campus encounters

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Archive for the category “College Visits”

SUNY Brockport

SUNY Brockport (visited 3/9/20)

Brockport main signStudents who want a medium-sized school (just over 7,000 undergrads), located in a nice town not far from a major city (Rochester), with lots of school spirit (including high quality athletics), and great academic options at an amazing price-point (including for out-of-state students) will like this school and need to put this on their radar.

Brockport underpass

One of the underpasses under the railroad tracks with art murals done by students. 

“You hit the nail on the head with the size,” said the rep when I mentioned that this seemed like a manageable campus. “You aren’t schlepping across a huge campus, but there’s always something to do and people to see. There are lots of opportunities to network with faculty, to go abroad, to do an internship. Students can do hands-on work in the first year. It’s a nice community. There’s no sense of being in a silo; people are into a lot of things.” Campus is split by some railroad tracks (“They hardly ever come through. I think I heard them about 3 times in my 4 years here,” said the tour guide): one side feels more traditional/historic with brick buildings; the other has more open spaces, modern feeling buildings, and athletic facilities. Covered walkways connect a lot on this side of campus, and there’s an attractive Alumni Walk runs up by the Liberal Arts building.

Brockport covered walkways

Some of the covered walkways on one half of campus

I loved our tour guide! It’s so refreshing to get one who isn’t scripted and can carry on authentic conversations with people on the tour. I was on a small tour with only 2 other families, and we had great conversations with the guide. I walked away feeling like I knew a lot about the school – and that I’d feel good about pointing students in this direction (which is exactly what schools are trying to do with these tours – but not enough of them hit the mark the way Brockport did.)

Brockport sculpture

A sculpture commemorating the Special Olympics which are frequently held on campus

There’s a big sense of social justice at Brockport. “Students are active. They’ll protest peacefully if there’s something they don’t agree with. They profile things in the magazine, write editorials in the paper, bring groups together to share ideas which are then shared with staff,” said one of the reps. “There are a lot of focused clubs, and even those that aren’t specific, it’s still at their core. We’d like to open up our international student population to bring more people into the community.” Diversity is generally good: the LGBTQ community is visible, active, and accepted. There’s an active Hillel on campus. Financial aid and HEOP programs are strong which increases socio-economic diversity. “Things are welcoming and personalized here. I’d love to get the message out on that more.”

Brockport library int 1The rep at lunch said, “This is place where you can find your niche, and then find someone doing it better than you who can mentor you and push you.” The average class size is 23; I asked my tour guide about his classes: the largest had 60 and smallest was 20. He took a grad class with 3 other people. His favorite classes were Abnormal Psych (“the professor shared a lot of first hand experience stories”) and his Cross-Cultural Psych class which he took during a Study-Abroad in Austria.

Brockport skeletons library

I’ve never seen skeletons on reserve in a school library before!

I’m really impressed with the sciences here. Even students who aren’t in a major are doing real things in their core requirements. The tour guide said, “I took a science class where they took bacteria swabs in the gym. Some things you can’t unsee.” Among some of the cool options for majors include Water Resources, Meteorology (there’s also a Broadcast Meteorology minor!), a Bio/PharmD combined degree, Medical Technology, Kinesiology, EnviSci/Ecology joint BS/MS, and Chemistry with ACS Certification.

Brockport liberal arts building

The new Liberal Arts Building as seen from the Alumni Walk

The nursing major is an “Intent program,” said the rep. Students come in having declared their intent to major in that. A strong B average and a 1060 SAT usually gets them into the Intent major. “There is some drop because they realize it’s not what they want or they can’t handle the sciences. We’ll work with them to find if they have something else they want that speaks to their interests if it’s the science or working with people.” Students work on pre-reqs and then apply in Sophomore year; usually there are about 40 spots, but this can change year to year. A 3.5 minimum GPA keeps them competitive.

Other academic programs that reps or the tour guide brought up were:

Brockport LLC infoI asked the rep at lunch what he most wanted to brag about: “Study abroad. We have the most extensive program in the SUNY system. There are over 100 programs in 33 countries, and if students don’t like those, we can funnel them through other SUNY programs, too.”

Brockport freshman quad

Freshman Quad with the sand volleyball court

There’s a two-year residency requirement, and about half of the campus residents live in LLCs. They just built a hotel-style residence hall “which is great!” said the tour guide. There’s a freshman quad which has a sand volleyball court in between the dorms; they often hold a Battle of the Buildings. There’s some Greek life but “not a big deal.” Off-campus housing is easy to find. “It’s cheap, and the school has a list of reputable landlords.” The food is very good; one of the reps came to lunch with us after the tour so we got to check it out. In the dining hall we went to, it felt a bit like a high school food line, but the food itself was amazing! They’re ranked 3rd in the SUNY system for food quality (I need to find out who beat them out!). It did get busy at lunch, but they moved people through the line quickly and there was enough seating.

