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Wagner College

Wagner College (visited 3/24/17)

Wagner 1The students who thrive here are those who are curious and who want a theory-to-practice experience, said one of the professors. The claim to fame for this college is that they’re the residential liberal arts institution of New York City.

The Wagner Plan is their 3-level general education requirement in which students related theoretical lenses outside the classroom. This is broadly construed ranging from work in the local community to trips to museums, mosques, or other cultural sites.

  • All first-year students enroll in one of 19-21 First-Year Programs co-taught by 2 professors. They both teach 1 content-specific class; the 3rd is a team-taught, reflective, writing-intensive class to connect content to experience. Recent combinations included Philosophy/Psych, Spanish/Business, and Ways of Thinking/Sociology. “From a faculty perspective, it’s fun. We get creative and it teaches us about another discipline.”
  • Wagner main 1

    The iconic main building. If it looks familiar, it’s because School of Rock and an episode of The Sopranos were shot here.

    The intermediate class can be taken as early as 2nd semester freshman year, but usually is done in sophomore year. Two professors often teach discipline-specific classes (with some team-teaching) with common assignments to connect them; there isn’t a 3rd class.

  • The last is a Capstone/Senior Reflective Tutorial. Departments have leeway in how they define this; they’re best know how to prepare the students for the next level. Some will do summer research; sometimes it’s internships or a thesis.
Wagner anchor and dorm

The anchor with an upperclassman dorm in the background

“Lots of social dialogues happen here,” said one student panelist. Like many campuses, there’s an item that gets painted. “We’re pretty politically involved. The anchor got painted for Black Lives Matter with body outlines on the ground, for Pride week, etc.” Students agreed that there were a lot of very progressive students. Another student on the panel said, “We’re passionate about anything about our living situation and our food. The changes made since freshman year have been amazing.” They now have a Gender-Neutral floor. “We argued for it. Really, under the traditional rules, I [a male] could live with my boyfriend. It would be “safer” if I lived with a girl!”

Wagner city

The view of Manhattan from one of the dorms

The tour guides agreed that this is not a quiet campus. About 85% of all students live on campus: “Moving off campus is an option, but they’re still looking at NYC rents. It’s not the Upper East Side, but it’s still steep.” Greek Life only pulls in 16% of students so people are involved in lots of other things. “There maybe aren’t as many organized events as other campuses, but the flip side of that is there’s the city. You get college discounts everywhere, but here, you get discounts in NYC. We can see Broadway shows for $30.” Shuttles leave campus on the :10 and :40 to take students to the ferry. “You go for the first time during Orientation. It takes away the stress.” There are things to do near campus, as well, but “we’re on a hill. Most students don’t like having to hike back up it!” The city buses are not free but are easily accessible, and there are shuttles to the mall, the movies, etc.

All theater and sporting events (DI!) are free, but students say that school spirit isn’t too high. Football doesn’t draw crowds, but basketball does. (As a side note, the Women’s Water Polo team has the highest GPA of any polo team in the country). They use the Staten Island minor league stadium for their home baseball games.

We asked the student panelists what they would like to change:

  • Wagner dorm 2

    Harborview Dorm, one of the older dorms on campus (but with great views!)

    Update living situations. The towers were built in 1963 and haven’t been renovated.

  • The Science department has lots of potential, but it costs money. The faculty put time into getting grants to help bring students into research. Lab space is sufficient, but not huge.
  • Food is mediocre. It fluctuates. “But at least I didn’t get the Freshman 15.”
  • “Some of the codes are grandfathered in because buildings are so old. Our theater is in a gym. They’ve done a bunch, but acoustically it’s still a gym. Dance studios don’t have spring floors.”
Wagner dorms 4

More dorms

Academics are overall strong; they look to hire teachers, not researchers: “That’s fantastic if you brought in a million dollar grant or published a paper, but if you can’t teach, we don’t want you!” This isn’t to say that there isn’t research, because there is, but learning is put first and foremost. Research is easy and not hugely competitive. “You just need to be proactive. If you’re a science major, you have to have a research experience in junior year, and even psych majors have 2 experimental classes. It’s very easy to go to professors and get involved.”

Wagner 4Unusual programs include Biopsychology, Microbiology, and Behavioral Economics. Strong programs include:

  • Education: Students get at least 25 hours of experience in every Edu class.
  • Theater: “It’s competitive, but we have fun and are friendly.” They receive 500 apps for 32 spots. Admissions first clears students and invite approximately 275 to audition. About half audition in person (they try to tie this in with the spring show) and another 50 or so send in a video audition. The department puts on 4 productions a year and get a lot of community support.
  • Nursing: This is not direct entry; students complete the pre-reqs and take the T6 (basic skills – everyone takes this) As long as they pass, they’re in the program. Nursing students can do research. One did a project looking at whole/non-processed foods in Bodegas and helped provide incentives to put this type up front.
  • The Art, Art History, and Film Department is strong and active with trips and internships (Met, Morgan Library, Neue Galerie, Marvel Comics, Rachel Ray Show, Downtown Community TV, Tibetan Museum of Art, Staten Island Museum). Students are successful studio artists, grad school, entrepreneurs (including publishing), education management in museums, fashion designer
    • Film and Media Studies offers 3 tracks (civically engaged, artistic production, criticism) as well as a dual track in Art and Education.
      • They’re looking at Public Art and bringing in the social engagement.
      • Several interdisciplinary classes like “Illustration, Sleep, and Dreams (w/ psych), Connecting Families through Documentary Film (w/ Philosophy), Food and Fasting in the Old and New World (Art History/Anthro), Cities and perversities (Art History/French)
    • Wagner statueThe Chemistry Department is ACS certified (only 30% of schools get this). Gen Chem maxes out at 28 students taught by senior level professors. “Fabulous things come out of lunchroom conversations. I’m changing the world in the way that’s valued by the liberal arts community. We send a couple students per year, many women, off to become PhDs.”
    • Wagner has 1 of 3 planetariums in the city! (“It’s part of why I came here, and I haven’t even gone to it yet!” said a tour guide).
    • Physician Assistant: They invite 90 students to interview (they usually get about 200 applications) and can take 40. This 5-year program includes 3 study abroad experiences: a week in London (psych and some clinical work in a hospital, and they can go back and do psych rotation for 4 weeks); Guatamala in the 4th year (they complete clinical care in local mountain towns); and Belize in the 5th “It’s an unbelievably collaborative group and team-oriented in the classes. Older students mentor younger ones.” Tuition is a little higher for PA, but includes all study abroad trips and some of the summer costs. They complete 2 full years of clinical work (1 of 2 in the country to do this).
    • The Expanding Your Horizons program allows for short term travel abroad, usually linked to a class.

