I haven't really read the other reviews on this site yet, but I wanted to write about Pepperdine because I actually have a lot to say; some good, some bad.
When I got into this college, it was a godsend (no pun intended). I was ecstatic that I was accepted into a top 50 school, even though it was the highest rank school I applied to, and I couldn't wait to experience college... and California.
I'll try to break it down in a few logical points... I'll even break down the subcategories in 1 out of 10 scenarios... because I'm that awesome.
I really didn't know what to expect when I applied to Pepperdine, but I worked my butt off to make sure my resume was polished. Since it is a Christian school, I used my Christian background as a staple of all my papers, relying heavily on "spirituality" and those type of things, even though they really weren't (and aren't) super prevalent in my everyday life. I was the kind of kid who went to church pretty regularly, and even church camp a few summers when I was younger, but what I really think the school looks to be stressed in a resume/essay, is humanity. I know it's cliche to talk about wanting to help save the world, etc., but if you can show Pepperdine that you've actively tried to DO just that (like I did via Eagle Scout projects, being the head of an alcohol-prevention club, and with other similar projects), then you're off to a good start, Christian or not. I would definitely stress your individuality and how you want to MAKE A DIFFERENCE (in a good way, of course), but be unique about it. Pepperdine is a lot about community. Tell them how you can fit in.
(9 out of 10) This place is expensive. In fact, I think when I first enrolled it was one of the most expensive in the world... but that may have just been something my mother said to try and get me to go to a state school. HOWEVER, I was very lucky in that I received nearly a full ride in financial aid packages. Unfortunately, I knew many people who opted out after the first year because the cost was a LOT. I did have a friend who transferred in after two years at a very small community college... he actually wasn't too bright himself, so I'm not sure how he got in (I'm talking, he MAY have been in the top 30% of his class), BUT he saved a ton of money and now has a government job and definitely makes more money than I do.
If I hadn't received the aid I did, I definitely would not have been able to attend this school and had the experiences that I did, so I'm pretty thankful for that. Luckily, I hear they usually give great financial aid packages to a large percentage of their entering students. I've also been told that "checking the Christian box" on your application gets you automatic acceptance as well as aid, but I don't know how true that is. I checked that box because it was, in fact, true. But I also had to supply a letter from a church official. Housing on campus is mandatory first year, and it's not cheap at all... I think it's somewhere around $1,200-1,500 a month, depending on the rooms you get, which I soon figured out after graduation would get me a pretty roomy apartment that was MUCH bigger than the spaces on campus, even in Los Angeles. The food plans are comparable to other similar schools, etc., but hey, you'll be living in Malibu. Oh the whole, things are obviously more expensive. Even common grocery items.
(10 out of 10) I honestly didn't do my research on majors at Pepperdine, and, like most high school graduates, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. At first, I majored in English, but then I thought it was too broad of a field. Then, I changed to Writing & Rhetoric, and I decided it was too niche of a field. Finally, I opted to major in Creative Writing and eventually got a minor in Multimedia Design as well (I'll get to both programs). My best advice for incoming freshman is to REALLY dabble in multiple majors the first year if you don't know what you want to do. Take the chance while you can to find out what you love, and then specialize in that. There's time! (I also took every single summer session I could, because I was given the option in my financial package... summer's in Malibu were awesome, but I also had the chance to feel out my interests a lot more as well.)
My first year on campus was, to date, one of the best years of my life. The NSO (New Student Orientation) week preceding classes is beyond welcoming, and runs like a well-oiled machine. (Thanks a lot to one of the awesome profs, Doug.) It really was like nothing else I'd ever experienced, much like many first years at college are... but from what I've heard from friends and reviews of other schools, this really is something special. Because of the unique community (see below), you really do feel comfortable, even if you are hundreds of miles away from home. It's really great. They make sure your workload is comfortable, the organizations on campus make sure there are plenty of fun/unique events to occupy the students' free time, etc... *sigh* Makes me nostalgic. I miss that year. A lot.
Overall (9 out of 10): Well, it's been voted one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation, and that's no joke. It really is pretty amazing. Beautiful, well-kept landscaping, rolling hills, and an awesome view of the ocean from most of the buildings. They have a shuttle service that's ACTUALLY really manageable and makes it's way around the campus at regular 10-15 minute intervals (at the busy times of the day), and all of the classrooms and facilities are really up-to-date, in tech and in style. At the top of the hill on one side, tenured faculty members have housing; on the other side, graduate and undergrad honors students (years 3 and 4 usually).
Everything's within 5-10 minutes walking distance I'd say, though you'll definitely be hiking up and down a lot of hills. The freshman 15 was not a problem for ANYONE I knew on this campus, I think. But it's definitely not too strenuous.
Living in Malibu (6 out of 10): The unfortunate part about living in Malibu is... that you're living in Malibu. Yes, the beach is awesome, and they finally added a small movie theatre, but you really are out in the middle of nowhere. There are some great (albeit expensive) restaurants too! But without a car freshman and sophomore year, I hardly EVER left the area, which was really okay with me. Just know that making a trek to the mall or some specialty store is going to take up half your day.