Brockport 3Although athletics are DIII, they’re “DI in quality. We’re the national wresting and gymnastics champions.” Club sports often compete against DI teams. Students tend to come out and support the teams. Students looking for other things to do can head into Rochester, located 25 minutes away (where they can see professional baseball, soccer, and hockey teams as well as hit restaurants, museums, etc). The Rochester Airport is only 15 miles away, so it’s easy to get to and from campus.

© 2020

SUNY Geneseo

SUNY Geneseo (visited 3/9/20)

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

Geneseo main street 1

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

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

Geneseo bear

Closeup of Emmaline

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

Geneseo main 1

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

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

Geneseo quad students

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

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

Geneseo 4

The Gazebo

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

Geneseo integrated sci cntr

The Integrated Science Center

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

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

  • Geneseo sci atrium

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

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

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

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

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

Geneseo Seuss tree

The Seuss Spruce

I asked the tour guide about his favorite classes:

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

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

Geneseo Greek tree

The Greek Tree

A few cool traditions or interesting trivia about campus include:

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

© 2020

Keuka College

Keuka College (visited 3/6/20)

Keuka sign

The main building from the road with the college sign

Keuka has some potential, but they haven’t utilized much of it. The people are wonderful, and the students seem content there, but this will be a very hard sell for students coming from a distance. The college sits on about 1300 feet of Keuka Lake waterfront, but they don’t seem to have made use of their location. Other than a small boathouse (students can use canoes, paddleboards, etc), they haven’t capitalized on the lake: they could’ve done quite a bit with a sailing or crew team, offered specialized marine ecology/biology programs, or somehow set up other unique programs that would be draws to the school. I did find, after some poking around on their website, that they have a Center for Aquatic Research, but can’t find any info on what they do other than some water quality tests. It would’ve been great to hear more about that during my visit if that’s really a thing since that could be a selling point for students interested in ecology or environmental science.

Keuka chapel 4

The chapel with the lake in the background and the oaks lining the path

The college owns a couple historic buildings: the main building is beautiful, and the chapel that overlooks the lake may be the focal point of campus. (One of the school symbols/traditions is the acorn. Students get one when they arrive to represent their growth into oak trees that line the path to the chapel where graduation is held). However, most of the buildings on this small, walkable campus feel dated and utilitarian. I definitely felt this in the library. It would be great if the college had a bit more money to update them. I asked the rep (a recent alum) what she thought the best change was on campus during her time there: “They built Keuka Commons across the street. It was really needed. The students needed more space. It has a café, classrooms, and study rooms.” I was more impressed with this building, and hopefully the school will continue to upgrade their facilities.

Keuka st cntr extThat all being said, they do run a special program called Field Period: this is what they’re known for and why several people choose to attend Keuka. Students must complete a 120+ hour internship each year. Students get right into classrooms, businesses, industries, etc to see if that’s the career they’d like. “They get experience early which gives them a chance to change majors if needed.” They have most of January off; almost all students complete their internship then or over the summer. Some classes have trips during January and summer where they can get some of the hours in. I asked about how students find these placements: “It’s on them to network. It’s about who they know or reaching out to professors. We also have the Field Period/internship office who will help match them up, but they have to initiate those conversations.” I was a little disappointed to hear that this wasn’t more developed; I can see this being very difficult for first-year students, but apparently whatever they’re doing works since the students are getting the requirement completed. The rep I spoke to graduated from Keuka in 2018; she did one of her experiences in Admissions and ended up loving it, leading to this job.

Keuka courtyardClass size is also a draw; students who do well with hands-on learning, small class discussion, and access to professors will do well here. My tour guide’s largest and smallest classes had 25 and 8 students. I asked the rep what her favorite class had been: “Media Writing: I learned that I loved to write! We utilized real world events and I became co-editor of newspaper in junior year.”

For a school this size, they do run a few programs I didn’t expect. Their top programs are:

  • Keuka OT classroom

    One of the OT labs

    Occupational Therapy is Direct Entry; students complete both their undergrade and a 1-year masters program at Keuka so they don’t have to transfer. For admissions purposes, students need an 85 average overall and minimum 85 in math and science classes. They only have 65 seats, but will accept basically anyone who is qualified, so they recommend that students deposit as soon as they get acceptances to hold their seat. This is refundable before 5/1 if they change their minds. The program has some great classroom and lab/practicum spaces on campus! All students also have to live for a week with some issue or disability (it could be even as simple as a broken leg) to understand the needs of different people coming into the clinic.

