campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Connecticut”

University of Hartford

University of Hartford (visited 5/30/19)

Hartford students

An orientation leader group

Hartford is bigger than I expected (it’s over 300 acres) but relatively easy to navigate. Campus is divided into Academic and Residential sides with a stream in between. Even in late May after graduation, campus was fairly busy. They were doing Orientation Leader training, and a lot of the students knew my tour guide. She had been studying abroad for a semester, so there were a few reunions. She kept apologizing for the interruptions, but it was nice to see that students knew each other and wanted to interact.

Hartford 2Students seem to have a good balance to socializing and work. There’s a strong social aspect to campus. “We’re a hammock school!” said the tour guide. They have frequent faculty-student dodge ball and kickball games. However, the social doesn’t seem to interfere with either the service- or academic-minded part of things, and in fact, all of these seem to work together well. My tour guide talked about going on Alternative Spring Break: “Spending 36 hours on a bus to Houston was … an experience, but I got a lot of new best friends out of it!” All aspects of campus life seem to play off of each other and helps students have a great experience at the college.

Hartford fire pit 2

A fire pit at the dorms

“I love the size [there are just over 5,000 undergrads]. I’m more a name than a number,” said my tour guide. She visited other schools but knew that big lectures were not the right thing for her. There are only 2 lecture halls on Hartford’s campus, each seating 75-100 people. “They’re rarely filled to capacity.” Her smallest class had 4 students (a psych class: Discovering Yourself and Others). “He’s arguably my favorite professor. We got a one-on-one experience. To have that sort of introspection with only 4 people was great.” Her largest, another psych class, had 30. Her favorite class was Dynamics of Artistic Expression. “She catered to the education students. The staff is really here for you.”

Hartford 2My tour guide was an education major and was in the classroom in first semester freshman year. “I was working with the cutest 2nd graders, and it solidified that I was doing the right thing.” She went to the high school in sophomore year. “I loved that there are 3 schools on campus affiliated with the university. I can walk 15 minutes from my dorm instead of driving across town.”

Hartford ISET complex

One of the science and tech academic buildings

Other notable academic information includes:

  • They have a patent on a NASA helmet. They offer one of only a few undergraduate Acoustic Engineering degrees in the country, and students in that major got to design one of the academic lounges in a new building several years ago.
  • One of the professors was awarded a Connecticut Space Grant in 2019.
  • There’s a wind tunnel under one of the science buildings.
  • Hartford lobby

    The lounge designed by Acoustic Engineering students

    They offer a minor in Complexity!

  • They just added 10,000 square feet into the business school.
  • Hillyer College was one of the founding schools and is now treated a bit like a dual-enrollment school. Students looking to ease the transition through additional academic support and smaller classes (they cap classes at 18) should look at this. It grants AA degrees, and students can transition into the Bachelors if they want. Honors Students can go to Hawaii and take a 3-credit class in the winter session.
  • Hartford frogs

    Bublebee Dart Frogs in the hallway of one of the science buildings (yes, they’re poisonous). 

    The Hartt School is a dance, music, and theater Conservatory located on a separate campus (Fine Arts are on Main Campus). These students have an 87% job placement rate at graduation. They put on 400 performances a year, and some even get live streamed. They can major in Music Ed as well.

Hartford bridgeAs students cross the bridge from the academic to the residential side, they come into Alumni Plaza (“Don’t step on the H!”) The res side has a combination of older dorms clustered into small groups and a few new ones, the most notable one, Hawk Hall, opened in 2007 and has 8 residential Living Communities like Honors, STEM, emerging Leaders, Wellness, Global Engagement, and Community Service. It’s more competitive to get into and requires an essay. Students can list 2 choices on the application. Each LC has about 50 people; floors are coed by room.

Hartford res side 1

The residential side; Hawk Hall is on the right

© 2019

University of Saint Joseph (CT)

University of St. Joseph’s (visited 5/30/19)

USJ quad 1I’m glad I took the time to stop at St. Joseph’s on my way to the University of Hartford. In some ways, USJ gets overlooked, but it was a pleasant surprise and will hopefully grow beyond its regional status (it’s about 90% in-state students). Although it’s a smaller school, students at USJ can expand their options through the Greater Hartford Higher Education Consortium (with U Hartford, Trinity, CCSU, and UConn Hartford) to take courses not offered on the home campus as well as to utilize study abroad programs and other resources.

USJ missionOpen since the early 1930s, they just went coed in 2018; they’re already about 1/3 male which is amazing one year into admitting men. “We’re still holding onto the idea of women’s empowerment, though. Just because we went coed doesn’t mean we lost that identity.” This includes a Women’s Leadership Center founded in 2016. They added 5 men’s teams this year (and Jim Calhoun, formerly a UConn coach, is the men’s Basketball coach!) with more to come. “I expect them to mirror the women’s teams.” They’re DIII and compete in the GNAC.

USJ chapel 2This is a Sisters of Mercy (Catholic) institution with 3 Sisters employed on campus. “In many ways, they’re the female version of the Jesuits,” said the rep I spoke to, and the university promotes the values of education and caring for others, tenets of the founding group. A large portion of the student body self-identifies as Catholic and there’s an active campus ministry, but they’re less focused on the practice than on exploring Catholicism and celebrating ethnicity and culture. The two on-campus weekly masses (Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon) are open to the public. Attendance isn’t mandatory, but students must take two religion classes – one on exploring religion and the other is open-ended to explore a particular religion or philosophy].

USJ 3Campus is beautiful with cohesive architecture and a large quad. About half of the 1000 undergrads live on campus in 4 traditional and 2 suite-style dorms reserved for upperclassmen. They have no immediate plans to build more dorms “but not unimaginable if we continue to grow. We’re at 95% capacity in terms of beds.” They’re looking to expand their geographic region now that they’ve gone coed. Housing grants are available to encourage students to live on campus.

