campus encounters

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Search Results for: “ole miss

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (visited 2/23-25)

MST civil engo student

A student working in the Civil Engineering lab

Missouri S&T is perfect for dedicated students who want hands-on experience at a medium-sized school and a job at graduation. In 2015-16, 1158 employers recruited on campus. “Students get the outcomes they want,” shown in top rankings for return on investment.

 

As one of 4 state universities (and the Land Grant school), MST is a top public research university and ranked #3 Best Engineering university after Colorado Mines and Georgia Tech beating out RPI, WPI, and MIT! Students are problem solvers; most students complete a Freeform lab where they have to figure out how to do the labs! “Math and science are our tools. You need to be capable. That doesn’t mean you love it or use it every day.” Non-engineering students take Business Calculus (except bio and chem majors who take engineering calc).

MST wave machine

Wave Machine lab

“Engineers know this is a top-notch school – but we’re hidden because we’re in Missouri,” said a student. Located about 1.5 hours from St. Louis, Rolla is a small city but there’s still plenty to do. One of the counselors asked about racial issues and the general climate in town. “This can be a difficult sell,” said a rep. “I understand the fear. It’s rural Missouri, but in a liberal bubble. That being said, it’s also a STEM school which makes it heavily male.” However, the women graduate at an 8% higher rate and can say why they’re doing what they’re doing … this was evident through multiple conversations with students over 3 days on campus. The gender ratio is going up. “You get used to it. It’s less pronounced at the beginning, but is more so as you get further into the major. The professors definitely know who the girls are!”

 

MST design center 2

The Design Center for Design Teams

“Students are excited to be here. These are serious students. College is on purpose. They’re not doing it to get away from home,” said a professor. A rep echoed that: “It’s a point of pride to have the highest GPA in the fraternity.” Everyone loves what they do. That goes for athletics, too: “There are lots of athletics, but no one is going pro. They know that. We don’t have the winningest football team, but we do have the smartest!”

 

Another rep said, “Our kids come from the top of their classes. They’ve been the ones helping others. The big challenge is getting them to ask for help when they need it.” A professor said something similar. “Most of them have never needed help before.” Student success is a high priority. If grades drop “beyond a percentage of the student’s normal grades,” the system alerts the faculty who talk to the students. They think this is partly responsible for retention rising to the high 80s.

MST civil engo int

The Civil and Architectural Engineering building

With 15 engineering programs, the College of Engineering and Computing draws the most students. In addition to the more common types of engineering, they offer:

 

  • Ceramic: One of the students wants to work on shuttle tiles for NASA
  • Petroleum: this is one of the highest paid degrees
  • Geological: Students are helping to develop grasses that absorb specific elements to help determine where mines are in minefields.
  • Mining
    • The experimental mine is about 10 minutes off campus.
    • Undergrads can earn a certificate in Explosives (Explosive Engineering is a graduate program)
  • Nuclear: There’s a working nuclear reactor on campus, 1 of 9 available to undergrads in the US.
  • Architectural: 1 of less than 25 in the country
  • Metallurgical
  • There are several engineering minors including Biomedical, Mineral Process, Automation, and Humanitarian Engineering and Science. These pair well with a major directly related to what they want to do.
MST mine 6

The experimental mine

Regardless of which engineering degree they choose (or being undecided), freshmen spend 3 semesters taking pre-req coursework and career exploration. The students we spoke to found this invaluable. One student didn’t change his mind, “but it confirmed what I thought I wanted.” Another student changed her major, and a third said that it helped her figure out what was out there.

 

Students tend to be well rounded. They want STEM but don’t want to give up on the other interests they have. This shows up in the minors and extra-curriculars they participate in. One engineering major we spoke to is double-minoring in 2 theater areas.

MST student hammockMST also offers liberal arts degrees (ranked in the top 10% for LA salaries) and looking to grow these. They’re starting a BS in History in addition to the existing BA. This includes the same Gen Ed courses as the sciences and without the BA language requirement. Students can get certified to teach (they have the #1 Secondary Teacher Education Program in MO) including a STEM Elementary Ed program and Program Lead the Way certification.

MST solar house 9

One of the solar houses

All students are required to complete an experiential learning experience. Almost 1000 students completed a co-op (semester+summer/8-9 months) or internship (summer OR semester/3-4 months) in 43 states and 3 international locations earning over $3200/month on average.

 

MST solar house design team

The 2017 Solar House team

Design teams (18 to choose from) count as Experiential Learning. “You need everyone on the team, and there are lots of ways to participate. It opens doors they haven’t considered. It builds a culture of research that’s infectious.” All teams do their own marketing and some fundraising, but there’s lots of corporate and alumni donations. Options include:

 

  • DrillBotics
  • Solar Car
  • Solar House
  • Mars Rover: won a national championship and competed in Poland.
  • Engineers without Borders: There are 4 Teams and 4-5 trips offered every year for ongoing water and sanitation projects.
  • MST steel bridge team 2

    The steel bridge team putting together their project

    Concrete canoe: this has to be filled with water and hold 3 people and still float/perform in races

  • Steel Bridge = 1/10 size
  • Solar House
    • First they submit a design. About 18 are selected to move on.
    • Second, a student-led team builds it on campus and ship it to the contest and without breaking. All must be 0-Net but often produce more energy than they use. Part of the contest is marketability. One house was made out of shipping containers with carpet made from recycled fishing nets. Students now live in the houses!
MST dorm room 1

One of the triple rooms in University Commons

Students must live in university housing until they complete 60 credits. This includes Greek housing (mostly off campus; 22% go Greek but not all live in housing) and the Christian Campus Houses (run by an off-campus entity). Thomas Jefferson Hall offers traditional dorm-style living with a dining hall attached. University Commons offers suite styles with an option for a triple room. These are cheaper and never required. “We found that lots of students came to us in trios from high school and wanted to room together. It’s just another option.” The Student Center is directly across the road with several food options.

 

MST frat house

One of the smaller frat houses sitting right next to campus; the large new ones are off campus

Safety is good. Students said they frequently walk around alone at night and never had an issue. Things are well lit, and no one ever heard of a blue light being used. Parking is available – but not always where they want it! Spots/lots are assigned based on seniority. One student we talked to just parked in town and found it as convenient. “I got 4 parking tickets over 3 years. At $10 a pop, it was cheaper than 1 year of paying to park on campus.” Parking stickers are $135.80 per year.

 

MST quad 1Admissions will take a risk on some kids who have low GPAs with high test scores (“they’re not following through with the work,” said a rep). They’ll bring 160 students into the Success Program and assign them a mentor to get them on track. For scholarship purposes, they only look at GPA through the end of junior year, but students can take the standardized tests through December if they need to increase the score. MST won’t superscore either exam but do not penalize for multiple testing. The Priority deadline is 12/1; based on available funds, they’ll look at apps through 2/1.