  • Keuka 1Nursing is technically a 1+2+1 dual degree program with Finger Lakes Community College in Geneva (about 45 minutes away). Students study at Keuka for their 1st and 4th years; they take their classes/clinicals at FLCC during the 2nd and 3rd years (they live at Keuka all 4 years and get bussed up). After the 3rd year, they sit for the NCLEX and get the AAS degree; they get the BS after the 4th There are only 20 seats so this is the most competitive program at the college. Applicants need at least an 80 average overall and at least an 80 each in Bio and Chem. Again, they encourage students to deposit upon acceptance to save the spot in the program (and this is also refundable before 5/1 if they change their minds). They usually fill the full 20-student cohort.
  • Business options include Management (including 3+1 Masters and Organizational Management options), Marketing, and Accounting. They offer minors in Sports Management and Human Resource Management.
  • Education including a minor in Teaching English Abroad
  • ASL and ASL-English Interpreting
  • E-Sports Management is the newest major to be added and should be fully running in 2020-21.

Keuka theaterE-Sports is the largest sport on campus with about 70 people involved. Keuka is DIII and is in the process of changing conferences so they’ll be playing against more local teams. They have Dance and Step-up teams on campus, and they have the Red Barn Theater (literally an old converted barn). They have a ropes course on campus.

Keuka 4It would be helpful for students to have cars here. Keuka is located in a really rural area, and this is a small campus so students have to make their own fun. “There are definitely some students who transfer out because it’s too small,” said the tour guide, “but a lot of others who like this atmosphere. You have to know what you’re getting into. If this is your thing, you’re going to do great here!” The tour guide said that there are a lot of activities on campus (although I didn’t seen many things advertised, but that could’ve been the time of year, as well). Students can go out on the lake in school-owned kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. Students are expected to live on campus. Dorms are functional (cool fact – the doors of the dorm I saw were chalk boards so you can write on them!) and the tour guide likes the food. “It’s fairly typical college food; they’re cooking for the masses, but they’re doing a good job with that.”

Keuka library

The interior of the library

The hamlet of Keuka Park has just over 1,000 year-round residents (which means that isn’t big enough to be considered a full town!). Seneca Farms, about 2 miles up the road, is a well-loved spot for fried chicken and ice cream and is the go-to place to get off campus. Penn Yan is the closest town, about 4-5 miles up the road, but “the closest large towns are Geneva and Canandaigua, and you’d need to go there to find much of anything to do,” said the tour guide. Rochester (a little over an hour) or Syracuse (about an hour and a half) are the closest cities.

Keuka 3There are a couple traditions that the tour guide shared with me that she liked:

  • Seniors ring the bell in the Bell Tower on 100-Nights
  • First-years are given acorns “to represent the growth we’ll have during our time here. By the time we leave, we’re the oak trees that line the path to the Chapel where graduation is held.”

During admissions, students with an 80 average or higher automatically qualify for a scholarship; with a 90+ average, the scholarship will basically cut the tuition cost in half, making this an affordable option for students who are looking for this type of environment.

Keuka MLK

A display in the library about MLK visiting campus. 

For a school this size, they’re doing well with some aspects of diversity: “We have students from all sorts of backgrounds,” said the rep, although they have a ways to go to increase the numbers. They’re also about ¾ female right now, so they need to work on attracting and retaining males. “We support people and what they believe or don’t believe in.” There’s a Center for Spiritual Life and an LGBTQ Center bother of which run different programs. “I think they make people feel safe.” Keuka has a sister school in Vietnam for business program: unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to go both ways right now: “We usually don’t send students there; the Vietnamese students come here.”

© 2020

Goucher College (take 2)

Goucher College (visited 3/12/20) (click here to see notes and pictures from my 2013 visit)

Although I’d been to campus a couple times, I attended a recent counselor breakfast at Goucher; it’s good to get refreshers and hear about any new programs. Goucher has always been innovative (there’s a reason they’re on the Colleges That Change Lives list!), but they’re revamping things again. “The title of this is Innovation, and that’s apt. As a faculty, we decided to completely re-imagine our curriculum. It’s kind of unheard of – a group of faculty got together to rethink the requirements that in so many places have become a check-off list. The question the committee took on is, ‘How do we move these requirements from the periphery to being central to the college?’ These are now central to helping students think about the essential questions that will help them flourish.”

