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Pace University

PACE UNIVERSITY – Westchester (visited 7/26/13)

Pace bldg 2 Pace is unusual in that it has two distinct campuses but is considered one university. The 8000 undergraduates are accepted as Pace students and can move back and forth between the campuses at will; approximately 3000 live at the Westchester campus and 5000 in NYC. Students really get the “best of both worlds: a suburban campus with all the benefits of the city.” The Pleasantville campus sits on about 200 acres (of which about 40% is used) with a supplemental campus in Briarcliff (2.7 miles away) which has five dorms, a dining hall, and the practice fields for their DII teams. The benefit of living on the Briarcliff campus is that “it’s like going home after I’m done for the day,” said one of the tour guides. However, plans are in the works to sell the Briarcliff campus and combine campuses. Shuttles run frequently between the Westchester campuses and to the MetroNorth station. The last shuttle stops at 12:30 but there’s an agreement with a local cab company that allows kids to get taxi rides for free between the Westchester campuses after that. Parking on the two Westchester campuses is easy and free, but the shuttles are so good that cars aren’t necessary. However, more students tend to bring cars as they start to get internships. Shuttles also run to the downtown NYC campus (but not as frequently) which is located in the Financial District near City Hall and around the corner from South Street Seaport. This campus is home to Inside the Actor’s Studio; Pace students can watch the taping for free. The NYC campus does not have any sports facilities so athletes usually study in Pleasantville during their sport season. (FYI, the Giants used to practice in the Westchester campus). The theater arts people gravitate to NYC; hands-on arts kids usually stay in Pleasantville.

Although Pleasantville is a small town, there is quite a bit to do. The tour guides all rattled off a list of things like to do and places they like to eat. On campus, they have a lot traditions and activities that they look forward to every year like Relay for life, Greek Week, 50 Days & 50 Nights, Midnight Breakfast, and Unity and Justice Week. They provide discounted tickets like $15 tickets to Yankees games or Broadway shows. The school is about 15% Greek, but not to the exclusion of other things: “They’ll talk to us normal people.” The Student Center has posters advertising all sorts of activities, and I can’t imagine that students could be bored at Pace.

Pace’s tagline is “Work Toward Greatness;” they provide a Liberal Arts foundation (everyone completes a Liberal Arts core from the Arts and Sciences school) alongside stellar professional skills, earning them a place as “One of the top 20 Colleges that will make you rich” on Forbes’ list. USN&WR has also listed them as #1 in NY and in the Top 10 in the nation for internships. Pace has links with 500 companies, and students can begin internships in sophomore year. Many students will do part-time internships (like 1 day a week) as they take classes. Pace wants students to create a tangible resume and make contacts. Paid internships average about $15 an hour; alternatively, they can get credit for it.

Pace environment cntr

Environmental Center

Many students get hands-on experiences in their majors even before internships: Education majors (who all study at the Pleasantville campus) start teaching in their sophomore year. The students use an avatar program called “TeachMe” developed and operated by people at the University of Florida; students link into a cyber-classroom and teach “students” who are controlled by people at UF. As students get better, the “students’” behavior often gets worse, so they get experience dealing with issues in classroom ranging from cell phones ringing to kids falling asleep to students mouthing-off. The Nursing program (also only at Pleasantville) is direct-entry, and clinicals start sophomore year for them, as well. They work in state-of-the-art Sim-labs on campus before rotating through clinicals in all areas. Pace boasts a 98% pass rates on Certification exams including a 90% NCLEX-RN pass rate for first time test takers in 2011. Sciences in general are strong; they have a new $8 million science building with renovated labs. The Environmental Studies Center is centrally located on campus; this used to be the equestrian center (which no longer exists). Now there is a solar-paneled house being used as a classroom, barns with animals like chincillas, prairie dogs, chickens, an owl, and more. There are gardens and other areas for experiential education. The Fine Arts building is in a beautiful stone building near this area; they’ll eventually move this to make room for the new Environmental Center.

In the school of Computer Science and info Systems, they’ve recently developed a Cyber-security major and offer Cyber Security Scholarships. Their Business school is accredited as both business and accounting schools (which is rare), and they offer a 5 year BA/MBA program. Pace actually was founded in 1906 as an accounting school, so their program is strong and well-established. Students can take advantage of their 3-3 program with the law school: they take the LSATs in Junior year and start the law degree as a senior, completing it in the standard 3 years.