Wagner picnic areaWe asked the student panel about their favorite classes:

  • “The Education class part of my freshman LC. We talked about the law behind Special Ed. We did community service, and I was partnered with an amazing girl! I got to see a different perspective when we worked on daily living skills. It was fascinating to have those conversations.”
  • International Filmmaker: “We learned about the impact people have had. We got an inside look on European and other films.”
  • Musical Theater Performance. “The teacher was a Tony Award Winner. I have 2 teachers who are currently on Broadway. The pianist we work with plays for Hamilton sometimes!”

Students were surprised by:

  • How much professors wanted to reach out. “I studied abroad. I was home for 5 days and got a phone call wanting to know if I was back and if I wanted to get coffee.”
  • The community of people. I felt really welcomed. Even football people came up and talked. It was very different from high school.
  • I was in a philosophy class freshman year with people with diversity of views. I started out thinking “How could you think like that?” I was in a bubble from my little Catholic school but I saw other bubbles and why people believe what they believe.

© 2017

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University of Rochester

University of Rochester (visited 10/19/15)

~UR main quad

Main quad with the library at the far end

“We’re fundamentally a research university,” said the V-P of Enrollment. “Faculty are hired because they’re doing good work.” Rochester is nationally ranked in the top 10 for faculty research. Because of this, they’re looking for students who are, first and foremost, curious. “They aren’t asking what they should do – they’re asking why they should do it. We do a lot of things well, and all of them have some research component. We’re looking for students who are prepared – and hopefully excited – about that. If they don’t take advantage of this part of the university, if they aren’t connecting to at least one professor, they aren’t getting what they’re paying for.”

~UR students“We want quirky kids who will push the boundaries and ask probing questions – but not so out-there weird that they can’t live with a roommate.” Teachers go really fast; classes are full of highly motivated students. Rigor is the thing that unifies the entire community. The professors make great teachers because as researchers, they also know what it is to be a learner. They’re guiding the students on the journey, not worrying on Sunday night about that they’re going to say on Monday morning.

~UR walkway 3Because of Rochester’s curricular flexibility and no required subjects, they tend to have a lot of cross-apps with Brown “but we don’t have a wide open curriculum. We aren’t Brown or Hamilton.” Students still have to graduate with a broad curriculum, but it’s an education they come up with for themselves. “That’s part of the reason people need to be willing to self-advocate and ask questions. What’s going to make them a consummate scholar and professional in that field?” They build their curriculum around their interests: they must take 3-course clusters in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences (their major requirements fulfill the cluster in 1 division).

UR acad bldg 1Partly stemming from the fact that students are interested in so many areas, it’s not surprising that Rochetser offers some unusual majors such as:

~UR statue5,100 undergraduates study on the main River Campus (500 students study at Eastman School of Music: see separate write-up), making this one of the smallest research schools in the country. Almost 20% of students are international, one of the highest among research institutions. There’s also a great deal of other diversity: 20% receiving Pell Grants, and “We’re a majority minority institution. When I started here, we were 80% white northeastern students. That’s not the case anymore.”

Admissions is test-flexible: students need to provide some evidence that they can hold their own in high-stakes testing: AP, IB, SAT/ACT, or Subject Tests. They can upload a link to a creative or research project for supplemental materials. Every application is double-read. When the readers disagree, the app goes to committee. Last year, almost 1/3 of applications were sent: “I’m not aiming for agreement,” said the VP of Enrollment. “The most interesting discussions come out of this disagreement. Students who received one of the Rochester awards as a HS Junior have their application fee waived.

~UR frat house

Greek housing

About 90% of students live on campus. Dorms are pre-wired for Cable and students get a pass for HBOgo. If students move off-campus, someone from the Office of Off-Campus Housing will help check places out and read over leases. Students are thrilled with the events on campus. “I was really overwhelmed with the number of extra-curriculars. It’s a ridiculous amount of stuff you can do.” Almost 25% of students go Greek. Sports are popular both to play and watch; they’re DIII except Squash (which can only compete at a DI level). There are several big activity weekends or events:

  • Meloria Weekend (Alumni Weekend).
  • Winter weekend: the school brings in huskies; gives away gloves, hats, or scarves; sets up bonfire and students roast smores, etc.
  • Boar’s Head Dinner is a Medieval-themed dinner (not unique to Rochester but rare enough!). A different professor tells the myth of the student and the Boar, putting their own theme on it. There’s singing, juggling, etc.

~UR shuttle mapWhen students want to get off campus, they can take one of the city buses that stop on campus and cost $1. The school buses are free.

For people worried about winters in Upstate NY, don’t worry too much: a great deal of campus is connected through tunnels. The academic buildings on the main quad are connected, as are several of the science buildings. Dorms are not connected due to security issues.

~UR chapel

Rochester’s non-denominational chapel

Students are happy with Rochester and were hard-pressed to find anything to change – a couple seemed almost offended that we’d even suggest that improvements needed to be made. A senior said, “Currently, I’d say food, but it’s because I’ve been eating it for 4 years. Maybe they could have a bit more international food??” A Junior said, “Parking was an issue, but they’ve built a new complex, revamped how people get parking passes, etc. We used to pay for laundry, now it’s free. They’ve added all-gender bathrooms. They have options to check off male, female, transgender, and other on the application.”

UR atriumThe school does seem to be responsive to needs and things that students want. They’ve added study spaces to keep up with the increased enrollment. There are even sleeping pods in the library; these were last year’s 5K Challenge winner: every year, students proposals ideas to improve campus. Winners are determined by student vote and are given $5,000 to implement the idea.

One of the students left us with this thought: “You’re bound to be successful here. If you want it, you’re going to get it.”

© 2015

St. John Fisher College

St. John Fisher College (visited 10/20/15)

~SJFC signFisher, nicknamed the College on the Hill, is a much newer university than I realized. They opened with 110 students in 1951to give an education to local Catholic boys, often from immigrant families. Now, they’re coed and have 2600 full-time undergrads and still hold the ideal of providing college access to generally underrepresented students. About 1/3 of their students are first-gen (their First-Gen scholarship provides support for up to 24 students) and 1/3 receive Pell Grants. 30-35 HEOP students enter each year with a 92% graduation rate.

~SJFC 9St. John Fisher was the Bishop of Rochester, England and the Chancellor at Cambridge. He was martyred when he was executed for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as the leader of the Church of England. SJFC broke away from the Catholic Church in the early ‘70s but retained their core beliefs – “Teach me discipline, wisdom, and knowledge” – but nothing is forced. Religious classes are offered but not required.

