school need to take genetics, regardless of whether you're in biochem or human bio). You have to be able to prioritize signing up for important high demand classes first. Some classes are also only offered during certain quarters of the year, which could also be an inconvenience.

I've never really seen anyone struggle to obtain the credits you need to graduate. Most of my friends (myself included) went way above the minimum amount of credits required for graduation. Like someone else said earlier, priority enrollment just makes scheduling easier and basically takes away the stress of planning out a flexible 4 year schedule (in which you may or may not get a class you need on time).
 
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I'm far from a California expert, but why are we ignoring the part where she could go to Cal Poly for four years for free?
 
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PreMedParent

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Wow, harsh crowd. Thank you, @coffeeandcodeine, for recognizing what I'm doing. I appreciate the useful and thoughtful advice most of you have offered me, and I will convey that to my daughter. She will be visiting each of her top choices during the admitted students weekends and Regents overnights, and she will make a more informed decision after that. The nice thing is, her personality is such that she will adapt to any environment, make lots of friends, and find happiness. She's pretty chill about the whole thing.

As for the child-rearing experts on this forum who are more interested in lecturing to me about my role in my daughter's life: I just showed your comments to my daughter. Do you know why my daughter chooses to stay off social media? Because of people like you: the Self-righteous Faceless People of the Internet who are quick to judge and jump to conclusions. She doesn't have time to waste on absorbing negativity from the likes of @1forrest1 and @blackroses.

First of all, I am new to SDN, so you're right, I don't know how this works. I didn't realize it is not typical of parents to engage in conversations here. I guess I'm not welcome here. Fine. Secondly, how do you know she ISN'T gathering information on this forum? She reads everything. But as I said before, she's not someone who is into posting questions or information about herself online, even anonymously. She prefers talking to people, and believe me, she's doing a lot of that. I confess she's better at networking than I am. She says that in real life, people don't say obnoxious things to you without reason. They're more polite. I'd say my daughter is a lot smarter than me for recognizing that at such an early age.

Thirdly, I'm not a helicopter parent, but it seems any time a parent expresses concern, anonymous people accuse the parent of being one. Come introduce yourself by name and say it to my face, then we can have a conversation. But criticizing someone you don't know from afar? That is cowardly, immature, and unfair. Pardon me for saying this, but to say that children at any age should make their decisions in a vacuum, without consulting wiser minds, is preposterous. I left home and went to boarding school at age 13 and went across the country for college. My parents were not involved in my life as much as I wanted them to be, and I resented that. My wife also had a dad who was pretty detached. For this reason, I am a very involved dad, and my daughter respects my input on making life decisions. Our family works as a team. Everyone feeds information they gather to everyone else. She informs us when we are making decisions; for example, the last time we relocated elsewhere temporarily for my job -- and when we made the decision to return. She was only thirteen at the time, but we respected her opinion. It's different when overbearing parents make decisions for their children, or sweep in for the rescue every time something goes wrong, or hand them everything on a silver platter. Then you run the risk of getting insecure, indecisive, privileged individuals who lack confidence but have a sense of entitlement. That's not my daughter.

On a separate note, I think we all recognize that medicine is an extremely difficult path and not one for the casually interested. The old reasons are not sufficient anymore: money, prestige, even stability, to some extent. I have a friend who is writing a book on why not to go to medical school. So it is worth asking: why the heck would my daughter want to go into medicine? After all, her old man was also a classic pre-med who decided senior year not to apply, even after doing well on the MCAT. Well, my daughter is not interested in just any health-related profession. She is interested in mental health specifically. In fact, she is obsessed with it. My advice to her is to constantly reevaluate her level of passion for the field, and question her decision if she loses that zeal. Here's something she wrote not too long ago in a short essay or application response or something, for what it's worth. Copy/paste:

"Psychiatrists and psychologists, in spite of their best intentions, are not doing enough to help adolescents who need treatment. Sometimes, it is because they do not understand their patients and cannot relate. Beyond that, science has yet to figure out how to heal the brain, our most complex organ. Worst of all, the social stigma attached to mental illness makes it difficult for the afflicted and their loved ones to seek out support. Yet mental illness is just that: illness. The person does not equal his or her condition. I live in a community with high rates of teen suicide, depression, and anxiety. I have friends who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have peers who are chronically suffering from sleep disorders. They are desperate for solutions that seem to elude them. If we can treat cancer patients with compassion and understanding, why can't we do the same for those who are living under a cloud, suffering quietly, wondering why life is so hard for them? We need to give them hope and love. We need to invest research dollars in developing effective treatments. However, throwing drugs and traditional therapy at the problem is not enough. I am a Buddhist, and I believe that we also need to incorporate ancient practices such as mindfulness and meditation that have been proven to improve quality of life and help patients keep their behavioral symptoms in check. We are already doing that in promising treatments such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). But we can do much more. All we need is the commitment. That is why I wish to understand how the human mind works, the biology behind it, and strive to be a mental health care professional in the future."