Advisors will make the first semester schedule for incoming freshmen, but students can talk it through with them if they want to change something. After that, students schedule their own courses. All freshmen take a University 101 class (students are grouped usually by majors) that has a common theme for the year (this year it was Justice). Classes are supposedly capped at 25, but they won’t leave people out of a class if they need it. One of the tour guide’s biggest class was 33 (their smallest classes were 5 (math) and 10 (marketing)). Some nursing classes are combined for presentations.

The admissions process is holistic and straight-forward. They try to make it as easy as possible for students to apply (and they even have a tutorial online to help families fill out the FAFSA). 4 or 5 on AP will usually transfer in. Students can get invited into the Honors College based on their SAT scores (minimum of 550 in Critical Reading and Math) and a 3.5 GPA. These students get $15,000 a year and an iPad; they need to maintain a 3.3 to stay in the program.

Pace bldg 1Pace guarantees housing for all 4 years on both campuses, usually in double rooms. Freshmen can state which campus they want to live on, but don’t really get to pick which dorm. The dorms we saw in Pleasantville were pretty typical dorms – cinderblock structures with long halls, but without the claustrophobic feeling of some halls that I’ve seen. The lounges were functional but ordinary; there were lots of couches, a 6-person table, and a large flat-screen tv. Housing selection is based on a point system which takes GPA and extra-curriculars into account. The Townhouses (which we didn’t see) have a full kitchen and living room on the first floor, then 2 double rooms on each of the second and third floors.

(C) 2013

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.

© 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

Converse College (soon Converse University)

Converse College (visited 2/25/20)

Converse main bldg 2

The main building

Here are a few fun facts: 1) “Our pool is famous!” said the rep. “This is where Julia Robert’s character learned to swim in Sleeping with the Enemy.” 2) They have one of the largest music libraries in the south. 3) This is the only women’s college (for a little while yet!) in the nation to compete at the NCAA DII level, including an acrobatic/tumbling team. They do have an IHSA Equestrian team (which is NOT part of the NCAA).

Converse 4Converse is well worth taking a look at if you’re want a smaller school with a lot of academic, social, and athletic options located in a small city with accessible off-campus options and near an airport and other public transportation (so easy to get to for students coming from a distance!).

I knew almost nothing about Converse before arrival other than it was a small women’s college located in Spartanburg, about 5 minutes from Wofford. I expected it to be a bit overshadowed by its neighbor – but quickly learned that it’s holding its own. This is a pretty campus with plenty of green space and easy access to the wider Spartanburg community. I left impressed with the school. I was a little bit put off at first … although they had clear admissions parking spots and signs for Admissions pointing to the main building, once I walked into the main entrance, it was eerily quiet (granted, it was about 4:15 in the afternoon) and no sense of where the admissions office might be. I had gone a little too far and went in the main entrance rather than a door down the building a bit the right. I guess the couple balloons tied to the porch banister should’ve been a giveaway!

Converse quad 1

Some of the academic buildings

In February 2020, the Board voted to change their name to Converse University AND to go coed by 2021. They’ll continue to have Converse Women’s College under that umbrella as well as Converse University International. “We already have male students on campus for evening and graduate classes. It’s just broadening that.” Eight campus buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the large main building. In addition to offices, the dining hall is in there, so all students come through on a regular basis. There’s also dorm space in one wing.

Converse statue 2

Part of the quad with one of the many statues around campus

They recently slashed tuition by 43%, so that now sits at $19,500 (2020-21 school year). Scholarships are now lower since they’re already starting at a much lower price-point. Out-of-state can get an additional $1,000 scholarship. Sliding Scale is 60% GPA, 40% test scores. Went test-optional in November. If they don’t want to submit, they select that on the app. They scrutinize the transcript more and work off a different scale. They have some stackable awards: to get a named Music scholarship, you have to major or minor; for smaller ones, you only have to participate in an ensemble. For Dance, they have to be in the minor (there’s no major); for Musical Theater/theater, you don’t have to major or minor.

A few of their traditions include:

  • Converse dorms 2

    Some of the dorms

    Big Sis/Little Sis – incoming students (including transfers) gets paired with someone in junior class. They get hints and gifts during the first week, and then there’s a reveal night.

