By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick
On Tour - The Highly Selective Liberal Arts Colleges: Occidental, Pitzer, and ScrippsUploaded: Aug 21, 2014
Today we visit the highly selective small liberal arts colleges (SLACS) Occidental, Pitzer and Scripps. Pitzer and Scripps complete the Claremont Colleges Consortium quintet. Occidental is a neighbor 30 miles away in north Los Angeles. Scripps is one of two all women's colleges we saw on the trip. These schools are for the smart, but not perfect student who may have received a few B's along the way.
Scripps College- Scripps is a highly regarded women's college that I personally see as analogous to Barnard in New York City. Barnard is across Broadway from coed Columbia and students flow back and forth between campuses. Scripps is surrounded by the coed Claremonts and students flow back and forth among campuses. Scripps grads might see themselves more academically aligned with Smith and Wellesly! (see the comments sections in the previous post!) The point is that socially, Scripps does not have the "women only" feel of Mills College. Scripps is truly a classic liberal arts college. For example, Art History is a major at Scripps and Pomona. It is not a major at Claremont-McKenna (CMC). Entering students take the 3 semester core curriculum of interdisciplinary humanities. The SAT scores are high with 40% of the class scoring over 700 in both Critical Reading and Math. Scripps students take their science classes with Pitzer and CMC students. 13% of the Scripps students major in Biology as Scripps provides a foundation for well-rounded doctors and researchers. Students from all five Claremonts take classes on each other's campuses and Scripps women compete on the same NCAA teams as the CMC women. Scripps is for thinkers, who go on to positions of leadership when they enter the real world, as I'm sure several readers of this blog can attest to. The campus is beautiful and gives a visitor the impression it gives students a place they can take a deep breath to help balance the rigors of class. Scripps is often compared with the "Seven Sisters" all women's colleges. The "Sisters" were founded because women were not admitted to Ivy League schools. Pomona was coed when Scripps was founded in 1926 and I don't think it has every thought of itself as someone's sister! It is its own unique individual. If you are thinking a rigorous all women's college is for you and you'd rather not travel to New England or New York, hop on a plane or to take the drive and check out Scripps and visit their extensive collection of Winslow Homer and James Audubon paintings while you are there.
Pitzer College - Pitzer was born in the 60's and still has a bit of a 60's vibe. However, it is not a college for hippies. With a 15% admit rate you might wonder why I didn't put it in the same category as CMC and Harvey Mudd. Pitzer is a different kind of selective. The approach to admissions at Pitzer is truly holistic. All colleges say are holistic, but Pitzer truly hand selects it students for fit which is why a student with a lower academic profile might get in, while a student with a higher "numbers" profile might not. Because Pitzer is test optional, you can't power your way into Pitzer with high SAT scores. Pitzer students want to change their world, right wrongs and leave the planet a better place than how they found it. If a USC student wants to win an academy award for "Best Picture," then a Pitzer student wants to win for "Best Documentary." Pitzer sends about 15% of its graduates to either Teach for American or to teach overseas on a Fulbright Fellowship. The admissions interviews at Pitzer are "evaluative," which means they really count in the admissions decision. If you get an interview at Pitzer either in person or on Skype, bring your "A" game and be prepared to talk about what you offer the world. Pitzer is for you if you are very smart and are ready to interact with a curriculum designed to help you leave your mark on the world.
Occidental College – Occidental (Oxy) has gained some recent notoriety as the first college Barak Obama attended. But Oxy has more to offer. It is a large liberal arts college with 2100 undergraduates. It has the liberal arts approach of Pomona and Scripps (they have an Art History major) with the real world focus of Claremont McKenna. The school is strong in both the social and hard sciences. Students are given research opportunities in campus science labs and in L.A.'s museums of art. Students also have an opportunity to practice the political arts through the school's semester at the United Nations or its Campaign Semester offered every four years when students work on a presidential campaign in a swing state for ten weeks. Although 40% of the students come from California the remainder come from 38 states and 12 countries. They are undoubtedly drawn by the fact that Oxy is the only liberal arts college in Los Angeles. With cars allowed on campus and mass transit nearby and inexpensive, students see L.A. as a just an extension of campus. Oxy might be for you if you are looking for a residential liberal arts college in a large city, have a strong, academic record and are, as Oxy describes its students, "urbane!"
The next blog in this series will focus on the somewhat selective liberal arts schools.