campus encounters

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Archive for the category “North Carolina”

Shaw University

Shaw University (visited 3/14/17)

Shaw bridge

Bridge over a city street connecting the academic and residential sides

This is the first college I’ve heard of that requires a criminal background check of their applicants. “That’s not to say that they will automatically deny. It’s a safety thing for the campus,” said the rep, herself an alum of the college.

This small, liberal arts HBCU with about 1800 students is located right near downtown Raleigh. Despite being in the city, it still manages to have a cohesive campus that’s compact and easily walkable. “Classes as small as 7 here. Professors are going to know who you are or if you’re in class.”

Shaw sign

Mural under the pedestrian bridge

Shaw was the first HBCU to admit women; today they enroll almost 60% females. Almost ¾ come from North Carolina.

I was not impressed with the organization, communication, and willingness to help on campus. No one seemed to really know what was going on. Even something as simple as parking and finding the admissions office was off. I stopped and asked a security guard and got pretty good directions, but the security officer inside the building near where I parked was on her cell, barely acknowledged me, and when she did, didn’t bother moving the phone when I asked if I was ok where I was parked. She waved dismissively and said “You’re fine if you’re down at the bottom” and turned her back. I was concerned that my car was going to get towed. The Admissions/Welcome Center was no better: the woman at the desk said I needed to check in upstairs with Admissions. Once upstairs, the Rep in an office near the stairs kept an earbud in while telling me that I had to go downstairs, check in with the Receptionist (the one who just sent me upstairs) and wait there for the tour. When I went back down, she had no idea what I was talking about or how to help. She called upstairs and got told a different story from what I was told. I almost left …

Shaw chapel

The chapel

Affiliated with the Baptist church, the religion major and Divinity Schools are well known. Chapel is active but not required for undergrads. Some of the health sciences are also strong such as kinesiotherapy and athletic training. Social Work and Education are also noteworthy.

Shaw dorms

The two dorm buildings

Dorms are mostly traditional. Only freshmen have to live on campus, and they and the sophomores have priority for housing. If space remains, upperclassmen can stay on campus; otherwise, they have to move off. There are some triples (not forced) as well as some rooms with double beds available for an extra charge. Food is “ok.” Fried Chicken Wednesday and Fish Fridays (“We are in the south,” said the rep) got special mention. For those interested in Greek Life, all Divine Nine are on campus. They have plots in Greek Park. Students have to meet minimum GPA and credit hour requirements, and so they can’t rush until at least sophomore year.

Shaw mascot 2Athletics are DII, and the student ID gets students into all the games, all of which are held on campus except for football that plays at the Durham County Stadium. Buses are available to get students out there. Women’s basketball is the most competitive team with a National Championship, but “All games are packed out. Even the community comes. The women’s games are full because they’re so good.” The Marching Band has become increasingly good over the past few years.

Shaw quad and cityStudents must have a minimum 2.0 GPA for admissions. Although they don’t require a minimum test score, all students must take a standardized test and submit the scores. These are used for scholarships and placement purposes. “There are lots of scholarships available.”

SShaw bell towerhaw has instituted a First Year Experience that encompasses mentoring, seminars (even covering financial literacy), and a required attendance at monthly Cultural and Spiritual Enrichment Seminars (which upperclassmen are “highly encouraged” to continue attending). Students must attend CASES in order to graduate; they’re held once a month. Students are issued blazers, a tie (men) or scarf (women), and must wear grey or black slacks or skirts and a white button up shirt. I’m not sure The FYE has done much … Only about 45% return for sophomore year and only 25% graduate within 6-years. However, it is an excellent deal at about $25,000 (Tuition, Room & Board, and fees) for the year.

© 2017


North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University (visited 3/14/17)

NCCU 1Although not flashy, NCCU’s campus of mostly brick buildings is well kept up, attractive, and easy to navigate. Many of the dorms are tall, utilitarian, and older/less attractive than other buildings providing traditional hall-style rooms. Students do have to live on campus for the first year, and the university is adding suites and apartment options to the traditional halls (particularly for those students who stay on campus after the first year).

NCCU 2Founded in 1910, NCCU is now part of the UNC system. This HBCU (currently 78% African-American) is nationally recognized as a community engaged institution. Students need 60 community service hours to graduate; the rationale is that this gives students connections with the community, networking opportunities, and a chance to build skills.

NCCU Greek Bowl

Some of the Greek plots/decorations along the side of the Greek Bowl

Located in Durham (ranked as the 4th best place to live in the US), students have no shortage of opportunities. In addition to 3 other major universities (and their basketball teams) in the Research Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), Durham is known as the City of Medicine and the Technology Hub of the east coast. There are plenty of job and internship opportunities around. The campus is only about a mile from downtown and a few miles from Duke.

NCCU sciencesDuring the info session, the rep told us that NCCU offers 78 degrees (majors) with 146 Degree Concentrations, but this includes graduate degrees. Undergraduates can get degrees in about half of those. The biggest majors include: Nursing, Business Admin, Criminal Justice, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Hospitality and Tourism. A 3+2 Dual Degree program is offered: students major in Physics at NCCU and then complete an Electrical Engineering degree at NC State, Duke, or Georgia Tech. Another noteworthy program is the Early Medical School Selection Program in conjunction with Boston University. Students qualify during sophomore year and then transition to BU in senior year to complete their degree (they remain jointly matriculated at NCCU) and can begin taking a couple med school classes).