  • Every student in Even Years become Pink Panthers; Odd Years are Red Devils. The Bigs will make horns/tail or panther ears/tail for their Littles (and sometimes these get worn at graduation!). Sometimes there are competitions.
  • Opening Convocation: Faculty and Staff in are regalia, the Honor Code gets signed (And then hangs in the Main Building), and there are picnics and other frivolity.
  • Founders Day with a picnic on the lawn with fried chicken and Strawberries & cream for dessert (the founder’s favorite meal).
  • Each class has a special ceremony in the spring. Freshman pick their mentor (advisor, another student, coach, etc – whoever helped navigate the first year) and they present the pin to the student. Sophomores get a Sisterhood Bracelet. Juniors get Class Rings.

Classes are typically capped at 25 students (usually those are Gen eds); most classes are smaller. All students take a First Year Seminar which is fairly typical to what you’d find at other schools.

They have a few fairly specialized majors for a school this size (a little over 1,000 undergrads):

© 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

William Penn University

William Penn University (visited 12/4/19)

WP quadThis is a small Quaker college in a large town in Iowa. The rep, a recent alum, said that she often gets asked, “Why come to small town Oskaloosa?” Her answer: mostly for sports. Many students come from out of state (often the Southwest and other Midwestern states with fewer DIII schools) to play. They just added lacrosse and men’s volleyball; they’ll be adding women’s wrestling and shooting next year. They do get some transfers who didn’t make it at a DI school. Because they’re NAIA, they’re allowed to give athletic scholarships. Academic and athletic scholarships are not stackable; students must choose if they qualify for both.

WP mainI’ve been to some other Quaker colleges (such as Earlham, Haverford, and Guilford) that totally impressed; this one still has some work to do – but I think they’re trying. Although affiliated with the Quakers, nothing is forced but religious life/Meetings are there for those who want it. Students do take an 8-week Quaker values class, but “by no means do you have to believe what they believe. My Catholic grandmother freaked out because she thought they’d convert me, but that’s not what this is about. The class is just an introduction to the basic tenets so you understand the underpinnings of the school’s values.”

WP solar panel

Student-built solar panel

Academically, they offer a fairly typical array of majors and minors except for a few areas. It’s unusual for a school this size to offer Industrial Technology, Engineering (including Software engineering), and Accounting (Public or General). They have a Solar Lab, Media Proeduciotn, and Communications Research Institute. Nursing is now a full program (instead of RN to BSN). They do need to grow some of their offerings (such as they only offer a chemistry minor instead of a major), and some of their facilities need work; departments are tucked into whatever spaces are available. The Education department, for example, seems to be an afterthought up some random stairs snaking through an old building.

WP engo labThe biggest classes cap at about 35 students. The rep’s smallest class had 4 (“It was Comp 2, but I took it in the fall which wasn’t the typical time.”) Her next smallest had 15. “Professors will know you whether you want them to or not.” She chose to come here because she didn’t want to be a number. “I grew up 2 blocks from the University of Northern Iowa. It wasn’t for me.”

WP dorm 1

Hallway of the new dorm

The best change that the rep has seen over her time here is that they’re getting more students (there are 1001 students on campus right now) and there are more things to do. They’ve built some new dorms that are fairly extraordinary with suites. These are located across the main street from campus (there’s a pedestrian bridge). There’s also an older dorm that had been closed but, but they’re renovating them one wing at a time. The rooms open to the outside like an old hotel (and frankly looks a little creepy!). “We try to only put juniors and seniors here because they’ve already established community and know the ropes. It’s a little less secured and there’s less “supervision” so to speak so we want the students who are more independent to live here.”

WP dorms 3

The older dorm that’s getting renovated

There are some things to do in Oskaloosa (Osky) but “It is kind of quiet. You can get bored sometimes, but Des Moines is only an hour away. The town is getting better this year about advertising things going on.” She said that it’s easy to get a job in town and they’ll work around the students’ class schedules.

WP fine arts 2They’re getting better about having things to do on campus, too. A few things she mentioned were Human Foosball games, ice cream socials, and Greek Life. None of the chapters are national and there are no Greek houses “so you don’t get the party vibe.” They do community service, keep a minimum GPA, and provide a community for students. Her chapter won the Governor’s Award last summer for doing so much community service. “It’s more a resume builder; it just gives more opportunities.” They also sponsor Greek games when people pledge in go to a sporting event to support the players.

