University of Miami (visited 1/25-26/13)
UM flew 40 counselors in from around the country for 2 ½ days on campus. They planned a full schedule, and we walked away with a much better sense of the university and of the surrounding area. UM is located in beautiful suburban Coral Gables with easy access to the major metro area of Miami (including having a MetroRail stop on the edge of campus). Although Miami has 10,000 students, it feels smaller because they have 9 undergraduate colleges such as Architecture, Education, Nursing, and Marine Science (plus 2 grad programs in law and medicine). With 180 areas of study, students have a way to find what they’re interested in, including double majoring or multiple minors – or even just dabbling in other areas. Some of the programs are competitive for admission, but nothing is impacted. They are in the process of changing their undergrad curriculum: Gen Ed requirements are changing to “Cognates” – students can take 2 Cognates of 9 credits each, spread throughout the undergrad curriculum. It allows them to take ownership of what they’re learning since they’re encouraged to be hands-on early in college. This gives them the chance to know if they really want to continue in that major, and it gives them a competitive edge.
On the first night of the Fly-in, the admissions office arranged for us to meet with several students informally at the opening reception. This was a great opportunity for one-on-one discussions. They were all eager to talk and share stories about their experiences. I spoke with several of them about their favorite classes at Miami. One said that the Survey of Marine Mammals “made her college experience.” They got to swim with manatees and dolphins and it got them involved in the community through work with different organizations. After the class, she started the Stranded Marine Mammal Club, working often with pilot whales that had beached themselves. There was one that they were not able to save, and they got to dissect it back on campus. Another student loved her Caribbean Lit class. In addition to the typical reading and analyzing that happens in a lit class, they had to interview people in Miami who were from the nations in the Caribbean that they were reading about. A third student said that his favorite class was the National Student Advertising Competition which he described as an “exhausting, psychotic class” that took about 20-30 hours a week. They created an ad for Nissan that year and placed 4th place nationally; the year before, the class did an ad for JCPenney and placed first.
The most popular class on campus, apparently, is US Health Care Crisis: Politics and Policies taught by the president of the college, Donna Shalala. It consistently fills to capacity of 280 students (the size of the largest auditorium on campus). As a former advisor to President Clinton, she knows the ins and outs of what she’s teaching. People from DC will skype in to talk to the class, and she even brought in Clinton to teach a class once when he was in town. However, kids say that even though she worked for Clinton, she tries to present as balanced a perspective as possible, in class and at the university as a whole. For example, during the election, Obama came to campus three times and Romney came twice.
I asked the students what they’d like prospective students to know about their school; one said, “We’re not the stereotypical Miamian! We’re friendly and down to earth.” Another said that she wanted people to know that it’s a medium university, not large; that it’s private, not public; and that they aren’t actually in downtown Miami but in Coral Gables (so more of a residential area). They said that one of the great things is that the weather allows them to be outside all the time which leads to more interaction among students, and there was definitely a lot going on around campus regardless of the time of day we were there. Even though it’s a medium school, the opportunities, the sports, and the school spirit make it feel larger. One student said that she wanted the “Rah-rah” feel that she didn’t get at Hopkins (the other school she was considering). There’s very little that the students would like to change about the school. One answer that popped up over and over is that they wish that the football stadium wasn’t 40 minutes away. Although the school runs fan buses, they would still like it to be more convenient.
The students I spoke to said that their classes ranged from 7, 8, 10 (Spanish), and 19 (math) to the largest of 100ish (bio), 120, 250 (science), and 280 (President Shalala’s class). Larger classes tend to have discussion/breakdown sessions with leaders who are undergrads who had previously taken the class and got at least a B+. They also have to interview for the job, which includes solving problems and explaining who they got there, as if they were teaching other students. They can get credit for doing this as well as getting good experiences.
In terms of admissions, they are becoming more selective all the time. They accepted 150 out of 650 who applied under their ED this year. They had an additional 12,200 apply EA and 15,600 apply RD for a total freshman class of about 2,500 students. They are a Common App Exclusive school, and they will superscore both the SAT and the ACT, but they do not use the writing portion of either. Music and Theater applicants must audition; they prefer this to be on campus, but will do regional auditions (theater students can do Unified auditions), recognizing that not everyone can get to campus. Architecture students need to submit a portfolio; they’re looking for creativity, not just drawing ability.
There are lots of international students on campus with 52 countries represented in the freshman class. The top countries represented on campus are China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, India, and Columbia. International applicants have the same requirements as domestic students. There’s a LITTLE flexibility with test scores but not much. They do not need TOEFL if their critical reading score is above 500 on the SAT.
They only require the FAFSA for financial aid; the CSS profile isn’t required. Priority deadline for filing the FAFSA is 2/1. There is no separate application for most of their merit aid awards. Some of the scholarships worth mentioning are:
- Stamps Foundations Scholarship (5 awarded last year) which covers the full cost of attendance plus stipend and is awarded only to ED and EA applicants.
- Issac Bashevis Singer Scholarship which pays full tuition. Just under 70 last year were awarded last year. Those who qualify will be invited to campus to interview with a faculty member and current student in that area. They must participate to receive the scholarship
- Ronald Hammond Scholarship: this is full-tuition scholarship for under-represented students is awarded for academic criteria AND character. A rec should come from a “mentor” who can speak to character. They award 50 every year.
- Students from FL, GA, SC, NC, and AL (and soon TN once Publix stores expand into there) are eligible for the Jenkins Scholarship which is a full ride award. Miami awards three of these, and the students MUST be nominated by counselor with a deadline of 12/1 (although this should be checked in case it changes year-to-year). Selection is based on achievement, test scores, and essay.