Trinity College (visited 3/20/2014)
I was impressed with the friendliness of students at Trinity and their willingness to chat with us. The students we spoke with and saw around campus were happy with the school. Trinity’s attractive campus is about the size you’d expect for a New England campus with 2,300 undergrads (10% of whom are from abroad). Much of the campus is clustered around an extensive quad.
A senior from Anchorage (an English/Econ double major, Urban Planning minor) led our info session. She provided a lot of information, but little that was new or that couldn’t be found on the website. However, I appreciated that there was the attempt to illustrate what made them distinct from similar institutions. The three points she highlighted were:
- Personal attention and relationships with faculty.
- Academic flexibility. There’s no core curriculum (which seems to contradict to the requirement that they take 5 distribution classes, 1 each in math, natural sciences, humanities, fine arts, social sciences). Students typically declare their major in the sophomore year and can design their own major if they choose. Students take about 9 classes a year and need 36 to graduate. About a third of these are in the major.
- Their location in the capital city of Hartford. They’re minutes away from internships, cultural excursions, and fun stuff on the weekend.
Freshman retention is high, thanks in part to programs geared towards helping students transition to college. First, they offer Quest, an optional pre-orientation 4- or 10-day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in groups of 6-10 freshmen and 2 upperclassmen. Second, the First Year Program allows students to pick from about 50 First Year Seminars (they list their top 5 choices). These are interdisciplinary, include an upperclassman mentor, and often reflect teacher’s interests beyond what they would normally teach. For example, one of the most popular is “History of Mafia in America,” taught by an Italian professor.
Classes and programs are often interdisciplinary and take advantage of learning out of the classroom. Trinity now offers Urban Studies, Guided Studies, a Comprehensive Neuroscience program developed into a 5-year Masters, a Human Rights major, and a fully accredited engineering program. New minors include legal studies and marine studies. Students interested in science can shadow professors in a lab by second semester of freshman year. Inter-Arts includes theater and dance, creative writing, studio arts, etc. Students complete a creative colloquium in the second semester.
Students have multiple opportunities to study somewhere other than Trinity’s campus including Study Away programs in the US such as the Theater and Dance program in Manhattan or the Maritime and Conservation Sciences (Seamester). Their Study Abroad is in the country’s top 10 because of the ease of transferring credits and the financial aid that follows the student. They offer three “layers” of study abroad:
- First: Trinity in Rome. Students live in a school-owned Monastery; the nuns cook dinner. Trinity faculty members teach the classes.
- Second: affiliated sites. They have close relationship with sites such as Trinidad, Paris, Shanghai, and more; often they have staff to help with transition.
- Third: students can enroll in one of over 90 pre-approved programs. Previous Trinity students have gone there; the program is up to the school’s standards.
The average class size is 18, “which is inflated because of intro classes of 30-35,” said our tour guide, a music and dance double major from Bethlehem, PA. “I would consider 40 to be huge. My largest class was an econ class of about 30.” Since sophomore year, none of her classes have been bigger than 10.
All first-year students live together. Although housing isn’t guaranteed after first year, 90% of students live on campus. Most students also stick around on weekends. “It’s definitely not a suitcase school,” our tour guide said. She lives in a townhouse with 8 single bedrooms. There are Cultural Houses (one example is the Tree House, a sustainable living option). The Mill, an Arts Collective, has a theater, art gallery, and recording studio. There are Greek houses (18% of students are affiliated with a Greek organization but not all of them live in Greek housing); Greek events are open to everyone and often involve free food.
Although there is a Chapel on campus (which had been under the auspices of the Episcopalian Diocese), the college no longer has a religious affiliation. There’s a strong presence of many religions as well as religious leaders on campus (Catholic masses, an active Hillel house, etc). The Chapel is used for several traditions and group meetings on campus. For example, new students all sign the Matriculation Book in the chapel. They also have a tradition involving a Lemon Squeezer. The President makes lemonade and they all drink together. The class deemed “most worthy” gets a lemon squeezer which has been stolen by people who think they’re more worthy.
Located right in the city of Hartford, students have access to amazing internships, especially in the fields of medicine and politics. Students teach, tutor, and coach across the street in the “Learning Corridor” (a Montessori, magnet middle and high schools) or at the Boys & Girls club. There are plenty of good restaurants, an art museum with free student nights, and more. The SGA funds a shuttle during evenings and weekends, and students can get dropped off downtown or at the mall. For longer trips or if they need to go somewhere when the shuttles aren’t running, they can rent zipcars. The campus boasts the first student-run, non-profit movie theater in the country, showing 1-2 movies a day ranging from Blockbusters to Indies, Documentaries to Festivals.
The university gets about 7000 applicants for 450 spots. They want people who challenge themselves but who “aren’t drowning in APs.” They’re committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need. Most students graduate with less than $19,000 in loans. Merit based scholarships are granted based on the admissions application.