MST chem eng bldg

The Chemistry and Chemical Engineering building

New students attend 2 orientations: first, “Preview, Registration, and Orientation (PRO)” starting in February where students take their math placement, get academic advising, Financial Aid and parent info sessions, etc. Then they complete a full-week orientation where they’re assigned to a group of 20 to complete social and team projects. They have Reconnection 1 a few weeks into the year and Reconnection 2 right after midterms. They also have one of the best transfer programs in the country and are known as a model for this.

MST arch engo 1

Some of the Architectural Engineering projects

The big tradition revolves around St. Patrick’s Day; MST gives students 2 days off for “spring recess.” For weeks in advance, they have countdowns, chants on Fridays, etc. In the middle of the night, they’ll paint the street green “using some eco-friendly paint.” On the day, they carve shillelagh and act out mock killings of rubber snakes. They hold contests such as wearing the most green or who can put on the most St Pat’s sweatshirts. There’s a formal ball held that weekend. The official school colors are gold and silver – “it is a mining school!” – but the unofficial color is green because of St. Patrick, the patron saint of miners.

© 2017

 

University of Mississippi

OleMiss (visited 4/19/13)

OleMiss stadiumThis was one of the best Info Sessions I’ve attended (WashU being the other one competing for the top spot). Jasmine, one of the Admissions Reps, was bubbly and personable, and she related well to the people in the room. As a 2010 grad of OleMiss, she spoke intelligently about being there as a student as well as from a Rep’s standpoint. She said that she didn’t even consider OleMiss until she took a school trip here but is thrilled that she made the choice to attend. “Except for the bees flying around, it’s perfect!” She described it as the best of both worlds – the small school feel with the large public school benefits. If you walk around The Grove, you get the small liberal-artsy school feel, but on weekends, you’re going to school with 60,000 friends. She said the school size is perfect: it’s a good medium-school size (16,000 undergrads) with all the options and opportunities that go with that, but not so large that she wouldn’t be able to meet people or recognize other students. She joked that “If I saw a guy walking around, I wanted to be able to stalk him on facebook.”

OleMiss 4

Where the famous OleMiss tailgating happens

OleMiss archOur tour guide was a junior from Massachusetts who came to OleMiss because she was recruited for the Rifle team and is thrilled with her decision. The school spirit is intense on campus. Tailgating is a huge deal; people rush the Grove and stake out spots; it’s an all-day event, and she loves that alum will come back all the time, and she loves that she always gets to meet new people. (However, football isn’t the only sport getting attention. I had parked near the tennis courts, and there was a match going on – the stands were packed, and there was a LOT of enthusiasm in cheering for the players). Our tour guide also loves the other traditions on campus, including the fact that there are 25 things to do before graduating, “not all of which are technically allowed” such as jumping in the fountain. She also appreciates that you can get anywhere on campus in 10 minutes (amazing for a larger state university), but if people don’t feel like walking, they can take the shuttles that run every 11 minutes. She brought a car for her first semester (parking is $80 for the year), then took it home second semester and left it because it was more hassle than it was worth. When asked what she would like to do to improve campus, she said, “Knock down one of the older dorms and build a garage . . . oh, and get more guys!” (The freshman class is 75% women this year!).

OleMiss studentsOxford is very much a college town and is ranked as the safest place in the SE Conference and #9 in the nation. The university has a family feel and the study body is “super-diverse.” Forty percent come from outside of Mississippi (TX, TN, AL, GA, FL, LA, MO, CA, IL, and AR are heavily represented). She said that OleMiss feels very much like Alabama both in terms of how people treat each other and the town (Auburn is like Oxford) but Alabama is much bigger, and some of the majors offered at the campuses differ a bit. Sixty-two percent of students come in as undecided, and entering a major or switching is easy, particularly within the same college, but depending on requirements and when the switch is made, it may take a little extra time to finish the degree, and it’s sometimes easier to switch out of a major than getting into it (business, for example). Some of the majors that Ole Miss is particularly known for are:

  • OleMiss 1

    One of the Academic Buildings

    Liberal Studies: for students who want to create their own Major or combine several interests, they can complete 3 minors which becomes their Major.

  • Forensic Chemistry: ranked #2 in the country
  • Integrating Marketing and Communications: This combines Business and journalism
  • Center for Manufacturing Excellence: This competitive program combines engineering and business, teaching them the lingo of the other field so they can work together.
  • Political Science and preLaw: They have the 5th oldest law school in the country, and a HUGE network in politics (all but 5 Mississippi politicians went to OleMiss Law).
  • Languages: Chinese and Arabic are ranked at #1.
  • International Studies is ranked at #7. The Croft Institute is competitive; students must study abroad and take a language in this major.
  • Accounting offers a 5-year BA/MBA with a 100% job placement rate.
  • Pharmacy: they have an early-admit program which is competitive.
  • Engineering
  • Medical professions (OleMiss has the only medical, dental, and pharmacy school in the state). 79% acceptance rate into med school.
  • Journalism: Students in this major can specialize in anything, but they have to take classes in everything (digital media, interviewing, filming, etc).
  • Education: Students major in their teaching area, and then spend 1 additional year getting an EDU MA. Certification reciprocity works everywhere but TX and FL.

OleMiss3Students can apply as early as July 1 after Junior year. The application is straight-forward: no essays, no recs, no list of activities. Simply hit submit and pay the application fee. Once this is done, they’ll send an email which asks for three years of transcripts and the senior schedule (they’ll take this through Naviance/edocs, faxed, or mailed) and scores. Once the file is complete, they’ll let applicants know within a couple weeks. If you meet the basic requirements by completing the required number of high school courses (non-MS residents don’t need the Computer App class), have a 20 ACT or 980 SAT (single sitting – they do not superscore), and a 2.5 GPA, you’re in. Once you’re admitted, you can access the scholarship application. Students coming in with AP scores can get credit for 3s or better, but to guarantee credits for a specific class, get a 4 or 5.

OleMiss volleyballThe honors college is one of the most popular programs, and is ranked #12 in the country. Entry is highly competitive: 4000 students applied last year for 300 spots. To even get LOOKED at, students need a 28 ACT and 3.5 GPA, but last year, maybe 15 accepted students didn’t have a 30 on the ACT; the average score was a 31. Once a student is identified as having the minimum requirements, they need to get recommendations and write essays. The Admissions rep also said that students need to show real involvement outside of school: “Do some REAL stuff this summer! Teach kids English, back-flip off the Empire State Building, something!” Students accepted in the program are go-getters at college, too: there have been 25 Rhodes scholars (only Vanderbilt has more from the Conference) plus Goldwater and Truman winners, among others.

