campus encounters

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Search Results for: “university of San Francisco 7/19

University of San Francisco


USF stepsUSF 1This is a physically impressive campus (and academically impressive, too). We got dropped off at the base of the “infamous steps” and trekked up them (not nearly as bad as I had feared!). There were spectacular views of the city which they consider to be part of their classroom. One admissions rep described it as “423 smaller classrooms in 1 giant one.” The admissions video doesn’t show a single classroom; everything shows students in the city. First year students get this “city as classroom” feel starting right away in their First Year Seminars with classes such as San Francisco Urbanism, Telling San Francisco’s Stories, and Writing in the Gold Gate Park. They bring the city to the classroom and vice versa.

USF courtyard

Part of the campus with the city in the background.

USF windowThe university began in 1855 to educate the children of the gold rush. There were originally two separate colleges for males and females. The nuns got the huge building at the top of the hill which was rare since those Jesuits “like their views” as the tour guide said. Although there’s still “upper” and “lower” campuses separated by a residential block, it’s very easy to get around, and there’s still some campus feel to it. Students can get from one end to the other in 10-15 minutes. It’s also located between the two safest police districts in SF and the students said they felt really safe walking around, even in the residential area dividing the campus. The university is mission driven: education plus service/social justice. As an illustration of the university living their social justice mission, in 1950, their football team (they compete at a DI level, by the way,) had a 9-0 record and were invited to Orange Bowl – but only if they left their black players at home. The team (not the school) declined the invitation to play.

Library reading room

Library reading room

USF chapelThey believe in integrated hands-on research and are nationally ranked for this. USF has strong sciences and a new science building. Nursing is particularly strong. 96% of the nursing students pass the NCLEX on their first try; 98% are employed. Entrance into the nursing program is highly competitive: fewer than 60% are accepted as freshman. The program has high-tech simulation rooms, and clinicals start the sophomore year. Nursing students, since they can’t do a traditional study abroad, can do two international immersions: one in a hospital in Vietnam and the other assisting midwives in Guatemala at a clinic. Management/business is also strong with 7 majors; Entrepreneurship ranks 12th in the country. USF also has a 3+2 engineering program with USC; students spend 3 years in USF’s physics department and then transfer to USC to finish up the BS in engineering.

USF libraryThe Director of Admissions was “our kind of people” as one of the college counselors at my lunch table said: friendly, spoke with ease, was dressed in business casual, and relaxed but not unprofessional. He had the kind of demeanor that put people at ease quickly. He told us that USF just admitted their largest freshman class with 1265 students. Their student population is about 5300 – the “Big end of small or the small end of medium, whichever floats your boat.” No ethnic or racial group makes up more than 36% of the student population. They don’t look at writing on the SAT. Students should apply by the Early Action deadline of 11/15 to be considered for merit aid which is not available for international students, although they don’t have to take the TOEFL if they graduated from an English speaking school.

(c) 2012

San Francisco State University


SFSU tiger and acad bldgSFSU scienceSFSU lives up to its reputation as being in the coldest area of town. As we toured in the afternoon, we could watch the fog roll over campus; you definitely can’t forget that you’re in San Francisco! This is the most compact, size-wise, of the CSUs, and with 25,000 undergrads, it also has the highest density. It is called the “City’s University” because it mimics the diversity found in San Francisco: 68% of the student body are students of color. It has also been called a “College with a conscience.” They got a 2010 award from President Obama because the students provided over 300,000 hours of service during the year. There is no community service requirement; students do it because they want to.

SFSU businessSFSU commerceThe university offers Bachelor degrees in 115 areas. They have an outstanding Marine Biology and cinema programs. The movie “Dolphin’s Tale” was based on the work of a SFSU professor who provided the new tail for the injured dolphin. In cinema, alumni have been nominated for 13 consecutive years for Oscars in a variety of categories. They also have an apparel design program which might be one of their most unique programs. The most competitive would be nursing which has 80 spots open per year. Students cannot apply directly to nursing. Instead, they apply undeclared with an intent to major in nursing, then have to take the prereqs on campus and apply into the program. They have several impacted majors on campus, a term applied to schools in California which have more applicants than spots available to accommodate them. Some of the impacted programs are environmental studies (a major that is becoming more and more popular on several campuses), psychology, journalism, and social work.

