campus encounters

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Archive for the category “California”

UC San Diego

UC SAN DIEGO (Visited 7/18/15)

~UCSD 1UCSD is clearly doing something right: they boast a 94% freshman to sophomore retention rate, and the average time to graduation is 4.3 years. Students who are engaged in their own learning and are ok making their own way will do very well here.

UCSD library walk

LIbrary Walk; you can just see the Geisel Library in the background.

Campus is sprawling and not-quite-attractive, located only a couple miles from the beach. Architecture is mixed: old and new, concrete and wood. The Library Walk is the campus’ main artery. “During the school year, this place is packed. Clubs try to sign you up. Students are everywhere.” Geisel Library (on one end of the walk – the Med library is on the other end) is the most impressive structure we saw (I would have gotten a picture except it was pouring!). It was named for Dr. Seuss who lived in La Jolla. His widow donated many of his things to the university. Many trees on campus look like the Lorax.

~UCSD 2

A residential area

Much of the tour focused on housing. They have a 6-college system based on Oxford, and it’s supposedly the only other university with the same system. At first this seemed wrong but they didn’t explain it well: both the admissions rep at the info session and the tour guide made them sound like residential colleges at many other schools. I walked away without knowing what made them different. I went to their website to figure it out.

~UCSD 4

Another residential area

These colleges (like residential colleges at other large schools) make this 24,000 undergraduate institution seem smaller. Students rank the colleges in order of interest. “It’s like Harry Potter. You get accepted into Hogwarts and then get split into living areas later.” What makes the colleges different are the themes, philosophy, and general education requirements based on where they live. “You should consider the college’s philosophy and the architecture when deciding where to live.” The tour guide was stuck on the architecture but none of the 3 colleges walked through were all that different. We didn’t go into any rooms – or even any of the buildings – because of the supposed differences.

~UCSD 10

Engineering building

The most significant difference is the general education requirements. This gives students some control over how and what they study.

~UCSD mascot

Mascot

Housing is guaranteed for 2 years for freshmen and 1 year for transfers. There are singles, doubles, and triples in most colleges. Finding off-campus housing is relatively easy with websites such as a Facebook page to help find potential roommates, apartment-shares, etc. Shuttles to popular off-campus housing areas run about every 15 minutes, and students can use public transportation on the weekends with student ID. The campus loop shuttles run about every 20 minutes.

~UCSD Residential areaAdmissions is competitive; approximately 1/3 of the 78,000+ applicants are admitted. They look at only 10th and 11th grade weighted GPA; if a high school doesn’t weight, UCSD will weight it with a cap of 8 AP or honors classes given the boost. Testing must be completed by December. This was one of the first schools I’ve heard that talked up summer programs while discussing activities. Scholarships are few and far between (only about 200).

~UCSD 6The student body is about 81% in-state. There are no quotas; the rep said that admissions generally reflected the application pool. The UC application – and test scores (“Don’t waste your money by sending them to more than one,” said the rep) – can be viewed by all UC schools to which the student applies, but be aware of any supplements required by some campuses – and yes, the $70 fee must be paid for each application!

Students are admitted to the university, not to a major. Currently, engineering is the only impacted major. Students may get accepted to UCSD but cut from engineering. “If you want engineering, aim for higher than the averages.” Switching majors is easy to do except into engineering: “Don’t make it your first choice plan,” said the rep.

~UCSD grafiti art park

Graffiti Art Park

Introductory classes can have up to 400 students. The tour guide put a positive spin on it: “It gives you something to say later in classes of 5. Otherwise, those small classes would be too intimidating.” Her largest classes did hit the 400 mark with discussion sections of 25 and labs of 40-50. Her smallest class has been 5, “but I’m in a pretty small major.” TAs rarely teach classes except in the summer, but they will have TAs for discussion sections, labs, etc. The tour guide said that the exception of this would be when “they’re the most qualified, like the woman teaching the forensic science class who had worked in the LA coroner’s office.”

