Many of my students are California natives. They’ve grown up with beautiful weather, a casual dress code, and a laid-back lifestyle. Some of them can’t imagine living anywhere else. Even those who are attracted by the prestige of top-ranked East Coast and Midwest colleges are concerned that they won’t adapt well to a different cultural setting.
Students who are determined to attend a top college in California face a tough battle. Stanford now has the lowest admission rate in the country, and gaining a spot at a UC campus is harder than ever. Due to a growing population of outstanding high school students and increasing budget cuts, admission rates at UCs have plummeted. Being a California resident no longer guarantees that a student will gain admission to the California college of his or her dreams, or even to the UC campus most desired.
For students willing to cast their net a bit wider, there are many excellent colleges all over the country. However, students willing to attend college out of state need to realize that California culture is not omnipresent. The culture at, for instance, Cornell, located in chilly upstate New York, may be very different from the culture they grew up with here. Even Western states such as Washington, Colorado, or Arizona may be different from what Californians are used to. Philadelphia is not San Francisco; New York City is not Los Angeles. There are significant differences between the coasts and among metropolitan regions. Students who want to attend a top college outside of California need to be open-minded and willing to try new things.
Looking beyond California for college opens up a lot more options and increases the chances of successful admission. I encourage all my students to apply to at least one or two out-of-state schools. Given the competitive California environment, some students may need to apply to more than two in order to optimize outcomes.
Students, you are more adaptable and resilient than you think. If you approach life in a different part of the country as a novel adventure, you will probably enjoy the experience. And you can always return to California after graduation! It’s four years, not your entire life, and those four years may open up vistas you hadn’t imagined.