OleMiss 2

The newest Residential buildings on campus, opened in 2012

Millsaps quadFreshmen must live on campus and are required to have a meal plan. Our tour guide loves the food: “you can’t go hungry!” Options include traditional dining halls, a food court with choices like Topios, frozen yogurt, Chick Fil-A, a burger place, etc. There are several tiers to the meal plans. The lowest is the Greek Meal Plan which is heavy in fall, light in spring (and recommended if you’re planning on going Greek); plans extend up all the way through the 21 meals per week. There are also several levels of living options. Residential Colleges are suite-style and the most expensive. The traditional style dorms (bathroom down the hall) is cheapest; these are cinderblock buildings with large lounges (home of Monday Night Football parties and Open Mic nights), and large laundry facilities in the basement. Although there are only about 15 machines for the whole 7-storey building, one of the guides said he’s never had trouble getting a machine. “Contemporary Housing” is in between these two, and just opened this past year. Rooms are slightly bigger and each has its own bathroom. Students have to be in a Freshman Interest Group (FIG – there are 2) or a LLC (7 of those) to live there. Each has a kitchen and several study rooms. Greek Life is big, and there are about 20 Greek Houses lining the aptly named street “Fraternity Row,” and several more houses on the other side of campus near the Residential Colleges. Sophomore Pledge Classes each have a floor in one of the dorms. The newer dorms are attractive and clean, and fit in with the style of some of the other buildings around campus.

(c) 2013

SUNY Geneseo

SUNY Geneseo (visited 3/9/20)

Geneseo quad 1If you’re looking for a medium sized school with strong academics, an active and engaged student body, and lots of things to do on and off campus – all at an affordable price-point, this is a school you want to take a closer look into. It seems to offer the best of all worlds.

Geneseo main street 1

Main Street running by campus with Emmaline the Bear on the pole of the fountain – keep reading for more information on her! 

The town of Geneseo is smaller than I anticipated (but is listed as having a population of 10,000+ so not tiny!) – but that doesn’t mean there’s not stuff to do. The town caters to students. Main Street, with a myriad of restaurants, bars, and cafes, runs right along campus. Chain stores like Target are about 1.5 miles from campus and buses run out there about every 20 minutes.

Geneseo bear

Closeup of Emmaline

Outdoorsy students will not be at a loss for options: Letchworth State Park (the “Grand Canyon of the East”) is 20 minutes away, and there are plenty of trails, waterfalls, ski resorts and other things around. For students wanting more urban options, Rochester (with a million people in the greater metro area) is only 35 minutes north of campus and Buffalo/Niagara Falls is a little over an hour away. However, the frequent on-campus events (including cool sounding events like the “Insomnia Film Festival”) mean that there’s never a shortage of things to do.

Geneseo main 1

The old High School, now housing Admissions, study spaces, and more

Campus is great. The college does a great job repurposing as well as updating buildings; the old town high school and elementary schools are on campus, upgraded and used for a variety of things (like the admissions office is in the old high school). “It’s kind of cool to be in the old elementary school with the lockers in the hall!” said the tour guide. They’re currently in the middle of a massive $25m renovation of the library that’s expected to take a few years. They had to move things out of the building and got creative with how they’ve spread resources and study spaces across campus. When I arrived at Admissions, there were several students studying in lounge full of couches and windows (and a Keurig!) outside of the office; I asked the tour guide if this was normal. He said that this is one of many study new spaces popping up around campus for students to use while the library is being worked on.

Geneseo quad students

Some of the patios and other outdoor spaces, overlooking part of the valley in the distance. The Gazebo is directly to the right from this vantage point.

The rep, herself a Geneseo alumna, said, “the undergrad population [about 5,500 students] is the star of the show here.” There are only 100 grad students on campus in two programs, accounting and education. “We’re not a research institution per se, but we do the same types of research as peer institutions, and undergrads are doing it because there grad students aren’t here.”

Geneseo 4

The Gazebo

They have a 90% FT faculty rate so there are fewer adjuncts; “it’s much easier to meet outside of the classroom,” said the tour guide. He loves the access to the professors. Upperclassmen can serve as TAs but don’t ever teach; they tutor and give extra help for recitations and exam prep. Most programs also provide Learning Centers for students. “We won’t have them for the smallest things like Biophysics, but those students will go to bio or physics for help,” he said.

Geneseo integrated sci cntr

The Integrated Science Center

Geneseo is fairly well known for its sciences and have put a lot of money into its new Integrated Science Center. They’re ranked in the top 10 for alumni who’ve gone on to get doctorates in STEM fields (and physics in particular). They’re even the only school in Western New York with a Pelletron particle accelerator!

They do offer some impressive academic offerings, particularly for a school of this size, and they have some interesting interdisciplinary majors. A few to take note of are:

  • Geneseo sci atrium

    The Science Center atrium (with a wall displaying the periodic table)

    Sociomedical Sciences: I can’t think of another school off the top of my head that offers this, although I’m sure that some of the large schools probably do. This combines biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology – all the background students will need for careers in areas like bioinformatics, public health, health admin, or health services.

  • Geophysics, Geochemistry, Biophysics, and Biochemistry
  • Black Studies
  • Theater & English (yes, a combined degree) – again, I don’t know of another school that specifically does this (although I’ve seen theater as a concentration in English).
Geneseo flags

The tour guide wasn’t entirely sure what was going on with the statues over the door, but they’re a fun addition to the room!

My tour guide was in International Relations major, and he said that he felt that the non-science majors are also very strong here. “They’re setting us up for success. We have a lot of opportunities here.” The IR students have to study abroad; my tour guide was heading to Holland for a month. “I don’t speak the language, but I imagine that I’ll pick some up. I did it because the class sounds great!” They have an extensive study abroad program – particularly since students can access the entire SUNY system to choose programs if Geneseo doesn’t offer something they’re interested in.

Geneseo Seuss tree

The Seuss Spruce

I asked the tour guide about his favorite classes:

  • He took one on Woody Guthrie (who influenced him and who he influenced). “I love music and am a big Woody Guthrie buff, so this was great.”
  • He said he also loved his Geology class that, admittedly, he took to fulfill a requirement but ended up loving it. “Every Thursday at 8am, I was out hiking in the woods right near campus. The professor got us outside a lot. We did water samples and all sorts of stuff.”

Geneseo quad 3Athletics are another bragging point, with a lot of their teams (all but 2 last year) qualifying for post-season tournaments. I wish I had more time so I could’ve checked out the stables used for the Equestrian Program. These are located less than a mile from campus so they’re easily accessible. The students do need to be there a certain number of hours a week for practice and maintenance, but students can work around their class schedule. The college will also be adding a women’s golf team in fall of 2020.