The biggest lecture hall on campus seats 40 with average class sizes of 14. Although graduate students outnumber the undergrads (not surprising with their Education, Pharmacy, PA, and other programs), undergrad classes have no grad TAs. “Most grad students are professionals who are taking evening or online classes,” said the rep. They’ve done a great job focusing on providing quality undergraduate education and programs, many of which lead into a grad program if the students want.

  • USJ 1Business is growing;
    • Digital Media and Mass Communication was just started with 2 areas of focus: Spanish Media and Sports Media.
    • The Sports Management and Promotion major looks at both sides and requires 2 internships, one with an on-campus team (management side) and one outside (including ESPN which is right down the street in Bristol, about 25 minutes away).
  • The Math Department has expanded beyond traditional math to include Computer and Data Science and Actuarial Science. “Connecticut is the insurance capital of the world with companies like MassMutual, Traveler’s, Hartford, Cigna, and Aetna. Students get snatched up. They take the CPA exam and are ready to be hired.”
  • USJ athenaeumNursing is Direct Entry (applicants need a 3.0 and 1070 with B+ in Chem and Alg2). If they don’t meet that but are close, they’ll come in as pre-nursing. These students have their grades monitored by the nursing staff but take exactly the same classes. “No one knows who’s who. There’s no difference other than the monitoring.” The labs have 6 automated mannequins, including one that gives birth to twins. Labs are capped at 14. In Sophomore year, they work at the nursing home across the street. In Junior and Senior years, clinicals are completed at the local hospitals. They often offer a Sisters of Mercy trip to Guyana so nursing students can work at the hospital there. Non-nursing majors can join the trip and participate in more of the cultural activities.
  • Education: “I used to teach in town, and if we saw a kid coming out of USJ, we wanted that kid over those from other institutions because we knew the training here was better.” There are 2 on-campus schools: one K-Adult special needs, and the other is more of a day-care (infant-PK). As soon as students start education classes (usually sophomore year), they’re in one of those settings immediately getting experience from day. Special Education is technically the only education degree at the undergrad major – but licensure for Elementary and Secondary levels (reciprocal in almost 40 states) is available.
  • The Pharmacy school opened 10 years ago. They just graduated 52 students. 3+3 program.
  • The Physician Assistant program offers both direct entry (3+2) and a grad-only program. Direct-entry students major in Health Sciences as undergrads. This is popular with athletes because it works well with their practice schedules. USJ students who apply to the PA school get priority (but not guaranteed).

USJ 6The USJ alumni network is broad, and the connections the university has in the region means that the name carries weight. Salaries of USJ graduates are often higher than others in Connecticut. Career center helps alumni as well. A vast majority of the faculty have worked in professional or research fields so they have huge connections. Over 90% of students get involved in research, internships, and service projects. “This is a highly service-oriented community. All clubs are required to participate in a service-based activity, a requirement that was enacted by the student government itself.”

USJ quad 2They’ve seen a large interest in growing the on-campus student activities. They’ve just upped the fee as part of the tuition in order to expand what happens on campus. It’s all student-run with a facilitator. Students who are looking to get off campus utilize the local area of West Hartford, “a destination for restaurants and shopping. You can get around really easily without a car,” said the tour guide. The USJ Student ID doubles as a bus pass. Not only does this get students around town, but “you can hop on a city bus to Hartford and transfer to the New Haven MetroNorth station for free. From there, it’s $6 into NYC.”

Admissions is “Score Alternative” – only students interested in the health sciences or the Honors program need to submit test scores. During admissions, a 3.5 GPA and 1220 SAT will flag applicants to be sent to the Honors Committee who makes the final determination for an offer. This provides a half-tuition scholarship right off the bat. Honors Classes swap out the Gen Ed classes.

There’s plenty of scholarship and grant money available including a Visit Scholarship ($1000 for freshman year) and the Mercy Values Scholarship where students write an essay on one of the 7 values and explain how they embody it and will live that on campus. This ranges from $1000 -10,000.

© 2019

Connecticut College

Connecticut College (visited 10/13/16)

conn-college-studentsConn draws curious students who are go-getters; to be successful here, students need to want to engage, take initiative, and follow through on ideas. They go above and beyond academically, seeking out connections between disciplines and creating context for what they’re learning.

Admissions is selective and test-optional, but demonstrated interest is important. They want to make sure that students will thrive in this very particular learning environment. Interviews are recommended, preferably on campus, but alumni interviews are an option for students who may not be able to get to campus in time to interview.

conn-college-quadConn is gorgeous, just up the road from the Coast Guard Academy and not far from the water. Campus is long and relatively narrow with buildings (mostly made of stone) largely organized around a couple quads. Even early (by college standards!), students were walking places, some with yoga mats, some off to classes. It was a little too early and cool for students to be congregating outside, but the students I encountered were together, having conversations, and seeming to be very comfortable in their surroundings.


A cafe, one of the many meeting/study spots on campus.

There are a couple things that contribute to this level of comfort and camaraderie. First, most students (98%) live on campus, and dorms are called ‘houses.’ “We do think of them that way.” Students really know each other, and because they aren’t leaving on the weekends, they’re involved and engaged with each other outside the classroom – both academically and socially. Additionally, the admissions rep thinks that close-knit feelings also stem from the First Year Seminar. These writing-intensive classes, taught only in the first semester, are capped at 15 students and taught by faculty advisors from across departments. About 35 interdisciplinary topics are offered ranging from Epidemics, Sports Psychology, From the Holy Land to Disneyland, and Bioluminescence and Disease. Students forge a common bond with 14 other students who are interested in a variety of things.

conn-college-2There are three general areas that make Conn distinctive from many other liberal arts schools:

