One of the things that really stands out about Occidental is how diverse the student body really is. It wasn't a major factor for me when applying, but I sure see it now. Half of my friends are students who have spent a significant part of their life abroad; even within the faculty there is a considerable amount of variation in terms of their backgrounds, gender, and race. Most students wear what they would even if they weren't going to class: California Casual (T-shirts & Jeans). Occidental is certainly diverse in socio-economic terms as well. Even within my circle of friends there is everyone from the god daughter of Warren Buffet to students who make just as much money as their parents, and many in between. Occidental consistently dedicates a large portion of their budget to student aid so that they can sustain a diverse student body. In terms of geography, a large block of Occidental students seem to come from Northern/Central California, and an unusually high proportion of Hawaiians (relative to their population representation in the US). However, there are many international students from around the world, and students from nearly every state in the US. Because Oxy students are so diverse, you're bound to interact or even become close friends with someone who comes from a significantly bacground from yourself. That being said, many students are very politically active and the school is definitely strongly predisposed towards the left politically. Occidental is a small school. I know everyone in my major, and nearly all of the students in the sciences (in every class year). Although I don't know everyone on a first name basis, I really don't come across an unfamilliar face frequently.
As mentioned before, Oxy is all about diversity. Additionally, it's four cornerstones of excellence, equity, community, and service are grounds to help mediate the different backgrounds and experiences that students bring. I think the most salient identity that could make some feel out of place is one's socioeconomic status. Oxy isn't cheap, but they provide amazing financial aid and scholarships to deserving students. With that said there are students who are paying the full tuition while others have a completely free-ride because of the awarded monetary aid. Los Angeles can be pretty expensive depending on your hobbies and interests and money can be a touchy issue at times. Otherwise, I think the school is relatively open to all forms of experiences as long as the individuals keep an open-mind to potential contradicting points of view. Dress ranges from heels and coach totes to shoe-less and pj's. For the most part, the standard SoCal jeans, flip flops and a summery top or t-shirt are the commonly seen outfits. Over the seasons you'll see uggs, sweatshirts/pants, summer dresses, and the like cycle through. Most students come from the West Coast with a large group of students from Hawaii. There's also a sizable group of international students who come for a year-long abroad program. I remember living in a dorm with a kid from Toyko during my frosh year. On the political spectrum, campus is fairly left and students are moderately to highly aware and active. Though there are Democrat and Republican Student Groups, there's room for more acceptance in this realm.
Occidental's student body is varied. That is the best way to describe it. There is lots of activity in cultural clubs, and Oxy hosts themed weeks, for example, exploration of blackness and exploration of whiteness week. Since Oxy is so small, different types of students are often interacting in classes, clubs, planning events etc. The student body as a whole is generally very ideologically liberal, and it would be hard to fit in here if, for instance, you were against gay marriage or affirmative action. However, there are fiscally conservative students but generally they keep their views to themselves. Students are from varied backgrounds, however, since it is a private liberal arts college, upper middle class is the norm. But, over 70% of students do recieve some sort of aid which is much higher than comparable colleges, allowing for greater diversity. Occidental's location in LA creates an urban sense of style on campus in that people wear different styles of clothes and the look changes frequently. Generally though, students do have a personal style and reflect that in what they wear everyday.
There's a lot of talk about diversity and being politically correct. Occasionally there are instances of miscommunication about "isms", but for the most part the campus is a very safe, caring environment for all students. If you're super conservative, just be prepared to be in the minority. Most students wear pretty casual clothes; they don't get really dressed up for class, but most people look pretty well put together. There's a lot of Southern California style. Different types of students do interact, but peope with similar backgrounds are more likely to hang out together. Aside from the black students having a certain place to eat lunch, everybody else is pretty mixed. And there are a good amount of non-black students at the "black tables". There are a lot of students at Oxy from the Pacific Northwest, a good amount from Hawaii and the East Coast. There are far less from the South. There are a good amount of very affluent students at Oxy, but there are also a lot of people from different economic classes.
Oxy works hard to maintain a level of political correctness that is mind boggling to me. We pride ourselves on our mission to cultivate a diverse student body, whether' that be racial diversity, economic diversity, sexual orientation diversity, diversity of interests, etc. Sometimes, it's like you are walking on egg shells, afraid you will upset someone. That said, we are all respectful of our differences and are very socially aware and active. Service is HUGE at Oxy and the campus is generally left leaning. That said, you've got the Birkenstock wearing hippies, the kids out to change the world, the L.A. girls, the jocks, etc. It's kind of like a bigger high school in that there are many different groups. Although, those groups are not hostel toward one another.
As mentioned above, Oxy is a diverse school. The environment is very accomodating for racial, religious, LGBT...etc differences. Students really wear anything they want to class. There are a lot of athletes on campus so sporty clothes are common. I personally usually wear jeans and t-shirt (pretty typical...). There was a surge of political activism for the Obama campaign..and I'm sure the enthusiasm will continue through November. The campus has a liberal slant (that is almost an understatement). Most students seem aware of political issues and a lot are involved in one way or another.
Lots of different groups and cliques. Athletes, artists, activists, musicians, Greek peoples, intellectuals, religious folks, intersections between them, etc. But if I were to sum up the idea of a typical Oxy student, I'd say he/she would be relatively leftist, progressive minded bu may or may not do something about it, and then they could either be really into school or sports or a frat, etc. There remains a lot of sugar coated bigotry on campus, but for the most part, everyone is pretty tolerant and easy going.
If you're not willing to face racism....don't come here. Oxy started off as a white, religious school. It is just starting to deal with diversity end even now you will face prejudices and racism. BUT...it's a place where you will find people that think and feel just the way you do. White students need to be challenged and Oxy is the place for that. Students of colors have a home here at Oxy, whether it be in Pauley Hall or multicultural clubs, you will find support.
A mix of everything really. My hometown was predominantly Caucasian and I come to Oxy and LA and am blown away, in a good way, by all the variations of people.It is impossible to feel out of place at occidental unless you don't want to make friends, because then you won't. If you do want to meet people and make friends though you are in luck because that is what oxy is all about; setting up connections and working with each other.
Politically, religiously, and culturally I would say Oxy is very liberal. I don't think any student would feel particularly out of place at Oxy. Most students wear jeans, flip flops, and a sweatshirt or tank. Because of its size, Oxy can be a bit cliquey. There are students that come from wealthy backgrounds and flaunt it, but there are also average students who earn scholarships and work through school too.