Geneseo Greek tree

The Greek Tree

A few cool traditions or interesting trivia about campus include:

  • The Seuss Spruce which has become the (unofficial?) icon of the college. “It got damaged in a storm, and the college was going to take it down, but the students protested and they left it up,” my tour guide explained.
  • The Bell tower plays every couple hours. “You hear some weird stuff coming out of there!”
  • Greek Tree: “It’s got years worth of paint on it. It used to be tradition that they’d paint as far up as they could go, but you can see that kind of fell by the wayside!”
  • Geneseo knightSigning a Knight: Seniors get to sign a suit of armor that is then displayed on campus.
  • The Gazebo: people go there to watch the sunset across the valley. They’ve been named the top 10 sunset-watching spot!
  • Emmaline the Bear: This actually isn’t on campus; it stands on a fountain on Main Street. It had been there for about 100 years without any incident; about 10 years ago, it got knocked down by a truck that ran into the fountain “and has been knocked down about 3 times since then.”

© 2020

Wells College

Wells College (visited 3/6/20)

Wells sycamore

The famous Sycamore tree with Cayuga Lake in the background

There’s a lot to be said for location! This attractive school full of brick buildings sits on a hill overlooking Cayuga Lake (which students can scuba dive in after being certified in the school pool). Many of the buildings are historic (including Henry Wells’ mansion which is now a dorm), but they’ve done well structurally to upgrade the buildings. For students wanting personal attention in and out of classes, a beautiful location (“We can watch sunsets across the lake – they’re to die for!” said the tour guide), a walkable town and campus, and rich school traditions, give this college a look.

Wells 2

One of the original buildings

Wells is small (hovering around 450 full-time undergrads), but they pack a lot of punch and live up to the “small but mighty” idea. Here, small doesn’t mean limited opportunities: there are plenty of academic and social options on campus as well as at the nearby Ivy League and selective liberal arts colleges. Wells was started as Cornell University’s sister school: Ezra Cornell and Henry Wells (also the founder of Wells Fargo) were good friends; they almost built their colleges on the same land. Today, students take advantage of this relationship with cross-registration options with Cornell and Ithaca College, both within 35-40 minutes to the south of Wells. Shuttles run to the city of Ithaca fairly regularly, as well as to Auburn, about 20 minutes to the north.

Wells stained glass aurora 2

One of the stained glass pieces around campus – this one is of Aurora, the name of the town

They’re holding steady with enrollment, but are trying to work around the national decrease in college-aged students. They went coed in 2005 and are still about 2/3 women. “We didn’t let go of our mission,” said the rep, a recent Wells grad. “There’s an ingrained sense of women’s empowerment. It’s in our traditions. Men here tend to be more open minded.” The rep told me that the administration has changed a bit, and they listen to the students. “Students have a voice. In this day and age, actually hearing students is important. They take that seriously and have implemented a lot of change.”

Academically, they’re changing with the times, restructuring programs for what students need and want. They offer some things that usually you can’t find unless you’re in a huge school.

  • Wells sci atrium

    Science Building atrium

    They offer a full major in Sustainability and a minor in Sustainable Food Systems, both of which are fairly unusual (although I’ve noticed this is becoming more of a thing in the last couple years). Often, this is found embedded within Environmental Studies instead of a separate stand-alone major. Students often mix/match the major (or minor) with business, EnviSci, PoliSci, or another major. Students implement a lot of what they learn on campus providing practical, hands-on opportunities where they’re making a real difference. “The students take a lot of pride in our recycling programs among others.” They have a fabulous new Sustainability Center.

  • Wells study nook

    A study nook in one of the academic buildings

    They offer a minor in First Nations and Indigenous Studies! This is unusual for most schools particularly one this small – but for a school sitting right in the middle of the Iroquois Confederacy, it makes some sense.

  • Book Arts Center: They have 1 of 6 original printing presses in the US, according to the tour guide. The diplomas are made on site (“Students don’t get to make their own diploma, but it’s still pretty cool!”)
  • They’ve combined Economics and Management in a single major; students can choose to concentrate in one of these within the major, but must take classes in both.
  • Health Sciences is big here. They offer minors in Holistic Health Services, Health Care Management. They also have strong pre-professional programs, and they offer a 3+4 PharmD with Binghamton (this cuts out 1 year), a 4+1+2 Nursing (this is something I hadn’t heard of – students get a BA/BS from Wells, and then get a BS in Nursing and a Nurse Practitioner Masters from the University of Rochester)
  • Wells bridge 2“We have a great Education department and NYS certification goes anywhere.” Students can complete the Inclusive Childhood Education (dual certified in Elementary and Spcial Ed) or Secondary Education They offer a minor in Education (this doesn’t lead to certification, but is a good basis if thinking about graduate studies in education or those interested in policy or other areas) and a 4+1 Program with the University of Rochester.
  • They’re looking at including LGBTQ Studies as a major in addition to the Women and Gender Studies that they already offer.
Wells DH

The dining hall

Students have to complete 2 internships; one of these can be on campus, and being a TA for a class can count. They keep strong ties with alumni, allowing for increased access to research and internships. “They’re very involved and donate a lot of money and time,” said the rep.

Gen Ed classes can be as large as 50 students, but usually aren’t that big. My tour guide’s classes ranged from 10-30 students. The Honor Code is taken very seriously here; students don’t have to take their exams in the classrooms. Teachers give out their phone numbers and invite students over for dinner, including Thanksgiving. “The right students for Wells will be those who are comfortable with the size. You’re going to be held accountable. This is a tight-knit community. We kind of have to be, given our size,” said the tour guide who is from New York City.

Wells diversity cntr

Part of the Diversity Center

I asked her what she thought Wells did well in terms of diversity – and what they still needed to work on. “Residentially, it’s diverse. I’m comfortable in the dorms because there are a lot of people like me, but also a lot of different types of people so there’s something for everyone. The commuters … they tend to be very white, but that’s reflective of the community, not the college.” About 40% of students self-identify as Students of Color. The LGBTQ community is well accepted, and she felt that there was fairly decent religious and political diversity, although she thought that people on far ends of those spectrums may have trouble finding a community at Wells.

Wells 6The college is proactive in making sure that they’re accessible and are becoming as diverse as possible, including socio-economic diversity. They made the application (available on Common App and from their website) free in order to lower barriers. They require only two letters of rec which can be from a coach, teacher, counselor, etc. They’re SAT/ACT optional, including for scholarships. Essays can actually be anything, even a video!

Wells carriage

A picture in the library one of the original horse-drawn carriages

Traditions are strong here. One of the most unusual is that seniors arrive to graduation in horse-drawn carriages! Others include:

  • Candlelight ceremony on the first night of orientation; seniors get a champagne breakfast.
  • All students are Odd or Even based on graduation year. They have competitions and spirit games throughout the year. Men and women will form teams for dance-offs, sporting events, etc.
  • Wells Minerva

    Minerva!

    The statue of Minerva has lived through 3 fires; now she’s a symbol of good luck and will get dressed up. Seniors kiss her toes before graduation.