  1. This year, they’ve instituted a new core curriculum called “Connections” which very much aligns with the types of students that Conn attracts and retains. Students still engage in the liberal arts, but in a more focused and interdisciplinary way.
    1. conn-college-quad-2The former distribution requirements are now grouped in one of 5 Pathways: Public Policy, Sustainability, Interrogating Liberal Arts, Global Capitalism, Arts and Tech.
    2. They will be increasing the number of Pathways over the next three years, hopefully ending with 40 choices, including Education and Human Rights.
    3. This change was a student-based initiative; students wanted their education to be more interdisciplinary and focused.
    4. One requirement is 2 semesters of a single language; students can test into higher level, but can’t test out of the language requirement.
  2. conn-college-chapel-2Academic Centers: The 5 Centers have distinct themes. About 20% of the students will opt to join; entrance requires an additional application. These are designed to help students take passions to the next level by taking classes within the center and completing an independently designed project (funded by the center or career services). Students will graduate with a certificate.
    1. International Studies and the Liberal Arts: This is the most competitive. Students must continue past the required 2 semesters of a language, must study abroad, and must do a project abroad between junior and senior year.
      1. A double major in Islamic Studies and Dance is now studying in France and will go back to study the hip-hop culture there.
      2. An International Studies major with minor in Arabic has studied in Jordan and will also go back to do her project.
    2. Arts and Technology: This is the most quickly growing center.
      1. One student created audio-based video games because his visually impaired brother wanted to be able to play games, too.
      2. A Psych major is looking at how people could overcome their fear of heights using virtual reality.
    3. Community Action and Public Policy: This focuses on social activism and social outreach.
      1. A Government major, while studying in Buenos Aires, saw a lot of school dropouts. She did a study on options for them, then went back to implement strategies to keep them in school or provide other paths.
      2. Other students are working at Boston Hospital, on the housing crisis in NYC, and in the RI Dept of Health.
    4. conn-college-sprout-garden-2

      The student-run sustainable garden

      Center for the Environment: Conn was the second college to have an Envi Sci Dept, so this is a huge part of who they are as a school, but this center is not just for science related topics. Students see something and want to take action. One student is looking at environmental impacts of the fashion industry.

    5. Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity: This is the newest Center, looking at topics such as globalization, historical traumas (ie genocide), comparative histories of race, effects of race and gender on education and the workplace, etc.
  3. conn-college-athletic-cntr

    The athletic Center

    Career Center: Every student is guaranteed a $3,000 stipend for an internship between junior and senior years. This guarantees that they have access to internships that might otherwise be cost-prohibited, particularly if they need to pay room and board in a major city. Almost 20% intern abroad. Over 80% of students do use this stipend.

    1. Students are all assigned 3 advisors right as freshmen: a faculty advisor (who teaches one of the student’s first semester classes), a staff advisor (from the career center), and a peer advisor. Students will meet with all of these during the first semester to ensure that they’re adjusting well and are on track.

The majors and minors here are phenomenal, bringing a great deal of flexibility to meet students’ interests, but also providing multi-disciplinary and global approaches to their students, offering majors such as Global Islamic, German, Slavic, Italian, and Hispanic Studies. They have a particularly strong arts program (dance is phenomenal, as is fine arts). Sciences offer more than the usual choices for a school this size, such as Botany and Behavioral Neuroscience.

© 2016

Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart University (visited 10/11/16)


One of the walkways; the brick buildings are dorms

If you’re looking to study at a campus in Ireland or Luxembourg, Sacred Heart might be your school! SHU (pronounced like “shoe”) owns and operates campuses in both places, and they’re well-utilized by a variety of students. Business students even get a tuition waiver for class abroad!


The quad with the chapel on one side

Sacred Heart is another one of those schools that I wish more people knew about. In addition to being a beautiful campus, students are friendly, happy, and engaged in academics and campus social life. The university is student-centered and welcoming to visitors. There are several new buildings with more on the way. They recently celebrated their 50th university; even so new, they’re the 2nd largest Catholic college in New England (after BC).


The chapel interior

The chapel is beautiful in a non-traditional sort of way. The large mural dominating the front of the building was done by a Vatican artist who had done work for Pope John Paul II; this is the only American work of his not housed in a museum. Surprisingly, it only took him 3 weeks to complete. A fun fact is that he never signs his name; instead, he adds a squirrel somewhere in the work.


The squirrel “signature” on the mural

All students take 8 classes in the Core including 1 religion class, The Art of Thinking, and a First-Year Seminar (these last two are taken in freshman year, 1 per semester). My tour guide took Self, Society, and Technology for her FYS, but there are plenty of options (The Seven Deadly Sins was another that popped into her head). Students can only choose their topic if they take it in 2nd semester; otherwise, it’s chosen for them coming in.

Because SHU was hosting a college fair on the day I was visiting, they were not offering the normal 2pm tour, but the admissions rep, who knew I was visiting, had a student give me a personal tour. She was absolutely wonderful – both enthusiastic and genuine. I was sold on the school. “I love giving tours! I want people to love this place as much as I do!”


The lounge in a new dorm

Dorms are spacious, and they’re working on upgrading the oldest buildings while also building more. The newest dorm has a video game room and a cross-fit studio. The pods are “gigantic – they could be triples. It’s like a hotel.” LLC offerings include business, community connections, healthy living, and more. The Honors LLC has 12-person suites. Alcohol is not allowed in the res halls, but they do have a campus pub where of-age students can get beer and wine (no hard liquor is served); “the pub food is great for late night options!” There are 2 buffet-style dining halls, one of which is smartly located in main academic quad. Mac & Cheese is what everyone runs to get.


The foutain

Greek life is one of the fastest growing groups on campus. Football is probably the most popular of the sports, drawing a lot of fans. For students wanting to get off campus, there are shuttles that run to the mall, the transit center and the ferry, and off-campus housing. The tour guide’s favorite tradition is the Penny Parade: during orientation, freshmen march through campus, throw pennies into the fountain, make a wish, and then take a group picture in the shape of their graduation year.


The motion-capture lab

The arts, including Art and Design, dance, music, and theater are popular and strong. The Music department offers concentrations in performance, theory and history, and literature and theory. The Contemporary Art Gallery includes community, student, and staff. They have a few big name alumni, including John Ratzenberger (of Cheers and Pixar fame) and Kevin Nealon.