They’ve just announced 8 new majors, and we got to hear about several of them from faculty members:

  • Integrative Art Studies: What makes art? How do people across disciplines translate their work? How do we use it as a tool for social change? This is designed for students who don’t want to be pinned down in just 1 area. We train imagination and help them put creativity into work. There’s a 22-credit core that challenges them to think about what type of artists they may be and expose them to all the interdisciplinary works that are more prevalent. They learn how to market their work, freelancing, entrepreneurship, and collaboration. They can minor in any of the traditional arts if they want.
  • Education Studies: the new program is born out of student interest. Many didn’t see themselves as teachers but still had an interest in education. “Maybe they saw themselves in social justice, NGOs, or policy. This is an interdisciplinary way of looking at it by bringing in PoliSci, policy, psychology, and more.
  • Creative and Professional Writing: Students take classes in both fields to be more well-rounded. There are classes in grant writing, policy writing, etc: “these are the things they can make a living with,” said the professor sitting with us at the table. He teaches screen-writing and adaptation: “They learn the rules so they can break them properly.” Kratz Center for Writing. They’ll give out $36-442,000 in summer grants (unusually in increments of $3,000) so they don’t have to get a job and they can stay on track for their work. They can win this more than once. The idea is to help them build manuscripts for grad school, publishers, employers, etc. A junior got a 6-figure deal with HarpurCollins. Students also go into editing, publishing, etc. They bring in visiting writers, as well. They’ve had national book award winners.
  • Visual & Material Culture: This was approved last year and inaugurated in 8/19. The professor who was presenting on this major said that to her knowledge, Goucher has the first undergrad major in this. “The idea is to rethink the visual in the 21st Things needed to be extended to be relevant. Visual culture is much broader now. It includes the fine arts in the Western tradition, but also globally to include all things that are designed including fashion and monuments.” This is a projects-driven major, combining things like Art History and Historic Preservation. Goucher has a 3,000+ artifact collection, and students are working through cataloguing, preserving, and displaying – starting with the collection that’s been in storage for 100+ years. “Some of it is at Yale on long-term loan; our mummy [yes! They actually have a mummy!!] is at Walters.” Regionally, they use Baltimore as a Community Based Learning (CBL) site to get students out to look at murals, monuments, etc.
  • Engineering Science: This interdisciplinary major combines fundamentals across the sciences, comp sci, and programming to prepare students for careers in these areas, and to focus on skill sets to be successful. “We’ve moved problem-solving to the foreground. They all do a capstone to solve a real world project. We want them to be able to contribute to this massive part of the economy,” said the professor. “This is not an engineering degree. Those tend to be narrow and deep/focused. They have a structured curriculum, and you have to be committed and focused. Nationwide, there’s a lot of attrition.” Students can still go on to get a masters in engineering if they wish to do so. They do choose a track to specialize in with upper level classes in their area of interest.
  • Integrated Data Analytics combines computer science, math, and stats. “We want the majors to be able to do a lot of different things including econometrics. One of the first projects they completes look at how corruption influences environmental practices. Some look at traffic patterns and public transportation.” They’re building out 2 more tracks: EnviSci (such as where they place hydro-fracking wells) and peace studies. “No other college studies this! They look at things like how grassroots communities use data for advocacy.”

Choosing a student-designed Interdisciplinary Major is also an option. “This is a rigorous, intentional major. Interested students must find 3 professors from different disciplines, and then convince them that these areas mesh. They look at co-curricular, as well.

Students also must take 2 CPE (Complex Problem Exploration) classes during their time here. Professors identify a contemporary problem of significance and have students tackle real issues. The professor telling us about this program taught one called, “This is Human, That is Nature” where students look at how to solve the issue of environmentalism, “which can’t really be done until we rethink our relationship with nature.”

© 2020


Forman University (take 2)

Furman University (visited 2/24/20) (Click here to see the post from 3/2013)

Furman fountains 4“If you’re looking for strong academics on a safe campus in a growing city, this is it.” With a 92% retention rate, they’re doing something very right.

It had been almost exactly 7 years since I’d last been to Furman, and I’m glad I got a refresher course! I remembered the beautiful campus, particularly the fountains, the bell tower, and the environmental center, but it’s always good to see what’s new and be reminded of all the other things going on around campus.

Furman 5One of the things we heard the most about – mostly because it’s pervasive in the culture there – is the Furman Advantage. They promise several things:

  • Excellent academic instruction and a high level of academic rigor. “We’re considered kind of hard,” said one of the reps. A Gallup poll revealed that 78% of alums (vs. 42% of national sample) and 68% of current students strongly agree that they were/are challenged academically at Furman. “We use the challenge and support model. We want them to be agents and make decisions so we’re figuring out the sweet spot of challenging them while supporting them without enabling them.”
  • Furman tree 1

    They’re very proud of their trees on campus!