There’s a Pass system for registering for classes: students are ranked according to their earned credits. Students can then register for 2 classes per “pass” – everyone can register for 2 before the first group gets their 2nd Pass and can register for 2 more.

Students who are struggling can buy lecture notes for about $30 a semester. The notes are taken by student who has already earned a B+ or better in class, and are then looked over by the professor. The guide also really pushed office hours. Professors are only required to have 1 hour a week of office hours; having attended a college where professors had 4 or 5 hours a week, this seemed light.

Some of their more unique majors include: Urban Studies and Planning, Nanotechnology and NanoEngineering, Math – Scientific Computation, Bioinformatics, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Literatures of the World.

I didn’t get a good sense of social life on campus other than getting the normal run-down of clubs and that each college holds social events. Greek life apparently isn’t huge, but the tour guide wasn’t able to answer questions other than to say that the Social Greeks are not as big as the Academic Greeks.

(c) 2015

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CSU Channel Islands

CSU Channel Islands (visited 1/16/14)

~CSUCI quad 2~CSUCI 2The newest of the CSU campuses (it opened in 2002) – and also the 2nd largest in area (with 1800 acres) – Channel Islands had been a state mental hospital until 1997! “Prisons, hospitals, and schools all have the same architecture,” said one of the reps. CSUCI currently enrolls about 5000 undergraduates, and is one of the only CSUs with spring admission because they have the ok to increase enrollment. Students with a 3.0 GPA are admitted regardless of SAT scores.

~CSUCI bell tower 3The campus feels fairly remote, nestled into farm country near the coast along the Santa Monica Mountains. However, they really aren’t that far from LA (or Santa Barbara). Students are also not isolated. Students are all welcome to bring cars (parking costs $160 for the year), or they can get a Ventura County bus pass for $25 per semester. The town of Camarillo has a lot to do, including festivals, movies, hiking, kayaking, outlet stores and restaurants. Students can also use MetroLink from Camarillo to get into LA or Amtrak to go to Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, LA, or San Diego.

~CSUCI library 4

The library is the only modern building on campus.

~CSUCI mascot sculptureIt’s a beautiful campus filled with Spanish-style architecture; check out their YouTube Introduction. Freshmen dorms are along one side of the large housing quad; even freshmen here get suites. The Town Center housing unit is for upperclassmen and is located behind the library. There are some apartments with kitchens; those students get a reduced meal-plan. South Quad is a popular hang-out spot. It’s also home to lots of traditions including graduation, giant Capture the Flag games, and DolphinPalooza, a community event held in April. There’s live music, food trucks, games, rides, etc.

None of the 23 majors are impacted except for nursing. Biology, Liberal Studies, and PoliSci are popular here. Biology students can complete a concentration in Medical Imaging. There are only 2 lecture halls on campus with 100 or more seats in them; the faculty to student ratio is 25:1.

© 2014

CSU – Northridge

CSU – Northridge (visited 1/17/14)

CSUN 6CSUN (pronounced as “see-sun”) is the largest in the Cal State system. The university is in a suburban area, located equidistant (25 minutes) to the beach and to downtown. Students can walk to the mall; there are definitely things to do off campus. Students are described as friendly and helpful, doing things like stopping to ask people if they need help. The university has a 75% retention rate, so students are generally happy with their experiences.

CSUN 4

Students outside the library

The Citrus Grove

The Citrus Grove

They get 30,000 apps a year from which they’ll admit 17,000 students for a yield of about 4,000 freshmen. Most of the students are in-state, but they do draw some out-of-state students, as well as about 15% from abroad. Because of CSU policy, CSUN admits students from the local area if they’ve met the minimum criteria. They use a formula of (GPA x 800) + SAT (CR+M). If a student takes the ACT, the formula is (GPA x 200) + (10 x ACT). They do not care which of the tests are submitted.The index is higher for out-of-state students with a required 3200-3400 (this has been moving up over time). Film production majors have to submit a portfolio and have an interview. Music applicants have to audition (those applying for Vocal Music have to have prepare a piece in a foreign language).

