By Amber Bartlett (’18)

Here it is again… the dreaded question that adults wanting to engage in conversation ask half-heartedly: “So… where are you going to college?” Answers consist of annoyed smiles followed by “I’m not so sure yet.” I wish I could spout out some snooty remark like “I’m not going to college, I am attending university.” However, raised to be respectful, I refrain. Sadly, saying “I don’t know” will not always stop adults from asking. We have to find a school that suits our many wants and needs sometime or another, so over spring break I set out to discover my dream college.

occidental #1
The tree-lined central campus of Occidental College. Photo: Amber Bartlett (’18)

My first stop was at the stunning, Loyola Marymount University. As I was driving through the front entrance, I thought I was entering an exclusive resort. The buildings and walls were all a uniform white, like the houses of Santorini or Tel Aviv. Waterfalls and sculptures adorned the entry. Parking was a nuisance but we finally made our way to the tour booth. After incorrectly answering that I was a prospective student and having the young man behind the booth congratulate me, I walked towards a brand new auditorium building where the tour began. This university, founded in 1911, is 142 acres of pure bliss. They have around 6,100 undergraduates and offer 58 majors and 53 minors. They have 19 student facility buildings where over half of their undergraduate students live. They brag about their student and teacher relationships because the average undergraduate class size is 20 students.

Their mission statement emphasizes “the encouragement of learning, the education of the whole person, the service of faith and the promotion of justice.” When I heard that students re required to take a “faith class,” my heart jumped out of my chest. But I later learned that even though it is a Jesuit university, LMU offers classes for every faith, including Judaism.

I was very impressed by the facilities management. They seemed especially dedicated to keeping the school clean. In addition, the renowned fitness center offers different kinds of fitness classes, from Zumba to kickboxing, everyday. There is open mic night a few times a month near the Lions’ Den. Yes, you read that correctly. LMU’s trusty mascot is the lion, just like SDJA, and their coffee shop in the middle of campus is called the “Lions’ Den,” like our beloved school newspaper.

What I appreciated most about LMU, even more than the nice facility and lion mascot,  was the university’s attempt to reach out to the underprivileged LA community. Every Tuesday, students come together in front of the church to make sandwiches to deliver to poor people who reside in the LA area.


We ducked out of the LMU tour early to drive to our next stop, Occidental College. When I first arrived on campus, I appreciated the East Coast vibe. The greenery was very dark and lush and the buildings were rustic and old. We missed our tour and had to take a “self-guided tour” which consisted of strolling around campus aimlessly with a giant map that correlated incorrectly to the buildings. Occidental’s campus is on a mountain. The admissions office is low on the hill and the highest building is the theater building. It is quite a hike to get from “low campus” to “high campus.” When we finally found the middle of campus, I saw that the people were very artsy and hippie- decked with nose rings and all. I quickly came to the realization that the students on this campus are not my crowd.

Even though I wasn’t exactly impressed with Occidental, I still read over many of the facts that I received from the admissions office. Occidental is a small college with only 2,000 students. The average class size is 19 people and the student: faculty ratio is 10:1. There are only 33 majors offered at Oxy. The only thing that truly enthused me was the amount of clubs and organizations for student life; over 120. The Hillel was especially prominent on campus, celebrating every holiday, including weekly Shabbat dinners.

Did I find my dream college? I’m not sure. It is an evolving decision. I am learning how to answer annoying adults with confidence in my voice, “You know, I’m not so sure yet.”

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