WP sportsShe said that 80% of students are involved in at least one extracurricular activity (which seems a little low to me). Classes are built around that: all of them meet between 8:15-3:05. Sports and other extracurricular run from 3:30 to 5. Evening classes start at 6. “We don’t want them to have to pick between classes and extra-curriculars.” Sports do seem like a very big deal here. The Admission and Financial Aid offices are actually located in the PAC (Athletic Center) so I was able to see several teams practicing – the track team was on the 2nd floor track overlooking the courts where multiple teams were holding their own practices. They also have a Dance Team.

© 2019

 

Kettering University

Kettering University (visited 11/19/19)

Kettering 1This is a small school that is relatively well-known for engineering and its innovative, mandatory Co-op program operating on 3-month class/co-op rotation that differentiates it from other co-ops such as those at Drexel and Northeastern. One of the reps said, “The kids here are geeks. They thrive off of each other. Just based on conversations, they find a home here they never got in high school. They’re surrounded my like-minded people who challenge them.”

Kettering 3d factoryThe co-op program is one of the big reasons people pick Kettering. Students come in on either the A or B cohort; A starts classes at the traditional time in the fall; B does their first co-op before taking any classes at all. Placement into A and B is totally random but it’s easy enough to switch sections. If incoming students do want to switch, they’re often asked to wait until after the job fair to decide since some companies will only hire for certain sections. These job fairs are open to all students, and the incoming students are encouraged to attend, particularly those in the B cohort who go directly into co-op.

Kettering bioeng research

Bioengineering research lab

I asked both the tour guide and the Co-op Coordinator about how this could possible work and how students would be qualified to do more than make copies or coffee without having some classes under their belts. The coordinator said, “Many companies hire 3 students at a time. They figure maybe one won’t work out, and they hope that one will be given a job offer. They’re grooming their future talent. They’ll take a chance on high school graduates.”

Kettering women engo

Although Kettering is still heavily male (it is a STEM-based school), they do have organizations, including dorm options, to help the females feel more included.

Students need to complete at least 5 co-op terms; most do 7-9 before they graduate. They partner with over 500 employers, many of which are in SE Michigan (the Detroit metro area). It’s rare to get a co-op in Flint. All majors must do co-ops; they have a freshman bio major with the Medical Examiner this year. Students earn an average of $15.50/hour; they often use this towards tuition.

I had high hopes for Kettering. However, the other counselor and I were both a little reluctant to recommend this school. The vibe was a little off. I think that it’s difficult to build community here. There seems to be very little going on around campus other than classes; even the tour guide was hard-pressed to give some examples of things that were happening around campus for fun. There might be a couple reasons for this – first, several people said they were “self-proclaimed geeks.” Second, classes are condensed from 15 to 11 weeks so they’re getting more done in less time (the tour guide estimates that he does 2-4 hours of homework/studying a night to keep up with the academics). Third, when students are coming and going every 3 months, it’s hard to sustain any meaningful clubs or extra-curricular activities. Students don’t do that much other than classes.

Kettering dorm lounge

The dorm lounge decorated for Christmas

However, there are some things going on: they have lots of automotive engineering competitions (which operates as a club). There’s some Greek life, some intramural sports, etc. Greek life does play a large part towards blowing off steam; about 40% of students participate. There are dorms the run activities; the lounge was already decorated for Christmas when we were there; “there’s a big push to do things in the dorms to get students out of their rooms. We’re nerdy. We tend to hold up in our rooms,” said the tour guide. They’re located in a sort-of residential area of Flint; some areas nearby are not in the best of conditions, but the immediate area seems ok. The tour guide also said he felt safe around campus.

Kettering lobby

A mascot decorating competition between Greek organizations in the lobby of one of the main buildings

They have a limited choice of majors, all STEM based except for the Management option. There are 5 engineering options (including Industrial Engineering) plus Engineering Physics. They have a more extensive choice of minors, including History, Literature, Business, and International Studies. The others are STEM based such as Gaming, Acoustics, Applied Optics, manufacturing Engineering, Medical Physics, System and Data Security, and Materials Science. The labs are some of them best I’ve seen – very well stocked with great equipment, allowing for a lot of hands-on experience and practical applications. The tour guide showed us one where they had to simulate production lines (on a very small scale) to figure out not only how to put things together but how to communicate that out. Kettering is also the only place with a crash-test lab for undergrads.

Kettering lab 4

Lab space simulating production lines

Everything they do here is Calc based. Students have to have some trig coming in (but that’s often tagged onto Alg 2 or PreCalc). A 3.0 GPA and 24 ACT will earn students scholarship money. They also have fixed-rate tuition: what you pay the first year is what you pay for 5 years.

