Keeping it in the Family

by Kristina Brooks

Finding the perfect college—the one where you feel both socially comfortable and academically inspired—is no easy task. An entire profession of private college counseling has grown up around this vexing challenge. Now consider that you’ve finally found that ideal place to spend the next four years. Only problem: Your sister found it first.

“The number of little sisters applying to Scripps has gone up over the past ten years,” reflects Amy Abrams, director of admission. “This year, there seems to be a particularly big number of twins or little sisters on campus. Having family connections here makes sense because Scripps is all about connections.”

A less-than-scientific count reveals at least 11 pairs of twins or sisters at Scripps last fall. Their presence on campus both reflects and enhances the close-knit community for which the College is known. With a cozy student population of 878, though, how do these young women develop their own sense of identity apart from their big or little sister?

“When I first visited Amanda [Higgins ’04] at Scripps, I immediately loved it,” recalls Maya Higgins, a first-year student from Albuquerque, NM. “I knew that I would be happy here, but I was nervous about going to the same school as Amanda because I did not want to be seen as following in her footsteps—I wanted to be my own person.”

“I wanted Maya to make her own choice,” says Amanda, who is back on campus this fall, working part time as an admission counselor while she pursues a master’s degree in public health at UCLA. “But I knew she would love Scripps and that it would be a good place for her. At times, I just couldn’t hold my tongue and would give Maya a very passionate counter-argument [against other colleges].”

Maya ultimately went with her gut feeling (and followed Amanda’s urging), since “at other schools, all I could think about was how much more at home I felt at Scripps.” She is relieved to find that Amanda’s shadow is not too long after all. “I feel as if Scripps allows me to be my own person. We both fit in here really well, and both of us are accepted.”

“I always feel like an individual,” stresses Megan Hanley ’08, of Newcastle, WA, whose sister matriculated this year. “Erin and I have our own passions. She’s thinking about being pre-med—crazy girl—while I’m studying to be an actor. I think it speaks to the diversity of Scripps that both of us can receive excellent educations even with our very different interests.”

Sisters might worry about establishing their individuality, but twins have a lifetime of experience with that challenge before they ever arrive on the Scripps campus.

Identical twins Amanda (Mandy) and Jessica Baum ’10, from Paradise Valley, AZ, and Jennifer and Laura Loesch ’09, from Sierra Madre, CA, have found that a small college can be a more liberating environment than a large high school.

“At Scripps, people seem to be more open-minded and not driven by preconceived notions or twin myths,” relates Mandy Baum.

Laura Loesch agrees: “I feel like much more of an individual at Scripps than in high school. We took all the same classes in high school, and many people simply referred to us as ‘the twins.’ Now we have different majors, take different classes, and some people don’t even know that I have a twin!”

“Some people think I just change clothes a lot,” explains Jennifer Loesch. The twins’ ability to pull off the “clothing switch trick” can confound people, postponing the moment when they realize that one young woman can’t possibly metamorphose so quickly or so often. “We’re used to the different attention we get, but Scripps is a really good place to become more of an individual.”

While the Loesch twins share a quad room with two other friends, there is a broad consensus among sisters on campus that separate rooms are necessary for maintaining a close relationship.

“No, we do not room together,” says Lily Carstens, a senior from Berkeley. “Are you kidding?”

“I like to sneak into her room,” admits Alana Carstens, a first year student who is often mistaken for her big sister.

“It’s important to have one’s own space,” asserts Megan Hanley, who also shares the campus with a first-year sister. “Erin comes to my room when she needs advice about classes. I steal her clothes sometimes. I should probably return those.”

Having a sister to steal—or even borrow—from while in college is a perk, but even more valuable is the feeling of comfort, home, and being understood down to one’s core. Arielle Bauer ’08, of Nevada City, CA, appreciates knowing that her best friend in the world is only a dorm away, while her sister Alex ’10 feels a sense of pride when she introduces herself as “Arielle’s little sister.”

“We act much more like best friends than sisters,” says Amy Zug, a first-year student from Haverford, PA, who told her older sister, Keri, about the friendly, down-to-earth school she was applying to in Southern California. Sometimes little sisters do know best. After some long discussions with Amy, Keri applied as well and transferred to Scripps from Middlebury College this year.

Sofia Stenson ’10, from Phoenix, AZ, who has her “step-twin” (step-sister Suzie Caughlin was born the same day as Sofia) at Scripps and sister Katie at Pomona College, finds the sisterly connections provide her with both comfort and more social opportunities. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to who knows you really well. It’s also really nice to have different friends so that we can introduce each other to different people. It helps us to get out and socialize more.”

Perhaps it’s the “family away from home” quality of Scripps that makes it so attractive to sisters. (Jennifer Loesch is even trying to convince her cousin to apply.) Scripps’ sisters live and grow within a campus environment that is itself especially intimate and supportive. While pursuing their own academic passions and cultivating their own friends, sisters manage to deepen their sibling relationships through shared experiences on campus, whether it be a late-night study break or a raid on each other’s closets. After all, what’s a little larceny between sisters?

 

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