Being as politically involved as she is, I think my daughter will be more than a physician; she'll be an activist advocating for fundamental change. But she is keeping an open mind going into college and looking out for other paths that might suit her better. For example, she is interested in public policy and the law, since there are issues with how people with mental illness are treated in society and their rights in education, in the workplace, and other aspects of their lives. Eighteen is a young age. She has her whole life ahead of her.
 
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PreMedParent

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I come into this from a bit of a different perspective. I chose my college in high school when I was not at all thinking of pursuing the pre-medical path--I wanted to major in Computer Science and pursue computational biology research. Only after taking intro biology courses and working in bioinformatics at a medical institution did I realize that I loved medicine (especially pediatrics) way more than pure dry-lab research.

I ended up at a highly ranked LAC notorious for grade deflation. As I am now a pre-medical student, I can make broad statements about how grade deflation affects various student bodies dependent on their interests. For people looking to go into academia or industry straight away, especially in fields like CS, there is so much camaraderie (late night pset-ing and ordering in food) at a "tough" school with strong academics and nerdy students. As a pre-medical student, I would never wish this school upon others. Pre-medical students literally study all day because that 1 extra hour of studying might be enough to bump you a bit more above the curve. Students are generally reluctant to help each other except in small, exclusive groups that may or may not be tense (I am not part of one since I started down this path late). In all honesty, I wish I would have gone to a large university with no grade deflation and schools of public health and medicine for ample research opportunities, advising, mentorship, and inspiration. I highly regret going to my college at this point in my career.

While your daughter *may* change her mind, I honesty believe that mental health is so so important. Even if she decides pre-med isn't for her, she likely will remain interested in health/biomedical sciences. In these fields, she will be well prepared at any of the UCs.

Yes, that is so true, thank you for mentioning that. Mental health is critical, and people often lose sight of that. It helps you perform better in college. Climate and nature affect mood too, so location matters. Let's see which place she likes the best.
 

PreMedParent

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Of course different students, especially at different schools, have different experiences.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most important, I'd say priority registration at a UC is like 3-4. I work at one and it's largely a non-issue. Yeah, it's inconvenient to have to take a different Bio lab or math discussion course than your bff, but it's not stopping people from earning their degrees, in my experience. Do some students have to be on waitlists, yes. For several courses, not usually. Do some people sometimes not get a certain class they want and have to take it the next quarter/semester, yup.

Priority registration is advertised as a perk as it takes away all potential minor inconviences. Plus, everyone likes to be the first to choose so it's makes students feel special :)

I'd also wager that there are a few thousand people that get this perk (athletes, reagents, EOPS, etc.)

(Community college is much different. Priority registration can be the difference between getting even a single course that term.)

Understood, thanks. That makes sense.
 

blackroses

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Wow, harsh crowd. Thank you, @coffeeandcodeine, for recognizing what I'm doing. I appreciate the useful and thoughtful advice most of you have offered me, and I will convey that to my daughter. She will be visiting each of her top choices during the admitted students weekends and Regents overnights, and she will make a more informed decision after that. The nice thing is, her personality is such that she will adapt to any environment, make lots of friends, and find happiness. She's pretty chill about the whole thing.

As for the child-rearing experts on this forum who are more interested in lecturing to me about my role in my daughter's life: I just showed your comments to my daughter. Do you know why my daughter chooses to stay off social media? Because of people like you: the Self-righteous Faceless People of the Internet who are quick to judge and jump to conclusions. She doesn't have time to waste on absorbing negativity from the likes of @1forrest1 and @blackroses.

First of all, I am new to SDN, so you're right, I don't know how this works. I didn't realize it is not typical of parents to engage in conversations here. I guess I'm not welcome here. Fine. Secondly, how do you know she ISN'T gathering information on this forum? She reads everything. But as I said before, she's not someone who is into posting questions or information about herself online, even anonymously. She prefers talking to people, and believe me, she's doing a lot of that. I confess she's better at networking than I am. She says that in real life, people don't say obnoxious things to you without reason. They're more polite. I'd say my daughter is a lot smarter than me for recognizing that at such an early age.