  • Tea Time – this started as a formal thing where people got dressed up; now it’s a Wednesday afternoon study break usually in the Café (which, by the way, is entirely student run, including the hiring).
Wells library int 1

Part of the library

To end, there are a couple final cool facts about Wells:

  • There are no 90 degree angles in the library. It’s one of the most interesting looking college libraries I’ve seen. Students can reserve study carrels and will often decorate them; the Honor code was evident walking through the building and seeing that students left books and personal belongings in the carrels without worrying about them being taken.
  • The creator of the American Girl dolls is a Wells alum.

© 2020

Wilkes University

Wilkes University (visited 3/5/20)

Wilkes sign 3Wilkes was a great surprise. Students who want a solid education in a medium-sized school on an attractive, well-maintained campus that’s integrated into the surrounding city without losing campus integrity, this could be the place for you. Wilkes offers a liberal arts education as well as great professional programs, and they do both well. “This is a place where you can make a stand for yourself, be known, double major in just about anything, get help if you want it, and figure things out. This might not be the place if you just want to hunker down, get a degree, and get out. This is a place to shine.”

Wilkes banner 1My tour guide was a local student who loved being here and told me some great stories about growing up around campus. She was a dual-enrolled student in high school which went a long way in helping her decide to come here. She loved the classes before she got here, and even got to know the president as a high school senior. “If he was that nice to someone who wasn’t even really a student yet, you can imagine what it’s like when you get here!”

Wilkes statue and bell tower

A state of Wilkes, the city and campus namesake, with the bell tower and quad in the background.

This is an easily navigable, accessible campus across the street from the Susquehanna River. The central quad was redone in 2018. “They opened it up a bit, fixed up the sidewalks, put in more grass,” said the tour guide. There are some buildings across the streets into the city, but most of campus is relatively contained. Because of the location, there’s never a shortage of things to do. The student center had a multitude of posters advertising events, including 2 banners from the main activity boards with a list of upcoming events for the spring. Off campus, students can get discounted movie and bowling tickets (among other things), both located a block or two off campus.

Wilkes apts

The apartment tower

They have some historic buildings in addition to new, renovated, or repurposed buildings. The university wants to preserve and renovate these buildings, my tour guide told me. Kirby, an old house complete with original murals, sits on one of the first plots of land in the city. Across the street from the main part of campus sits a high-rise apartment building; this had been Senior Living apartments, but is now owned by Wilkes and are now apartments for students (complete with balconies!). These usually house 3-4 students in 2 bedrooms. The Business building is new and has some impressive spaces including a Student Product Store: the school funds and sells student-developed merchandise; all profits are donated to charities!

Wilkes walkway

Central walkway to the academic side of campus

“We have the flexibility and the advising to help you develop interests and follow passions and dreams,” said the rep. Wilkes is listed as having ‘More programs per student’ (it’s on a banner on campus, but I couldn’t find additional information when I searched the website) and they add more options every year according to the rep. My tour guide’s class sizes ranged from 6-100 students. “Bio lectures can be large,” said the tour guide. “All freshman are together for lecture but they’re split into smaller discussion and labs. It’s great because have a lot of exposure to the material.” She also told me that the curriculum is set up for student success (including a 90% matriculation rate to medical and other professional schools), and faculty members are highly accessible. “The English classes teach us how to use the library – this isn’t your high school library. They want to make sure we’re comfortable accessing everything that’s available to us.”

Wilkes lab

One of the science labs

Engineering has been one of their longest standing (and one of the largest) majors, starting when this was still Wilkes College, Bucknell’s Junior College. They offer three specialties: electrical, environmental, mechanical (all accredited), Engineering Management, and 4+1 bioengineering where they can graduate in 5 years with a masters degree. “You can’t beat it,” said the rep. This is all done on campus so students don’t have to transfer like with a 3+2 program. Students get hands-on experience in the first year, and Lockheed Martin is nearby, providing easy access to internships as well as being an employer of many grads. Wilkes students know how to use the equipment; “not to speak bad of the big schools, but a lot of them have the GAs running the programs.” For admissions into an engineering major, they look for a 1080 SAT/21 ACT and a 3.25 GPA with higher grades in math and science. They recommend that students complete Pre-Calc in high school in order to take Calc 1 (a pre-req for many of the sciences) in first semester.

Wilkes 4Nursing has the top NCLEX pass rate in northeast PA on the first try (around 98%). Incoming students can declare nursing as a major and can be admitted as long as they have at least a 1020 SAT/21ACT and a 3.3/88 GPA. Once in the program, they can continue as long as they meet the grades for each class. Wilkes doesn’t cap the number of students in the program but are strict with the standards. Students start clinicals in their 2nd semester of sophomore year, mostly at the local hospital 5 minutes away; another is less than 15 minutes away.

Wilkes engo bldgTheir Pharmacy school was also a great surprise. It’s unusual to find a school this size – and one that doesn’t simply focus on health sciences – offer this. They offer an accelerated 6-year PharmD with a cap of 90 seats. This is a different application process with additional requirements such as 3rd rec letter and a special pharmacy essay; applicants will get the prompt through the app when they indicate they’re interested in the program. If they meet requirements for admission to the university, the Pharmacy department will review the applications and invite people to interview. Applicants need at least a 1080 SAT and a 3.0 (although usually they won’t be as competitive unless they’re above this).

Wilkes screening room

The Screening Room in the Communications building. They have extensive resources for students in this program.

Arts majors are strong with BFAs offered in Musical Theater and Digital Design and Media Art (a BA option is available in DDMA) which combines graphic design, animation, game design, Virtual Reality, and website design. Some business students tack this on if they’re interested in branding, billboard design, etc., or Communication Studies will add it to focus on PR or marketing. All Communication students must complete 3 separate experiences with a co-curricular program like the radio station, the newspaper, or the TV station for a total of 3 credits. They also need to put in some hours for a grade for several classes. There’s a possibility to work with an on-campus PR agency, as well. Theater Arts and Theater Design and Tech are BA degrees, not BFA. Anyone can participate in productions, regardless of major. Music, Dance, and Studio Art are offered as minors.

In the 2020-21 school year, they’re establishing 2 accelerated law programs with Drexel University in Philly. The 3+3 Bachelor/JD program cuts a year off a student’s path: they spend 3 years at Wilkes, then 3 at Drexel Law School. The 3+1 is a Bachelor/Master of Legal Studies for students who don’t want to practice law but do want to understand the legal system/issues in depth.

They have some interesting minors including Global Cultures, Sports Psychology, Policy Studies, Workplace Writing, Environmental Policy, Sustainability Management, and Business Analytics.