CSUN 5

Apartments across from the main campus

On-campus housing is limited with only 3000 bed spaces available, but off-campus housing is easy to find and many students commute from home. They currently have two buildings for first-time freshman. One of the things they’re working on is building more housing; the new dorms will have a fire pit, lounges, and Living Learning Community areas. Greek life is active; the groups that have houses are located right across the street. Students rush right away in the fall semester.

CSUN 1

A sculpture commemorating the earthquake

Of the 65 majors, only 3 are impacted (Accounting, Finance, and Business). Film and music are both strong, and Athletic Training is popular. Students have wonderful access to faculty, and facilities are state of the art. There are five science buildings and space for most majors. “The earthquake was the worst thing to happen to campus and the best thing to happen to campus.” Things were rebuilt after the earthquake which allowed the university to reassess what they wanted and how they wanted things laid out.

CSUN 3

An academic building

The largest classes rarely have more than 100 students; in fact, there are only about five auditoriums which each seat about 120 people, so they physically can’t hold large classes. Hands-on opportunities abound. Students will complete some sort of major community service project or internship before graduation. Film students will create and submit films; 1 went to the Cannes Film Festival (and won!). Engineering students do things like create an unmanned vehicle and compete in competitions with it (also coming in first!). Students have showcased at TechFest; it’s a great time to see robots and other things like that around.

© 2014

Cal Poly Pomona

Cal Poly Pomona (visited 1/16/14)

The library and triangular main Admin building

The library and triangular main Admin building

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (or Cal Poly Pomona), one of the 23 CSU campuses, has traditionally been both a regional campus and the “little brother” of the better known Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Because of the nature of the CSUs which serve specific areas in the state, they do tend to draw heavily from the local area. However, this seems to be changing due to increased national awareness of the university’s offerings and more aggressive marketing by the new Director of Enrollment. They’re seeing an increased number of out-of-state students at the transfer level; this is trickling down to the freshman level.

CPP 2

Some of the planes built by students

~CPP 5During our visit, we met with Mario Cordova, an Admissions Representative. Applications have risen over the past four years from 20,000 to 32,000. Admitted students have about a 3.5 GPA and an 1100 on the CR and M sections of the SAT or a 26 on the SAT. Acceptance rates now hover around 50%, but Mr. Cordova said that this is a little deceiving since it fluctuates by major. Engineering is the most popular major, but other academic strengths include programs such as hospitality management, vet tech (CPP is 1 of 3 schools in the country where students can take the Vet Tech exam directly after graduating without additional training), architecture, sciences, and even music industry studies! About half of their impacted majors are in the engineering fields; the others are in architecture, some sciences including animal sciences and kinesiology, and a few in the social sciences. The architecture department needs more space; currently, they’re only taking a few students each year in order to provide them with appropriate studio work space.

CPP 1

One of the original buildings dating back to when the property was a horse ranch

Mr. Cordova told us that their goal class is about 3,000. Currently, only 18% of students live on campus, and they’ve added 600 new beds over the last three years. Demand to live on campus isn’t overwhelming since they’re still pulling so many kids from the local area who don’t need to live on campus. First-year dorms are stereotypical dorms. Suites with 4 bedrooms and kitchenettes are newer and tend to house upperclassmen; these are located behind the bookstore. The Village is the off-campus apartment area. The traditional dining halls are in the dorms and utilized mostly by freshmen. There are a lot of fast-food options (sushi, subway, Qdoba, etc) in the Union which was busy as we came through to get lunch at about 12:45, but not overwhelming. We didn’t wait more than 5 minutes for food and we were able to get a table.