Thirdly, I'm not a helicopter parent, but it seems any time a parent expresses concern, anonymous people accuse the parent of being one. Come introduce yourself by name and say it to my face, then we can have a conversation. But criticizing someone you don't know from afar? That is cowardly, immature, and unfair. Pardon me for saying this, but to say that children at any age should make their decisions in a vacuum, without consulting wiser minds, is preposterous. I left home and went to boarding school at age 13 and went across the country for college. My parents were not involved in my life as much as I wanted them to be, and I resented that. My wife also had a dad who was pretty detached. For this reason, I am a very involved dad, and my daughter respects my input on making life decisions. Our family works as a team. Everyone feeds information they gather to everyone else. She informs us when we are making decisions; for example, the last time we relocated elsewhere temporarily for my job -- and when we made the decision to return. She was only thirteen at the time, but we respected her opinion. It's different when overbearing parents make decisions for their children, or sweep in for the rescue every time something goes wrong, or hand them everything on a silver platter. Then you run the risk of getting insecure, indecisive, privileged individuals who lack confidence but have a sense of entitlement. That's not my daughter.

On a separate note, I think we all recognize that medicine is an extremely difficult path and not one for the casually interested. The old reasons are not sufficient anymore: money, prestige, even stability, to some extent. I have a friend who is writing a book on why not to go to medical school. So it is worth asking: why the heck would my daughter want to go into medicine? After all, After all, her old man was also a classic pre-med who decided senior year not to apply, even after doing well on the MCAT. Well, my daughter is not interested in just any health-related profession. She is interested in mental health specifically. In fact, she is obsessed with it. My advice to her is to constantly reevaluate her level of passion for the field, and question her decision if she loses that zeal. Here's something she wrote not too long ago in a short essay or application response or something, for what it's worth. Copy/paste:

"Psychiatrists and psychologists, in spite of their best intentions, are not doing enough to help adolescents who need treatment. Sometimes, it is because they do not understand their patients and cannot relate. Beyond that, science has yet to figure out how to heal the brain, our most complex organ. Worst of all, the social stigma attached to mental illness makes it difficult for the afflicted and their loved ones to seek out support. Yet mental illness is just that: illness. The person does not equal his or her condition. I live in a community with high rates of teen suicide, depression, and anxiety. I have friends who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have peers who are chronically suffering from sleep disorders. They are desperate for solutions that seem to elude them. If we can treat cancer patients with compassion and understanding, why can't we do the same for those who are living under a cloud, suffering quietly, wondering why life is so hard for them? We need to give them hope and love. We need to invest research dollars in developing effective treatments. However, throwing drugs and traditional therapy at the problem is not enough. I am a Buddhist, and I believe that we also need to incorporate ancient practices such as mindfulness and meditation that have been proven to improve quality of life and help patients keep their behavioral symptoms in check. We are already doing that in promising treatments such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). But we can do much more. All we need is the commitment. That is why I wish to understand how the human mind works, the biology behind it, and strive to be a mental health care professional in the future."

Being as politically involved as she is, I think my daughter will be more than a physician; she'll be an activist advocating for fundamental change. But she is keeping an open mind going into college and looking out for other paths that might suit her better. For example, she is interested in public policy and the law, since there are issues with how people with mental illness are treated in society and their rights in education, in the workplace, and other aspects of their lives. Eighteen is a young age. She has her whole life ahead of her.

That is a whole lot of drama for being told that it's probably a good idea to let your child do the background research on choosing a school herself. Furthermore, at no point did I claim that decisions such as this should be made "in a vacuum". However what your child SHOULD be able to do is seek out a variety of information herself, incorporate it, form opinions, then discuss it with others. I find it highly concerning when people over the age of about 14 struggle with the first step of this type of problem-solving: seeking out information themselves. It's very sad how many people make it to college without the ability to do this, and it tends to have enormous ramifications in their ability to succeed.

So in summary: no your child should not be making these sorts of decisions "in a vacuum", however she should be highly encouraged to seek out as much information as possible herself. It's a great experience for every single other decision she'll need to make in life. Once she's sought out the information she feels she needs to make an informed decision, of course it makes sense for her to discuss that with you.
 