SFSU quadSFSU 2The campus is attractive, nicely landscaped, and welcoming. I really liked the college and would highly recommend that my students take a serious look at it. The only drawback is that housing is a problem on campus. They only have 2400 beds and have no immediate plans to add, mostly because of space issues. Students have to apply for housing by mid-December; this application has a $55 fee attached to it. Most people who meet this application deadline can get housing provided.

(c) 2012

FIDM: Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising

FIDM balcony

The balcony off the library on the top floor of the building.


I knew nothing of FIDM before going on the Counselor Tour in San Francisco; once I knew we were going, I looked it up online. Because it is so specialized, a proprietary institution, and primarily a two-year college, I probably would have skipped the visit if I on my own, but I’m glad I saw it.

FIDM has four campuses: the primary campus in Los Angeles hosts about 4,000 students. The San Francisco campus has the next highest number of students, usually around 1,000. The Orange County and San Diego campuses have 300-500 students each. Students do not need to stay at the campus at which they begin; enrollment is flexible between all of them, and almost all majors are offered at all the campuses. LA is the only campus with dorms; it is also the most popular for majors such as Costume Design because of the access to the entertainment industry.

The San Francisco campus occupies floors 5 through 8 of a building downtown. A security officer in the lobby was checking Student IDs and checked all of the counselors off of a list of expected visitors before allowing us to proceed up the elevator. On each of the floors (except the top floor which is taken up by the library), the walls are covered with displays from students to showcase work from all the majors from fashion design to interior design.

Even during the summer, students were in classes, in the library, and in and out of the building. Because they’re on the quarter system, this is not unusual; in fact, they even encourage first year students to start in July rather than wait until October. If they go straight through, they can complete their degree in 18 months. Most of the degrees are AAs, but they do offer one BA in Business Management for students who want to add to their credentials; this is only open to students who completed an AA at FIDM (even if they leave to work for awhile, they are welcome to come back later for the BA). There is an advanced certificate program in 4 areas offered on a competitive basis. 10-15 students are selected for each of the 4 areas from all the FIDM students across the 4 campuses. Regardless of major, students get a great deal of hands-on experience both at the school and in internships. Job placement rate is high; the alum network is strong, and the school hosts several job fairs a year. However, graduation rate is only about 59%. A large portion of this, however, stems from students deciding that they really don’t want to be in the program and that the major they selected wasn’t for them. They are addressing this through changing their application and admission procedures.

The application and interview process is extensive. They are committed to admitting people who really want to be there and understand the specific nature of their degrees. For out-of-state students, they should apply directly to the campus they want to attend; there are virtual tours online to help students see what is offered at each location. The students then complete a phone or skype interview that takes up to 1.5-2 hours to determine if they should even apply to the school. They also complete a career survey to help them focus on the major. Because the majors are specialized, they need to declare a major coming in. (They can change majors, but they’ll most likely spend additional quarters at the school to finish.) Once students move into the application phase, they need to submit the application, transcript (students tend to be very strong in art and humanities), 3 recommendations, 2 essays, and a portfolio – however, if they don’t have a pre-created portfolio, they can complete one specifically for FIDM. They call this the “Entrance Portfolio Project” and prompts are given in the application. Acceptance rate is about 65%.

The admissions people were up-front about this being a proprietary institution. One of the big differences between this and some other for-profits is that this is accredited for academics and for the design programs. Classes can be transferred, although if a student decides to go to a more traditional college or university, it might be harder to transfer the design classes. However, students do have distribution requirements such as history, English, and science – but much of it can be geared more towards the students’ majors such as “History of fashion in the US” or “The science of textiles.” Another difference with FIDM is that it is privately held and not on the stock market, so business decisions are not made with shareholders in mind.

(c) 2012

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