campus encounters

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Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown College (visited 11/18/14)

~Etown 6We asked the student panelists to complete the sentence, “I’d like to thank E-town for ___.” Here’s what they said:

  • letting me excel on a personal level.
  • preparing me for my next step in life.
  • allowing me to discover myself and my talents.
  • providing me with a 2nd home.
  • encouraging me not to give up.

~Etown cafeThe admissions office sent us on tour with only 2 counselors per guide; we asked lots of questions and get a good sense of the students who thrive here. 87% of students live on this attractive, residential campus. Dorms have free cable hook ups, and the school recently refurbished all dorm lounges and study spaces. There are several living options, including special interest floors such as Friends of Asia (“We cook food, watch movies, whatever”) or the new 4-person apartments. The dining hall gets good reviews and is “known for its carrot cake.” Our tour guide’s favorite meal is the cheese-steak wrap.

~Etown sculpturePeople need to want to engage here or they won’t last, but it’s also “easy to get over-engaged,” said one of the students. Freshman-to-sophomore year retention is solid at 82%. Some students transfer out because of money; others because they didn’t know enough about the college before they came. “You have to know it’s small. It can be overwhelming when you can’t be anonymous,” said a singer from the a cappella group I spoke with after dinner.

People are simply nice here. I spoke to several students who were not part of the formal admissions presentation. They were gracious with their time and genuinely excited to be telling me about their experiences. Two different students – one tour guide and another from the a cappella group – said, “People hold doors for each other.”

~ Etown plazaPerforming Arts are huge. Sock and Buskin is the theatrical group; Emotion, the coed Dance Group, is the largest club on campus with 150 participants. The Band Director is “the world’s nicest person,” said my tour guide who plays saxophone in the 80-member, non-audition concert band. There are 2 other groups that require auditions, 3 choirs (2 requiring auditions), and 3 a cappella groups (including the “All male, All Attractive” group that performed at dinner). All the a cappella groups were invited to the International Championship of A Cappella last year! Non-music majors can get music scholarships as long as they continue to participate in groups.

~Etown steepleAll students complete at least 2 unique Signature Learning Experiences (capstones, internships, study abroad, or research). Advisors help pair students with significant, meaningful experiences. They want outcomes to equate to real-world success. Alumni report a great deal confidence in the workplace because of these. The school does a survey every year, and they report on every student, unlike a lot of other schools.

In order to help guarantee success, they developed Momentum, a program for First Gen (40% of the population), students with financial need, and traditionally underrepresented students. This 1-week summer program helps them get accustomed to campus, teach study skills, etc. The retention of these students is as strong or stronger than the other students on campus.

~Etown library 2Academics are generally strong here. “You’re going to work!” The president teaches a class and was asked if he could cut back on the homework: “The other professors are killing us.” The Education program got rave reviews, especially since they start working in classrooms during freshman year. The OT program. is also well regarded. Students really appreciate that academics are intertwined: “nothing is hanging out there by itself. We can see how it works together.” Favorite classes include:

  • Geophysics
  • A class on the Amish (“We went to dinner at a family’s house and attended a church service. I never would have expected to do this when I came in here”)
  • Humor, Irony, and Despair in Modern Literature
  • FYS on Myths and Reality of Boyhood (A psych class)
  • Medieval Magic Then and Now
  • Basic Acting

The smallest classes ranged from German (“The 2 of us met in the professor’s office”) to English (16). Largest classes included General Bio (32), American National Government (35), and Anatomy Lecture (40) – which included work in the Cadaver Lab!

~Etown 4The school motto, “Education for Service,” leads to deep community involvement. Moving Forward Together is a mentoring group that works with at-risk high school students. One of the big traditions is Into the Streets, a massive service day in October. Town-gown relations are strong. “Lucky Ducks is a favorite restaurant.” Amtrak is also in walking distance making travel easy.

On campus activities are strong. Popular traditions include Mr. E-Town and Thanksgiving Dinner/Tree Lighting. Soccer is the most well-attended sport (men’s and women’s). The gym is small but conveniently located in the Student Center basement. One area our tour guide sees for improvement at E-Town would be an expansion of the gym.

~Etown 2The Admission Office wants to “enroll graduates” so they look for the “Trinity of Fit”: Academic Match, Co-curricular Fit (what will they contribute?), and Social Match (work ethic, integrity, persistence, level of interest). Rolling Admissions begins September; a couple majors have hard deadlines (OT: 12/15 deadline and requires an interview; Music Majors must apply early enough to schedule the required audition). Students in the top 10% or have a 3.5/4.0 (if their school doesn’t rank) don’t have to submit test scores unless they apply to a program which requires them. In this case, scores will only be used for entrance into the program, not for admission to the college.

Students are assigned a Financial Aid Counselor who stays with the student for all 4 years. E-town recently increased their financial aid by $3.1 million (including 8 full-tuition scholarships through the Stamps Foundation). “We want to spread the good news out a little bit: scholarship letters go out 2-3 weeks after acceptance.” Loan indebtedness averages $27,000 at graduation.

© 2014

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