Which college is right for you?
As a college preparatory school, Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts students (particularly juniors and seniors) face the dilemma of deciding which colleges to apply to. As a general rule, MCAA students looking to apply to four-year institutions typically attend CSU and UC colleges rather than private liberal arts colleges.
CSU and UC colleges, as well as other large, public four-year institutions, offer a great deal of variety to the students' education. They offer a plethora of courses and majors, and provide a great deal of opportunity, especially at the particularly large schools like U.C.L.A. They provide a myriad of social, club and athletic activities for the students as well. Events, seminars, galleries and museums decorate the large campuses, such as the Richard L. Nelson Gallery and Fine Arts Collection at U.C. Davis.
For UCs, average on-campus annual costs are roughly $25,000 (including transportation and other miscellaneous costs). The average financial aid packet at a UC is about $13,000, which meets a portion of demonstrated need (88 percent at U.C. Berkeley). The UC system has a cumulative endowment of just below $10 billion, which is shared between all 10 campuses and two affiliates.
Comparatively, the CSUs' average annual costs are roughly $20,000. Average financial aid is approximately $5,000. The CSUs have a cumulative endowment of just below $900 million, less than one-tenth of the UC endowment, which is shared between all 23 campuses.
On the flip side are the LACs, or liberal arts colleges. These colleges have small student bodies, low student-faculty ratios and small, personal classes. Attention from professors is commonplace, and deep, genuine connections between the students and faculty are not uncommon as in the large universities.
LACs provide degrees in the arts, humanities and sciences (i.e., biology, business management, political science, journalism, etc.) rather than in particular manufacturing trades (automation, engineering, architecture, etc.). They have close communities, opportunities for creativity, such as interdisciplinary and self-constructed majors, study-abroad opportunities, high international student populations, student-faculty collaborative research and exceptional financial assistance.
Many LACs possess particularly high endowments per student, which allows them to meet all demonstrated financial need and fund scholarships, programs and research opportunities for students.
Where someone should go depends upon the particular interests of the individual. If you're looking for a campus with a variety of opportunities and people, a large campus and city, then you may be more suited for a UC/CSU. If you're looking for a small community, a focus on the arts and humanities, small classes, close student-faculty ratios and interaction, interdisciplinary and individualized coursework and majors, then you may be more suited for a small, private LAC.
Mark Runyan is a senior at the Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts. His column appears about every sixth week in Education.