    A variety of engaged-learning experiences appropriate for students’ interests and development. “It seems obvious that freshman are different from seniors,” said a Dean, “and yet, they’re often treated the same. They aren’t here. We train the professors in this.”

  • A team of mentors to support students as they navigate their integrated and individualized 4-year pathway. They’ve been deliberate in how this breaks down year-to-year: In the 1st year, “they should be exploring/discovering;” In the 2nd: examine and decide, 3rd: connect and refine; 4th: synthesize and initiate.
  • Intentional reflection to help students deepen learning and better understand their own skills, values, and next steps. “They should have the experience, think about the experience, and then have the next experience. Students are so concerned about checking boxes that they don’t stop to think about what they’ve done, where they’re going, and how those interconnect.”
  • Meaningful connection to career opportunities and professional development. “This is where we need to step up our game.”
Furman students 2

Fountains are everywhere.

They’re spearheading a Pathways program, currently in its infancy. The “trial run” is going well so far. In Pathways, students complete 4 courses over 2 years for a total of 4 credits. The first year focuses on Exploration and Discovery: class basics, critically evaluating sources, academic integrity, how to read a syllabus, how to email a professor, choices and bystander intervention, and more. Students currently in the program report feeling more connected and having a sense of belonging, a higher satisfaction with advising, and higher levels of accepting themselves even when things fail or go badly. The plan for the fall of 2020 is to have 15 cohorts of 15 each: “A class of 15 is critical of success. They aren’t thinking, ‘I’m not the only one.’” They’re hoping that the faculty will vote to make this a graduation requirement starting in Fall 2021.

Furman fountain 3

The chapel as seen from the library. Although they had historical affiliations, they’re no longer religiously based. 

“We’re trying to create an eco-system here. We should all be thinking about what’s next, about career exploration and preparation.” They’re working with departments “because that’s where students live in the last couple years” to help them reflect on values and strengths, expose students to potential career paths, have students reflect on experiences and how they connect with future plans, encourage students to articulate plans and narrative to others. They’re working hard to increase the number of students in Engaged Learning, including:

  • MayX Study Away programs. They’ve increased need-based scholarships to help students go on these.
  • Summer undergrad research: Last year they funded 203 students on campus; they saw a 22% increase in Summer Fellows applications. “Everyone who sent in a good application with a faculty who also sent in a good application were funded,” said the woman in charge of the program.
  • They’re building out an Entrepreneurship Office that “gives students great opportunities while staying committed to the liberal arts.”

Furman ScienceThey have strong pre-health, health sciences, and similar programs. The science building is impressive with some great labs! There’s an Institute for Advancement of Community Health and Office of Pre-Professional Advising to help with shadowing/internships, applications, and more. They set up the students to do what they want to do. “We recommend shadowing before internships because you may end up hating it.”

  • They have the only Medical-Legal Partnership in the state; this connects health care providers with legal aid attorneys. They can refer patients with health-harming legal issues to the MLP team where attorneys will represent them for no charge.
  • They offer both a BA and BS in Public Health (a capstone experience in public health practice or research is required) and a BA/BS in Health Sciences. Students need to apply to get into Public Health (that and Business are the only majors requiring an application).
  • There’s a Biomedical Sciences track within the Bio major.
  • Medicine, Health, and Culture
  • MS in Community Engaged Medicine uses intensive classroom, community, and clinical study to prepare its students for today’s complex world of health care.
  • They offer an Early Admissions program with USC-Greenville; they’ll take up to 5 Furman Juniors so they don’t have to stress about med school applications during senior year. They also offer Direct Entry to up to 5 incoming freshmen. To remain eligible, they must meet curricular criteria and grades as well as participate in clinicals and a sophomore assessment.

Furman analytic labMost of their majors are fairly typical with a couple exceptions: Greek, Music Theory, Integrative Biology, and a full range of Bachelors of Music options (including Organ performance and Music Education). What’s more impressive is the interdisciplinary minor selection, including Poverty Studies, Science Education, and African American and Diaspora Cultures.