Retention is 97% but the graduation rate is about 60%. Disparity comes because of the co-ops; grad rates are based off of 6 years and some students go longer. The thesis project can trip them up sometimes; it takes them a little longer to do the program. It’s also such a niche program that there isn’t much to fall back on. Most graduates go right into the job force, but ¾ eventually get an advanced degree.

© 2019

University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky (visited 9/23/19)

UKY lawn artThis is one of only 8 universities in the country with the full complement of liberal arts, engineering, professional, agricultural, and medical colleges and disciplines on one contiguous campus. This is a large university with 22,000 undergrads in the 16 academic colleges (plus the Lewis Honors College) but they’ve done wonders at making it feel accessible and smaller to students with quite a few initiatives:

  • UKY students on walkwayThey’ve moved up to tie for 60th nationwide among public universities because of the capital campaigns, the graduation rates, and record retention rates hovering around 85% and they’ve set a goal of raising this to 90% within the next few years.
  • They have Exploratory Studies options for undecided students in nine colleges so they all have a home college and guidance from their very first day. They can do career assessments and more – “and that may mean jumping from one exploratory major in one college to another,” said one rep. That’s doable because everything is on the same campus.
  • UKY housing complexThere are no “traditional style” dorms left on campus, and none of the dorms are older than 2005. There are 13 LLC programs including Health Care, Creative Arts, engineering, and Honors to help students create community.

UKY 10Lexington sits right in the middle of Horse Country and has been dubbed “Athens of the West” and “City Within a Park” because of the horse farms. “You have the urban environment but you can be out in the farms in about 10 minutes.” Keeneland Race Track is a popular spot for students in April and October. They held the first Breeders Cup with 13 races over 2 days and a week-long festival. This will return to the area in 2020. The city itself has over 300,000 people with almost 550,000 in the metro area, ranked #7 Best City for new college grads and #3 safest metro city in the US. There is a city airport, but many students will fly into Louisville or Cincinnati and use shuttles from there.

UKY sci bldg int

Science Building atrium

UK is an attractive, well kept-up large public university that’s nicely incorporated into the city of Lexington. “We have great new facilities, but it’s more about what happens within the space, the collaboration, the community.” Many buildings are new or newly renovated (although there are certainly some older buildings, as well). Something like $22 million was put into the science building that came from the athletics department. “It really shows that they want academic success, not just athletic success,” said the tour guide. Students make amazing use of green space, and students were seen using the Adirondack Chairs, swings, and other lounge areas on campus. Campus is easy to get around, and has been voted most Bike-friendly.

 

UKY 12The university has recently started several new initiatives:

  • Smart Campus Digital Initiative: Apple iPad distribution was one of the most visible things. “Alone, they’re just a thing, so we focus on how we can use technology to leverage the enhancement of well-roundedness, improve wellness, jumpstart and ease the transition from high school, create a digital career portfolios, and develop proficiencies in coding.”
  • E-Sports: something like 19,000 HS students in the state are in gaming. They currently have competitions (Cats Clash) etc, and this will grow. However, they aren’t going to give scholarships because they’re often given for a particular game; “What happens if that game goes away?”
  • The Winslow Project: They are designing an Innovation Center which will have an App Development Lab, the eSports center, retail space, and more.

UKY int seatingUK is tied for 3rd among colleges and universities with graduates who are CEOs of Fortune 100 companies. They do some great work with their academics here. They boast that 85% of classes have 50 or fewer students. My tour guide’s biggest class had 450 students; his smallest had 6. There are a few academic programs or special entry requirements that are worth noting:

UKY 14The application to the honors college is part of the regular application to the university, but they must apply by 12/1. Benefits include priority registration, access to the Center for Personal Development, mentoring, and 4 residence halls as part of the LLC. Students don’t have to live in the LLC, but they try to steer them in that direction. The Honors Program costs $500 a year.

UKY chairs 3For Admission purposes, they’ll take the December SAT, but for scholarship and honors applications, the Oct ACT or early Nov SAT will be the latest they accept. They do not superscore for admissions or scholarships – but it can be useful to have all test scores, particularly if there’s a higher subscore because it helps for placement and to show competency.

December 1 (Early Action) is the final deadline for Honors College as well as the competitive and academic scholarships. The Presidential Scholarship (tuition for 4 years) and the Singletary Scholarship (tuition for 4 years, housing for 2) have an additional essay topic. This year’s question is, “What 4 faces would you put on Mt Rushmore and why?” As soon as students get their acceptance, they can apply for housing, etc.