Wilkes dorm quad

A dorm quad

There’s a 2-year residency requirement for students living more than 60 miles from campus, but they guarantee housing for all 4 years. About 70% of students do live on campus. They have a range of housing options, including 12 old mansions that house 10-50 people in doubles, triples, and quads. Freshmen are allowed to live in these as well as in more traditional suites or hall-style dorms. There are also apartments above the YMCA and the Vegan restaurant across from the Comm building. “You have to be pretty lucky to get those!” Usually housing is done by deposit date. Freshmen have unlimited meal plans; others get options. The food is good; I ate lunch in the dining hall on the 3rd floor of the student center. It has great views of the quad, and even though it was spring break with limited service, the food quality was excellent and there were students in the dining hall.

Wilkes banners

Some of the signs in the student center advertising events

There’s some major school spirit here. “People definitely go to games!” said the tour guide. Football in particular gets packed. The stadium is located across the river, about a 10 minute walk over the bridge, but there are shuttles as well. (This is also where freshman can park if they bring a car; commuters and faculty get the parking spots closest to campus). Each sport team gets paired up with another team and is required to attend another team’s events, but people generally attend anyway. My tour guide is a golfer; she said that usually the golf teams support each other because it’s such a specific type of competition. “No one wants to be standing around for 6 hours watching people golf, particularly when you need to walk the whole course.”

Wilkes 3There are some good athletic facilities on campus, but not enough, according to the tour guide. She’d like to see some money put into expanding these. There’s a good gym with a basketball court, a small gym, the hanging ropes course, etc, but no workout facilities for the students. They get memberships to the YMCA, about a block away from some of the res halls. She likes the facility, but would also like something that’s just for students.

Students are active around campus and in the community which makes sense since campus itself is integrated into the surrounding city. Events on campus are open to the community; performances and the art gallery are big draws – in fact, they bring some big deal exhibits to campus, including Andy Warhol and Picasso. Students volunteer at after-school programs which serves over 500 local students. The Wilkes Adventure Education group is a big deal; they have a hanging ropes course, rock climbing wall, etc. They do offer Air Force ROTC on campus; they’ve paired with King’s College (about 2 blocks away) which hosts Army ROTC.

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Wofford College

Wofford College (visited 2/25/20)

Wofford mascot

The Terrior mascot

If you’re looking for the smaller academic environment located in a small city and with DI sports and big-school school spirit, check this place out. “Wofford is unique for our area,” said a rep. “If you want a liberal arts northeast college feel but in the south, we can do that. If you’re interested in school spirit and that balance of having popular sports but on a small campus, we can do that. You can have the rah-rah game day experience without being lost in the crowd.” One of the tour guides echoed that: “About 20% of students are on varsity teams. We compete at a high level and are on TV, but you also know the students you’re cheering for on the court.” The other tour guide said that she loved the school spirit here: “You’ll see the terrier everywhere!” (As a side note, they also have an Equestrian Club – not NCAA – which is “not highly competitive, but active”).

20200225_160333

Near the entrance to campus

I’d wanted to see Wofford ever since a student had her heart set on it several years ago. I see why. They’re doing something right with an 89% retention rate and an 81% 4-year graduation rate (well above the national average, even compared to the 6-year rate). This solely undergrad, highly residential campus currently has 1725 students. The rep shared that they may expand by a bit over the next few years but will cap at 1800. Campus is beautiful and well maintained, people are incredibly friendly, and students seem genuinely happy and are making the most of their experiences.

Wofford fountain 2

One of the fountains around campus

Wofford takes care of its students (and they take care of visitors – I can’t tell you how far good signage goes to help new people navigate; it makes a huge different when people feel welcome on campus and aren’t feeling lost). There are multiple ways for students get involved and feel connected to at least one group, but many are involved in multiple ways. They start off with a 5-day new student Orientation with a field day, Summit Adventure, community service, and more. The president makes a point of spending time with students, including randomly picking 12 names every month for dinner at the president’s house. One tour guide said that she got picked her first month on campus. “That was a bit daunting, but it was a great experience!

Wofford atrium 3They offer an impressive array of academic choices for a school of this size, and because classes are smaller, students are more engaged. “As professors, we talk less and ask students to do more.” The majors are fairly standard for a smaller liberal arts school (with the exception of Chinese, Intercultural Studies, and Business Econ). What really impressed me were the Concentrations which includes areas such as Medicine and the Liberal Arts, Middle Eastern/North African Studies, 19th Century Studies, and Computational Science. The tour guide told us that language majors/classes are the 2nd most popular on campus; this shows up on the types of majors and minors the school offers, many of which incorporate language study into the major, even if they aren’t strictly majoring in that language. All students must take a language class (they can’t test out) but they offer a lot of options, includes more unusual languages like Arabic and Chinese.

Wofford hammocks

They have multiple hammock frames around the quad for student use

They’ve been running an Interim Session (like a J-term) since the early ‘70s, so they have this down to a science. “Having it incorporated it so well into the calendar is great,” said one of the students. Students take advantage of this time to complete internships, take travel courses, do research, take a class to get ahead or just for fun, and more. They offer traditional classes as well as things like knitting or sustainable fashion, furniture design, craft brewing, and fiction telling through LEGOS and stop-action animation. For those wanting to get off campus, they often get linked with someone in the strong alumni base. “People are all over. DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, and other cities are teaming with alum who want to help current students with shadowing or internship experiences.”

Wofford greek 2

Part of Greek Village

Almost all students (about 95%) live on campus all 4 years, including local students. That speaks volumes about the community and the dorms. Seniors live in apartments in small houses clustered around a small quad that has a village feel to it. Although almost 50% of students get involved in Greek Life, there’s no Greek housing, so students do stay relatively integrated into the dorms and have diverse friend groups. They’ve recently built a beautiful Greek Village, but the houses are social/meeting spaces rather than residential. Frat houses are open Thursday through Saturday to Wofford students who are at least 18 years old. These become good places for the community to come together. The tour guides rated campus food as 8 and 9 out of 10. They said that people particularly loved the pancakes and the smoothies. Also, some local restaurants take flex bucks. One guide raved about “Miss Cathy’s” (“That’s not its real name; it’s just what everyone calls it because she runs it,” the guide said) which provides bagged lunches with a hot and cold option. “She knows who you are and your order by the end of the week.” They like that they can do a grab-n-go between classes; this is the first school I’ve seen that offers this (or at least the first that let us know that it was an option).