We asked the students on the panel what their favorite classes were and why:

  • Abnormal Psych: “It touches on how all profs are at Furman. She had intro meetings with all students and really wanted to know why we were in the class and how to personalize it.”
  • One had two favorites: Afro-Am Drama and Slave Narrative to Slave Novels: “This was the capstone in the minor. It was really tough but great to develop a voice and writing style, to combine critical thinking with critical theory. It was a great inter-disciplinary class.”
  • The Business Block: “It was a full semester of 4 classes with the same people. I don’t know any other college that does the same thing. We worked really hard with the people around us and it was a real world example of what I want to get into. I got to observe a company and look at financials and operations.”
  • Furman apts

    Some of the senior apartments

    History of Economic Thought: “It’s different from most. It was more theoretical and philosophical. We talked through the prevailing ideas in Eastern and Western traditions. The professor went so fast, I’d walk out of there saying, “I can’t believe I just took 5 pages of notes.” I got into the Scottish Tradition which is a totally random niche and it inspired me to study abroad in Scotland.”

  • Research Methods in Bio: “We learned how to look at stats and what’s reliable. We did a semester-long research project. I looked at leaching of estrogen from soil into plants to see if fertilizers and other things made a difference and were disrupting our systems.”
  • American Foreign Policy in Brussels with a Furman program. “We were taught by the lead envoy for the US to NATO. How many people can say they took a class like that?”
Furman eni housing

One of the Greenbelt cabins

This is a highly residential campus. They’ve built even more upperclassman apartments (these are amazing with nice-sized kitchens and bedrooms with double beds); it’s like living in a real apartment community. They have a nice freshman quad as well as other pockets of dorms. There’s a special Engaged Living LLC which “isn’t well advertised,” said the tour guide who had lived there. “You have to apply to live there, but most people don’t know what it is. I wanted to be in Lakeside so I applied.” There are also some AMAZING sustainable living LLCs in the Greenbelt Community next to the Environmental Education center. This is comprised of 4 cabins housing a total of 22 students and are not open to first-year students. Students are selected after an application process (it’s competitive) and can be in any major as long as they have an interest in a sustainable lifestyle. They take 2 classes while they’re living there as part of this, and there’s a community garden that they work in which helps to supply the dining hall with locally sourced, organic produce. Many of them also participate in the Community Conservation Corps which helps to weatherize homes for local families at or below the poverty level.

Furman dorms 2

Some of the underclassmen dorms

“You can wear a lot of hats here.” There’s a big divide in participation in Greek Life – a little less than 30% of males are in fraternities, but more than 55% of females join a sorority. Students insist, though, that Greek life isn’t the end-all. Greek Village is actually a dorm. “Living there was the best and worst decision I’ve ever made!” said the tour guide. “Living on the hall with random music at 3am ….” There are some frat houses for juniors and seniors off campus; there are no sorority houses. “Because of the inclusive nature, it just expands friend groups,” said one student. Another, who is not affiliated, said that there are plenty of structures for those who chose not to join. “I found the same sort of social outlet from club soccer and Outdoor Club.”

Furman footballIt’s highly unusual to find DI sports at a school this size. Sports are incredibly strong, but they’re students first. “Most students aren’t going pro; they need to be prepared for their lives. This is four years of transformative experiences that will prepare them for the next 40 years of their professional lives,” said the athletic director. They do have a full scholarship football program.

Furman DH

The dining hall

Furman is trying to become a more national/international (currently about 60% of students come from NC, SC, and GA) and more selective. They currently have almost 2550 students but are looking to decrease enrollment to 2400-2500 with a target freshmen class of 625-650. “We probably won’t go to 2400 for 3 or 4 years.” They’re doing the best they can to eliminate the financial aid gap; currently they meet about 85% of need (which includes self-help like work-study and loans). They have a $680m endowment which helps them provide a great deal of grant and scholarship aid, but they still some work ahead of them.

© 2020

Wells College

Wells College (visited 3/6/20)

Wells sycamore

The famous Sycamore tree with Cayuga Lake in the background

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

Wells 2

One of the original buildings

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

Wells stained glass aurora 2

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

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

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

  • Wells sci atrium

    Science Building atrium

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

  • Wells study nook

    A study nook in one of the academic buildings

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

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

The dining hall

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

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

Wells diversity cntr

Part of the Diversity Center

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

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

Wells carriage

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

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

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


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

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

Part of the library

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

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

© 2020

Wilkes University

Wilkes University (visited 3/5/20)

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

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

Wilkes statue and bell tower

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

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

Wilkes apts

The apartment tower

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

Wilkes walkway

Central walkway to the academic side of campus

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

Wilkes lab

One of the science labs

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

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

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

Wilkes screening room

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

The arts majors are also good. BFAs are 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.