The new academic building

Business and communications are particularly strong here. They just opened a new building with state of the art equipment for both of these departments; the building has lots of natural light and plenty of seating and meeting areas. It’s so popular with the students as a study area that they school has started putting FYE classes in there so more students have the opportunity to use it. A new health science building is in the planning stages and will look similar to the new building. Colleges of Nursing and Health Professions will be housed in here.

sacred-heart-3The Business department has a Human Subject Lab (used a lot for psychology), a room with an X-box to record and grade presentations, and Stock-Ticker room completely wired for Skype and microphones. The microphones can be turned on to pick up questions and conversation when the Skyping with outsiders; they also can be used to translate spoken words into text for to assist hearing impaired students. The Communications department has all sorts of sets, including a news set donated by Nickelodeon. Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s degrees are available (MA in Comm, Sports Comm and Media, and Media Literacy and Digital Culture).

© 2016

University of Connecticut

UConn (visited 10/13/16)

uconn-sealUConn provides everything you would expect from a top-notch research institution with great academics and well-known athletics. Students here are taken care of under a multiple advisor system, but also will need to be good advocates for themselves. That being said, it’s not so large that they will get lost in the shuffle. Upperclassmen are a great resource for younger students; “they take people under their wings. The underclassmen are going to be the ones to carry on traditions, take over leadership roles,” said a tour guide. They’re clearly doing something right: 93% of freshman return for sophomore year.

uconn-studentsI was impressed that students gave the info session without an admissions representative. The school recommends applying by December 1 in order to be automatically reviewed for Honors and have first access to Merit-based aid. January 15 is the hard deadline. Regardless of when students apply, UConn won’t release decisions until first week in March. The students recommend focusing on the essay: “that’s the only way to speak for yourself,” said a student; they don’t offer interviews.

Last year, about half of the applicants were for the STEM fields. Connecticut recently gave UConn a $1.2billion grant for STEM development, and there’s quite a bit of work being done on campus. They even have a new Next Gen Dorm, housing students in the STEM fields.

uconn-6About 30% of students come in as Undecided. These students are placed in the Academic Center for Exploratory Students program with an advisor to make sure they graduate in 4 years. These advisors are trained to work with Undeclared Majors and know how the different core requirements work at the 12 academic colleges.


Some of the dorms

Housing is guaranteed; 90% of freshmen and 73% overall live on campus including LLCs and Greek housing (13% of students go Greek, but not all live in housing). 86% of students who live off-campus are within a 3-mile radius, and an off-campus housing office helps them find rentals. Students easily get around campus and town on the 8 bus lines, running every 15 minutes along 4 routes.

Students get unlimited swipes on the meal plan which they can use in any of the 8 dining halls, most with themes (International, All-American, Comfort Food). They also have one of the best Gluten-Free programs in the country; the Children’s Hospital modeled their program after UConn’s.

uconn-athleticsStorrs itself is small, “about 4 blocks long. Everyone asks, ‘Where’s the city?’” However, the town caters to students, and certainly there’s plenty to do on campus. “There are more activities than we know what to do with.” High-end performers come here regularly: academic speakers are free; others cost $20. A favorite yearly event is Oozeball where they turn the South Quad into a giant mud pit and have a volleyball tournament.

uconn-basketballAthletics, of course, are a big deal. They have 24 D1 teams with 21 national championships. Football and basketball tickets cost $49 for the season – if they’re a lottery winner to buy them at that price. The number of entries into the lottery depends on the students’ year: seniors get 4, freshmen get 1. If they don’t get this, they can buy regular tickets as available. Soccer also draws a lot of fans.

Community service is not a requirement, but students contribute 1.5 million hours annually, placing them as one of the top 5 schools in the country for service. Huskython is an annual Dance Marathon for Children’s Miracle Network. Another group, the Global Brigade, focuses health and welfare. They travel domestically and abroad (most recently to Panama to open a clinic). UConn offers IDEA Grants for student-designed projects to encourage entrepreneurial, service, and research projects. Grants can be up to several thousand dollars and are open to all majors. One nursing student created a mobile clinic for Korean-Americans and Korean immigrants.

uconn-1There are 6400 classes offered every semester. Eighty-two percent have fewer than 50 students; “.01% have more than 300.” Writing classes are capped at 19, math at 30. The students’ largest classes all hovered around 225 students (Intro to MicroEcon, Intro to Psych, and Communications 1000, “The most taken class for Gen Ed.”) Most of these had discussion sections of 30-32 students. The Smallest classes ranged from 10 (Spanish) to Economic Inventive Design with about 30.

Most academic buildings are in the Academic Quad, “kind of the first ring or center of college with 2 more rings outside it.”

  • uconn-4As the Land-Grant institution, it’s no surprise that the Agriculture School is strong. There are 2 AA degrees (including one in Ornamental Horticulture & Turfgrass Management!); students with a 2.7 can roll into a Bachelor’s program.
  • The School of Fine Arts requires a portfolio/audition for acceptance.
    • The Conn Repertory Theater works with the fine arts students.
    • There are several art galleries (offering a range of artistic styles) as well as a puppetry institute available for internships and gallery showings.
  • uconn-business-2The Engineering program is doing great things.
    • Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM), combines Business Management and Mechanical Engineering. Students in the program can graduate in 4 years if they start right away; it’s very structured. There are lots of engineering projects like creating the dissolvable screw for ACL surgery.
  • Education and Pharmacy programs accept applicants as “pre-“ students: they take pre-reqs as freshman and apply into the program to start as sophomores.
  • FYE is not required but taken by 70-75% of freshman (and it’s open to sophomores, too)
  • The Business School is ranked #1 in New England and top 25 in the country. GE donated 75% of the capital for the new building and remains one of the top recruiters for both Engineering and Business students. They recommend applying directly into the business school as a freshman; current students need a 3.5 GPA to get in.