Mascot

Mascot

The student who ate breakfast with us said: “I’m pretty happy with the diversity. There’s a lot of religious diversity and I’ve seen a growth in the number of African-Americans since I’ve been here. I knew them all when I was a freshman, but I think the college saw that this was a problem and they’re working to recruit more people of color.”

~SJFC 8People are committed to the success of the students. People take care of each other and help each other out. In 2015, they received the Presidents Higher Education Community Service award for the 9th year in a row. The Service Scholars program provides 50% tuition scholarships; these students commit to 130 hours of service the first year and 200 hours every other year. We spoke to a student in this program; she’s currently doing Service Learning at the Galway Autism Program.

~SJFC labsFisher combines the Liberal Arts (college of A&S) with professional training (Education, Business, Nursing, and Pharmacy). Even the academic buildings are connected (except for 2): when the floor changes, you know you’re in another building. Students in the 2+4 Pharm program are assured an interview and are put into seminars for prep work. Media Studies provides training in new medias but also teaches older ones and how they inform the new. Nursing saves spots for the declared majors. Students who change majors and transfer students compete for the remaining spots. The Education Department is 1 of only 3 NYS schools with a teaching simulation lab.

~SJFC pharmacyThey’re clearly doing something right: the faculty get rave reviews from students (5 have received a Fulbright), and their alumni have met with a lot of success. Alumni include Ed Stack (Chairman and CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods) and Martin Mucci (founder and CEO of Paychex). A junior we spoke to was surprised by the alumni connections. About 70% live within 100 miles so it’s easy to get in contact with them, shadow them, get internships, etc. The new President is committed to “creating a transformative educational experience for the students;” he particularly wants to grow the study abroad program (only 10% of students currently go abroad.

Sports fields with upperclassmen housing on the far side

Sports fields with upperclassmen housing on the far side

This is still very much a regional school (many students are from 100 miles) but they’re working on changing this. Only about 10% of their 550 freshmen commute, but only about 55% of all students live on campus. They do bring in a lot of transfer students who usually commute. Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus. They get free bus tokens for the RTS (city) buses which run through campus every hour; 1 token lasts all day. Campus shuttles run about every 5 minutes, and there are even shuttles to Wegmans (the iconic supermarket that has its roots nearby).

Art Studio

Art Studio

None of the students we spoke to ever had a class larger than 25; the smallest classes were almost all in the single-digits. Students had great things to say about the Honors Program: our tour guide is in this; she’s mentoring freshmen and doing research on mentoring in academia.

~SJFC 3Fisher provides freshmen with a core group of advisors who also teach the Freshmen Seminar classes. They meet with these advisors before they’re moved off to an academic advisor. Additionally, Learning Communities helped them adapt better and it enriched their experience right off the bat. One student said: “It taught me a lot about my interests. I took Americans Abroad, and we went to Quebec.” Another said, “It answered any and all questions. It’s really helpful.”

Sports are strong here both in terms of involvement on the teams and in drawing a fan base, particularly the football team (and the college has hosted the Buffalo Bills training camp). They have about 800 athletes, 80 of whom play for 2 or 3 seasons in one (or more) of the 23 DIII sports. Teams have made it to the quarterfinals twice in the last 3 years. Crew has tanks in the boathouse for year-round training. Athletes’ overall GPA is higher than the campus average, and retention tends to be 3-4% higher (86% vs about 82%).

Dining services get rave reviews and even won the “2014 Best of Rochester” in the Food Service Category. They have a Stir Fry station that our tour guide made a point of showing to us: “Where else can you have shrimp, steak, and lobster every day? Also, the dining staff knows you. The woman checking us in can tell when we’re not having a good day.”

A couple of students’ favorite traditions include:

  • Every other Thursday, a different food truck pulls up. The first 100 students eat for free! The Dining hall is good, but it’s nice to have the variety.
  • Courage Bowl, an annual event that benefits Camp Good Days and Special Times. They bring in campers to be honorary cheerleaders and coaches.

© 2015

Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology (10/19/15)

~RIT quad 2

~RIT fountains~RIT acad bldg 4I came away from my RIT visit well-informed and so impressed that I was already texting pictures of relevant departments to faculty at school and emailing students telling them to check things out. The campus is more attractive than expected (one of several nice surprises!); while a few buildings have a tech-school feel, most of campus has new buildings, trees, and green spaces. Quarter-Mile is the main thoroughfare, but it’s actually one-third mile long; its name came from a Greek fundraiser where people put quarters end-to-end to raise money. A large portion of campus is undeveloped giving Environmental Studies and other students an opportunity to complete surveys and other work on campus.

~RIT scupture 3~RIT art bldgWith 15,500 undergraduates, this is one of the largest private universities and one of the largest producers of STEAM (add Arts to STEM) graduates from private institutions. Students come from all 50 states (48% from NY); the 2,500 international students hail from 100 countries; there are 1,200 deaf and HH students on campus through NTID; and almost 2,900 underrepresented minority students. “RIT is diverse with people coming from all over. They’re friendly, welcoming, and don’t judge,” said one student panelist.

A student advertising the weekly activity schedule on the Student Center window

A student advertising the weekly activity schedule on the Student Center window

~RIT bleachers fountain

A fountain in the Student Center which had been the gym. These bleachers had been built into the foundation and weren’t able to be moved so they made a fountain.

This is a spirited community. Students were everywhere and engaging with people around them: walking in groups, studying or socializing in every building we went into, etc. These are not “stick-your-nose-into-a book tech nerds,” said one student. There’s a ton to do on- and off-campus including 1,300 annual on-campus events including free movies on Thursdays, Brick City Weekend, FreezeFest, SpringFest, Imagine RIT, Orange and Brown Fridays, student concerts/theater productions, sports, and performers (Macklemore, Michael J. Fox, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Al Pacino, Maroon 5, and MythBusters, to name a few). Greek life hosts lots of events. Hockey (they have a new arena) is big with lots of traditions. Students look forward to the annual Haunted Trail (they turn the fields and woods into a giant haunted house and invite the public) and the Humans vs. Zombies game (campus-wide nerf-gun tag).

~RIT hallway

Students gathering in an academic building between classes

“We’re not looking for students who are interacting only with the machine. We’re looking for students who will interact with other students. Don’t bother listing something you did for an hour. Put substantial things on your application that you did regularly and are meaningful.”

RIT practices differential Admissions: students must declare a major and list first, second, and third choices on their application; on average, 57% of applicants are accepted, but this varies by program. For example, it’s far more difficult to get into Mechanical than Industrial Engineering. (Biomedical, Computer Science, Game Design, and PA programs round out the 5 most difficult majors to get into). The Deans give numbers to the admissions staff based on space. However, students aren’t stuck in that major: it’s easy to switch majors “95% of the time,” said an admissions rep. Much of it depends if there are spots available in the new major.

