campus encounters

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Clemson University

Clemson University (visited 2/26/20)

Clemson main 4

The iconic building that’s on many of their promotional materials. There’s a bell tower here where students can actually learn to play the bells. “You hear some weird stuff coming out of there!” said one student.

I asked one of the students what I should tell the high schoolers I work with about Clemson: “Clemson is awesome. That’s all.”

While not necessarily an attractive campus, this is a vibrant one! “The typical Clemson student is open and willing to join things. This is an involved campus,” said one of the six students I spoke with at the welcome center while I was waiting for the info session. “If they are willing to try things, they’ll be successful here.” Another student said that she chose Clemson because she wanted a true college town environment. People definitely get that here.

Clemson students

Part of the res life area – student center, dining options, etc

“I thought it was going to be huge and scary,” said another student. “I was intimidated, but didn’t feel that way at all after the first day. I got lost and frustrated my first day, and a senior stopped and asked if I was ok, then walked me to class.” Another student also said that she was excited to see how small it can feel while still being so big. The campus is set up in “rings” with academics at the center, surrounded by residential life (dorms, food, etc), and then sports and other auxiliary program making up the outermost circle. Our tour guide said that most things within the academic ring only take 5-10 minutes to walk to. “I can get across the whole campus in about 15-20 minutes.

Clemson tiger paws

Tiger Paws

Athletics are very much a part of campus life, and a lot of people know Clemson because of their athletics They field 19 NCAA DI teams, offering the sports you’d expect (although they do only have a women’s crew team, not one for men); football and basketball, as you could probably guess, are the most popular. School spirit is high, and Tiger Paws are everywhere painted on sidewalks. Clemson pride can be felt throughout the state “where everyone is either a Tiger or a Gamecock!” someone told me) and among alumni.

Clemson Death Valley

The view of Death Valley, the football stadium, from campus.

Death Valley, their football stadium, is part of campus. This is great, since so many schools have stadiums far enough away to require shuttles. Game tickets are all free, although there’s a lottery for football tickets. “When I was a freshman, I didn’t miss a game,” said one student. They do designate a certain number of tickets for each class so the free tickets aren’t simply snatched up by seniors. If they don’t get free tickets for the student section, they can still buy tickets. They’ve been ranked #2 for their fan base; people pack the stadium. The football players run down The Hill from the field house into the stadium at the beginning of games; they also rub the Rock (which came from the actual Death Valley in CA) for good luck on the way into the Stadium.

Clemson dorms

Some of the dorms

Many events are held in Death Valley, as well, including Greek Rush. “You don’t go building to building like at other places. Having it all in the arena is great because you feel like you’re in it as a group, and there are places to hang out, rest, and talk to people in between meetings.” Almost ¼ of students participate in Greek Life. Most of the students I spoke to are involved and had great experience. Rush happens the week before classes start in the fall, “but you can drop it in the first 2 weeks if you end up not liking it,” said one student. They also don’t have to rush first year. One student chose to rush 2nd year and said he had a great experience. Students can’t move into Greek Housing until Sophomore year, “and it’s optional.” There are no separate houses, but instead, there’s a Greek quad; organizations have a hallway in a house with 2 other sororities or frats. There are currently 12 sororities (and in the process of adding 1 more) and 20 frats; 8 of the Devine 9 are on campus. However, “life here isn’t just about Greek life. Do what you love – it’s inclusive.”

Clemson innovation center

The Innovation Center

Clemson is, of course, known for its engineering programs, but it’s also got amazing agricultural, health sciences, and business programs among others. Students raved about their experiences in and out of the classrooms. They work well with their students to prepare them for life after college and were just ranked #1 for Career Services (2020)

  • Nursing is direct entry. It is possible to apply to get into nursing once here, but “This is one of the most difficult switches – you can, but I would not recommend!” said one of the students. She transferred from engineering when she realized that it wasn’t for her, and she’s graduating a semester late. She thinks the program is a bit harder, but it’s worth it. “If you’re a Clemson grad, you get a GPA boost when you apply to grad school because it’s notorious for being difficult.” They had a 100% NCLEX pass rate last semester on the first try. “You’re required to Kaplan benchmarks every semester. No one in my cohort has failed a benchmark so far.”
  • Clemson engineering row

    “Engineering Row”

    One of the students in the welcome center was a Mechanical Engineering I asked him if he knew he wanted mechanical coming into college. “I knew I wanted engineering but not what kind. I always loved math and physics and I’m good with my hands. The first year here in the department was great because I could figure it out.” All students interested in engineering start in the General Engineering program. They have access to a lot of resources, including a seminar class that he estimates 45-50% of engineering students take. They hear from a variety of faculty in different areas and get to learn about various types of engineering before declaring a track. Some more unusual options include Biosystems, Automotive, and Environmental.