Wofford sr apts 2

Some of the senior apartments

I was a bit disappointed in one of the tour guides who seemed less able to answer questions. For example, she wasn’t able to tell me what she thought the best change had been since she arrived on campus (she was a senior, so she had 3.5 years of experience to talk about) – she gave me a vague, generic answer that change was happening all the time and rattled off a few new buildings. It’s good to know that Wofford is serious about keeping up with the needs of the college for space (they’re putting up a new dorm, for example), but it didn’t personalize the experience or give much other insight into the student experience. She also seemed surprised that I asked about traditions on campus and said she’d have to think about that (which is weird: I could tell people about traditions at my alma mater by the time I finished the 3-day orientation!). The other tour guide, a first-year student, stepped up and told me about a bunch of things:

  • Wofford bikesFirst 54: Wofford plans activities every day for the first 54 days of school; this acknowledges that they started in 1854.
  • Tailgating: They’ve been listed in the top 10 of small schools with big tailgaiting traditions.
  • They also liked that they bring carnivals, food trucks, and other fun things onto campus.

Wofford is test-optional, and they only take the Common App. There are a few specific scholarships that require test scores, but students will be given full consideration for general merit aid without standardized testing. Their acceptance rate varies greatly between applications types: about 90% in Early Decision, 60% in Early Action, and about 30% in Regular.

© 2020

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!”

© 2020

Southern Wesleyan University

Southern Wesleyan University (visited 2/26/20)

SWU signSWU (and they pronounce that as one word) is a small, pretty, highly faith-based campus located about 10 minutes from Clemson. The main entrance appears quickly; I was driving in some fog on the morning I visited, and luckily the GPS warned me. Although the sign is large, it’s angled in a way to make it easy to miss until you’re on top of it.

SWU swingThe people I met were friendly and welcoming. I had planned on just asking for a packet of information, maybe talking to a student worker for a few minutes, and taking a bit of time to wander campus. The student at the desk introduced me to a rep who sat and talked for awhile, despite her just getting her day going and (I’m sure) having other things to do. When one of the tour guides came in, she took me on a personal tour on the golf cart since there weren’t any families registered for the 9am tour that day.

The tour guide was a senior bio major from the local community. “I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else!” she told me. Most of her family had come here, and she would make the same decision again if she had it to do over again.

SWU ministry center 2

Ministry Center

The rep emphasized the community and relationships with others on campus. Although that has developed into the totally clichéd catch-phrase du jour, I think it’s probably true here. This is very much a Christian campus, and the students choosing to come here are living by a particular code of ethics that “lends itself well to community.” There are service days, mission trips, and other things to link students to each other and the wider community. That being said, I did ask fairly directly how she would distinguish this school from several other highly religious institutions that are scattered throughout the Bible-Belt (including a few within about 45 minutes of SWU). I’m not sure I got a full answer, but she did try: “I hear that relationships here set it apart from others. This is a great place for students who want a small environment, research, and opportunities for personalization.”

SWU chapel 2

The chapel has lots of media!

“We’re faith in action, not just name. We emphasize making a change and working for Christ. We see every vocation as a calling, not just the ministry.” It is a dry campus, as one would expect, and there are limited visitation hours in the dorms – and signs on the doors clearly stated that doors were to be open and feet on the floor. Students must take 3 required religion classes as part of the Gen Eds, and they must earn 24 chapel credits every semester. “A few people complain, but they chose to come here; if you’re not into this, SWU isn’t for you.” Chapels are held every Monday and Wednesday. Church services on Sundays usually don’t count towards this, “but people go anyway because they want to.” The tour guide told me that the style of chapel services varied; some were musical (they have gospel choirs, chapel band, etc), etc. — they put out a schedule of chapels at the beginning of each term so students can plan to attend those they’re more interested in. They also hold Spiritual Emphasis Weeks where students can earn up to 5 chapel credits; often classes are canceled on Tuesdays and they hold special events. In addition to a Religion major (concentrations in Ministry, Worship, and Youth/Children’s Ministry), students can choose Church Music (BM degree) as well.

SWU media green screen

The communications room with the green-screen against one wall

They have a new program working with the County Disability Services. They have a special education facility for adults; they have jobs here and at Clemson (they can ride the CAT bus) and can even take some classes. Special Education majors work there, and can even be RAs in the facility. The participants are selected by Disability Services since they know who will be successful, would qualify for the classes, and benefit from the program.

SWU old church

Freedoms Hill Church

This is a great community for people who love being outdoors. There’s 100 acres of woods on campus, high and low ropes courses, bike trails, and more. There’s a small town within a couple blocks of campus, and Clemson is about 10 minutes away. Students can participate in Army or Air Force ROTC on Clemson’s campus.

One of the buildings on campus is the Freedoms Hill Church which was a stop on the Underground Railroad (and still has bullet holes in the door). “It smells like history!” said the tour guide. They were going to tear the building down, but the campus saved it.

SWU Crime house

Bard to see through the fog, but this is the crime house

There’s also a Crime House where the Criminal Justice and Forensic Science majors can do hands-on work on forensic investigations.

The new dorm is great! It houses about 250 students, coed by wing. There’s a small fitness center and a small chapel in addition to a great central lounge (the 2 single-gender wings come off of here) with a fireplace and coffee bar. The housing deposit determines placement. The rooms are huge and are set up suite-style (2 bedrooms with a bath in between.

SWU new dorm lounge

The lounge of the new dorm

They have a great gap year program called One Life that involves travel. Usually students will do this right out of high school, but there are options for doing it once they’ve started college. They earn 30 credits so they aren’t actually behind. I spoke with a student working at the coffee bar (thank you SWU for the coffee!) who had participated in the program. “It was the best thing I’d ever done. There are a lot of weird boundaries and rules like we’re not allowed to have our cell phones for a lot of the time. Vulnerability is encouraged. Looking in from the outside, you’d ask why anyone would ever do this. We joke that it’s like a cult, but it’s an intense discipleship. It helps you find god’s calling even if you don’t want to go into the ministry.” He’s studying Media Communication and couldn’t be happier. Right across from the coffee bar (which is entirely student-run, by the way) was a new media room with one wall serving as a green-screen.

I asked the tour guide about the LGBTQ community. She did say there were a few people who self-identified as members of the group, “but we are a Christian school. We love the person. We’re all sinners. We don’t condone actions, but we love the person because that’s what we’re called to do as Christians.” We talked about the choice to attend a school with this set of expectations: “It’s like going to Chapel. If that’s not something you’re comfortable with, this isn’t the place for you.”

© 2020

University of Iowa

University of Iowa (visited 12/5/19)

Iowa students 4“If you’re interested in health sciences or STEM, this place is a gold mine,” said one student – but Iowa is well-known for many other things, including their Honors and Writing programs. Named in the Top 5% of public universities, Iowa is one of the smallest Big 10 schools. Campus is highly walkable and split by the Iowa River. West Campus has mostly the medical complex, athletics, graduate programs, and a few underclassmen res halls. East campus has most of the undergraduate programs and res halls. Iowa City is an amazing college town with a lot going on (and Cedar Rapids, the 2nd largest city in Iowa, is 25 minutes up the road). You just can’t go wrong here!