Undecided students have 2 options:

  • Students interested in areas that cross 2 or more colleges should apply for University Studies. They accept about 100 students a year into this program. Students may not graduate on time (but could) depending on how soon they decide.
  • Do an Undeclared/Exploration major in any of the schools. There’s no problem graduating on time because they’re taking the first-year classes right away.
~RIT science bldg

Students studying in the science lobby. Check out the floor and walls!

The high school record (GPA, rank, rigor, pre-reqs, grades in content courses) makes up about 60% of the admissions decision. Portfolios (if required) are sent to that school’s faculty and get ranked 1-6. If the portfolio doesn’t make the cut, Admissions will work with the applicant to suggest a similar area without a portfolio requirement.

~RIT atriumRIT offers more than 90 majors, 90 minors, and 40 accelerated dual-degree programs. Technology is woven into every major, but the Liberal Arts are also important: There are about 1000 students in the College of Liberal Arts, and all students must do a LA “immersion” – 3 classes in one subject. Some of their new, well-known, or unusual programs include:

~RIT labs

One of the many labs

Experiential Learning is crucial; many students graduate with a portfolio equivalent to Master’s level work. Their Co-op Program is the country’s 4th oldest and among the largest in the world:

  • Students complete 6,100 co-op education assignments each year with 2,100 employers in 50 states and 40 countries.
  • Students generally complete 4 placements over 2 semesters and 2 summers. They can’t go back to the same company unless it’s in a different division doing completely different work.
  • Students collectively earn $26 million annually.
  • Princeton Review has consistently ranked them in the Top 10 for career services.
    • 60% get employed by one of their co-op placement companies.
    • Graduates report a 95% placement rate: 85% in FT jobs, 10% in grad programs.
  • Some programs such as Mechanical Engineering take 5 years to complete but students only pay for 4. “I have 60 weeks of work experience: I worked for a company here for 48 weeks and was a supply-chain engineer and a mechanical engineer. I worked in Sweden working for Volvo. One of the big things I like is that it shows us what we’ll be doing when we graduate. The first week was pretty nerve-wracking. I felt confident going in, but getting there and seeing all the complicated stuff … we encourage people to ask questions. I’ve gotten more confident every time I’ve done another co-op.”
~RIT engo bldg

Student built projects in an engineering building

Other on-campus or nearby facilities help students develop sought-after job skills:

  • The Center for Media Arts, Games, Interaction, and Creativity studio helps students launch their own companies with high-tech facilities needed to commercialize computer gaming, film and animation, graphic design, and imaging science projects.
  • Their science labs – including clean-suit labs – are top-of-the-line and made us feel like we were walking through the halls of some high-tech company
  • Rochester has lots of cottage industries, fiber-optics, high-tech companies, medical technology, pharmaceutical firms, etc. There’s no shortage of internship opportunities.
  • Students get creative when internships are difficult to find. A Photo student on the panel said that “It’s hard to get internships in photography; they aren’t looking for interns.” She was paired up with a 3rd year student; they did all the photography for a department on campus.
~RIT infinity sculpture 2

Plaza and the Infinity Sculpture (even the art is scientific!)

Despite the size, most classes are not in lecture halls: 88% of classes have fewer than 40 students so classes tend to be discussion-based. GAs and TAs help in labs but never teach classes.

Global Village

Global Village

They’ve recently opened more student housing including the RIT Inn (an old Marriott) and the newly built Global Village housing 400 sophomores in suites. “They had been getting lost in the shuffle: we have traditional dorms for freshmen and apartments for upperclassmen.” School-owned apartments are ½ a mile down the road with shuttles running to campus. One complex only houses RIT students; the other gives first crack to students, then opens it to others. Greek housing, Special Interest Houses, and Academic and Lifestyle Floors are also available. Tunnels connect most of the on-campus dorms.

~RIT art bldgStudents had few complaints except that parking is difficult. Preferred/reserved parking costs $225 a year (General parking is $50). It’s not unusual to drive around for 10 minutes looking for a spot and then walking a ways to get where they’re going. Cars aren’t necessary except for some internships. Buses running through town are free to students on weekdays and $1 on weekends.

(c) 2015

Nazareth College

Nazareth College (visited 10/18/15)

Naz 4

Nazareth tunnels

Nazareth tunnels

Nazareth College is wonderful: the students are active and articulate, the range of majors and the experiential learning prepare students to be snatched up by employers, and the campus is beautiful (complete with bells ringing every hour). For people worried about winters in Upstate New York – worry no more. Tunnels connect much of campus. It’s a safe, manageable-sized campus in Pittsford, a cute suburb of Rochester; the city is accessible, but the immediate area is reminiscent of a New England town (with the noticeable exception that the Erie Canal runs right through it!). Our tour guide’s favorite things to do off campus were Public Market (farmer’s market plus craft fair) and hockey.

Naz stained glassDespite the name, this is not a religiously-based school. The President told us, “We have a Catholic heritage, a Jewish President, and a Muslim faith-based leader. We have a chapel, a Hillel, and a Muslim association. We do it all.” They were founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1924 but have been religiously independent and coed since 1971 – but they’re still approximately 70% female. One of the student panelists said, “Not too many guys would say this, but I wish there were more guys.”

~Naz flowers 2“The one thing we look for with every application is evidence that this is a good citizen.” They’re test-optional except for Nursing because they saw a correlation between SAT/ACT scores (1100 SAT, 24 ACT) and the NCLEX exam, and International applicants need to submit TOEFL scores. Admissions to OT, PT, and Nursing are more selective; physics is required for these majors. DPT applicants must have a minimum of 85 in all their math and science classes.

One of the science building libraries

One of the science building walkways complete with a play area for visiting children.

As a member of New American Colleges & Universities, “we’re focused on purposeful integration of liberal arts with professional programs for service to the community,” said the President. They run an amazing OT program and a 6-year DPT program to which students can apply as freshmen. Our tour guide was in the PT program and couldn’t say enough about it and the sciences in general at Naz: “I’ve composed aspirin, decomposed bug spray… it’s pretty cool stuff.”

Study groups in the around the science buildings

Study groups in and around the science buildings

Very rarely do you find clinics at a college this size. For a $5 donation, community members can get therapy on campus, allowing students to get clinical experience (under faculty supervision, of course!) early in their training. Naz built the new building because there was such a high demand that they doubled in size. They also have a cadaver lab; students in certain majors actually can do the dissections, and other students can watch what they’re doing. Every major incorporates experiential learning, and there are collaborative work spaces everywhere we went that were actually being used, even on a Sunday afternoon.

