By Melanie Boysaw, 16, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriches Studies
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Melanie says her favorite school from her East Coast college tour was Harvard.

I had never considered going out of state for college before visiting the East Coast. I always assumed I would go to a UC. The idea of being that far away from my family scared me. But after a family trip to Boston last summer, I began to think about college differently. Boston is bustling with all sorts of different people and shops (my favorite spot being Newbury Street, which has stores popular in L.A. but also local shops like Johnny Cupcakes, which sells clothing with cupcakes on them). The people, the history and the culture (not to mention the native Boston accent) are what make the city so unique and what ultimately made me fall in love with it.

College is a time to experience new things, and while being across the country would be hard to get used to, I started to feel like it would also help me become more independent. It would help me meet all kinds of people and give me a better understanding of what life is like in other parts of the country.

My parents offered to take me to Boston to look at colleges, which Boston definitely has no shortage of (there are about 50 in the Boston area). So last month during spring break I set off for Boston. But, before we left, I made a list of schools that interested me in and around the city that were known for giving their students a great education. After about a week of looking, I had narrowed it down to Boston College, Boston University, Tufts, Harvard and Yale (which is in New Haven, Connecticut, a two-hour drive south of Boston). Here is information about the schools I visited.

Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
9,081 undergraduates
$47,139 annual costs * (67 percent of undergraduates received financial aid in 2007, according to Boston College’s website)
Average SAT score for freshman class: 1910 -2110 out of 2400

Although Boston College was originally in Boston, it outgrew its space and moved to the suburb of Chestnut Hill, about 20 minutes from Boston. Chestnut Hill has been rated one of the safest cities in the country for a number of years. The first thing I noticed as I walked onto the campus was the school’s gigantic football stadium. Most of the buildings were big and distinguished looking, like something straight out of a history book. While the school has two libraries, I preferred the older one because of its church-like arches and dazzling stained glass windows. Boston College is one of the oldest Jesuit (Catholic) colleges in the nation. For me, this wasn’t a reason to completely rule out the college. However, since it is a Jesuit school, I felt as though there may not be as much diversity in religious views as I would find at a nondenominational college.

Boston University
Boston, Massachusetts
16,685 undergraduates
$46,368 annual costs
Mean SAT score for freshman class: 1900

This college is located right in the heart of the city. Imagine sticking a college campus in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, and that’s basically how Boston University is. Although it is important to me to be near a big city, I have always imagined the college experience as living on a secluded campus, so I didn’t particularly like this feature of the school. Most students live in a large apartment-like building across the street from the main campus, but a few dozen brownstone-style houses (tall, crowded buildings that are mostly made of brick) are available as residences for students. The campus is large and overlooks the Charles River. While walking to class, students are right next to the hustle and bustle of the city and never far away from Fenway Park, where the Boston Red Sox play. The most notable alumnus is Martin Luther King Jr.

Three locations in Massachusetts: Medford/Sommerville, Boston and Grafton
6,841 undergraduates
$46,860 annual costs (Only 36 percent of students graduate with debt; average amount of debt is $14,200, according to U.S. News & World Report)
Mean SAT score of freshman class: 2154

I was immediately impressed by the size, look and overall atmosphere of Tufts. The more time I spent on the campus, the more I began to be able to see myself going there. Unfortunately, the students were on spring break so I couldn’t get a tour with a current student, but that didn’t stop me from taking in the campus. Tufts is on a hill and is separated into two halves that are on either side of a road. The upper half of Tufts reflected the rich history in Boston with beautifully constructed brick and stone buildings surrounding a large statue of an elephant (the school’s mascot). The Boston skyline can be seen from a certain point on the uphill part of campus. Downhill, where the art galleries and music halls are located, the buildings look more modern. This is the only campus where I actually had a chance to see and eat in the dining hall. There was a surprisingly large variety of food choices (ranging from a salad bar to bacon cheeseburgers) and the food was served quickly and tasted delicious. Since I have already spent seven years at a small school, I have always wanted to go to a larger college. However, the more time I spent on the campus, the number of students became less and less important to me. At first the cost of tuition, room and board seemed very high, but then I read in U.S. News & World Report that Tufts was ranked as one of the most affordable colleges in the nation, as it (along with many other high-ranked universities) has recently improved its financial aid significantly. This made going here seem like more of a possibility for me.

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts
6,715 undergraduates
$47,215 annual costs (nearly 70 percent of students receive financial aid, according to the Harvard website)
Harvard does not make average test scores available, but does say that the majority of students admitted to Harvard have scores ranging from 600 to 800 on the SAT I and SAT II Subject Tests.

When I first stepped foot on the campus, I felt overwhelmed. Everything about Harvard was absolutely beautiful. The buildings were immense, mostly constructed of brick and covered in the famous Harvard ivy, which gives the campus a cozy feel. A lot of the buildings had been around for hundreds of years (one building even gave shelter to George Washington’s troops during the American Revolution.) Before you walk onto campus, you are in Harvard Square, which is like a mini city with a ton of stores ranging from Urban Outfitters to Staples. At first I was intimidated to go on the tour since there were at least 100 other people there for a tour and they might be my competition for getting in next year. But once we began the tour, I found both my tour guide and the students on campus to be very friendly and down to earth. All freshmen live on campus in the same building, which is located around Harvard Yard. I especially liked this about Harvard, because it gives the students a chance to get to know the other freshmen and also puts the freshmen in the center of the campus. Most of the main buildings are located around Harvard Yard, which I especially liked because it gave the feeling of living in a small community. Harvard also offers a lot of majors and financial aid. I found it especially interesting that Harvard alumni include people like Natalie Portman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mira Sorvino! This was by far my favorite of all the schools I visited, not only because of its reputation but also because of its captivating environment. Although it is difficult to get in, visiting it inspired me to do anything and everything I can to get in.

Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut
5,300 undergraduates
$46,000 annual costs (only about 32 percent of students graduate with debt; average amount of debt is $13,344, according to U.S. News & World Report)
The middle 50 percent of Yale’s freshmen had scores between 700 and 790 on both the verbal and math sections of the SAT I.

The week before I went to visit Yale, a representative came to speak at our school. She told us that the professors are very considerate and interested in spending time with their students. This was surprising to me, since in high school many teachers don’t really take an interest in their students. After her talk, I became even more excited about visiting Yale. Unfortunately it was raining when we went, but the campus was absolutely breath-taking nonetheless. Unlike Boston University, all of the buildings looked old and church-like with unbelievably intricate details, like engraved flowers along the walls. Each building seemed to become more and more elaborate as the tour went on. The tour guide told us that some places to eat on campus were located underground. Housing at Yale is done sort of like housing in Harry Potter. Each student is randomly put into a different house (which includes dorm rooms, lounges, dinning halls and other facilities) where they usually stay for their entire fours years of college. I felt like this was a good way to become acquainted with the rest of the students and not just other freshmen. It seemed like at Yale, not only could you get an outstanding education, but also be welcomed with open arms.

* Annual costs include tuition, room and board, and fees. It does not include books and personal expenses.

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