© 2016

Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University (visited 10/13/16)

ecsu-sign-and-towerECSU is the great option for students wanting the best of both worlds: a medium-sized research institution with lots of options while still engaging in small classes, being able to create change around them, and forging personal relationships with peers and mentors. This is a solid university that sets its students up for success.

ecsu-seating-and-acad-bldgAs the smallest and most residential campus of the Connecticut State system (of which, surprisingly, UConn is not a part!), it’s also Connecticut’s only Public Liberal Arts School. They take an interdisciplinary approach to education, including lots of group projects, collaboration, and teamwork. Classes are largely discussion-based to teach students how to think critically and analytically. The average classes have 23; 94% have fewer than 40 students. The largest class last year was 46. No TA/GAs teach classes.


The Student Center

One of the best ways they ensure success is through the Eastern in 4 Program which involves a Dual Advising Program: students get an academic advisor and one from the Professional Advising center; with these 2 people, freshmen create a 4-year plan that helps them think through their interests and professional goals while graduating on time and being hirable. 95% of students complete internships or other applied learning experiences. Additionally, the college provides up to $8000 in scholarship money to make study abroad accessible. Students not wanting (or able) to do a complete semester or year abroad can participate in Global Field Courses (2-3 week study-courses). For example, Tropical Biology went to Costa Rica where they stayed in tree-houses, studied tropical reefs, etc. A Communications class went to London and Paris, a psychology class went to Dublin, and a Creative Writing class went to Italy.

ecsu-2The international experience also comes to campus. The tour guide feels that campus is diverse, with good reason: there’s a great deal of geographic diversity here with 24 states and 23 countries represented (good for a non-flagship state school). Being such a residential campus helps attract people. They do enroll slightly more females than males (about a 55-45 split), and more than 25% are self-reported students of color.


One of the dorms

Most freshmen (90%) live on campus but this drops to about 2/3 of all students after the first year. Many on-campus upperclassmen live in suites like mini-apartments. The housing lottery is done with priority points: the more they do on campus, the better housing they’ll get – and there’s plenty to do!

Students like the campus food: “Curley fries on Fridays are the best!” The milk and apples used in Dining Services are locally sourced from nearby farms, as are other vegetables. Even local restaurants and food stores are locally-sourced. When I asked the tour guide what surprised her about the school, she immediately said, “How good the ice cream place in town is!! Ok, really, I guess it’s how nice people are. People will hold doors, say hi to each other, etc”


A small pond with dorms in the background

They offer 15 DIII and 5 Club sports (and they have the highest GPA in their division, winning the President Cup 3 times!). One of our tour guide’s favorite activities is the Thursday Night pancakes served from 9 to midnight. “They do chocolate chip on the first Thursday of the month!” The “Stress Free Days” also draw big kudos. The college brings in therapy dogs, people can get massages, there’s a Panini truck, and more. There’s plenty of late-night programming similar to any other college, as well.

Freshmen can’t have cars on campus, but after that, parking is free. A shuttle runs every 10-15 minutes with 10 stops on campus (although it’s a highly walkable campus) and 2 stops off campus (at the mall and at Walmart). The college runs discounted trips to NYC and Boston fairly frequently (they’re located centrally between the two cities). For example, students can get RT transportation to NY and a Broadway ticket for $35. Longer weekend trips to places like DC and Philly are also available.


The Planetarium

Majors are fairly standard here; they don’t offer a ton of options, but what they do, they tend to do well, and major corporations tend to hire them quickly out of school. More than 30 Eastern grads work at ESPN, and not just from their Sport and Leisure Management or New Media Studies programs; one woman is doing their digital art and design work. “When you see the logo pop up, that’s her work,” said the rep. Students in the music program get opportunities such as singing with Josh Groban.


One of the academic buildings

ECSU is test-optional as long as the applicant has earned a 3.0 in academic courses – BUT in order to receive any merit aid, scores must be submitted! They do recommend sending scores because the admissions process is more stringent without them. Decisions are sent out on a rolling basis; the rep suggested: “Between Thanksgiving and winter break would be a good target area. It’s when we get most of our apps.”

© 2016

Fairfield University

Fairfield University (visited 10/11/16)

fairfield-statueStudents who are willing to explore or who have a professional mind-set but don’t want to be stuck on a single track are going to love Fairfield. “We do a great job with the undecided students helping them to find a path,” said the admissions rep.

Fairfield is a hidden gem. They take great care of their students in all realms, true to their Jesuit roots. As 1 of the US’s 28 Jesuit universities, there are 3 core values to Fairfield’s philosophies:

  • A liberal arts education: Jesuits are known for being educators and have a commitment to social justice. All students, regardless of area of study, will engage in core classes. They engage with people who have a range of interests.
  • fairfield-bell-tower

    The bell tower by the chapel

    Cura personalis: care for the whole person. They want students to think about where they’re going in mind, body, and spirit. Obviously, students are growing intellectually in the class but also outside of it. They’re using NYC, going to lectures, etc. Body – Healthy Living Floors, classes on meditation, using the rec center.

  • Men and Women for others: They want students be asking, ‘How are they able to give back?’ … and then following through. Many students take classes with Service Learning components (such as Non-profit Accounting, developmental psych, or Non-profit grant management) where things are built in. They look at how they can engage in the community using what they learn in the classes and at other community service.

fairfield-quad-1Clearly they’re doing something right. They have an impressive 89% retention rate from freshman to sophomore year (and they’re actively working to get that into the 90s). They hold two 2 orientations programs in June and August, and the FYE class taken in the first semester is an outreach from Orientation. The 3800 undergrads are happy on campus, and Fairfield works hard to make sure they graduate: 82% within 4-years, 84% within 6 (both of which are well above the national norms).


Sculpture in front of the chapel as seen through the bell tower.

About 2/3 of students self-report as Roman Catholic (which doesn’t necessarily mean practicing!). Things are there if you want them, including on and off campus retreats. During masses, music is often provided by students. All students must take 2 religion classes: the first, an overview, is required; the second is a choice.