This get repainted several times a year by students intrepid enough to climb up the hill

This get repainted several times a year by students intrepid enough to climb up the hill

“You Hour” is held from 12:00 to 1:00 on Tuesdays and Thursday. No classes are held during this hour, and the quad was full of student groups advertising their activities, holding fund-raiser BBQs, and more. One of the BBQs was sponsored by Delta Alpha Beta, a Hispanic/multi-cultural frat. They do a lot of community service, especially with kids. We stopped to talk to the guys to ask them about their experiences. One of them does AF ROTC on the USC campus and enjoys being here but having access to the other campus. The boys told us that Greek Life at CPP was small and had been on the decline, but seems to be picking back up again.

~CPP acad bldg 3Although there seems to be a lot to do on campus, we were told that we hit a “busy time” when a lot of people were out and about, but the crowds we saw only represented a fraction of the students. There are certainly people who don’t feel like there’s enough of a social scene and transfer out. Another reason people give for transferring is that the quarter system is a little too intense for them. Some students aren’t fans of the local area; town is not always safe and there’s not much within walking distance.

CPP 4

The Japanese Garden

As we walked across campus, two students were helpful in helping us find the building we were looking for; they were both freshmen recruited athletes from California (the volleyball player was from Stockton; the baseball player was from Temecula). Both are happy with their choice and felt that they fit here and were getting good educational and athletic experiences. The school is starting to get recognized nationally, partly because they just won a DII basketball title. Later, we had lunch with a brother (senior) and sister (freshman) from the area who answered a lot of our questions. The sister was an architecture major and part of the Honors College and was loving her experiences so far; she felt part of the community already. The brother was a big fan of the Integrated General Education requirements; instead of separate, lecture-based classes, the IGE program brings together social sciences, humanities, writing requirements, and more into the program. He felt that this approach was more interesting and conducive to his learning style. He’s studying Industrial Engineering. A lot of people in that area tend to specialize in supply chain management, and graduations have gone on to work at major companies like UPS, Netflix, and Amazon. He’s a member of Hillel which he said has 20-25 active members, and Shabbat Dinners are a regular things. They’re always looking for regular donors since it costs about $300 per dinner.

© 2014

UC Riverside

UC RIVERSIDE (visited 1/16/14)

some of the citrus trees

Some of the citrus trees

UCR students“Riverside is up and coming – it’s the place to be,” said our tour guide, Sierra, a local third-year student majoring in biology with hopes of being a large-animal vet. Although now one of the 9 UC campuses, UCR started as a Citrus Research Station extension of UC Berkeley just over 50 years ago. They still have extensive citrus groves on campus with 2 trees each of 1000 different citrus trees on campus (we got to sample the kumquats!) – and we learned that Cuties were developed on campus!

UCR 3There are a lot of wonderful academic things going on at UCR. The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest on campus, housing about 2/3 of the majors.UCR 2 This is the only UC that offers a major in Creative Writing – and they house the world’s largest collection of fantasy, SciFi, Horror, and dystopian literature with 100,000 volumes. They offer a Law and Society program combining Sociology, PoliSci, and Anthropology. This corresponds to the current year’s “theme” of Justice; the campus hosts activities, lectures, and other special events to highlight this theme.

One of the Engineering projects

One of the Engineering projects

Sciences are strong, particularly Health and Agricultural departments, with UCR ranking “Top 2 in Bugs.” There’s a seismograph on campus, and they boast the most complete mastodon skeleton. One of the Botany Profs worked as an advisor creating the plants on Avitar. Biology is one of the biggest majors, and the university opened a med school this year, setting aside 24 seats for UCR students.

UCR studentsTen percent of their students are in the Engineering program (which is also the most-funded department). They offer a BS/MS in 4 of their 9 engineering programs; students major in physics and then the engineering of their choice. Their facial-recognition program is better than MIT’s! Students interested in business (another of the three biggest majors) start in the pre-business track for two years; with a minimum GPA, they can continue on and then concentrate starting the 3rd year.

