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Tufts University

TUFTS UNIVERSITY (visited 4/10/14)

~Tufts student and skyline

Boston skyline from Tuft’s campus

Tufts’s traditional campus, located in Medford, Mass, has an open, well-used with brick buildings that are attractive and well-maintained. Several areas overlook the Boston skyline. This is a residential community with most people living on campus.

~Tufts quad and studentsWith 5000 undergrads (making them a bit of an outlier in the NESCAC conference with arguably the strongest DIII conference in the country), they can keep classes small with an average of 15-18 students. Even in the bigger Intro classes, professors go out of their way to make it personable. One professor tells the class that if he doesn’t learn their names by the end of the first week, he buys pizza for the whole class. The school also gives students incentives for getting to know their professors; for example, if they bring a professor to the Tower Café, both drink for free. Some professors hold office hours there just to get the coffee.

~Tufts quad 2Interdisciplinary work is valued at Tufts. The Experimental College has some of the more unique programs. Usually, these are taught by Juniors and Seniors who propose a class to the Board based on what they’re interested in (Lobstering or Deconstructing Rap, for example). EC classes are graded as P/F so it won’t affect GPA. Some professors, often one in the trade or from another university, will also teach these classes. One of them used to be the GM of the Boston Celtics and he teaches a class about the legal issues of owning/running a professional sports franchise. The admissions rep doing the info session majored in Community Health in which he combined biology, math, and politics. Don’t even get him started on Greek Yogurt, which he say is horrible for the environment! Yes, we asked why: for 4 ounces of milk used, only 1 ounce ends up as yogurt. The other 3 ounces is poison whey (not to us but to the environment). They’re doing work with enzymes to break this down so it won’t be harmful anymore.

~Tufts bridgeAnother example of interdisciplinary work includes the two 5-year dual degree programs that Tufts students can earn either with the New England Conservatory or the Museum of Fine Arts. Students spend half their time at each institution and will earn both n BA and a BFA at the end. Students do need to be accepted to both institutions. The rep said, “A lot of electives get cut out if you choose to do this: you still have to fulfill a major and do the distribution requirements for both degrees.”

~Tufts chapel 3When applying to Tufts, students choose to apply Arts & Sciences OR Engineering but it’s possible to transfer from one to the other once they’re enrolled. The engineering students’ classes are a little more tracked with 38 required credits in the major and at least 6 classes in the Humanities, but they are exempt from the language requirement. A&S students take ten core distribution requirements including 6 semesters of Language and Culture if they don’t have a strong language background.

During the admissions process, they look at 3 things in depth:

1) Numbers (GPA, test scores)

  1. Students must submit the SAT and 2 subject tests OR the ACT with writing. They even superscore the ACT. Students applying to the engineering department should submit Math 2 and Physics or Chem subject tests.
  2. 80% of the 17,000 applicants were qualified to do the work; 50% were “overly qualified. However, they have a 20% acceptance rate. They narrow down the qualified applicants by looking at the 2 sections other than numbers.

2) Extra-curricular profile

3) Applicant’s voice (the essay and the recommendations).

  1. Why Tufts? Don’t make it about Boston. Boston has 54 universities!
  2. Let Your Light Speak: Make it about you! College apps are different from other essay – you can start with “I think” or “I believe.” They want to know who you are, where you stand, what you’ve done, what you want to do.
  3. They give students the option to send a YouTube video or a link to artwork.
  4. What makes you happy? Pick one or two things and explain why; don’t just give a list.

~Tufts arch and bldgThe students I spoke to on campus were friendly and wanted to brag about their school. I asked them what they were surprised about when they got on campus. One said, “the willingness of students to get into discussions with others. There’s so much to learn here, and people want to know more. A couple weeks ago, there was a big presentation about Palestine, and it was full.” I asked if he felt that issues were balance here and if they heard multiple sides to issues – like in this case, were there both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine sides? “Absolutely. People are still talking about it, and they’re willing to learn about the other side of the issue.”

