The Ohio State University (visited on 4/17/12)
Driving onto campus, one of the other counselors said “It’s clear to see where Ohio is spending its resources . . . and it’s not Kent State!” It’s true that OSU is flashier and feels newer, but they are also very different campuses in more way than one. Physically, yes, OSU seems to have many newer buildings, but it’s also a much larger, busier university with high-rise, institutional dorms and buses that are constantly loading and unloading students. The edges of the OSU campus, although as rough as Kent, quickly gave way to an impressive campus; buildings were newly built or renovated, new construction was underway (apparently the President said that if there weren’t at least 3 cranes on campus, not enough was happening), and campus was clean and well-maintained. I was much more impressed with the University than I had expected to be. I assumed that it would feel much larger and more impersonal because of its huge size (with 40,000 undergraduates and 16,000 graduate students, I think it has the 3rd largest student population in the country after Arizona and Florida? By comparison, Penn State with several thousand fewer students, felt more overwhelming and sprawled much more than Ohio State).
They started our tour at the top of the 15 floor library (which, by the way, has about 10,000 people a day come through its doors . . .) where we had panoramic views of the entire campus – not a bad first impression! I asked the director of admissions how far the main campus stretched, and he pointed out the four boundaries. The compact size of it surprised me; he said that you can walk from corner to corner of the main campus in 15-18 minutes, although there are other satellite buildings that fall beyond the borders.
Recently, there has been a big push to increase student engagement and happiness which is paying off in retention, currently at 93% from freshman to sophomore years. Their First Year Experience gives students a chance to learn how to navigate OSU and Columbus and to feel at home and engaged in the opportunities around them. There is some recent impetus towards adding a “Sophomore Year Experience” of sorts, including a sophomore residence requirement. Currently, only freshmen are required to live on campus unless they are from Columbus. Clearly, OSU is already doing something right since their five-year graduation rate falls in the mid-high 70s, above the national average. They are very intentional about tracking freshmen, especially those who come as Undecided Majors – they have an office dedicated to one-on-one meetings with undeclared students, checking in on their progress with classes (what they’re registering for as well as how they are doing with their grades), and providing a lot of guidance.
Unlike a lot of schools, they separate out their Honors and their Scholars programs even though the two programs overlap in terms of who qualifies. Students in the Honors program tend to be more academically focused while the Scholars lean towards community service and global learning; they also live in a cohort and many tend to stick together for more than just their first year. For both programs, they look for people who want to push themselves and are looking for rigorous academics as well as opportunities for leadership, research, service, and global experiences. In terms of general admissions to OSU, their profile has been steadily going up for the past 20 years. The biggest admissions factors are grades, high school curriculum, and test scores. They will consider leadership, extra-curriculars, and other factors, but they are less important. They offer several merit based awards including the Buckeye Award (worth $10,000) to students in the top 40% of the class and a 28+ ACT or 1260+ SAT. They also have the Eminence Scholars Award which is a full ride plus a one-time stipend of $3,000. Specifics of these awards are listed at meritawards.osu.edu.
Several people – students and staff alike – bragged about the diversity offered to students both in terms of who is around them and what is available to them. Students can choose from 175 majors, 475 specializations/minors, and over 12,000 classes a year. The School of Arts and Sciences is the most popular with almost 39% of students in there (not surprising for this type of school); engineering has just over 15% and business has almost 14% of students. Their Agriculture, Pharmacy, and Nursing programs are also strong. They push internships and co-ops hard, which are not hard to come by since Columbus is so large (1.7 million people); students can also go abroad for internships. On-campus research is available; they are 9th in country among public universities for research expenditures which gets a lot of kids involved.
I was very impressed with OSU; for students looking for a large university, I would definitely recommend it. They seem to have their acts together; kids don’t fall through the cracks nearly to the extent that I had thought they might at such a large school. Students seem happy with their education and the resources on campus, and the retention and graduation numbers back up what I saw and heard on campus. The location is fabulous since so much of Columbus is available to them. It’s definitely worth checking out.