Iowa quad 3

The view towards West Campus from the Pentacrest

Iowa City has been ranked the #1 College Town; 70 restaurants, cafes, bookstores, etc are alumni owned! It speaks volumes for the town (people want to stay) and town-gown relations. The town and university grew up together in the mid 1800s. “When you’re thinking about a university, you should be thinking about the town as well,” said the tour guide, and there are lots of places to go directly off campus, and 3 bus systems (campus, city, and county) run along or through campus. There are enough students (24,00 undergrads/31,656 total) to almost make campus a city unto itself. The 4,800 first-year students participate in On Iowa!, the extensive orientation program which includes Target and Froyo runs, Kickoff at Kinnick stadium (with fireworks!), food crawls (sample foods around the city for free!), and more.

Iowa old main

The old capital building

Cars are welcome, but not for getting around campus. “This is a very walk-able campus and city.” During the Honors College Presentation, the Director asked one of the students, “When do you have to leave for your 9:30 class?” She quickly said, “9:23” – and she wasn’t kidding! The middle of campus is the Pentacrest: “We’re cooler because we added the 5th side,” said a tour guide. The old Capital building (which had been the capital before it moved to Des Moines and is now a functioning museum) sit in the middle of the Pentacrest. It’s a defining building and a good landmark. The East Side res halls are about a 3-minute walk to the middle of campus where most of the academic buildings are located. It takes 6-10 minutes from the West Side halls. Most people do walk; the Campus Bus (with 18 routes) gets used more in the winter.

Iowa 7“As a college town, this is a more liberal community, but go 20 minutes south, and it’s super conservative,” said one of the reps. “Adult-wise, we’re more liberal. Students seem to have a better balance politically.” This is also one of the most racially diverse cities in the state. “When I was a student here, there weren’t a ton of other people with my skin color, but I’ve always felt safe and comfortable here. Even my father said he was ok leaving me here for 4 years. I’m raising biracial children here and it’s fine.” There’s a huge LGBTQ community which gets plenty of support: in fact, Iowa was the first campus to have an organization. “It can be a transition from a cultural standpoint if students are coming from a heavily Hispanic or black high school, but it’s ok. There are communities,” said another rep. There are cultural houses (there’s lots of food there), events open to all, and groups which tend to be some of the most popular on campus. The university is even adding some transportation options to get them home on weekends and breaks.

Iowa honors dorm

The honors dorm

They have an impressive Honors Program with lots of facilities ranging from a separate dorm to a building with lounges, libraries, and more. The only thing students need to do is apply to Iowa. After being admitted, students are eligible to apply to Honors via the application on the Honors or Admissions website. There’s no GPA or score threshold; “We don’t have a checklist we’re ticking off.” Just over 90% of those who completed the application last year were admitted. The students who take the time to do this are striking students. “If you look like qualified Honors students, we’re going to admit you.” The total number ranges from 10-15% of a class. “Right now, it’s hovering around 12%.” There are essays involved. “Have fun with the prompt!” said the program director. “We want a peek into who you are based on the essay – and yes, it’s different from the other essay on your application. Think about how you want to introduce yourself to us. Be selfish. Be yourself. If you’re funny, be funny. If you aren’t, don’t force it! If you like research, show that off. If you don’t … maybe you don’t want to go to college.”

Iowa Greek

One of the multiple Greek Houses

They have both honors within majors AND an Honors Program – students can do either or both. To graduate with University Honors, they need 12+ Honors credits and 12+ experiential learning credits. “Experiential learning is a trendy phrase, but it’s vague.” There’s no limit to the number of classes, and students can also turn anything into an Honors class with a contract with the professor. Joining Honors right out of high school isn’t your last chance – if you regret not joining, you can apply once here. However, there are 3 opportunities that are only available in the 1st semester: “there’s no getting these back if you join later.”

  • Iowa quad 1Students can participate in the 1-credit, 4-day Prime Time program in August before classes start. They get 1 credit. “Parents love it because we avoided all the traffic.” They select top 3 areas of interest and can do some research. Varsity athletes and members of marching band will have conflicts with this.
  • Honors-only First-Year Seminar, often led by professors rather than TAs. “In Honors Classes, you learn more and have fun. It doesn’t feel like more work. It’s not accelerated. College is already hard!” Once student chose Volcanoes because it was totally different from her majors.
  • Living in the Honors Res Hall (there’s space for 350 students). “You can only live there right out of high school. Plenty of people DON’T live there and are perfectly happy; it’s just one option.”
Iowa mosaic

Mascot and mosaic in the Athletic Center

Over 95% of first-year students live on campus, but it is not required. There are no designated first-year housing. Students must apply to housing with a $75 non-refundable (but also non-committal) fee; it just secures your spot in line. There are LLC options and huge Greek Houses, some of which are located up to a mile off campus; I passed several driving into campus. There were multiple houses overlooking the Iowa River, not a bad place to spend a few years!

Campus food is some of the absolute best I’ve ever had in a dining hall; the rep said that faculty and staff often eat there because it’s so good! The counselors ate with 3 reps, and we were there at a busy lunch time, but we had a very short wait for food. The stations are well set-up and staffed, and there are plenty of tables for students. They had a spectacular noodle bar with choices of ramen, rice, and udon noodles with multiple vegetables, meats, and sauces to choose from. The coconut red curry sauce was spectacular! Students said that the River Room at the hotel is the best place to use their meal plan. “They alternate between pasta and stir-fry bars.”

Iowa brain rock 2

The Brain Rock that students will rub for good luck before exams

Admission decisions are based on the Regent Admission Index (RAI) Scale: (3xACT composite) + (30xCumulative GPA) + (5 x number of years of HS courses completed in the core subject areas). Different colleges have different requirements. “Always know which one you are applying to!” A&S is the easiest. Students must apply before 3/1 for scholarship consideration; “this is a hard deadline.” The priority deadline for need-based aid is 12/1.

There’s no shortage of academic offerings. Students say that they’re challenged (a popular tradition is to rub the “Brain Rock” sculpture for good luck before exams), and they can work in any interest they have. Business and education are competitive; Pharmacy and nursing are most competitive.

Iowa leisure pool

The Leisure pool – the hot tub is in the back left; the rock climbing wall and tv are on the right.

There’s plenty to do on campus. They field 24 Varsity (Big 10) teams which bring out a lot of fans. Most games are free, but basketball is $70 and football costs about $150 for season tickets. “Volleyball gives the best t-shirts,” said a tour guide. There’s a movie theater on campus, and the ‘Leisure Pool’ (“we’re not allowed to call it a lazy river,” said one of the tour guides) has a rock-climbing wall on the side, a gigantic screen for movies/tv shows, and a hot tub (students will laminate their notes and bring them as they watch ‘The Bachelor/ Bachelorette.”) Students will play Canoe Battleship in the main pool: “picture 3 students in a canoe armed with buckets, all trying to sink the other people first.”

© 2019

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