The fountain in the pond on the edge of campus

This is a beautiful partially-wooded campus in a residential area, but there are things to do within a 10 minute walk. Sunny Daes is a favorite ice cream place, Archie Moore’s has wings, and Peppi’s Pizza (5 minutes off campus) has been ranked the #1 pizza. They’re also close to local farms for apple and pumpkin picking. For those looking for more action, a MetroNorth stop is close to campus; Grand Central is an hour away by train. Shuttles run all day every 30 minutes starting at 7am on weekdays, 11am on weekends. It’s a full-sized bus so there’s always room!


Freshmen dorms in the center of campus

Most things on campus are within a 10-minute walk, with a few more minutes to reach some of the outlying corners. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years, but about half the seniors choose to live off campus. Dorms are fairly traditional for freshmen. Many sophomores are able to move into suites, and apartments and suites are available for upperclassmen.


Some of the upperclassman suites in a “village” on the side of campus

A couple favorite traditions include Midnight Breakfasts and the senior tradition of going to the beach to watch a final sunrise with friends before graduation; Fairfield Beach is just a couple miles from campus, also making it a favorite place to hang out during good weather.

Most intro classes are capped at 30; chem is one of the few above this number (capped at 40). Students can choose from 44 majors, 16 interdisciplinary programs, and 12 4+1 programs:

  • fairfield-business-2

    The business school

    Business: Dolan is ranked as one of Bloomberg’s Top 50 Undergrad Business Schools. All business majors all get a broad basis before specializing. It’s not unusual for students to complete 2 or 3 internships. They’re close to several Fortune 500 companies in Stanford. They run startup competitions and Elevator-pitch competitions.

  • fairfield-new-construction

    Expansion of the Nursing and Health Sciences buildings; they’re very careful to leave the trees intact.

    Nursing: This is Fairfield’s only direct-admit program. Students can’t transition into nursing because classes start immediately in freshman year and clinicals start sophomore year. Students can study abroad for a semester in Brisbane or Ireland (where they’ll complete their surgical rotations) or in Nicaragua for a shorter experience, usually getting experience in clinics.

  • fairfield-mascot

    The mascot

    Engineering: incoming students can apply to a specific program or come in as undecided. Students can complete a 4+1 in Management of Technology to be ready to cross over into the business section and be ready to manage if they want.

  • Arts and Sciences: Among the many majors, students can choose: Irish Studies, Black Studies, Digital Journalism, Judaic Studies, and Behavioral Neuroscience.

Almost half (45%) of students spend at least a semester abroad; 70% graduate with some sort of international experience such as the short-term classes.


The student-run sustainable garden

Fairfield is Common App Exclusive, and admission is test-optional. Last year, 39% of students did not submit test scores. Interviews, which tend to be informal, are available through Thanksgiving, and can be done by admissions rep OR a senior. The top 10% of applicants are named Magis (“The More,” a very Jesuit term) Scholars. Students getting this tend to be those students who enhance lives around them, who push themselves hard, and tend to have a 31+ on the ACT.

© 2016

University of New Haven

University of New Haven (visited 10/12/16)

new-haven-sealUNH has their act together. They know who they are and what they expect from the kids. Their tag line is “Leader in Experiential Education,” and having seen their resources and talking to several of their kids, I believe it! One of the students I spoke to said, “There are so many resources and opportunities. I’m really proud to be here.”

Internships are required for about 80% of majors (all majors encourage it); most research is available in the sciences, but some companies hire business and engineering students to work on projects. Employers mention the passion and knowledge that UNH students bring to the job; they are mature and well-spoken, and employers keep coming back knowing that they’re going to get quality students. Additionally, the alumni network is strong; they’re willing to employ graduates or interns. “Wildcats look out for wildcats.”


The Kaplan building with no 90 degree angles (except where it meets the ground and on the roof).

I had no idea that UNH was founded conjunction with Northeastern and Yale. Now, the campus is in a safe suburban area of West Haven (not in its original location downtown). This great college town has music, theater, and a world-class restaurant scene (including Peppi’s Pizza, ranked #1 in the world). When students get sick of New Haven, the are 2 train stations within 10 minutes will get students into NYC (1.5 hours on MetroNorth) or Boston (2 hours on Amtrak). The beaches are only a few miles away.


new-haven-bikesThe 4,600 undergrads are evenly split between men and women. Sixty percent come from outside of Connecticut with 41 states and 22 foreign countries represented. Diversity in all its forms is getting better. “A couple years ago, it wasn’t so good. It’s a lot more inclusive now,” said the tour guide in response to my question about how well different groups were represented on campus.


Lower Quad where many of the dorms are located

About 2/3 of students live on campus; this will rise when the new building opens in fall 2017 with 67 suites, parking, and retail space (Starbucks and a burger place are confirmed; the rest is still in negotiation). The freshman dorm opened that in 2014 has bathrooms attached to each room. There are still some forced triples, but students in those get $500 off R&B. First-year students can choose an LLC (Army ROTC, honors, arts, marine bio, engineering, forensic science, criminal justice) filled on a first come, first served basis. The tour guides encouraged students to look into these: “They can help a lot in the first year, particularly in more competitive majors or those with lots of projects and late nights such as engineering; if you’re up at 2 am working on something, it’s nice to have others around doing the same things.”


One of the tour guides said that he was surprised at how good the food was on campus. The Dairy Bar is the first 3-star certified green restaurant in New Haven.

new-haven-galleryAnother student said he was surprised at how much there was to do outside the classroom. “I was never bored.” The Juggling and Hammock clubs are particularly popular. Students get free tickets to sporting events; the only game that might be difficult to get tickets for is the one against U Maine, their big rival. “We’ll camp out for tickets – that’s half the fun!” Intramurals are a big draw, particularly Broomball.

With 100 majors (and growing) and 70 minors/concentrations, students have no shortage of options. Many programs are hands-on and/or professionally-focused. Students start early doing real work in the field.

  • new-haven-crime-scene-bldg

    Crime Scene Building

    Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences: This is their claim to fame. Henry C. Lee, a nationally known forensic scientist (and still consults for shows and agencies), runs the program.