© 2019

University of Louisville

University of Louisville (visited 9/22/19)

Louisville seal

The U of L Cardinal seal. Don’t step on it!

Here are some fun facts about UofL:

  • A favorite tradition is the annual all-you-can-eat crawfish boil.
  • A graduate from the UofL headed the team of engineers that developed Astroturf!
  • The UofL marching band has performed My Old Kentucky Home prior to the Kentucky Derby since 1936.
  • They’ve been a top producer of the nation’s Fulbright Scholars with 12 winners last year, bringing the total to 133 awards since 2003.
  • They’ve been named the #1 friendliest public institution in the south for the LGBTQ+ community (and there’s a popularLGBTQ+ LLC option).
  • Louisville Thinker 1

    The Thinker statue in front of the library

    The first ever ER opened in 1911 at what today is the UofL Hospital where the first hand transplant and the first artificial heart transplant were done, and the Guardasil vaccine was developed.

  • UofL is 1 of only 13 colleges designated as a Supreme Court Repository. Justice Brandeis and his wife are buried here.
  • The have a First-cast of the First-mold statue of The Thinker in front of the library.
  • About 60% of freshmen entered with college credit. They were one of the first schools in the country to require that students get college credit for a 3+ on the APs.
  • OOS students pay about the same as in-state if they’re taking online classes.

Louisville flowersThis is a beautiful campus in an urban area (Louisville is the largest city in the Commonwealth). They’re holding steady at just under 12,000 undergrads and aren’t looking to grow; they don’t have the res halls or academic space to grow comfortably, but there are 2 new residence halls opening in 2021 and 2022. Dorm options include traditional, suites, LLCs, and apartments. There’s a 2-year residency requirement with about 70% of first-year students (and about ¼ of the entire student body) living on campus. However, all full-time students, even commuters, must have a meal plan. “It’s one way that we have been able to improve our food options and create more of a community,” said a rep.

Louisville tower aptsAbout 18% of the students join Greek life. Most organizations are purely social but there are some with housing, “usually the ones that were here first,” said the tour guide. Formal rush happens over the 2nd and 3rd weekends of the fall. They have informal “rolling” rush if specific groups want to increase their numbers. “Most groups are tight knit and active,” said one of the tour guides. “They’re very socially responsible.” They also have all Divine Nine Greek chapters (and as a side note, U of L is the nation’s top university for serving the needs of African American students, according to a study from USC’s Race and Equity Center).

Louisville interfaith

The campus interfaith center

Louisville is an interesting city. “It has a small town feel in a big city. There’s something for everyone in regards to identity and interests,” said the tour guide. “It’s a very Catholic community, but we have a lot of diversity on campus,” said the rep. About 20% of students come from outside Kentucky with the majority of those coming from Indiana – not surprising since you can literally walk there across the many bridges spanning the Ohio river to the north of the city. The city is home to many corporate headquarters such as Humana, Papa John’s International, Brown Forman, and KFC/Yum (Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) which allows for plenty of internships opportunities. The city is also a UPS hub; in-state students who work the overnight shift get their tuition paid (out-of-state students get in-state tuition applied to their bill) and $14 an hour.

Louisville 14“Even though it’s a larger school, it’s a 10-minute walk to anywhere on campus, not counting the football stadium.” The university has great sports teams with 20 team or individual national championships and 111 conference championships to their name. Students can buy into a monthly subscription plan ($10/month) that will get them into all football and basketball games. Other games are free.

Louisville 20For admissions, they’re looking for a 20 ACT (or SAT equivalent) and a 2.5 GPA except for Business and Engineering which have higher standards. Students falling under those benchmarks are put up to committee for discussion, and they may require additional materials. They’ll accept test scores directly from a counselor, but not from a student. They do not superscore for admissions or scholarships “but are ready to revisit that policy for Fall 2021.”

Louisville 4Classes aren’t as large as you might think for a school this size. The tour guides said that their smallest classes had 4 and 12 students. The largest classes for both had 200 students, both intro level. One of the guides (a senior) said that she’s only had 3 classes with more than 100 students during her time here. Their favorite classes were Psychology of Music (she loved learning about how we process sound and its effects on behavior); the other’s favorite was Ancient Greek for Translation. She’s in her 3rd year of the language and basically taking it for fun.