Their new programs include: Clinical Lab Science, Dance, 3+3 BA/JD with Syracuse Law, a combined 5-year OT program and a BSW/MSW with Brockport. Other programs of note include: Music Therapy (combines music and health/human services; students can audition on any primary instrument including voice); Toxicology; Technical Production; Community Youth Development; and languages (German, French, Spanish, Chinese, or Italian – or Modern Foreign Languages to focus on 2 languages).

~Naz sculpture garden

A tucked-away courtyard

Their music program (performance, business, therapy, education, theater, or general music) is phenomenal. One of the music professors wrote to the president of Elio Cars because there wasn’t music in the commercials; she asked if the kids could compete to compose the music, and they accepted. The same professor contacted Josh Grogan’s agent when he was touring through upstate NY and asked if he needed backup singers; he did, and 20 Naz students sang backup for his Albany, Syracuse, and Buffalo concerts. Talent-based music scholarships for NON-majors are available.

~Naz doorwayThe new Core requirements went into effect for students who are now juniors. A Rep called it the “The Uncommon Core: The starting point is the student, not available courses.” Students focus on a question to explore and choose classes that help them answer that question. This was designed to enhance the skills most important to employers – critical thinking, persuasive communications, and problem solving. Students complete an online portfolio in which they save one major piece per class as well as reflections. Papers are graded on the database so students don’t have a choice but to upload their work. They must be doing something right: they’re one of the largest Fulbright producers for their size category: 18 in the past 5 years.

~Naz arched walkwayDuring the student panel, these were some of the questions they answered:

What will you remember most when you leave?

  • My major. It’s been cool to see it develop since it’s so new.
  • Naz sends students to the National Chemistry conference – airfare and everything
  • Clinical experience. I spent time working in Jamaica and living in a hut.
  • Being in the orchestra. I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with music as a PT major, but I got to perform in the Bahamas with the national choir. I’ve made some my best friends there. It was really important to keep up something I loved.
  • I was part of the first hockey team.

~Naz doorWhat surprised you/what do you wish someone had told you?

  • How it’s changed me. I was dead set on majoring in psychology. I thought I’d help little kids, but I did an internship, came home and cried. I wish someone told me that it’s ok to change my mind.
  • The community feel on campus and within some of the departments. People are really helpful. I didn’t know how nice the professors are. I was used to boarding schools where you see teachers everywhere and thought it wouldn’t have that here, but they’re everywhere.
  • How prepared I am now as a senior. At an internship, I was the only sophomore; everyone else was a year ahead of me, and I beat out 200 people for the position.
  • In Jamaica, I was surprised at how prepared I was compared to people who had done 2, 3, or 4 clinicals already.
  • I didn’t know how cold it would get so quickly.

~Naz 3What would you change?

  • Make sports DII so students could get money. I dropped lacrosse so I had time for a job and my studies.
  • I love the size from the aspect of academics. I have awesome relationships with my professors, but I wish I went somewhere bigger for the social aspect. We don’t have Greek life, so that’s something I wish I had experienced.
  • I came in knowing that diversity isn’t where I would have liked. However, there’s been a great increase with international students and other forms of diversity.
  • Adding another eatery near the clinics. It would be helpful for students and for people coming for therapy.

Almost 90% of freshmen and sophomores live on campus: there’s a two-year residential requirement if students come from more than 30 minutes away. Currently, many juniors and seniors move off, but students get a $2000 residential grant every year they stay on campus as an incentive to stay. Athletics are popular; in addition to the usual sports, Crew is making a come-back (they row right on the Canal!), and they’re about to add a Women’s hockey team.

(c) 2015

Eastman School of Music

Eastman School of Music (visited 10/19/15)

~Eastman exterior

Exterior – you might recognize this from The Amazing Spiderman 2!

Eastman is technically part of the University of Rochester, but is located downtown, about a mile and half from the River campus. It also has its own admission requirements (and provides its own financial aid, as well). However, students can take classes at the River Campus (they can even complete a minor there) and Eastman students can take advantage of any of the social and athletic opportunities, as well.

~Eastman main hallway

The main hallway in the main building

Eastman is mostly housed in an old, large building with a newer modern building across the hall (among other things, this houses offices, the bookstore, and the Sibley Music Library – the 2nd largest music library in the world after Oxford). The dorm tower and quad located across the street. Students are guaranteed a single room after freshman year.

~Eastman Kodak theater

Kodak Theater

The main building is a 3-story building (4 if you include the basement) with classrooms, concert halls, and practice rooms. Kilbourne Hall is one of the oldest, built in 1924, and has been maintained to look the way it was when it was built. It holds chamber groups and senior recitals as well as other small concerts. The Kodak Theater (previously the Eastman Theater before the renovations) is their major theater; it used to be a silent movie theater. The renovations brought the back wall in away and created a space for a lobby and a café as well as box seating within the theater. Hatch Hall is acoustically adjustable and acoustically isolated. The curtains in the walls can be adjusted based on whatever is happening in the theater: “a solo oboist is very different from a drum ensemble. Same with the isolation. When you have the number of concerts that we have on campus every year, that’s crucial. You can have a drum ensemble here and a Verdi opera happening next door and you’d never know.” (There are also a couple other recital spaces including an Organ Recital Hall).

~Eastman theater 2

Hatch Hall

Theaters are wired with high-tech recording devices as well as skyping and other technology. All performances are recorded and kept in the Sibley Library. The technology also allows them to connect to master classes and other musicians around with world without ever getting on a plane.

~Eastman Miller bldg

Miller Building which houses the Sibley Music Library

The annex is a practice building that is open from 7am to 11pm. There is no practicing allowed in the dorms. Low brass, piano, bass and harp players have their own locked practice rooms due to the size of the instruments. For others, it’s first-come, first-served. There are rush times for rooms “but you learn quickly when this is and work around it.”

Students will practice 3-8 hours a day. Kids were walking around with Eastman sweatshirts that said: Eat. Sleep. Music. They aren’t lying. “I wish I knew that before I came; I think it’s one of the things that surprised me the most. What took me a month to prepare in high school takes me a week here,” said the tour guide.

~Eastman staircaseIn terms of admissions, “the best thing I did was take private lessons with one of the professors here.” On the application, they can put down their first and second choice for their faculty member. “Do your research: if you aren’t happy with your faculty member, that can make or break your time here.” Selectivity depends on the instrument and how much space each faculty member has. “One faculty might be graduating 6 seniors, another none, even for the same instrument.” The most popular instruments must send in pre-audition screening CDs; if the faculty like it, they will be invited to the on-site audition. This audition matters; they have to pass that before the admissions office looks at transcripts and other things. “Good grades won’t get you in but bad grades can keep you out.”

