bienville, our DD is finishing freshman year at L&C and has had a very positive experience so far.
-Academics have been challenging and engaging, professors have been excellent and accessible, and staff have been helpful and friendly.
-There have been more campus activities, speakers etc. than she’s had time to take advantage of. DD has been able to get involved in a number of campus organizations and is enjoying all of them. She’s taken advantage of the College Outdoors trips–a wonderful way to see the PNW and make new friends. She’s made some great friends from her dorm, campus activities, classes, etc. as well. In the small school atmosphere she is a person, not a number, and she has opportunities she wouldn’t have had elsewhere.
-The campus is gorgeous, the cafeteria food well above average.
-We’ve been surprised how very positive her experience has been - so few downsides for a first year of college.
-Students are less religious than on some campuses, if that’s a concern, but students who do practice a faith are supported by the administration and do find a peer group.
-As far as drugs/alcohol use, it seems to be about what it is on many other college camps us; DD hasn’t had any problem finding friends and fun without it and hasn’t felt peer pressure.
-Most students come from outside of Oregon, but a lot are from California, rather than all over, which surprised us. It’s not a problem, just interesting. International students are numerous and bring a nice variety of experiences and viewpoints to campus.
-Portland is a great place to be close to, and DD often takes the free school shuttle there to enjoy the city.
-Students overall here tend to be passionate about things–social justice, the environment, etc.–and get involved in causes they care about. The school has a high number of graduates who go on to organizations like the Peace Corps. The international studies program is strong, as is biology, among others. Study abroad opportunities are great.
-Work study etc. opportunities are accessible.
Ultimately, we did a number of campus visits to the schools she was considering and did a lot of research, and she turned down some great opportunities at highly selective schools in favor of L&C. She has been happy with her choice. Where your student has her heart set on going plays a role in college success, I think: DD was excited about L&C and went into it expecting it to be wonderful and planning to make the most of it, and it has been great so far.
It sounds like your niece has similar feelings. Be sure to allow time to try everything you can when she visits campus: tour, class(es), lunch hosting for informal conversation with a current student without an admissions adult or tour guide around, overnight stay if you can. Good luck with your decision with your niece.