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

Wofford College

Wofford College (visited 2/25/20)

Wofford mascot

The Terrior mascot

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


Near the entrance to campus

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

Wofford fountain 2

One of the fountains around campus

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

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

Wofford hammocks

They have multiple hammock frames around the quad for student use

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

Wofford greek 2

Part of Greek Village

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

Wofford sr apts 2

Some of the senior apartments

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

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

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

© 2020

Clemson University

Clemson University (visited 2/26/20)

Clemson main 4

The iconic building that’s on many of their promotional materials. There’s a bell tower here where students can actually learn to play the bells. “You hear some weird stuff coming out of there!” said one student.

I asked one of the students what I should tell the high schoolers I work with about Clemson: “Clemson is awesome. That’s all.”

While not necessarily an attractive campus, this is a vibrant one! “The typical Clemson student is open and willing to join things. This is an involved campus,” said one of the six students I spoke with at the welcome center while I was waiting for the info session. “If they are willing to try things, they’ll be successful here.” Another student said that she chose Clemson because she wanted a true college town environment. People definitely get that here.

Clemson students

Part of the res life area – student center, dining options, etc

“I thought it was going to be huge and scary,” said another student. “I was intimidated, but didn’t feel that way at all after the first day. I got lost and frustrated my first day, and a senior stopped and asked if I was ok, then walked me to class.” Another student also said that she was excited to see how small it can feel while still being so big. The campus is set up in “rings” with academics at the center, surrounded by residential life (dorms, food, etc), and then sports and other auxiliary program making up the outermost circle. Our tour guide said that most things within the academic ring only take 5-10 minutes to walk to. “I can get across the whole campus in about 15-20 minutes.

Clemson tiger paws

Tiger Paws

Athletics are very much a part of campus life, and a lot of people know Clemson because of their athletics They field 19 NCAA DI teams, offering the sports you’d expect (although they do only have a women’s crew team, not one for men); football and basketball, as you could probably guess, are the most popular. School spirit is high, and Tiger Paws are everywhere painted on sidewalks. Clemson pride can be felt throughout the state “where everyone is either a Tiger or a Gamecock!” someone told me) and among alumni.

Clemson Death Valley

The view of Death Valley, the football stadium, from campus.

Death Valley, their football stadium, is part of campus. This is great, since so many schools have stadiums far enough away to require shuttles. Game tickets are all free, although there’s a lottery for football tickets. “When I was a freshman, I didn’t miss a game,” said one student. They do designate a certain number of tickets for each class so the free tickets aren’t simply snatched up by seniors. If they don’t get free tickets for the student section, they can still buy tickets. They’ve been ranked #2 for their fan base; people pack the stadium. The football players run down The Hill from the field house into the stadium at the beginning of games; they also rub the Rock (which came from the actual Death Valley in CA) for good luck on the way into the Stadium.

Clemson dorms

Some of the dorms

Many events are held in Death Valley, as well, including Greek Rush. “You don’t go building to building like at other places. Having it all in the arena is great because you feel like you’re in it as a group, and there are places to hang out, rest, and talk to people in between meetings.” Almost ¼ of students participate in Greek Life. Most of the students I spoke to are involved and had great experience. Rush happens the week before classes start in the fall, “but you can drop it in the first 2 weeks if you end up not liking it,” said one student. They also don’t have to rush first year. One student chose to rush 2nd year and said he had a great experience. Students can’t move into Greek Housing until Sophomore year, “and it’s optional.” There are no separate houses, but instead, there’s a Greek quad; organizations have a hallway in a house with 2 other sororities or frats. There are currently 12 sororities (and in the process of adding 1 more) and 20 frats; 8 of the Devine 9 are on campus. However, “life here isn’t just about Greek life. Do what you love – it’s inclusive.”

Clemson innovation center

The Innovation Center

Clemson is, of course, known for its engineering programs, but it’s also got amazing agricultural, health sciences, and business programs among others. Students raved about their experiences in and out of the classrooms. They work well with their students to prepare them for life after college and were just ranked #1 for Career Services (2020)

  • Nursing is direct entry. It is possible to apply to get into nursing once here, but “This is one of the most difficult switches – you can, but I would not recommend!” said one of the students. She transferred from engineering when she realized that it wasn’t for her, and she’s graduating a semester late. She thinks the program is a bit harder, but it’s worth it. “If you’re a Clemson grad, you get a GPA boost when you apply to grad school because it’s notorious for being difficult.” They had a 100% NCLEX pass rate last semester on the first try. “You’re required to Kaplan benchmarks every semester. No one in my cohort has failed a benchmark so far.”
  • Clemson engineering row

    “Engineering Row”

    One of the students in the welcome center was a Mechanical Engineering I asked him if he knew he wanted mechanical coming into college. “I knew I wanted engineering but not what kind. I always loved math and physics and I’m good with my hands. The first year here in the department was great because I could figure it out.” All students interested in engineering start in the General Engineering program. They have access to a lot of resources, including a seminar class that he estimates 45-50% of engineering students take. They hear from a variety of faculty in different areas and get to learn about various types of engineering before declaring a track. Some more unusual options include Biosystems, Automotive, and Environmental.

