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  1. #1
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    college, college, college... Seattle vs. Bellingham

    Hey there everyone.

    So I'm graduating high school this year and trying to figure out what to do next year.
    I've gotten in to Western Washington and the University of Washington, those are pretty much my top two choices, but I can't decide on one.

    The outdoors are super important to me, I'm a big XC biker, skier and climber which is why Bellingham is so appealing.
    However, as far as academics go, UW is much better looking on a resume and has a larger science department, which is a plus. I also liked the UW campus more than any other I've seen.

    Living in a big city like Seattle is pretty unappealing to me though. How is the access to outdoorsy activities there? Anyone been to either of these places who could share some insight?

    Thanks a bunch,

    Adam

  2. #2
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    In my opinion, the educational experience and job opportunities after graduation are what you need to base your choice on. The outdoors will always be there. But I am a big dork with poor social skills.

  3. #3
    canuck
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    B-ham!

  4. #4
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    As far as close access to good trails, you're not going to be able to beat Galbraith. But, really, UW is a better school for most things. And it won't be that bad to get to good rides if you have a car.

  5. #5
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    Tough decision!

    Wow, what a tough decision! You probably can't go wrong either way. I went to WWU in Bellingham two years for 79-80 and 80-81, so I'm sure things have changed a lot. Then I transferred to a "big-name" college to finish my BSc. I've never attended the UW. But my two years at Western were the best college years of my life. The professors cared a lot about teaching undergrads at WWU, especially in math and science. Sometimes the professors at "big-name" colleges care more about research than teaching greenhorns. And I thought the WWU campus was spectacular. Bellingham is the perfect-sized town where I didn't feel overwhelmed.

    As far as outdoor activities go, mountain bikes weren't "invented" (at least for the general public) when I attended, but now you have Galbraith and are within striking distance of Whistler. You're very close to Mt. Baker, which is awesome for snowsports and hiking. Sehome Hill is right on campus which is great for hill running on trails. However at the UW, you're very close to Collonnade for in-city trails in any kind of weather, year-round.

    Heck, you could follow my plan, start out with two years at WWU for the basics at a lower price(?) then transfer to UW for the more advanced studies and greater prestige. The only thing that matters for "prestige" is where you got the diploma. Then you'd get the best of both worlds. I don't think you'd lack for education quality at WWU in the first two years, since in the beginning it will mainly be dependent on your own ambition.

    Good luck with your decision!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by adarn
    The outdoors are super important to me, I'm a big XC biker, skier and climber which is why Bellingham is so appealing.
    It sounds like adarn is in good shape for college. If one has similar interests - also consider CWU. Ellensburg is smaller than Bellingham, but if you truly enjoy being active all four seasons, there are interesting options in every direction from 0-90 minutes away. I came here to go to school and never left for just that reason. (Bonus: I-5 doesn't stand in the way of a good time).

  7. #7
    Just roll it......
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    Disclaimer: I now live in Bellingham, so my view is pretty tainted.

    I went to Wazzu which I really enjoyed (insert Coug jokes here!), but I still kick myself for not attending Western due to access to the outdoors. If the program you're looking into is much stronger at UW, you've got to ask yourself what's better for you long-term? College seems like forever when you're in the throes of it, but you realize it's a really short period of time when you're old and crusty like me.

    A couple of things about B'ham. It's a VERY bike friendly town. There are 6 or 7 legit bike shops and merchants encourage patrons to ride to their businesses (i.e. every bar/store/restaurant has bike racks). Campus is a bike ride or a super easy bus ride to Galbraith or Chuckanut....not to mention other trails that are off the radar. There are interurban trails to get around town (similar to the Burke Gilman sans roadies who think their in Paris-Roubaix), so you can really ride your bike to any part of town. We rarely drive to friends or to grab food, etc....our townies are our transportation.

    Skiing:
    A LOT of students come here specifically because of Baker, so getting up to the hill is almost never a problem. The resort itself is pretty small by Colorado standards, but the backcountry is immense and ridiculously good (you better have the gear and skills to match though). That said, it's a bit of a haul - almost 90 minutes when the roads are crappy. It was honestly easier/faster for me to get to Alpental when we lived in Seattle than to get to Baker, plus night skiing at The Pass was a huge bonus for us 9-5'ers....Baker is day only.

    Cheers,
    EB

    Some Bellingham propaganda for ya.

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    Bham state of mind.

  8. #8
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    Unless the schools are really closely rated in the area of your interest (I'm skeptical), I'd be hesitant to make such a decision based on the outdoors. You'd be able to get out from UW too.

    I know that how a school is rated or perceived isn't the only think dictating whether or not people get the job they want or whether or not they succeed, but I just wouldn't make such a serious decision based on something like this.