Performance is the biggest major on campus, but Composition, Conducting, and Music Education are also popular. All classes that the students need are offered at Eastman, but they can choose to take the education classes on the River Campus if they’d like. Education majors must gain proficiency through 4th grade level for all orchestra instruments. However, not all Eastman students continue on into music: lots of people actually go onto law or medical school. “We do pretty well getting in; I think they recognize the level of commitment needed to play at this level, and they know we’re dedicated and will get the work done.”

The tour guide wanted people to know that “this isn’t a sterile, boring, cold conservatory. It’s a welcoming place. There’s a robust social life and a lot of stuff going on right on the block.” Students also go skiing in Bristol, apple picking, hiking. They also take advantage of things on River Campus such as clubs, sports, and Greek Life. “There’s a tremendous amount of respect because we know what it takes to get in here.” The competition is with themselves, not with others. “We want to make ourselves and our professors proud. We help each other out and will give each other honest, helpful feedback.”

© 2015

Roberts Wesleyan College

Roberts Wesleyan College (visited 10/20/15)

~RWC quad 1I decided to swing by Roberts because I had a couple hours to kill before flying out of the Rochester airport. It’s a very pretty, traditional-looking campus. There were only a few people walking around, and at first, mostly adults. We did finally see some students walking around campus; when we asked people if campus was usually this quiet, they looked a bit like they had never noticed, and said that they thought that classes were probably in session so there weren’t likely to see too many people.

~RWC quad 4Although this is very close to Rochester (probably 15-20 minutes into downtown), the campus definitely has a rural feel. There isn’t much in easy walking distance, but students can have cars on campus. I stopped and talked to a couple students around campus (often the best way to get the unfiltered view since they aren’t working for admissions!). One student said that the thing she doesn’t like is that there’s not much to do on the weekends, but most students do stick around campus. There’s a $1 theater and laser tag nearby and sometimes people will go into Rochester, although she wasn’t sure if the school offered shuttles: “My roommate has a car so I haven’t paid attention.”

Some of the dorm buildings

Some of the dorm buildings

The first student I spoke to was a freshman. “I’d rate the school an 8.” She loves the faculty who she says are friendly and really willing to engage with students. This seemed to be true. I talked with two adults who were both talkative and willing to reach out to people. The first asked us if she could help us find anything and then helped us get to the admissions office; the other was a music professor. She walked with us across campus and chatted: she’d been at the school more than 20 years and loved the changes that were happening. “You wouldn’t recognize it! There’s been a lot of additions and improvements.”

Theater lobby

Theater lobby

Original building, now housing some of the Music department

Original building, now housing some of the Music department

Music is fairly big here. In the few minutes I spent talking to a student outside one of their major music and theater buildings, students walked by carrying French Horns, trombones, violins, and more. The music professor said that there are between 60-90 students in the department each year, and they’ve just started an honors chorus and honors band. The old theater building (now practice rooms, offices, classrooms, etc) is supposedly haunted; it had belonged to Mr. Roberts who donated the land to start the school. His funeral was held there.

~RWC acad bldg 3The school offers fairly standard liberal arts major offerings. Unusual ones include Economic Crime Investigation, Social Work, and Medical Technologist. They offer a 3-2 Engineering program with RIT, RPI, and Clarkson, as well as accelerated 3-year programs in Psychology and Social Work.

~RWC acad bldg 3Advice one student gave to pass onto students thinking about Roberts is, “Make sure they’re ok with the chapel requirement.” Students have to earn 22 chapel credits each semester (attendance at 1 chapel = 1 credit). Monday is a more traditional, non-denominational service; Wednesday tends to be student-led services or programs; Friday is a discussion session. Students can earn 3 chapel credits if they participate in one of the community service projects on Saturdays.

(c) 2015

Siena College

Siena College (visited 7/30-31/2015)

~Siena quad 2

Quad

“I don’t know what’s in the water, but Siena is all alumni can talk about” (and really, where else are you going to get to participate in the Blessing of the Brains before exams and then get bagels and bacon?).

~Siena statue

St. Francis

The type of education at Siena may not be available at other places. Yes, they develop competencies that they can get in a lot of places, but “we give them the way to understand the intersection of the relationships between them and the world, them and others.” The Franciscan ideals are strong and permeate everything they do. “We live in a complex reality; we help students figure out how to live in that world. We ask them to look at the ethics of our actions. For example, some people don’t want to hear the reality of global warming because of the consequences of it. Here, they can’t walk away from that.”

~Siena grotto

The Grotto

The Franciscans have a niche of inclusivity within the Roman Catholic Church. “Siena is proud to be Catholic but we welcome people of all faiths. We help them grow in their relationship with god in however they see it.” The pianist for the weekly masses is Jewish. There’s an interfaith chapel on campus that gets used by Muslim students (who also have Muslim Student Association) more than anyone else; they say they feel comfortable at Siena because people are respectful of their religious values. There’s an Eastern Orthodox and an Evangelical club and a grotto behind the admissions building where anyone can light candles, have services, or just sit.

~Siena 2It’s not even just religious diversity. LGBTQ students are out and accepted. Racial, ethnic, and socio-economic differences are celebrated. Students fall all over the political spectrum. People are willing to engage anyone and everyone in discussions about value, meaning, etc. Everyone is welcome – and people are just nice. A Brother once talked to a student who was thinking about transferring out. When he asked why, she said it wasn’t the place for her: “People are too nice here. I’m used to an edge.”

~Siena dorm 2

One of the freshman dorms

The brand new upperclass dorm that opened in 2014

The brand new upperclass dorm that opened in 2014

There’s no getting around this being a Franciscan institution: there are crucifixes all over the walls, and Friars live on campus. Masses (NOT mandatory!) are held frequently including at 5pm and 10pm in the dorms (to make it more convenient). Students take a religion class but can choose the topic; it doesn’t need to be on Christianity. St. Francis is frequently brought up in FYE and other classes like Ethics in Business. It’s part of the fabric of life here. “People really need to embody it.” The Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy provides ways for students and staff to get off campus and but their beliefs into action with international trips, working in soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity, etc. You name it, they’ve probably done it.

~Siena main bldg

Siena’s main building

I think my favorite part of campus was talking to the Brothers. They joined us for dinner the first night (I sat with one from a town in NH that I also lived in for 5 years!) and several of them gave presentations over the next day and a half. They were personable, funny, and down-to-earth, even Brother Ed, the college President. All the Brothers clearly loved what they were doing and wanted to be interacting with students – and it’s not just the Brothers. Professors tend to be in touch with alumni. “I’m having lunch later with a 2005 grad.”