Other Students/General Faculty (9 out of 10): The people who gather together on this campus are like no other group you'll find at a university in the U.S., I'm sure. As I said before, I grew up going to church, etc., but I definitely was never any Bible-thumper by any means, though some of those do, of course exist. That being said, I don't think I ever met anyone on this campus that was mean-spirited or outright cruel. In applying to Pepperdine, you basically understand that you're committing to a group of people who really are and strive to be inherently good. Yeah, of course there will always be your token b***hes and a**holes... but at this school... they're a lot nicer than they would be anywhere else, and that's no lie. I don't know if I was raised in a town of heathens or what - I wasn't - but it really was eye opening coming to this place and meeting so many awesome people from such diverse backgrounds.
I saw a few reviews that mentioned this being a school for "rich kids," and "brats," etc. Well, yes. Obviously. It's Malibu. And what school DOESN'T have some of those? Granted, we had a few chicks from that horrible MTV show "Laguna Beach" that undoubtedly got in because their parents donated a ton of money, but so what? There really are some great people who go here, whether they come from families with money or not. IIIII definitely did NOT come from a family with money... I mean, I didn't even have a car for the first two years... but it was not an issue for me regarding mingling/fitting in with the other students. At all. And if it ever seemed like it might be, then I'd go and talk to someone else.
Professors (8 out of 10): There were many professors I met here who are just... great people. (To name a few: Elizabeth Whatley, Jeff Banks, Andrea Harris, Theresa Flynn, Maire Mullins, Richard Crum, Ginger Rosencrans, Courtenay Stallings, etc.) A major plus that's always advertised about this school is that there really is a PERSONAL relationship between the students and the professors. And most of the time, that's true. I had a few classes where that wasn't the case (mainly the GE's that EVERYONE has to take), but it really was an awesome experience in that aspect too.
Overall (9 out of 10): Like I mentioned before, you're required to live on campus your first year at school, which is kind of awesome. The freshman dorms are basically 14 or so bungalow-ish buildings that alternate between boys and girls at each one. There are curfews for guys/girls being in each other's dorms after certain hours, which kind of sucks sometimes, but it's really not too much of a hinderance unless you have a really rigid Resident Advisor (not unheard of), and the campus rules can be pretty strictly enforced regarding sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. They're aren't afraid of expelling people, I'll just say that. I probably personally knew a handful of students who at least got suspended for a semester for breaking Pepperdine's rules. (No, I was not one of them.)
There is NO drinking on campus... even if you're 25. It's a dry campus. If you do drink on campus and you get caught, you probably will get in a ton of trouble. I really didn't care because I was never really a big drinker anyway, but I do definitely think that if I'd gone somewhere like Florida State where the environment around me was party party party constantly, I would have been a wreck.
I actually lived on campus for all four years, and during some summers: freshman dorms, Towers (for a summer or two), and then up at the Honors apartments at the top of the hill for two years. The dorms really are great, and, in my opinion, only improve as the years go on. They really do great when it comes to renovations. If you get in and want to stay on campus, I definitely recommend the honors apartments... they were just built in the last ten years, have amazing views, and offer private, 4-bedroom apartments. (Also, a shower large enough for an orgy of like 10 people, which I never understood.)
Major plus... there's maid service for all of the on-campus dorms. ZING! Pretty awesome to not ever have to clean your toilet.
I would have never lived off campus myself. I know a lot of people did just to get out of some of Pepperdine's strict rules, but I'd rather not have a 15-30 minute commute through the canyon at 8 am for class.
The classes (4 out of 10) ...okay. This is one of my main peeves with the school. It's really one of my ONLY peeves, but it's SUCH a peeve that it has me trash talking some of the best years of my life... and my alma mater.
In my opinion, Pepperdine has it's priorities a bit out of whack when it comes to classes. I'm not sure if they are trying on focusing on being a Christian university (which, by the way, it's probably one of the most liberal religious schools out there), or if they just don't properly screen a lot of their un-tenured professors (and maybe some of their tenured ones), but I did not feel like I was getting a HIGH education. Going into the school, I'd read reviews that called it the "Harvard on the Sea," and I was really proud and excited about the fact that I'd be going there... but, honestly, I did not feel extremely challenged. THAT BEING SAID, I realize that my areas of study were not as difficult as many of the more intensive majors - like Biology or Political Science, I guess - but that's not exactly what I'm talking about.
There were many courses where I just felt like I was being babied, and the workloads were laughable. VERY seldom did I feel overwhelmed with the work I was given (again, I know this pertains to different majors in different ways). BUT, I should not know more than a professor on a given subject, which I did when it came to a lot of the design classes.