Louisville 19Academically, the top programs at the university include engineering, business, nursing, and natural sciences. They’re doing some interesting things with programs and academics:

  • They offer a 3+3 accelerated law program leading to their bachelors and JD in 6 years. They can apply their scholarship money to that 4th year which saves about 1 year of law school debt.
  • Engineering has 3 mandatory coops built into the program starting in the second semester of Sophomore year (except bioengineering which is on a different track). Biomedical engineering students have a 100% acceptance rate to med school and the highest percentage of women (they’re looking for 33% overall in all engo programs).
  • Louisville quad 2The Liberal Studies Program allows students to design their own degree combining 3 concentrations.
  • Music Therapy major is ranked as best in region. They offer a range of BM and BA in the School of Music including Theory, Education, Composition, History, and Performance.
  • Nursing is ranked in the top 60 in the country by USNWR.
  • They’re flipping the curriculum in classes in their newest building: lectures are sent in advance which students must watch. During class, they do homework, labs, etc.
  • A few more unusual majors include ASL Interpretation, Business Management in Equine Science (it IS Kentucky, after all!), Organizational Leadership and Learning, Atmospheric Science, and Pan-African Studies.

© 2019

 

 

Spaulding University

Spaulding University (visited 9/23/19)

Spaulding 3I had no idea what to expect from this school. I thought I’d spend an hour or so talking to the rep, poking around campus a little, and leaving. I didn’t have hugely high expectations. I knew that it was very much an urban campus, Catholic, and from everything I had heard, a small regional school – all of which is true, but I ended up liking several things about it. However, there are a few things that would make it a hard sell for students from outside the area.

Spaulding map

Campus map showing its integration into the city

What makes Spaulding unique is their approach to classes. This is a great school for someone who is looking for a different way of scheduling. There are a few schools in the country where you can take 1 class at a time (usually for 18 school days) and then move onto the next. This is similar but with more flexibility. They split their semesters into three 6-week blocks with a week off in between. Students take either 1 or 2 classes in each block with classes meeting Monday-Thursday for 1 hour and 40 minutes each day. This allows students to take up to 18 hours in a semester while never taking more than two classes at a time and to customize the class load to meet graduation goals. Because a 12-credit semester is considered full-time for Financial Aid and athletics, they can choose to take only 1 class during 1 of the blocks each semester. This is particularly great for athletes during their in-season, students who want to do internships, seniors studying for the LSAT or MCAT, etc.

Spaulding buddhism garden

The Contemplative Garden in progress

The school was founded by Sister Spaulding (Sisters of Charity of Nazareth) when she was 16 in order to “teach girls crazy things like science, math, and reading.” They trace their nursing program back to a cholera epidemic when some students asked doctors to teach them to care for people with the disease. Today, they maintain their Catholic heritage, but the mission extends far beyond that. “We’re as Catholic as you want it to be, but in reality, we’re more historically Catholic than actively Catholic. There’s Mass offered on Tuesday but it’s never required.” Students have to take 2 religion courses, but there are 20+ to choose from. They are currently building a Buddhist Stupa, a contemplative garden, and a Zen labyrinth in an empty lot next to one of their current buildings. You can check out the contemplative garden here.

Spaulding old house 2

Part of the interior of the original old house. 

This is definitely an urban campus. The original building is a gorgeous historic house that was built in 1879 by distillers. “Surprisingly, it became available in the 1920s!” (Fun fact: it’s said to be haunted by a mischievous boy). In the courtyard right outside this building sits a Tulip Poplar, the largest tree in the city. Since the university opened, they’ve bought up several buildings in the surrounding blocks, but there is no central campus although there is a lot of green space, including a 5-acre site that used to be an overgrown parking lot. “We’re trying to bridge the gap in the revitalization.” There is very little security in most of the buildings (although we saw several officers around; it is still an urban campus!),

Spaulding 6

The Tulip Poplar

but signs on side doors ask people to use main doors for entry. “You can exit from any door, but only enter in some because of security,” said a rep. They have 8 acres of athletic fields about 4 blocks west of campus. They open these to the community, as well. They have some lined for field hockey and lacrosse but don’t offer them as varsity sports at this point. Most of the buildings are very well maintained and/or have been renovated. The library did smell a bit musty, but they were some really amazing hammocks inside, donated by the President of the college.

 

Spaulding library hammocks

Some of the hammocks in the library donated by the college president.