    I'd think about it in these terms: Why are you going to college? Which choice is best in those terms?

  9. #9
    Squeaky Wheel
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    If you are a resident, tuition for all state universities is basically the same. It will cost more to live off-campus at the UW then at Western once you get the dorm thing out of your system.

    UW is a highly regarded large university, while Western is a highly regarded small university. They are both accredited institutions. In the end, I think it's more about what's important to you, degree programs offered, school size, experience, lifestyle, etc. From a job perspective unless you are going into a specialty where say the UW is world-renowned, one over the other will not likely give you much of a leg up. If you are qualified for the job, a prospective employer won't disqualify you because you went to Western and not the UW. To really have the university you attend open doors, you have to step up to the world-class schools, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, MIT, etc. Also, the further you get from that first job out of school, the less the university you attended matters. Just my perspective as a guy who has done a LOT of hiring of college grads.

    FWIW, I have two sons attending Western at the moment, and they both love it. As mentioned earlier, you get smaller class sizes and professors who spend more time with students. The downside, compared to the UW is Western offers fewer degree programs and does not have the same level of resources and facilities. It's a tradeoff like many things in life. Good luck with your choice, they are both fine schools.

  10. #10
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    You don't mention what you want to study. Like others have said what you think you want to do should be paramount. If you wanted to be an engineer, then WWU wouldn't work, for example.

    Also, the demand for UW is really, really high. Coupled with reduced state funding it might be hard to get into either one.

    So my advice is you better apply to both plus some others. They might make the decision for you!!

    All that said, my kid graduated from WWU and went directly from there to a PhD program at one of the other Pac10 schools all expenses paid plus a stipend. The point is, you can do quite well coming from either school.

  11. #11
    gravity fighter
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    "However, as far as academics go, UW is much better looking on a resume and has a larger science department, which is a plus. I also liked the UW campus more than any other I've seen."

    There you go IMO. Bellingham is awesome (I live here) but you need to think of college as a business/investment decision that will impact the rest of your life. The job market your inheriting from the greatest generation is not going to be easy and you need every advantage you can get.
    Your close to epic outdoors at either campus, so I say focus on the best school.

    And congratulations on having this kind of tough decision to make!

  12. #12
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    I have degrees from both...

    ...and lived in Bellingham for nine years, and have lived in Seattle for the rest of them. First off, it's ******** that UW is better for most things. UW is better for some things. Western is better for others. Western has an exceptional school of education, UW has an excellent medical school. Western has an incredible manufacturing technology program. UW has an excellent business school. You get the drift.

    Western has a way, way, way, way better outdoor life. I loved living there and I want to live there again. I'm still pissed at EB for being able to move there when I can't. Damn it! If the outdoors is important to you I'd strongly consider WWU. If cheerleaders, fraternities, and football are important to you go to UW.

    What's most important here is that neither is WSU, so you'll be fine no matter what.

    Lastly, if I had it to do over again I'd choose Western again. I love the school, I love Bellingham, and I love mountainbiking. It would be a no-brainer.

    Good luck my friend.

    P.s. UW accepted me to graduate school even though my undergrad was from lowly Western. Now I have a fancypants degree from UW and an undergrad from WWU. And I still miss Bellingham.
    I'll be along... eventually.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by msylvan
    What's most important here is that neither is WSU, so you'll be fine no matter what.
    LOL

    I'm allowed to laugh because my wife is a WSU grad. Technically from the intercollegiate nursing school but her degree says WSU

    I'll just chime in here and say that you should choose which school you go to almost solely based on academics. Seattle and Bellingham are also very different towns so if you have a chance to spend some time in both, I'd recommend it. I grew up in, and spent 25 years in Seattle and if it were up to me, I'd live in Bellingham for the outdoors and smaller town size. Seattle definitely has it's high points though.

    Also, consider that you might decide to change majors at some point. 4 years is not a really, really long time, but it's not going to blink by either. Most students these days also take longer than 4 years as well.

  14. #14
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    There's a lot to be said for the big state institutions for sciences stuff. Like others have said - you need to look at which university has more going on in your fields of interest.

    Compared to Manhattan, Seattle and Bellingham are both a lot better for outdoors stuff.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  15. #15
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    That was for EBX's benefit...

    ...I'm really not a WSU hater. Mostly. Plus, that's where my daughter wants to go, primarily because Dad doesn't want her too. Dang it.

    Quote Originally Posted by joeyjoedotorg
    LOL

    I'm allowed to laugh because my wife is a WSU grad. Technically from the intercollegiate nursing school but her degree says WSU

    I'll just chime in here and say that you should choose which school you go to almost solely based on academics. Seattle and Bellingham are also very different towns so if you have a chance to spend some time in both, I'd recommend it. I grew up in, and spent 25 years in Seattle and if it were up to me, I'd live in Bellingham for the outdoors and smaller town size. Seattle definitely has it's high points though.

