Read profiles of East Bay Graduates and learn about their college decisions.
Photo by Kevin-Y. // Yelp.com
Community College to Cal
At Acalanes High, Casey Saran didn’t get the best grades and his post-graduation plans were likewise modest: to enroll at Diablo Valley College and live at home.
He sometimes regretted not going away to a four-year college. But he had a plan as soon as a counselor told him about DVC’s transfer program with UC campuses, including Berkeley. While Saran spent two years completing his required courses, he started playing in bands, joined the DVC diving team, and held different jobs. He says he enjoyed individual attention and customized lesson plans from DVC professors and instructors who were geared toward helping him get to Cal.
He arrived at UC Berkeley in 2006, graduated with honors in mass communications in two years, and almost immediately landed a job in online advertising at the weather news website, Weather Underground.
Now 26, he lives in San Francisco and is an account executive at Google. He fell into online advertising and loves it. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t go to junior college. I spent much less money than my friends who went to a four-year college, did things my own way and came out of it with more life experience.”
The Great Little Midwestern School
When Alexandra Caulfield started looking at colleges, name recognition was paramount. Her parents were hoping she’d consider the Ivy League they both attended.
A tour of famous East Coast colleges left her unimpressed. “I hated the university my parents attended.” With the help of her counselor at Athenian, she realized she wanted to go to a small school where she could receive the individual “holistic” education she enjoyed at the Danville private school. A school neither she nor her friends had heard of came up in her research: Carleton College, one of those esteemed though little known Midwestern liberal arts colleges.
“My mom sent me to visit the last three schools on my list, and Carleton happened to be one of them. Carleton became my first clear choice,” she said.
The 1900-student Carleton, located 40 miles outside Minneapolis, is known for a welcoming campus community and excellent academics.
“I knew I wanted a school where students are nice and genuinely enjoy learning as much as I do. As my mom recalls, when I called home after touring Carleton, I sounded happier than I did after visiting any other school!”
Turning Down UCLA
Selena MacDuff’s family members are big UCLA fans. Her parents went to graduate school there, so MacDuff was more than a little familiar with the campus. When the highly selective UC said yes to her application—and offered $9,000 in scholarships and grants—the Miramonte High graduate’s future seemed decided.
But then another L.A.–area school, Azusa Pacific University, offered more money. The amount would make costs for tuition and housing at both schools comparable. The Christian university appealed to MacDuff in other ways, too.
Through her church, St. Matthew’s Lutheran, MacDuff knew many graduates. She also liked the sense of community she felt at 9,000-student Azusa Pacific, as compared to UCLA, which has close to 40,000 students. Most important, MacDuff wants to be a nurse, and Azusa Pacific has a respected undergraduate program that will allow her to start taking nursing classes her freshman year. At UCLA, she says she’d be stuck in large pre-requisite classes with pre-med and science majors.
Selena says it was tough saying no to the prestige UCLA offers. “When I looked at the differences in programs and education I would be getting, I know Azusa Pacific would be the better choice for me.”