A few ridiculous scenarios I experienced:
-2 water polo players didn't read a chapter we were assigned in an ART CLASS... and they failed the test. (I'm talking Art 101, by the way, which was a requirement for my minor... warm and cool colors. Sixth grade stuff.) Not only did the teacher lecture the entire class because two jackasses failed an overly simplified test, but she made us sit with our legs crosses... on the cold concrete floor... at 8am... and read the chapter ALOUD. It really was ridiculous. I don't come to a school and pay $80 an hour to sit on the floor and relearn rudimentary art vocabulary terminology. Ridiculous. As a result, I finished all of my reading and art assignments for the class in the next two weeks, brought them to the professor, told her how I felt, and did not return. I got a C for work that was definitely better than most of the others in the class along with above-90 averages on all of the "chapter tests," because of my insolence. Was I a bit drastic? Maybe, but crap like that happened for the entire first half of the semester and I was over being treated and taught like a toddler.
-Knowing that I had an extremely busy fall semester ahead of me, I emailed the professor of a writing course during the summer and asked if I could get the syllabus ahead of schedule and start on the reading and some of the simple assignments. She was nice, seemed impressed actually, and sent me all of the info. When we began the class, I told her I'd already read the assigned readings, but I would, of course, be at every class ready to discuss. I also mentioned to her that I'd begun some of the written assignments... which were very simple, and completely subjective in context. When the end of the semester rolled around, I also received a C from her. When I asked her why, she simply said, "I felt like you didn't get to use enough of the information from class in your writing." ...this was creative writing, PS. Completely my thoughts. A story. As if her saying that the color blue was an archetype for sadness was going to rock my world and give me a new perspective on storytelling. Ridiculous.
Moral of the story here... don't try be an overachiever in the classes. If I tried to think out of the box too much, or work ahead at all, I basically was punished for it. If that wasn't the case, the classes were just TOO easy! I understand it's a liberal arts school, but I would have loved a challenge in some literature classes that actually WEREN'T subjectively graded and contained real, research-driven pulp. The most challenging class I took was a one-month summer course by a visiting professor, who had us read 12 novels in 4 or 5 weeks. THAT was what I was looking for in an education in literature and writing. Not a share-your-feelings workshopping session for every single class I was ever required to take.
Abroad programs (10 out of 10): THESE programs get Pepperdine recognition nonstop, and for good reason... they are AMAZING. Having never experienced much out of my home county (besides Malibu) at this point, I was really excited to see what they had to offer. I definitely wasn't disappointed... I traveled to London and did an internship one summer and have never lived in a more vibrant city (and such an amazing house/neighborhood), and I also studied in Florence as well, which... is indescribable. Basically, STUDY ABROAD while you're there. It's a bit more expensive, but not too much more than the regular classes for the experiences you'll get.
GREEK LIFE (7 out of 10): I was in a fraternity on campus and I really liked it, even though I'm sure other reviews will say otherwise. Pepperdine's Greek life is definitely like any other, as there are no Greek houses allowed in the entire city of Malibu and because of the dry campus rule. However, it was still a really great experience. I met lots of amazing like-minded people, ended up forming friendships that will last a lifetime, and got tons of opportunities from the Greek life. I've heard many other guys and girls say the same. Just know that if you're expecting some 'Animal House'-style scenario that you're going to have to go visit UCLA on Thursday nights.
Again... the actual classes. I'm sure it varies by major, but unless they were science-based, I never really heard any of my friends/peers complaining about anything. I guess that's a good thing if you want to slack off, but if you're planning on continuing your education, you got another thing coming to you when you start applying!
The Administration (5 out of 10): I don't dislike the administration at this school, but multiple times I've seen the deans outright lie to the students regarding varying issues.
-For example, I was on a committee that ran a cultural organization on campus, an organization the likes of which existed in only one other school in the nation. It was a valuable asset to the school, but because one VERY small facet of it ALLUDED to something other than a Christian diety (it was an Asian-based club), the organization/program was nixed. Though us members had multiple meetings with the President and many of the deans who ensured us that the club would remain if that's what the students wanted, the club was still abolished even after we literally got the signatures of nearly 50% of the undergrad population. And it was done without any notification. That's balls.
-They hire/fire professors based on their religious beliefs. I had the most AMAZING professor for Italian. She was actually Italian, smart and passionate, an ex-Olympic skier, she worked at the FBI before coming to Pepperdine, etc... one day, when leaving class, she began crying. When a few of us lingered behind and asked why, she said she'd been sacked. I later found out that Pepperdine had fired HER (a Catholic) to hire an ex-student who was a 20-something white girl because she was affiliated with the Church of Christ. That is ridiculous... and I heard of two similar cases in the four years I was at the school there alone.
Loved my time there. Wouldn't change any of it for the world. The abroad programs changed my life. Play around with your major before you get too deep into your college years. Don't expect an extremely demanding workload if you're going for anything other than a science-based major. Whew... I could write a lot more, but it's late and this took a lot longer than I expected. Sorry about any typos. Feel free to contact me with any questions.