    • CJ has 7 concentrations: Corrections, Crime Analysis, Law Enforcement Admin, Victim Services Admin, International Justice and Security, Juvenile and Family Justice, Forensic Psych, Investigative Services
      • There’s a crime scene house (“My friends have done 11 hour labs there!” said a tour guide) and a building with crime scene rooms for labwork.
      • new-haven-crime-scene-room

        one of the crime scene lab rooms

        The National Cold Case Center sends information to campus; students and faculty get to work on these.

      • “The forensics floor smells pretty funky, but you’ll get used to it. A professor does research on Forensic Entymology up there,” said a tour guide.
      • One student studied in Australia and worked at a body farm.
    • Fire Science (Arson Investigation or Fire Admin)
    • Fire Protection Engineering
    • National Security Studies: Most students in this major will minor in a language (Chinese, Russian, Arabic are encouraged)
    • Paramedicine
  • Arts and Sciences
  • new-haven-6Business
    • Economics: Students can specialize in General, Behavioral, or Economic Sustainability
    • PACE program: individualized major within the school
    • Hospitality and Tourism Management: students run the campus café and restaurant on campus from top to bottom (marketing, scheduling, food service, purchasing, hiring and firing, etc)
    • The 3+1 Fast-Track allows students to get the Bachelor’s in 3 years. Although not required, it is helpful if students have AP or dual-enrolment credits coming into this program. 4+1 is also an option.
  • Engineering: This school puts a big focus on leadership, communication/presentation skills, and team building.
    • Cyber Systems, Cyber Forensics, and Cybersecurity
    • Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • New Lyme College of Fine Arts: When Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts closed, UNH acquired them and merged the programs into the university.

new-haven-1If students can’t (or don’t want to) spend a semester or year abroad, they have several 2-week intensive study abroad options or can spend first semester freshman year in Prato (Tuscany). A cohort is sent with bio and engineering professors to teach the same classes they’d take here. Music students go to Nashville, working in studios during the day and take classes at night.

New Haven is strict about application deadlines: EVERYTHING has to be in by those dates, not just the student applications. They only require 1 letter, and they will superscore both tests. Interviews are required for Early Decision only. The rep said, “Send things in early! We have the most money to give out and there’s space in all our programs. Applying early means that you have the best chance to be placed in the major you want.” The Priority App deadline is March 1, but if there is space available, apps will be evaluated on a rolling basis after that.

© 2016

Yale University

Yale University (visited 10/12/16)
yale-fountainYale, of course, is physically impressive as an institution. Their distinction – and maybe the big claim to fame beyond the reputation – is their Residential College System. Beyond that, I could not find any way to differentiate their academics from many other institutions (even though they tried to say they were different because of small classes, dedicated professors, and even some Nobel Laureates. There are lots of schools that with the very same things). In response to a direct question from a family, the senior giving the info session, even after waxing poetic about how special Yale and the students were, couldn’t actually characterize the students here or what perhaps made them or the institution different from others. She simply said, “Well, all colleges aren’t for everyone. I guess you’ll have to visit and see if you get that vibe.”

yale-6Yale College is technically the undergraduate portion of Yale University with 5300 undergrads (there are 11,000 students total); “we’re a liberal arts college within a research university,” so students have access to all the resources of the other colleges. Education here is “student-centered and student-driven. We sit in the middle of the spectrum between Core requirements and an Open Curriculum.” Students must complete distribution requirements in 6 areas, but they simply have to take 2 classes within each distribution from a list of several hundred options.

yale-doorwayYale issues credits differently from many schools; most classes are worth 1 credit (Labs = .5 and languages = 1.5). Students need 36 credits to graduate including 12 in the major and 12 distribution credits. This allows for flexibility for exploring, a double major, study abroad, etc. The directors of undergraduate studies will look at AP or IB credits and will place students in appropriate levels; students can take a placement exam if they want to try to place out of a class.

yale-sculptureBeing Yale, there are certainly a ton of options for majors, many of which are unusual, such as Ethnicity, Race, and Migration; Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health; and Ethics, Politics, and Economics. Students who don’t find what they’re interested in can create own major such as recent students studying Socio-Linguistics or Sports History. There are no minors but plenty of concentrations in majors.


Sterling Library

Students get a 2-week shopping period for classes. All freshmen have 3 advisors to help choose and figure out schedules: the Dean of Residential College, a Freshman College Advisor (a senior within the college who run study breaks, orientation, etc), and a Freshman Advisor. Seventy percent of classes have fewer than 20 students; 30% have fewer than 10. Most classes are taught by faculty, not adjuncts; language classes taught by native speakers tend to be the exception. They have an unusually low student-to-faculty ratio (6:1 over, but 2:1 in engineering and 3:1 in science).


In the quad of one of the Colleges

The Residential College System (which, although rare, is not exclusive to Yale) is a housing affiliation that determines where and with whom students live. Students are sorted randomly but “it’s an organized random. They will go back in to check to make sure that they didn’t put the whole hockey team in one place.” Freshmen room together in suites in Old College (the oldest quad on campus) in buildings or halls according to their College affiliation, and then will move to the physical college as sophomores. The Colleges have their own library, dining hall, laundry, fitness center, and a Buttery for late night food: “It’s cheap, student run, and great for jobs,” said the tour guide. Each has something unique such as a pottery or dance studio, a printing press, or half-basketball court; students from other colleges have access to these.



A statue in the Old Quad

The student giving the info session and the tour guide both played up social aspect of the colleges. Every college has its own traditions such as “Running of the Trumbull” (the name of the college), snowball fights on the first snowfall, annual events when they sneak into other colleges to “steal their trinkets, then we roast a pig and smores, and watch How to Train Your Dragon.” Each college has a Dean of College and Head of College. The Dean is in charge of academics: they sign off on schedules, give passes to push back deadlines if students are sick, etc. The Head is in charge of administrative tasks, planning trips and study breaks, and the Teas where famous people come to College to talk to the students.