~Tufts acad bldg 2The other student said he loved that there was so much going on both on and off campus. “We’re close enough to downtown to take advantage of the city, but we don’t have to do there to have fun. The activities board also runs trips to destinations further away. They actually own a lodge in NH, and students can take trips up there for $5 which covers all costs: transportation, lodging, etc. Once they’re there, they can hike, kayak, climb Mount Washington, etc. Trips aren’t even limited to the US – several students took a mountain-climbing trip to Kyrgyzstan; they got to name the mountain because they were the first to summit it.

© 2014

University of Vermont

University of Vermont (visited 4/15/14)

~UVM mascotIn case you were wondering, UVM comes from the Latin Universitas Viridis Montis, or University of the Green Mountains.

~UVM 2Located in Burlington, UVM is the state’s flagship, land-grant university. With almost 10,000 undergraduates and 1,800 graduate students (about ¼ of whom are in the medical school), students say that it’s the “perfect size.” Although this is the flagship state university, 65% of students are not from Vermont; “There just aren’t that many students in Vermont,” said the tour guide. There’s a lot of diversity, openness, acceptance, and safe spaces around campus. In fact, it’s the first college in the country to have written into its bylaws that it wasn’t adhering to a particular religious sect – and was also the first school to all women and African Americans full membership status in Phi Beta Kappa.

~UVM sci cntr interior 3

Stairs in the Science Center

“UVM fits any student,” said one of the students we talked to. “It’s inclusive.” In additional to more traditional types of Gen-Ed requirements, the school has a Diversity Requirement. Students must take 1 D1 (Diversity 1) class which covers Race/Racism in the US. They can either then complete one more D1 class or a D2 class which is “Human and Societal Diversity.”

~UVM Sci Cntr interior

Atrium of the Science Center

Some of the more unusual majors are Holocaust Studies, Community Entrepreneurship, Community and International Development, Molecular Genetics, Sustainable Landscape Horticulture, and Neuroscience. Athletic Training, Nursing, and Exercise Science are competitive and some of the most popular majors; nursing is restricted by capacity. They have a 5-year Engineering program with St. Mikes. It’s more difficult to transfer into Engineering or Nursing/health sciences if students don’t declare them coming in, but not impossible. Students completing an Animal Science major have an opportunity to gain early admission to the Tufts University Vet School. People in these departments can still study abroad and minor outside the department which is a bit unusual.

The science center is one of the newest buildings on campus. They made use of local woods for the flooring which changes color to imitate changing landscapes (designed with student input). The building has “awesome lab spaces,” according to our tour guide, including hydraulics, soil, and more. They even have a wind tunnel!

~UVM museum

Museum

Their business program puts a great deal of focus on current themes in the business world such as global issues and entrepreneurship. Our tour guide also raved about the strong theater and music programs. They have three main stage events every year, and students are involved in the technical aspect as well. Their art department is impressive, and the university owns the largest art collection in the state (but is that saying much?).

~UVM statue 3Students can be admitted to the Honors Program as a freshman or apply for sophomore admission with a certain GPA and recs from professors. Students in the program live in the newest housing on campus, and the seminars for the first 4 semesters are held in this building. Our tour guide said that her Pursuit of Knowledge was a nice break from Engineering, and the seminars are interesting. She took Discovering a Sense of Place: Transcendentalism. During Junior year, they take a thesis prep course to get ready for their senior thesis.

~UVM theater

Theater Building

~UVM sculptureStudents must live on campus for the first two years. 70% of juniors and seniors move off, but they don’t have to. The tour guides said that there’s way more to do on campus than there’s time to do it all. They laughed when they told us about “The Bored Calendar” which lists all the activities on and around campus. Students complete quite a bit of community service right in Burlington, a city all the students raved about. “We’re in a city on a lake surrounded by mountains.” Church Street is a pedestrian area, well utilized by students and townies alike. When they get sick of the local area, they can hop on the Megabus which goes to both NY and Boston.

Internships and career development are big. The host several career fairs every year with lots of out-of-state employers coming to each. One of the admissions reps said that “Career success is everyone’s job on campus.” Within 6 months of graduation, 20% of alumni are in grad school and 80% are employed.