~Siena mock courtroomAcademic opportunities here are amazing:

  • History buffs can take advantage of a semester-away program at Gettysburg (Civil War) or at William and Mary (Colonial History); both of these include internships at local historical sites.
  • 13 sophomores built a prosthetic hand for a boy in Columbus, OH. The group included 12 physics and 1 English major: “I thought people needed to know what they were doing so I’m their communications specialist.” They flew to Ohio to gave the boy his new hand – and he got to throw out the first ball at the game that night.
  • ~Siena trading room

    One of the trading rooms

    They have a Trading Room, and the Bjorklund Fund which allows upperclassmen trade with $250,000 of real money (“under the supervision of a professor!”) over the course of 2 years. They have to present the results: what worked, what didn’t, what they’ll do to fix it.

    • Professors really work hard to guide students into the proper area of business. “Finance isn’t marketing!”
    • Chad Bingo, class of 2015, developed and marketed the “I Gotta Go!” button as a sophomore.
  • ~Siena SAINT lab

    Part of the SAINT lab

    SAInT Center: Stewart’s Advanced Instrumentation and Technical Center lab has $3 million in technology used in industry such as Thermal Units, Mass Spectrometers, High Intensity Scanners, etc. Students get “extensive hands-on experience on a huge diversity of technology that they use from day 1.” One student did Coffee Research and found no difference in caffeine levels between cold and hot pressed coffee, but light roast has more than dark!

  • ~Siena telescope

    A permanent telescope used by the physics students

    Bonner Service Program: students complete 1800 hours of service during their time at Siena, earning a certificate upon completion. They’re paired with programs dealing with rural poverty, international populations, etc – including post-grad work.

  • Standish Honors Program (yes, related to Miles, back in the day”) is meant to rekindle curiosity.
  • The Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA) allows students of any major to get involved in hands-on research. This summer, there are 117 fully-funded students on campus doing research.

Siena offers 17 articulation agreements :

  • The big one is probably the Albany Medical College Program. Applicants write an additional essay: What service project have you done that reflects the Franciscan values? To qualify, students need a 90 average, 1300 SAT or 30 ACT, and be in the top 10% if ranked. 44 applicants get invited for interviews (done by an admissions rep, a faculty member, and an Albany Med faculty member). They don’t do accelerated “because we think that the 4 years of the undergraduate allows them to develop into really great human beings.”
  • SUNY Upstate Medical University and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine offer both a Dual Acceptance and an Early Assurance program
  • There are also programs for Dentistry, Pharmacy, Applied Nutrition, Physician Assistants, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy
~Siena recycled costumes

Costumes made from recycled items on display in the Theater building

Applicants are somewhat self-selecting, and Demonstrated Interest is important. Students can use the Fast Forward Application, getting an answer 7-10 days from completion (the app, the counselor rec, and the transcript). SAT and ACT are optional with a stipulation: science and math majors need physics and pre-calc (everyone else just needs Algebra 2) OR test scores.

(c) 2015

Union College

Union College (visit 7/31/15)

Union's main quad

Union’s main quad

The ceiling and 3rd story of Nott where the study carrels are located

The ceiling and 3rd story of Nott where the study carrels are located

Union, with its sprawling quads and light-brick and stone buildings, is physically bigger than you’d expect for the 2200 undergraduates housed on campus. The iconic building seen in all the promo materials is Nott Memorial, one of only a few 16-sided buildings in the world and is now a National Landmark. Once the school’s library, it’s used for lectures on the first floor, an art gallery on the second floor, and study carrels on the third. “I wish I could pull an all-nighter in here,” said the tour guide, “but they do eventually kick us out.”

Nott Building

Nott Building

Unusual for a liberal arts college, about half of the students study math, science (including Astronomy, Neuroscience, and Geology), or engineering (specialties include bio-, computer, electrical, and mechanical with minors in energy studies, nanotechnology, and environmental engineering). Students who want to integrate the sciences into the humanities or business should check out their Science, Medicine, and Technology in Culture major or the joint Leadership in Medicine program, an 8-year program that allows students to get the Bachelors and Masters degrees at Union (MS or MBA) AND an MD at Albany Medical.

~Union 5Their facilities rival those at bigger schools. We stopped at the aerogel lab on the tour: it’s amazing! Two of the students, a sophomore chem major and a senior mechanical engineering major came out to explain Aerogels to us (“Imagine jello without the liquid”) and tell us about their research. First they passed around some samples and said, “Don’t worry about breaking them. We’ll make more.” They’re working on making these gels out of copper for catalytic converters because they’re lighter and much cheaper than what’s being used now. They’re currently replacing a car exhaust system in the lab.

As an interesting side-note, 80% of engineers study abroad in Prague (only 60% of the total student population study abroad). There are also plenty of clubs revolving around engineering such as Engineers Without Borders, Society of Women Engineers, and National Society of Black Engineers.

~Union 3All students take a FY Preceptorial Class (2 terms long with 15 students each) and a Sophomore Research Seminar. Students can choose to do either a thesis or a seminar/capstone class. There’s plenty of flexibility in academics: students can Double Major or complete an Interdepartmental Major which meshes 2 areas of interest. For example, one student is majoring in Climate Change, combining environmental studies and geology.

~Union dorm90% of students live on campus all 4 years. Freshmen dorm rooms are small-ish but livable, “and they get better as you go up.” The college just bought a hotel right off campus which is now student housing. “Having a bathroom in the room is a big deal.” Only 10% of seniors are “released” to live off campus: “People fight to get off,” said the tour guide; the admissions rep gave a different impression. I was left wondering how much of either impression was true.

Something really unusual at Union is the Minerva House System (named for the Goddess of Wisdom): all students are assigned to 1 of the 7 houses; these provide social connections across years and majors as well as leadership opportunities. House Councils (mad up of 15-20 people) determine how the $25,000 yearly budget gets spent. “There’s lots of food,” said the tour guide. Programs could be large like OctoberFest or smaller like Dinner with a Professor, Pizza and Politics (lunch once a week); Waffle Wednesday; Sundaes on Sunday. Each Minerva House has about 300 total students plus faculty and staff. Students can apply to live in their house after their first year.

One of the food options on campus

One of the food options on campus

There’s also a Minerva Fellowship; students apply to be selected to complete a global service project for 10 months directly after graduation (July to April) in 1 of 6 countries. In May, they are back on campus debriefing, giving presentations, work with the next group of Minerva Fellows, etc. I spoke with a recent returnee from Ecuador who was working for admissions through the summer and is off to law school in the fall.