The Old College quad

Housing is guaranteed all four years. “Why wouldn’t you live here? It’s a castle! And it’s where your food is and the fitness center. It’s great not to have to go outside,” said the tour guide. Currently there are 12 colleges, each housing about 450 students, with plans for two more going up in the next couple years. Yale will be increasing class size by 200 for the next 4 years.



The stacks inside Beinecke Library


New Haven is “small enough to be intimate but large enough to be interesting.” The city claims the first burger, first Frisbee, and first planned city. It has theater, music, and a “world class dining scene” including a new Laotian restaurant. If that gets boring, it’s a quick train ride into NYC for $15 off-peak.



Light shining through Beinecke’s marble windows

Beinecke library is their famous Rare Books library. The marble is only 1.5 inches thick so light comes through. It’s stunning from the inside, and they have a Gutenberg Bible.



School of Music

Music is pretty big on campus with lots of a cappella groups (“Stay away from arches; it’s where they practice!”). Woolsey Jamboree, an annual a cappella concert, draws big crowds, as does the Yale Symphony Orchestra, particularly for the Halloween Movie. They film a silent movie in advance then play along. People come in costume, including the musicians. People are given candy at the door.


Food at the College dining halls is standardized (aka they all serve the same food on same days) but Commons Dining Hall, big enough for a whole class, has more choices (and there’s a separate Kosher dining hall, as well). “Chicken Tender night is a big deal!” The Freshman Christmas banquet every year is held in the Commons every year: “Bring Tupperware for leftovers”

© 2016

Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology (visited 10/10/16)


A view of the NYC skyline from Steven’s dining hall.

“The Innovation University,” as Stevens calls itself, is located on a surprisingly attractive campus overlooking New York City. Parts of Hoboken are congested and hard to navigate, but the university is in a more residential area (just be careful of the narrow, one-way streets!).


stevens-walkwayThe 3000 undergraduates (still skewed towards male, but better than the 70-30 ratio from a couple years ago) take full advantage of all the on- and off-campus offerings. Housing is guaranteed for all 4 years, but students are only required to live on campus for the first year. The university runs some off-campus apartments for students to lease; these are available only for a full-calendar year, great for students who are doing co-ops or internships. These are all within a 15-minute walk, and shuttles are available. New York City is only a 10-minute ride away on Path. “Off campus, students don’t miss Washington Street Wednesday. We can use our meal cards at participating restaurants. A meal there equals 1 meal swipe.” They also have NYC at their disposal, including discounted tickets for shows.


One of the teams practicing

On-campus life is active, and students love the number of options. Some favorite events are:

  • Techfest (fall) and Boken (spring)
  • Habitat for Humanity Alternative Spring Break
  • Castle Point Anime Convention (Spring): this was started by a student who asked to have it on campus; it is now one of the largest and draws 5000 people to campus.
  • Ethnic Student Council’s Unity Carnival and Show

A dorm with a sand volleyball court in front. I’ll come in at 7am and see students playing there,” said a rep.

A little more than 1/3 of students go Greek here, and they’ve joined the Rethink Greek Movement which works towards getting away from hazing. There is 1 co-ed community service fraternity. The 26 DIII sports are evenly divided between men’s and women’s teams. Volleyball is really big here. They have a bowling alley on campus; it’s free for students and they serve free pizza on Tuesdays. “That’s a big draw,” said the tour guide.



A lounge in one of the academic buildings

Every student gets 3 advisors (academic, peer, and career) to help navigate social, academic, and additional options like internships, co-ops, and study abroad. Students can double major in anything across the 4 colleges except engineering (it’s too course-intensive):


  • Arts and Letters: Most of these majors are interdisciplinary and combine some sort of technology component.
  • Business: They offer 8 degrees including:
  • stevens-astro-and-physics

    An engineering and physics academic building

    Computer Science and Cybersecurity (winner of a national award): They’ve seen a huge jump in applications for this school. There are 8 concentrations within Comp Sci.

    • Game design is one of the most popular, and often will double major in VA&T to get the artistic aspects.
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Mobile and Pervasive Computing
    • Students can apply for a scholarship with the NSA in their freshman year. 15 are awarded to fund the rest of undergrad studies as well as graduate (when appropriate), a summer internship, and a job after graduation.
  • Engineering and Science: Stevens started by offering only Mechanical Engineering (still one of the biggest majors). All Engineering students take the Design Spine for the first 3 semesters: they all take the same classes and work in groups on projects. This means that that students are qualified to go into another discipline – as an undergrad, in the workforce, or in grad schools – if a job opens up and is appealing. Some of the unusual engineering majors include:
    • A concentration in Naval Engineering: They have a building dedicated to this with a large water tank. The Navy and other governmental organizations come here to use it; there’s a 2-year waiting list to get access.
    • Environmental Engineering
    • Advanced Chemical Biology: this takes 1 year of study off a BS/MD track in conjunction with Rutgers Medical School.

The Arch, the only remaining part of the original estate where Stevens now stands.

Stevens wants students to have academic/technical knowledge and the ability to apply it. They require Professional Practice for all students: 40% complete Internships, 30% participate in Co-ops, 20% do Research, 10% do something else. Those choosing Co-ops take 5 years to complete their degrees. For the first and last years, they’re full-time students; in between, they alternate between classes and co-ops, graduating with up to 2 years of work experience. Study Abroad is open to all majors with programs already designed to enable smooth transitions and transferring of credits.


A statue on one of the quads

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers an Innovation course, entrepreneurship minor. All students do a Senior design project. Advisors work with students to answer “What do you want to do?” That becomes the basis for the senior project (many continue after graduation). The Innovation Expo and Elevator Pitch Competition is held annually: students prepare a 90 second spiel and present it to a variety of people. The top 3 win money; the overall winner gets a position with a company in Hoboken.

Steven accepted 41% of their applicants last year; 90% were in the top ¼ of their class. The Subject Tests are only required for applicants to the Accelerated Pre-Med programs; those apps are due by 11/15. Admissions is test-optional for Music & Tech applicants; the Visual Arts & Tech students must send a portfolio if they don’t sent scores.

© 2016




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