© 2014

Otterbein University

Otterbein University (visited 4/17/12)

Otterbein 1One of my former students had gone to Otterbein and had a great experience, so I was particularly excited about getting to see her alma mater. As a particularly big fan of small liberal arts schools, I was hoping for great things. I knew very little about the school other than they were on the quarter system, the student had good things to say about it, and a few things that I had read on the website (and let’s face it – one website starts looking a lot like every other website after a while).

The bus pulled up to the Equestrian Center for the first part of our tour; this was a good move on their part since it highlighted a unique program at the very beginning. The Center was extensive and new; after being able to meet the representatives for our regions and a brief welcome from the President of the college (and being able to help ourselves to some very tasty cookies!), we got a tour of the riding rink and the barns where we also got to play with some of the horses, many of which looked expectantly for peppermints, the new treat of choice. Students in the Equine Studies program have priority for space in the barn for their horses, but other students can board horses as space allows. The university also owns many of the horses, most of which were donated from a variety of sources – rescues, ex-race horses, etc. Equine Science is a selective program; this year, they had about 70 applications for 22 new spots.

Theater is the most selective program on campus, accepting 16 students out of the approximately 400 who apply for the BFA in acting. We talked to several students who had auditioned for a spot in the acting program but didn’t make it; however, they liked OU so much that they came anyway and are majoring in another area of theater such as Design & Technology, Musical Theater, and Theater Management, or they’ve gone into communications, another very strong program with concentrations in areas such as broadcasting and journalism. Business is the largest major; popular concentrations include accounting, economics, finance, human resource management, and international business. Education and Nursing are both strong, popular programs, and students have high levels of success on the respective Board exams. The university is instituting several new programs this year; Sustainability Studies, Zoo/Conservation Science, and Public Administration are new and unusual, and the Arts department allows students to concentrate in areas usually only found in much larger universities (Computer Art, Sculpture, and Printmaking).

Otterbein 2Several of the schools I visited in Ohio had some sort of claim to fame about being among the first to accept or educate women and/or blacks . . . Otterbein is no different. Their claim is that they opened their doors in 1847 and were the first to have equal graduation requirements for men and women. (Oberlin, on the other hand, was the first coeducational college in theory – meaning it took them several years to actually accept female students — as well as being the first to accept and graduate black students, but apparently they didn’t have the same requirements for the degree as the men did). Depending on their wording, I guess a lot of colleges can be the “first” to have done very similar things.

Otterbein continues to lead the way in several regards. The Association of American Colleges and Universities awarded a large grant to Otterbein and four other colleges (including Tufts and Georgetown) to develop an integrative curriculum which will serve as models for other institutions. Students tend to be very happy at Otterbein; the university continues to earn high marks on the National Survey of Student Engagement. As is becoming more and more popular on campuses, they have a First Year Experience; I feel like it’s more uncommon to find a school without some sort of FYE. Otterbein has revamped their curriculum to address multidisciplinary perspectives and points of intersections. They have opened a new Living-Learning Community revolving around leadership. They are big on immersive learning (ie, travel tours) and experiential learning through internships, community service, global perspectives, and original research. They have switched over this year from quarters to semesters with an added 3-week January term to allow for more time and flexibility for immersion learning.

In terms of applications, they work on a Rolling Admissions basis, providing answers in two to three weeks. They accept the Common App, and the transcript is one of the most highly weighted parts of the application. The average GPA of accepted students hovers around a 3.4-3.5 with ACT scores in the mid-20s.

I enjoyed seeing Otterbein and learning more about the programs; it’s an attractive campus and they’re clearly putting effort into making the education worthwhile for the students. I was disappointed that their tour guides were not better trained; I heard from all the counselors (we were split into about 8 tour groups) that the tours were among the worst they had encountered. Most of the guides were freshmen, and while I think most of us had had good experiences with tours led by freshmen on other campuses, most of these students didn’t really seem to know what they were doing or how to answer questions. It can be very difficult to separate the experience on the tour from the quality of the school, so I hope this is fixed before it becomes a detriment for potential students and families visiting.

(c) 2012

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