Admissions is Test-optional but they will superscore both tests if they’re submitted. Interviews are recommended but not required and can be done on skype if necessary.

~Union dance pavilionAlthough Schenectady isn’t the most impressive of cities (it was hit hard when the GE plant all but closed), both the town and Albany (right next door) provide a lot of off-campus things to do. It’s also a transportation hub: the Amtrak and bus stations provides service to NYC (2.5 hours south) and Boston (2.5 hours east) and the airport is close. The Adirondacks aren’t that far north, so there’s plenty of skiing, hiking, etc. Ski trips are popular; for $20, students get transportation, lift tickets, and equipment rentals.

Jackson Garden

Jackson Garden

On campus events are plentiful, so there isn’t even much need for “escaping.” Hockey is big here and the only DI team. All others are DIII. Jackson Garden provides a 10-acre get-away right on campus. “Some professors come out here for class. It’s a great place to hang out.” One of the big annual traditions is Lobster Fest; an alum donates 1 lobster and a t-shirt for every undergrad.

(c) 2015

Skidmore College

Skidmore College (visited 7/28/15)

~Skidmore sign

Molecules that Matter

Molecules that Matter

Skidmore is fascinating. They have gigantic “Molecules That Matter” (ie, prozac, penicillin, caffeine) hanging in their science center. A student and a professor are selected every semester to give a TedTalk on campus. They offer six-week research programs each summer. Their theater, fine arts, and music programs are strong and well-resourced, including a 5-year-old music building and heaps of studio and practice space. Cool things are happening here, and it’s paying off with a 92% retention rate.

The new music building

The new music building

In 2007, I had the pleasure of working at a camp that was housed at Skidmore. I got to know parts of it very well, but I had never taken the campus tour or attended an info session. It was great to be back on campus 8 years later to see changes that had been made and learn more about the academics.

One end of the dining hall (food stations are in the middle)

One end of the dining hall (food stations are in the middle)

I remember being immensely impressed with the dining hall both in terms of the quality of the food and the layout. There are a number of stations: international (think sushi and Thai curry), pasta (the pesto is to die for), pizza, vegetarian, grill, and more. It’s a spacious, nicely set-up area that doesn’t look like you’re in a high school cafeteria. In addition to the main dining hall, they have The Spa (a grill-like area) that stays open to 2am, and a Starbucks is opening on campus this year.

Art museum with roof-top access

Art museum with roof-top access

This is a busy campus; most students (90%) stay here on weekends so they don’t miss things. With over 100 clubs organizing events and active theater, dance, and music departments, there’s’ always something going on. There are several comedy groups (Sketch, improv, etc) and shows happen all the time. Athletics are popular, both in terms of people participating and being supported by fans. Both men’s and women’s basketball teams are really popular, and their equestrians have won most championships for the last 15 years or so years. Club men’s hockey, ultimate Frisbee, and quidditch (“We beat Harvard. No big deal,” said the tour guide) also draw a lot of people.

Quad with the dining hall on the far end.

Quad with the dining hall on the far end.

Campus is diverse in many different ways and has been ranked #9 for “Happiest Campus.” “There’s a lot of positive energy here,” said one student. They are deliberate about helping students find communities and getting them connected to other people: orientation, Freshmen Seminar, being in dorms with upperclassmen, etc. They even offer pre-orientation programs like one in the Adirondacks involving yoga under the stars, hiking, kayaking, etc. “You come back as best friends.”

~Skidmore 1There are several campus traditions that students brought up:

  • BeatlemoreSkidmania: For 3 nights, participants make and perform their own arrangements of Beatles songs. A cappella groups, professors, and others get in on the action.
  • Wafflefest happens right before finals week. The dining hall goes all-out with breakfast food for dinner.
  • Fun Day: This happens during first week in spring that it’s “mildly nice.” They bring in bands and DJs, rock climbing walls, food, etc.
  • In the middle of winter, they’ll have a night with fireworks, hot chocolate, and a bonfire.
  • Right before winter break, students can paint the windows of the student center.

~Skidmore 3The info session was one of the more informative that I’ve attended. Rather than having the standard rep talk, this was run by two students and an admissions rep. The students provided first-hand information about their experiences, the academics, and extra-curriculars.

Academic buildings

Academic buildings

They started out by highlighting areas that they believe makes them distinctive:

  • They have 64 majors; this is a lot for a school of this size (2400 undergrads). 80% of students start as undecided; business, English, studio art, government, biology, and psychology turn out to be the most popular.
  • Students can combine fields into a Self-Designed Major: “It only has to make sense to you,” said the rep. Students here tend to be interested in a lot, and they don’t want to limit their explorations. Everything is open to everyone. “It’s also super easy to double major. You can find that a lot of the requirements double-count because many of the distribution requirements can also count as a major requirement.” They have people double-majoring in math and music, science and dance, etc.
  • Freshman Seminar is the cornerstone of people’s experiences. Everyone takes one 1st semester and gets housed in the same dorm as their classmates. There are about 50 choices; incoming freshmen rank top 10 choices. Professors teach classes of their own creation; the only directive they were given was to “find something you’re passionate about.” A few examples are American Theater and Commerce (Students saw Pippin on Broadway and talked about economic, social, historical, and racial perspectives. “I learned how to write well in that,” said a student) and Human Dilemmas. There are actually about 12 different sections of this based on professor’s interests so the theme differs from section to section; however, they came together to get lectures on the different areas (bio, econ, philosophy, etc).

~Skidmore acad bldg 2Study abroad is huge: “There are only about 10 countries where are students haven’t gone in the last several years,” said the rep. They have partnerships such as theater in Moscow or London and science research in Norway. Travel Courses have gone to places like Bali, Cuba, all over Europe. It’s a good way to explore a country and get abroad without losing time at Skidmore. “Some people really love it here and don’t want to leave,” said a student.

Classes are small – only 1% of classes will have 50+ students; 95% have less than 30. Intro to biology, intro to psych, and intro to exercise science tend to be the big ones. My tour guide’s smallest classes had 4 (Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy) and 10 (Spanish Lit).

This year they received about 9000 apps for a class of 690. They have 2 Early Decision rounds (11/15 and 1/15) but no Early Action. ED acceptances filled about 40% of the class. They’ll superscore both SAT and ACT. There are only two merit scholarships categories that they offer:

  • Filene Scholarship for music: applicants send in a DVD. The Music Department will call back about 30 for on-campus auditions for 4 finalists and 4 alternates.
  • Porter Scholarship for science: students interested in this must submit an extra essay. They tend to give 5-7 scholarships a year.

Although there are no other academic scholarships, they will meet full demonstrated financial need.

(c) 2015

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