The College President, Tori Murden, was the first woman to row across the Atlantic (check out her book Pearl in the Storm), the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole, first employee of the Muhammad Ali museum. She’s doing a lot of things to help the university (she grew up in Louisville and earned her MFA in Writing from Spaulding). Although they don’t have a huge endowment, they’re in no danger of closing. “We err on the side of caution. We don’t borrow. We do fundraising instead of using tuition dollars, and we don’t build anything until we can fund it.”

 

Spaulding 5

Columbia Gym with the replica red bike over the door. 

One of their main buildings is the Columbia Gym which now houses several sports teams, an indoor batting cage and golf center, a large auditorium, and more. Over the main entrance is a replica of the bicycle which was the imputus for Mohammed Ali to start boxing; he had left it outside the building and it got stolen; he went in for help, and got introduced to a police officer who taught boxing. When Clay said he was going to beat up whoever stole the bike, the officer said he’d better learn how to do it properly and started training him.

 

Spaulding Ali sign 2Spaulding has 1700 students with undergrads making up about half of that. Incoming classes have 150-200 each. “We’d like to be closer to 210-220.” Retention first-second year is 76% with graduation rates in the 60s. “It’s not where we want it to be. There are several factors that feed into that,” said the rep. “One big one is that we tend to take chances on students that maybe other schools won’t. They often say the right things in admissions but can’t walk the walk. We’re over 50% Pell Eligible here. We try to give them wrap-around support, but for some it’s more difficult.”

Spaulding sign“We’re striking a balance between supporting people but also being mission-appropriate in reaching out to people who need it,” said another rep. They’re working with an Educational Advisory Board to try to increase success rates. They have a software programs that will look at things as simple as tracking attendance and using analytics to look at courses like the SU100 (intro to college). “If you aren’t successful in that class, you won’t be successful in others. It’s an effort class: If you show up and turn in the work, you’re going to get an A or B.” They take conditional admits who complete an intensive 1-week bridge program over the summer and meet with success coaches throughout the semester. To be an unconditional admit, students need a 2.5 GPA and 20 ACT (or SAT equivalent).

Spaulding patio

One of the many courtyards that helps make it feel a little less urban.

Dorm capacity is about 450; students coming from further than 50 miles away must live on campus for 3 years. Local students are welcome to live on campus, but they want to provide an opportunity for them to stay at home if that helps them finance their college education. Only about half the undergraduates live on campus, making Spaulding (at least as a non-commuting student) a harder sell – but students find connections through athletics or video games or even the city! “You’re in Louisville and there’s a ton of great things to do off campus, including UL (DI) football games.

Conversely, the price-point is phenomenal and makes this an easier sell for students! The cost of attendance for tuition, fees, and R&B (double occupancy and a standard meal plan) falls just under $33,000! They have some really good scholarships, too, including:

  • Heartland Scholarship: anyone coming in from outside Kentucky gets a 10% reduction.
  • Bonus award: This is worth $1,800+. Students with an 18 ACT+ composite score (or an equivalent SAT) receive their score x $100! Scholarships are stackable up to the Cost of Attendance.

Classes are kept small. The largest ones are usually 20-25 in the first year and 12-14 in upper levels. Many of the majors are profession-focused: business, communication, education, psychology, social work, and natural science including the pre-professional and Health Science tracks.

  • Students can double major in Accounting and Business and graduate in 4 years!
  • They have a BFA in Creative Writing and a renowned MFA program.
  • Criminal Justice started in 2019 with concentrations in Corrections, Forensics and Electronic Crime, Juvenile Justice, and Law Enforcement.
  • Nursing: there are spots for everyone as long as they meet the minimum GPA requirements and pass the entry exam.
  • Fine Arts has concentrations in General FA, Graphic Design, Digital Media, Painting/Drawing, and Interdisciplinary Sculpture.
  • The Center for Behavior Health provides counseling services for low-income in the area (students can get clinical or shadowing hours), and students can get EdPsych testing done for free by the Psych Doctoral students!
  • Students can come in with AP credit for scores of 3, 4, and 5, allowing them to graduate early and save tuition money.
  • Spaulding has paired up with Western Kentucky University for a Study Abroad consortium. WKU has a winter term right after New Years. Spaulding students can enroll in the pre-class during Block 3 and travel right after the holidays.
  • Students can supplement their schedule with classes at nearby schools (up to 2 per term)

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