Albion College (visited 1/30/15)
I didn’t get a formal tour of Albion, but talked to an admissions rep for about 45 minutes before walking around campus on my own during the chilly dusk of a Friday evening. The campus was quiet, not surprising given the weather and time. Classes were done for the day and students weren’t heading to dinner or out to events yet. However, I talked to the students working at the student center and in the library and ended up getting a lot of interesting information from them.
Kids here are “everyday kids. They’re very normal.” There are the jocks to the theatre geeks to the nerds. “I like the mix of kids. I have friends from Nepal, Italy, Metro Detroit, the UP. This is the first time in years that we haven’t had at least 1 gay student pledge the frat,” said the junior econ major working in the library. “I took this shift because I love the quiet. I can get my work done and enjoy the rest of my weekend.”
The Union Board (student group that organizes events) is active. “There’s never NOT something going on whether it’s Frisbee golf, movies, speakers, whatever. There’s a 4-hour Laser Tag game later tonight that I’m going to go to after the library closes.” About 60% of students participate in sports, and a cappella is also very popular. One of the favorite traditions is the Anchor Splash, a Synchronized Swimming competition put on by the Delta Gamma Sorority. The money goes to charity. It’s “hysterical to watch these burley football guys in tutus! They get really competitive.”
There’s nothing going on in town (the population is less than 10,000 people). “There’s a good taco joint and a good bar. The movie theatre is free for students. Otherwise . . . not so much.” Jackson, a larger town, is 15 minutes away and the college runs shuttles to Ann Arbor and to the airports. There’s a train station in town that will take them to Chicago. Freshmen can have cars on campus, but a lot of people don’t bother leaving campus because so much is offered. They even have a convenience store.
Albion is small (1400 students) so it’s easy to get to know everyone, “but you aren’t always tripping over the same people.” Students who leave tend to go to bigger schools or “are the one who never leave their room or aren’t getting playing time on the team.” The biggest division seems to be between the athletes and non-athletes, “but even that isn’t a big deal.”
All first year students live in Wesley Hall, a traditional-style dorm that holds 550 students. There are other options for older students including frat houses and two apartment-style complexes. Students are not stuck in traditional dorms for 4 years. Wifi on campus “can be spotty.” The food gets mixed reviews ranging from “great” to me getting a blank stare before being told that the new food vendor, while it has helped some, “doesn’t really make things that college students tend to want.” The other student said it was “ok but not spectacular.” Frat houses have their own food arrangements such as a cook so that helps. Greek life is huge with about 2/3 of the students affiliating with a group. “It’s not like the big schools, though. We all hang out together.” He’s in both the Panhellenic and Intra-frat councils.
Albion still has a very loose religious affiliation but it’s not really all that noticeable. Students do have to take one theology or philosophy class as part of their distribution requirements, but there are plenty of options and no one is pushing an agenda or belief system. Catholicism has the largest number of self-reporting students, and Hillel is one of the more active groups on campus.
In academics, Albion offers 6 Centers of Distinction:
- Teaching is automatic entry once students declare the major. Others require a short essay.
- Honors classes are not just harder; they’re more discussion based. Teachers actually bid on the classes. Students take 1 honors class per term and have to write a Thesis. It gets published and is assigned an ID number so they are officially published and can put it on a resume. This COD is becoming more competitive to get into.
- Health Care: this is a 4-year guided program for students interested in any aspect of health care, including vet. This is also becoming more competitive. Pre-med is a large major; 92% go onto med school.
- Leadership in Public Policy and Service
- Business and Management
- Sustainability and the Environment
One student said that the relationships with the professors were the best thing about the college. The largest classes (like Bio or Chem 101) can have upwards of 50-70 students. One student said that he tended to have 35-40 in his first year accounting classes but most have around 20. Sciences tend to be very strong, especially Neuroscience, Environmental Sciences, Geological Sciences, Pre-Engineering, and Sustainability Studies. Professors come to teach here from the larger universities; they say that the science equipment rivals anything the big schools have. Other noteworthy majors include Law, Justice, and Society; Economics and Management; and Ethnic Studies.
Job placements trump a lot of other places. 94% of graduates are in full-time work or post-grad upon graduation – and that’s tracking over 16 years! The alumni network is strong both internships as well as post-graduation job placement. Students are encouraged to do research in a variety of areas, not just the sciences. “One of my friends is working on a project about how hip-hop is reviving Detroit.” During the students’ time on campus, Albion also provides an excellent academic support system and have been highly ranked for their support of students on the spectrum.
Applying to the university is free; they’re a Common App exclusive school. They will superscore both the SAT and ACT. They offer a $5,000 scholarship for students who don’t live in MI, OH, or IL; this is stackable with other merit scholarships that a student qualifies for. All scholarships are automatic consideration except the Distinguished Scholars program. Students who qualify for this competition get invited to campus and will receive $1,000 just for attending. DS awards range from $15,000-$23,500. For most students at Albion, the final cost of attendance averages only a few thousand more than UM or MSU.
They have a Nature Center on campus and a River running through the south end. There are wetlands where students can do research. A student farm grows mostly vegetables; it doesn’t produce a lot, but the dining hall will use what they do grow. Students also conduct soil testing and other research there. Students interested can also live in the Environmental House, a 2-minute walk from campus. There is also a large equestrian center owned by Albion.