UCR 6The student body is diverse, with UCR ranking #1 in California and #12 in the country in terms of diversity. The Student Activity Board works towards building school spirit, particularly revolving around the 17 DI sports teams with things like bonfires and sporty birthday parties. Seventy-five percent of freshmen live on campus, and housing is guaranteed for two years. 4000 students total live in the dorms. UC owns apartment complexes on and off campus, but there are no RAs in these buildings like there are in the traditional dorms. There are a lot of things do around campus; the Transit Authority is free for students with their IDs (the metro station is close to campus), and students can rent Zip Cars (and can have their own cars on campus).

© 2014

California Lutheran University

CALIFORNIA LUTHERAN UNIVERSITY (visited 1/17/14)

Cal Lutheran 3Cal Lutheran’s spacious campus is home to just under 3000 undergraduates in Thousand Oaks. They are affiliated with the ELCA Lutheran Church: in terms of spectrum of churches, they’re very open in all that that suggests. They attract students of many faiths including a lot of Jewish students, and there’s a Rabbinical student who leads Shabbat services. There are no required chapel services or religion classes (at least in the theological sense). People in the area know that CLU is open to various people whether it be religiously, politically, or anything else (for example, there are lots of openly gay folks, even in the ministry).

Cal Lutheran 4

The cafe

“We tend to attract nice kids,” said an admissions reps. Students who have good organic intellectual curiosity will thrive here because of the 1-on-1 relationships and the opportunities they get bombarded with. Most students complete two internships during their time here. For the kids who want to dig in and experience things, it’s great, but they don’t have to be the smartest kid in the class to thrive. “This is not going to be a giant school experience; it won’t be a conservative religious experience. It’s a dry campus, so for kids who aren’t interested in the uber-party scene, this will work. But it is a very big social atmosphere; students are gregarious and open.”

Cal Lutheran Management bldg

Management Building

Admitted students average a 3.7 GPA and 25 ACT or 1150 SAT (CR&M). Students applying to CLU tend to overlap with UCLA (CLU lost the most kids to them last year), LMU, and UCSB. CLU will superscore both exams, and students can appeal for a higher scholarship with higher test scores after admittance. Students must apply Early Action to compete for the Presidential Scholarship. Students must be invited to come to campus to compete for this scholarship: decisions are based on an interview, a written response to a lecture, and more. Another great scholarship opportunity is the CLU Match Guarantee. If an applicant has also gotten accepted to UCLA, UCSB, UCB, UCSD, or UCD, they will match the in-state price (even if they’re out of state!!).

Cal Lutheran quadLearning here is experience-based, and students are guaranteed to graduate in four years if they meet the program guidelines (including meeting regularly with their advisor, declare a major on time, etc). Classes average around 20 students, and professors are interested in providing more than just theory and book learning. The university attracts professors who want to teach and who tend to stay for a long time. Core Classes include: literature, art (1 lecture-based, 1 participatory), philosophy/religion (historically, not theologically based), science, foreign language (students can test out but rarely do; a 4 or 5 on an AP would satisfy this requirement), and 2 social sciences. The writing requirement is often fulfilled during the senior capstone.

Cal Lutheran Acad bldg 2Business, education (Deaf and HH credentials are also offered), exercise science, and psych are some of the most popular majors. The Exercise Science major gets high accolades; most of those students continue on to PT graduate programs, but they can also be a coach or trainer without grad school. Game Design is gaining traction. They offer a TV/Film Production minor, and students get fabulous internships, especially in Burbank. There are specific pre-med, pre-vet, and pre-dental advising programs; the advisor, a chem professor, came from Berkeley. Under this program, the students get the right prep without the super competitive culture that they may find in other schools, and they’re still successful in getting into medical/vet schools (3 years ago they had a 100% acceptance rate).

Cal Lutheran food truck

One of the campus food trucks

CLU is a big fish in a small DIII pond. Football and volleyball teams have both won national championships, and in the fall, football can dominate the weekends. Kids get the best of both worlds: learning in smaller classes without sacrificing the “big-sports college experience.” Some students say that CLU is more homogenous than they’d like, but this is changing rapidly. Currently, approximately 25% students are from out-of-state, and they’re attracting international students as well. Students aren’t always thrilled with the feeling of “suburbia” around campus, but they’re certainly not cut off from things to do off immediately campus or from downtown LA.