  • Clemson 10They’re one of only a few schools in the country to offer a Packaging Science
  • They have a Turfgrass major! As the Land Grant institution SC, it’s not surprising that they offer unusual and strong agricultural, environmental, and other similar programs in their College of Ag, Forestry, and Life Sciences.
  • Their Architecture department is part of the Arts& Humanities School, as is Landscape Architecture and City Planning & Real Estate Development. Architect students are actually required to study abroad (and there are programs for all majors, even in engineering).
  • A few other programs of note include Aerospace Studies, Graphic Communications, Construction Science & Management, and Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management.

I asked the students what their coolest class was and what they liked about it:

  • Clemson 1Consumer Behavior: “It’s a whole different way to think about marketing. There’s lots of psych to it. We’re learning about what catches eyes – placement, colors, etc.”
  • Creative Inquiry: “This is a research program for undergrads. It’s not exactly full-on research but more engaging and hands-on in smaller classes. I’m working in a Social Media Center looking at tweets that were banned. My class and the federal government were the only ones who had access to these tweets! I got an internship that used Sales Force because I knew about it. It’s a really cool application and it was great to see the trends and give the info back to the government.” These are team-based investigations lead by faculty, and students can take these classes outside their major; the engineering student did one in business looking at qualitative research.
  • Nursing: “ All my classes involve sim labs which is cool.”
  • Molecular Cell Bio: “I bet you never heard that before! The class was hard but teacher was great. She’s genetically reversing a dino from a chicken!! There are only 3 groups doing this – she’s trying to make it grow a longer ‘velocoraptor tail’.”

Clemson 9Clemson is clearly doing a lot right with a strong 93% retention rate and 83% grad rate. Currently, they accept about 50% of their applicants but are becoming more competitive. Just over half (56%) of accepted students are in the top 10% of their high school class. They ask students to rank their first two choices of major on the application, and they look at this as part of their application. “Don’t put the same thing down twice,” recommends a rep. “If you don’t give us a backup, you’re kind of backing us into a corner if we can’t get you into that major.”

Clemson library

The main library

The rep also recommends that applicants use the “tell us about yourself” section to tell them things that you feel that your transcript or test scores don’t show. Test scores must be sent directly from testing agency (they don’t allow self-reported scores). For Merit Scholarships, all applications must be on file by Dec 1 and completed (aka supporting documentation – transcript, scores, etc) by the end of December. For Restricted (need-based) scholarships, grants, loans, the FAFSA should be filed by January 1.

There are a few alternative paths for acceptance into Clemson that are by invitation only. These are by invitation only; students can’t self-nominate or apply to this. There’s a question on the application if they’re open to starting in the summer, but it’s offered by admissions to those who express interest and are qualified.

  • Bridge Program: students accepted into this live on campus and receive all the perks of being a Clemson student, but their first year classes are taken at Tri-County Community College. They must maintain a 2.5 GPA there and then “transfer” into Clemson in sophomore year.
  • Tigertown Summer Bound: these students come in the summer as a cohort and must successfully complete 2 classes; then they can start full-time in the fall term.

Just over half of the students (55%) are from South Carolina, but since freshman are required to live on campus, people get to know others quickly and it ends up not being a suitcase school. Housing placements are done in order of when students sent in their Clemson application, not on date of acceptance! The tour guide said that she lucked out – she wasn’t planning on applying to Clemson (“much less go here!”) so she applied late, but she was paired with someone who know this was her first choice and applied in September so they got some of the best freshman housing.

Although there’s a lot to do on and directly off campus, this is also a big outdoorsy school. More than 100 miles of Lake Howell border campus; the SC Botanical Garden borders campus; they sit in the Foothills of Blue Ridge Mountains; and campus is halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte on the I-85 corridor if they’re looking for the big city experience.

Some of the favorite traditions include:

  • Clemson Ice Cream! They have a student-run creamery which was started about 100 years ago in what was then the Dairy Science department.
  • The Clemson Ring: They have the 2nd highest percentage of people who have school rings (“The other university just has more people,” said one of the students). “It’s a great source of pride. The ring ceremony is almost as popular as graduation. Families come to see us get our rings.”
  • Wearing Orange on Fridays: “Alumni still do it!”

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