  • Clemson 10They’re one of only a few schools in the country to offer a Packaging Science
  • They have a Turfgrass major! As the Land Grant institution SC, it’s not surprising that they offer unusual and strong agricultural, environmental, and other similar programs in their College of Ag, Forestry, and Life Sciences.
  • Their Architecture department is part of the Arts& Humanities School, as is Landscape Architecture and City Planning & Real Estate Development. Architect students are actually required to study abroad (and there are programs for all majors, even in engineering).
  • A few other programs of note include Aerospace Studies, Graphic Communications, Construction Science & Management, and Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management.

I asked the students what their coolest class was and what they liked about it:

  • Clemson 1Consumer Behavior: “It’s a whole different way to think about marketing. There’s lots of psych to it. We’re learning about what catches eyes – placement, colors, etc.”
  • Creative Inquiry: “This is a research program for undergrads. It’s not exactly full-on research but more engaging and hands-on in smaller classes. I’m working in a Social Media Center looking at tweets that were banned. My class and the federal government were the only ones who had access to these tweets! I got an internship that used Sales Force because I knew about it. It’s a really cool application and it was great to see the trends and give the info back to the government.” These are team-based investigations lead by faculty, and students can take these classes outside their major; the engineering student did one in business looking at qualitative research.
  • Nursing: “ All my classes involve sim labs which is cool.”
  • Molecular Cell Bio: “I bet you never heard that before! The class was hard but teacher was great. She’s genetically reversing a dino from a chicken!! There are only 3 groups doing this – she’s trying to make it grow a longer ‘velocoraptor tail’.”

Clemson 9Clemson is clearly doing a lot right with a strong 93% retention rate and 83% grad rate. Currently, they accept about 50% of their applicants but are becoming more competitive. Just over half (56%) of accepted students are in the top 10% of their high school class. They ask students to rank their first two choices of major on the application, and they look at this as part of their application. “Don’t put the same thing down twice,” recommends a rep. “If you don’t give us a backup, you’re kind of backing us into a corner if we can’t get you into that major.”

Clemson library

The main library

The rep also recommends that applicants use the “tell us about yourself” section to tell them things that you feel that your transcript or test scores don’t show. Test scores must be sent directly from testing agency (they don’t allow self-reported scores). For Merit Scholarships, all applications must be on file by Dec 1 and completed (aka supporting documentation – transcript, scores, etc) by the end of December. For Restricted (need-based) scholarships, grants, loans, the FAFSA should be filed by January 1.

There are a few alternative paths for acceptance into Clemson that are by invitation only. These are by invitation only; students can’t self-nominate or apply to this. There’s a question on the application if they’re open to starting in the summer, but it’s offered by admissions to those who express interest and are qualified.

  • Bridge Program: students accepted into this live on campus and receive all the perks of being a Clemson student, but their first year classes are taken at Tri-County Community College. They must maintain a 2.5 GPA there and then “transfer” into Clemson in sophomore year.
  • Tigertown Summer Bound: these students come in the summer as a cohort and must successfully complete 2 classes; then they can start full-time in the fall term.

Just over half of the students (55%) are from South Carolina, but since freshman are required to live on campus, people get to know others quickly and it ends up not being a suitcase school. Housing placements are done in order of when students sent in their Clemson application, not on date of acceptance! The tour guide said that she lucked out – she wasn’t planning on applying to Clemson (“much less go here!”) so she applied late, but she was paired with someone who know this was her first choice and applied in September so they got some of the best freshman housing.

Although there’s a lot to do on and directly off campus, this is also a big outdoorsy school. More than 100 miles of Lake Howell border campus; the SC Botanical Garden borders campus; they sit in the Foothills of Blue Ridge Mountains; and campus is halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte on the I-85 corridor if they’re looking for the big city experience.

Some of the favorite traditions include:

  • Clemson Ice Cream! They have a student-run creamery which was started about 100 years ago in what was then the Dairy Science department.
  • The Clemson Ring: They have the 2nd highest percentage of people who have school rings (“The other university just has more people,” said one of the students). “It’s a great source of pride. The ring ceremony is almost as popular as graduation. Families come to see us get our rings.”
  • Wearing Orange on Fridays: “Alumni still do it!”

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