Cal Luthern 1

One of the upperclassmen housing areas

underclassman dorms

underclassman dorms

Students rave about the dorms, most of which have been built in the last 10-15 years. Housing is guaranteed all four years if students want it, but only freshmen are required to live on campus (waived if they live at home within 30 miles). About 2/3 of sophomores stay on campus; after that, it drops a little more, but not significantly. Juniors and seniors are housed in apartments with pools, a bbq area, and volleyball court. CLU is committed to making on-campus housing affordable and attractive, mostly because off-campus housing is pricey, and they want to continue building community. Because more students are living on campus, they need a bigger central space for students. A new dining commons is being built and will open in the summer of 2014. Until now, there hasn’t been a great central meeting spot for students that’s the center for social activities, studying, and eating. The new building will have rooftop seating and dining. They deliberately made the decision not to bring in outside venders (except Starbucks!).

© 2014

Pepperdine University

PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY (visited January 17, 2014)

Deer on the lawn heading into campus

Deer on the lawn heading into campus

~Pepperdine panormaI’ve never been to a campus before with deer grazing on the lawns leading into campus! Pepperdine is a beautiful campus with a stunning view of the Pacific coast in Malibu. It is built on a hill, so there’s a lot of climbing involved, but the school took care with the architecture to make the best use of their buildings and to highlight the beauty of the area. Windows and balconies overlook the water. Obviously, the climate there is wonderful, and students spend a lot of time outside so it was easy to see students interacting with each other. People seemed happy and engaged, greeting each other as they walked around campus.

~Pepperdine treesOur tour guide, Joan, was a freshman business and communications major from New Jersey. Pepperdine 1Although she came a long way from home, she said she felt comfortable immediately. The week long orientation went a long way in helping. She said one of her favorite parts was the My Tie Dance. The boys’ ties are put into a box and the girls pick one out; the owner becomes their date for the night. She’s also impressed with the President’s level of involvement with the student body; he walks around campus and talks to people regularly. He hosts parties and makes attempts to get to know people around campus. (As a side note, he’s also in a band called Mid-Life Crisis).

~Pepperdine bowerSeaver College is the undergraduate unit of the university; there are four graduate schools in Law, Education, Business, and Public Policy. There are about 3,500 undergraduates and about that number again of graduate students.

Dining Hall

Dining Hall

Only about 60% of students live on campus. Freshmen dorms have suites comprised of 8-10 people with two showers and a main room. Triples are cheaper and have an ocean view as a trade-off for having 3 people in the room. All dorms are single-sex. Coed hours are 10am to 1am in the rooms, 7am to 2am in the main area. It’s also a dry campus, but they do have the HAWC which is a 24/7 hangout. Both the single-sex dorms and the lack of alcohol reflect the religious identity (Church of Christ affiliation) of the campus. Their Gen Ed requirements include 3 semesters of religion classes (interestingly, one of the classes is on the history and religions of Israel; as someone who works at a Hebrew academy, that caught my attention, and I would be interested to see a syllabus for the class!). Students must also complete 14 credits of Convocation each term. There are over 100 opportunities each semester that they can attend. Each one is meant to help students dig into their faith by presenting speakers or other presentations. This is considered a class, and if they attend 14 events, they earn an A.