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1forrest1

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Whoa there why are you saying I'm a faceless jerk, I just asked a question ! I respect what you're doing, I was just asking


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blackroses

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Whoa there why are you saying I'm a faceless jerk, I just asked a question ! I respect what you're doing, I was just asking !!


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Welcome to the joys of the internet, where people ask for advice all the time, but any advice they don't like is met with cries of "you're just trying to tear me down!" or "you're just some faceless jerk!". People like to ask for advice and then claim anything not lining up perfectly with what they wanted to hear is that person attacking them.
 

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I'm far from a California expert, but why are we ignoring the part where she could go to Cal Poly for four years for free?

That's a legitimate question. Cal Poly is a good school and SLO is a beautiful location. But my daughter believes that as a non-engineering student, she would get a better education at a UC school (and better preparation for medical school). I don't know if that's necessarily true, but that's the advice she's getting from educators and counselors. Between you and me, I suspect the prestige factor is also impacting her decision. She doesn't want to explain to people why she turned down six UCs for Cal Poly. Now, if we were talking about engineering and/or we were in worst shape financially, we would be having a different conversation. In fact, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all. :) Cal Poly SLO is one of the best in the nation in engineering and architecture. I hear their business program is good too. They have smaller class sizes, closer interaction with professors (who always teach the classes themselves, not TAs), and faculty who care about undergraduate education more than research. High ROI. We're fortunate to have such great choices in California. I went to an Ivy, but I am prepared to send my daughter to one of our public universities in a heartbeat.
 

PreMedParent

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I'm sorry for any offense I may have caused !!!


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No offense taken. Sorry for overreacting. I have no issues with people giving me advice that doesn't jive with what I think is right with respect to the subject at hand. That's why I am asking these questions. But I do get upset when people imply that my daughter is somehow dependent on her parents to make decisions for her simply because I'm also gathering information for her sake. It's insulting to her, and she's not here to defend herself. Hence my reaction, and we'll put it behind us.

UC =/= Community college. I don't see the point in comparing two different systems and two subjectively different experiences.

Yes. A lot of freshman start off with sophmore status due to credits from AP classes, so you won't really see a significant improvement in enrollment dates until junior year or so.

Certain classes like labs or required GE writing classes are usually in high demand because of limited class sizes and professors. Other classes fill up quickly because they're required for several majors in the same field (i.e. most bio majors at our school need to take genetics, regardless of whether you're in biochem or human bio). You have to be able to prioritize signing up for important high demand classes first. Some classes are also only offered during certain quarters of the year, which could also be an inconvenience.

I've never really seen anyone struggle to obtain the credits you need to graduate. Most of my friends (myself included) went way above the minimum amount of credits required for graduation. Like someone else said earlier, priority enrollment just makes scheduling easier and basically takes away the stress of planning out a flexible 4 year schedule (in which you may or may not get a class you need on time).

Got it, that's good to know. My daughter took half of her classes junior and senior year at the local community college in lieu of AP classes through a special program, so she knows the deal with course enrollment and being on the ball with planning and timely registration. The Regents scholarship really boils down to hard cold cash then (and guaranteed housing at Cal). Everything else is just a bonus convenience.
 

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Mar 26, 2015
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That's a legitimate question. Cal Poly is a good school and SLO is a beautiful location. But my daughter believes that as a non-engineering student, she would get a better education at a UC school (and better preparation for medical school). I don't know if that's necessarily true, but that's the advice she's getting from educators and counselors. Between you and me, I suspect the prestige factor is also impacting her decision. She doesn't want to explain to people why she turned down six UCs for Cal Poly. Now, if we were talking about engineering and/or we were in worst shape financially, we would be having a different conversation. In fact, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all. :) Cal Poly SLO is one of the best in the nation in engineering and architecture. I hear their business program is good too. They have smaller class sizes, closer interaction with professors (who always teach the classes themselves, not TAs), and faculty who care about undergraduate education more than research. High ROI. We're fortunate to have such great choices in California. I went to an Ivy, but I am prepared to send my daughter to one of our public universities in a heartbeat.

To be honest everything you are saying here makes me think that CalPoly would be such a better fit. As a student at a liberal arts college with cross-reg opportunities at a large university, I can say that smaller classes, especially in things like chemistry where you might have a lot of questions, is so worth it. Please please advise your daughter to consider all her options and not be blinded by brand names or prestige.
 
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