West Coast Best Coast? 4 Things to Consider When Looking at Colleges Out West.



These days, more and more families are becoming more comfortable with the idea of considering a college in the west coast as they build their college list. Whether this is influenced by the seemingly better weather or the idea of better economic opportunities post-graduation, it is important that your family carefully consider additional factors before making the decision to apply and attend a west coast institution. Below you will find a list of four things to consider when thinking outside the “east coast box.”


4 Things to Consider:

  1. Distance from home. If you are located in the east coast, attending college in California/Washington/Oregon will not be a quick drive away. Instead, approximately 3,000 miles will stand in the way of an impromptu weekend family gathering or a quick response to an emergency. More than likely, you will need to factor in airplane flights into the cost of attendance and come to terms with less-than-frequent home visits.


  1. Cost of Living. As someone who grew up in New York City and spent the bulk of my time in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I was almost certain that I was prepared to handle the cost of living in any other place nationally. After receiving a job offer in the bay area post-graduation and deciding to stay in the area, I was quickly proven wrong. Because the west coast serves as the headquarters for many successful businesses (Google, Facebook, Uber, Gap Inc, etc) and is known for its beautiful weather, the cost of living has surged at an astronomical rate. Be sure to do some research on the median income of the surrounding areas to get a better pulse as to how much things cost.


  1. West Coast Culture. The west coast certainly has a reputation for having a more relaxed, “laid back” vibe to it. From personal experience, I found this to be mostly true. Individuals who enjoy taking risks and exercising an entrepreneurial mindset and can keep an open mind to very diverse perspectives thrive in this type of environment.. If you are the type of individual who prefers having set schedules and timelines, the east coast may be a better fit for you.


  1. Make the school a priority, not the weather. Finally, make sure you are choosing a school because of its unique academic programs or novel approach to student life and not because of the weather. While the weather can be linked to an indirect influence on student life by promoting “happiness”, it certainly is not the response the admissions office wants to read about when they ask their “Why [X] College?” essay question. Always ask yourself if you would still like the school if it were located in a location that had terrible weather. If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board.

As an alumna of a west coast institution, I can say that considering colleges in the west coast was the right choice for me. Hopefully the above will help you arrive at that confirmation of whether a west coast school is right for YOU.

Karen Alonzo is a proud alumna of Stanford University where she worked as an Assistant Director of Admissions for four years. At Stanford, she coordinated the renowned Exploring College Options admissions presentations with Harvard, UPenn, Duke and Georgetown and was involved in co-leading the transfer admission process. Graduating with a BA in Science, Technology and Society, she also worked at Google where she specifically focused on partner marketing and brand strategy. She brings her extensive knowledge of selective college admissions and financial aid to Strategic Admissions Advice as our new Senior College Coach.

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