The Chapel

The Chapel

Student life does not all revolve around religion. There are a lot of special activities throughout the year (including one day when they actually bring in truckloads of snow and dump it in the parking lot so students can play with it!). 30% of students are involved in Greek Life; they pledge the 3rd or 4th week of school. There are 8 men’s sports (including Water Polo and Volleyball!) and 9 women’s sports (including both Indoor and Sand Volleyball). Study abroad is a big deal, and their study abroad is highly ranked. They have 7 “Pepperdine Abroad” programs lead by Pepperdine professors. Students can complete the same gen eds there as they would on campus, and the tuition/R&B is the same; students do pay for flights and a one-week field trip

Pepperdine 5 Students can choose form 40 majors (Nutritional Science, Integrated Marketing Communication, Creative Writing, and Media Production are the most unusual). They offer a 3/2 engineering program in which they spend 3 years at Pepperdine earning a BA in Natural Sciences and then transfer to Southern California School of Engineering or Wash U in St. Louis for 2 years. Sciences are fairly strong at Pepperdine, and they even have a cadaver lab. They boast an 82-85% acceptance rate into “medical schools of the student’s choice.” They also offer several languages (our tour guide pointed out the Language Building which was ways up the hill: “The language majors get quite the workout!”)

(c) 2014

Stanford University

STANFORD UNIVERSITY, Palo Alto, CA (visited on 7/20/12)

A typical walkway on the campus.

Stanford lawnWow. I’m a little awe-struck by this place, and I can see why people flock here and want to apply. It’s nothing short of spectacular. After Berkeley, I was thinking that this would be another one of those Big Name schools that didn’t care about talking to us. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only is this an absolutely gorgeous campus, but they’re very deliberate in their intentions and in their discussions with people. They provided a lovely lunch in the conference room in the visitor’s center, and most of the admissions counselors, along with several students, came to eat with us.

Stanford montag hallThis was a surprise for me: The official name of the university is Leland Stanford Junior University. It is located on the land owned by Stanford, Senior, a major landowner in the 1800s who made money through the gold rush and the railroads. When his only child (Junior) died in his teens, the parents still wanted to be able to provide some way to educate others. There were five tenets that they used to found the university. The tour guide said “we’ll let you guess which one is no longer in place.” The three I remember from the tour was that Stanford was set up to be coeducational, nonsectarian, and tuition-free.

Stanford acad bldg 2Herbert Hoover was reported “the first student” at Stanford, and he was in the first class. Rumor has it, though, that he camped out in the dorms early to get the best room, and then proclaimed himself the first student since he moved in first.

Stanford chapelAlthough Stanford is non-sectarian, they have a large, beautiful chapel on campus with extensive mosaics on the front that had to be redone several times (mainly because of earthquakes). There are also numbered plaques lining the walkway along the front: they have one for almost every graduating class; they started placing these after the first two classes placed graffiti – their graduating year – all over the sandstone. The students settled for the plaques instead when the admin offered. There are also time capsules on campus, including one placed by Stanford’s wife somewhere on campus.

Stanford acad bldgLast year, Stanford received just over 36,000 applications and accepted about 2,500 for a final freshman class of 1,700. (As a side-note, this is the 2nd largest land-owning college in the world. It’s a little mind-boggling that there is such a huge campus for fewer than 7,000 undergrads, although there’s a significant graduate population as well). Admission isn’t so much about whether the applicants can handle to work. The vast majority of them can handle it. It becomes more about what else the student can bring to the table. Stanford is looking for engagement, impact, and passion. If these pop out of the application, students have a chance. Seventy percent of applicants have a 4.0 GPA or better, and 95% are in the top 10% of their class. Test scores “are less important than you’d think but more important than you’d wish.” They don’t only accept people with the best scores, but a vast majority have scored 700+ on their tests.

Stanford fountain 2Housing is guaranteed all four years in dorms, fraternities/sororities, co-ops, townhouses, themed Living-Learning Communities, and other options. Approximately 95% of undergraduates live in university housing, and there are also several thousand grad students (just over half of the grad population) living on campus, as well. About a quarter of the students are involved in Greek Life.

Stanford statuesFreshmen cannot have cars on campus but lots of students have bikes, and the shuttles are extremely efficient. Stanford also offers free CalTrain for staff and reduced for students; the shuttles from the train stop (on the edge of campus) is amazing – they have lines of shuttles waiting at the station during busy times, each going to different parts of campus to get people around quickly. The shuttles also get students off campus to shopping and other areas, and zipcars are accessible on campus, as well.