    Also, consider that you might decide to change majors at some point. 4 years is not a really, really long time, but it's not going to blink by either. Most students these days also take longer than 4 years as well.
    I'll be along... eventually.

  16. #16
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    Do you have a car? If so, while Bellingham might have better/closer skiing, mtbing, climbing, hiking etc, you can still reach some great places within an hour of Seattle. What it mostly comes down to though, is what are you trying to study (much like others have said.)

    I just graduated in June from UW, my brother just graduated from WWU in June. I feel like I have a decent perspective. I got a BS in biology, and just got into dental school, so I took a very science heavy curriculum. If you want to go into the medical field, engineering, or other science heavy careers, you can not beat UW. I don't care what anyone tells you about how you have smaller classes, and good professors at WWU for some sciences blah blah blah, you just don't have the same access to science/health related things that you get in Seattle. I am not talking about my education at all as much as other experiences that were available to me. I was able to do research not only for UW, but also for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. You don't have big name research institutions like that in the Ham. And people bash UW professors for being too into research. They are at times, and that can lead to them not being the best in the classroom, but thats just more avenues for you to get involved in research. I feel like I could go on and on, so if you could specify what it is you would like to study that would help, or feel free to pm me if you have specific questions.

  17. #17
    I got the velcros
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    UW is the better school, no ifs ands or buts about it.

    You WILL be anonymous, and most of your teachers will not know your name, but you'll have graduated from a better school, which carries weight in the real world. And is unfortunately something you have to consider.

    I went to school in Bham and Seattle, and left for Seattle because of the higher caliber academics and better opportunities.

    Bellingham is a nice town to live in (way better than the Seattle suburbs and the entire Eastside), and wins over Seattle for an outdoor enthusiast.

  18. #18
    Just roll it......
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    Quote Originally Posted by msylvan
    What's most important here is that neither is WSU, so you'll be fine no matter what.
    Why I oughtta.....

    Quote Originally Posted by msylvan
    I'm still pissed at EB for being able to move there when I can't. Damn it!
    See that's karma for all the Wazzu jokes I've had to to endure over the last decade from you sumbiches!

  19. #19
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    Whats the cost difference? There is one right? Factor in cost of living while attending either too and this IS a valid factor which I suspect will help sway towards B-ham.

    I'm going to go contrary to the general opinion here and say that quality of life/quality of college experience is more important than the name on your degree. Your ability to get a job after school is based on YOU, your ability to show any employer that you are up to the job and ready.

    When I graduated college a long time ago, I was heavily recruited for immediate employment. I turned um all down and took a year off to be a ski bum. Everyone in the "industry" said I was making a terrible mistake.

    After having one of the best years of my life, I was looking for a job and in more than one interview it came up..."what have you been doing for the last year". When I told them, each time there was an outdoor enthusiast in the room who said "good for you" or "man I wish I had done that when I could have" on and on. Any good employer wants to hire people who are passionate about life and their career. Generally makes for happy employees...which make bosses successful and owners profitable.

    Point is, have a great college experience should be a priority, not simply having x degree thinking that the "name" will land you a dream job compared to some other institution.

    This is a big decision, you are smart to garner some opinions here and elsewhere....

    Good luck with whatever you decide!

  20. #20
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    Keep in mind jobs are hard to get these days. I have heard stories of DNR getting literally hundreds of applications for one opening. Times are changing, and you really need every single possible advantage these days.

  21. #21
    ride your bike
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebxtreme
    See that's karma for all the Wazzu jokes I've had to to endure over the last decade from you sumbiches!
    There's two types of Wazzu students: Those that get a fraternity tatt, and those that...don't.
    Taking it easy for all you sinners.

  22. #22
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    Hey thanks guys.

    This is actually some of the most sound advice I've gotten on college.
    I was thinking about going in to geology, but now I'm reconsidering engineering. I might also consider teaching.
    Just got accepted officially to UW today. They should cost pretty muc the same in the end.

    This is going to be a tough choice.

  23. #23
    Squeaky Wheel
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    For engineering, UW hands down.

    For teaching, Western has a pretty nice program.

    Life is full of tough choices. Good luck!

  24. #24
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    When I was hiring people I really only saw the name of the school they graduated from. Found out later some of the best had only gone to "big" names the last year or sometimes two. Don't go into debt too far while getting those first two years done. Glad you didn't ask about Evergreen.
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  25. #25
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    I'd take Bellingham over the city any day. I went to WSU though. I'd rather have the snow than the rain. The bicycle riding around Pullman/Moscow is pretty awesome if you have a couple different bikes to play on.

    The bottom line however is what your looking to study and get your degree in.

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