Engineering is a big deal here (although what isn’t, I suppose). The other undergraduate departments are Humanities and Sciences, Education, and Earth Sciences. A few of the unusal majors are Geophysics, Energy Resources Engineering, Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and Symbolic Systems. The quarter system allows students to study things on a more intense level, and our tour guide really liked it because it allowed for more focus.

(c) 2012

UC Davis

Bikes and shuttles at Davis

Bikes and shuttles on the UCD campus

UC DAVIS   (visited 7/17/12)

UC Davis gardenYou have to love a school that has grapevines lining the road leading up to the entrance, and where bikes rule the school. The flat, attractive campus and the outdoorsy, environmentally conscious students seem much “crunchier” than Berkeley. Berkeley talks the talk, but the UCD students come through with action. There is extensive composing, co-ops, and organic and locally grown food initiatives – so local, in fact, that quite a bit is grown on campus and served in the dining halls! The buildings are absolutely beautiful and they appear to have some thought put into them in terms of style, usage, location, and being environmentally sound. Every aspect of the school appears to be deliberate; they are clear about their mission and are able to it into practice.

UC Davis bikes and athletic cntr

Athletic Center and ubiquitous bikes

There’s a reason Davis is known as a Bike School: this is a physically extensive campus and students really do need quick, convenient transportation. Shuttles run constantly, but bikes are clearly the preferred mode of transportation. Racks are everywhere to lock bikes up, most of them almost full to capacity. It was not unusual to see what had to be a couple hundred bikes outside buildings.

Students are active in and out of the classroom; Student Government really is run by the students and has a multi-million dollar budget. 500 clubs are offered on campus, and if students are bored, it’s not for lack of things to do.

UC Davis sealUCD receives over 49,000 applications just from California. Although lots of schools say that their application process is holistic, this is the first college to specifically say that they will look at things like perseverance through challenges and hardships, management of a significant disability impacting educational, and life goals, again illustrating that they are able to articulate a mission and put it into practice. The admissions rep was also very clear about what they want in the personal statement: “It needs to express something not already stated. Don’t write about getting the MVP. You already told us that on the application, and we’ve seen it. We don’t need to hear about the process of getting it. Tell us something we don’t know already.”

The admissions director was also very clear about expecting to see that students keep their grades up through the end of the senior year: If an accepted student’s grades deviates more than 1 letter grade, he or she needs tell the admissions early. They’re more likely to work with the student and have some wiggle-room if the student takes responsibility and owns up to the issue. They have actually told some students whose grades dropped significantly NOT to move in – as late as on move-in day when the information has gotten to them late.

UC Davis acad bldg 4Applications must be submitted between Oct 1-30 but so not send transcripts until asked for it. Students should check “yes” at the boxes at the end of the application which will enable the school to release information to high school counselors. This enables us to act as a liaison for the student. Out-of-state apps are reviewed manually to make sure they’re meeting the A-G California standards (listed on the website). Students need 4 years of English; at least three years of lab sciences, math (through at least Alg II), and Social Sciences; two consecutive years of a language; and one year of art, all with at least a C – although they recommend that students complete more than these minimum standards because things are getting much more competitive. Students need a minimum GPA of 3.4 during 10th-11th grades only and should take the SAT/ACT by end of 1st trimester senior year. SAT IIs are not required but encouraged – it gives students “additional” credit, but the school won’t penalize them for not taking it.

UC Davis statueEngineering is the only major that does not let students automatically transfer in when they are on campus; they have to meet certain requirements to get into the program. Students can pick from 16 different engineering programs, making it the most extensive program in the UC system. Other notable majors are the neurobiology/physiology and viniculture programs.

(c) 2012

University of San Francisco

 UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO (visited 7/19/12)

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

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