NCCU footballThe 6000 undergraduates seem pretty active on campus. There are 310 athletes playing on the school’s 14 DI teams. Their big rival is NC A&T in Greensboro, and the Ag-Eagle Classic is a huge game/tradition. Greek Life is also big with all of the Devine Nine represented. Students need 30 credits and a 2.75 GPA to rush. All the Greek Organizations have a plot circling the “Greek Bowl,” aka the Library Bowl (the library sits on one side of the area) or the Unity Bowl, so named because during the 10:40 all-school break on Tuesdays and Thursday, students tend to congregate in there in good weather. There are DJs or other fun things planned during this time.

NCCU fountain

The fountain next to the library in the “Library/Greek/Unity Bowl”

Admission decisions are done on a rolling basis. North Carolina high school seniors can apply for free during the mid-November Free App week ( Dates change every year so check the website! For out-of-state students, they’re looking for a 2.75 GPA or higher, and applicants must submit the writing portion of the SAT or ACT. Students will be automatically considered for most scholarships and can apply for 75 more at: The Students interested in the Honors College need to apply to the program; the rep said that the students selected for the program generally have a 1530 SAT (with writing) or 23 ACT + 3.3 GPA to come in as a freshman.

I’m not impressed with the graduation rate here (slightly under 50% graduating in 6 years), but for students who do get involved, are willing to seek out opportunities, and who are looking for a medium school in a small city, this might be a good choice of school.

© 2017

Saint Augustine’s University

Saint Augustine’s University (visited 3/14/17)


SAU library

The library

SAU is a small HBCU in Raleigh, NC. It only offers undergraduate programs and serves about 1,000 students. The population is about equally split between in- and out-of-state students. The university is located in a highly residential area with not much within immediate walking distance, but shuttles and city buses run regularly. A city bus was dropping students off at the main gate as I was touring.

SAU dorm 2

The largest dorm on campus

This is a small, manageable campus. There’s a central quad area with dorms sitting on one side and academics on the other. Athletic facilities are easily accessible outside this main circle. Students can get from dorms to classes in about 5 minutes, 10 if they’re slow! The dining hall is small but gets the job done. Overall, facilities are decent but could use some updating. This probably stems from some of the recent financial troubles the school has faced. A new president was appointed in 2015 which they’re hoping will help stabilize the school’s finances.


SAU Greek 1

A Greek display with the quad in the background

Greek life is highly active on campus and chapters are displayed prominently in the middle of campus with plagues and other decorative items. Sports are also a big deal here, particularly Track & Field. They have sent a couple runners to the Olympics, and their coach is highly regarded, taking the team to Nationals several times!


SAU chapel

The historic chapel (this is an Episcopal school).

Although I was visiting relatively early on a chilly day, students were out and about on campus. There was a nice vibe around campus. Students made eye contact and said hello to people. However, their graduation rate is abysmal with a little under 1/3 of the students graduating within 6 years. Approximately 75% of students are Pell-Eligible, and there is no real program to help students stay and persist to graduation. I’d be concerned about students choosing to attend here other than needing a stepping stone to another school.


© 2017

Bennett College

Bennett College (visited 3/15/17)

Bennett chapel

The chapel sits on the far end of the quad

Interestingly, this small women’s college began as a coed institution. Started in 1873 in a church basement, it was later moved to the current site when several freed slaves bought the property, but retained its affiliation with the Methodist church. About 50 years later, it was changed to single-sex. It’s in a fairly residential area of Greensboro, not far from downtown. A city bus stops on campus making the area highly accessible for the students.

This is a tiny school with less than 500 undergraduate students, about half of whom come from outside North Carolina. The students who thrive here “want a small community, are looking for networks, and want to stay in contact with profs,” said the rep. Students who leave are ones who find the pace of life too slow here. Their mascot is the “Bennett Belle” and that really speaks to who they are. “Students have a manner of moving here, a way of carrying themselves.”

Bennett 2

Quad with a volleyball net

“There are always things to do. We’re small. We need people who will step up and get things done, form clubs, whatever,” said the rep. She said that students love the sisterhood here. It’s inclusive. “Students need to pool together. They need to make things happen. Students can’t be onlookers here. I’ve seen some students who have expected things to happen for them – work, entertainment – but they’re the ones who need to step up.”

Bennett new bldg

New Global Studies building

If it gets too small or they need a class not offered on Bennett’s campus, students are welcome to take advantage of the consortium in the Greensboro area. The Heat bus runs loops to all the campuses in the area, and many Bennett students got to A&T or even Elon.

Psychology, biology, and journalism/media are their most popular majors. They have a new Global Studies building.

Traditions include:

  • Initial Convocation: students sign the registry and become official Bennett students. They wear all white for the ceremony.
  • Big/Little Sisters
  • Senior Day: seniors get their superlatives.
  • Graduation when they’re allowed to walk through the gates; these open only at certain times of the year.
  • Convocations are held for an hour on Thursdays. They bring in a range of people from authors to political figures. Oprah, Danny Glover, and Maya Angelou have all come.
Bennett 3

Another building on the quad

For admissions, they’re looking for at least a 2.4 GPA but they have an Emerging Scholars program for students falling below that; students in ES come to campus over the summer to complete 6 credits in math and science. They’re also “test flexible” – they do want scores but have no minimum number that they’re looking for.

Bennett is struggling a bit financially, and they do have a low graduation rate (a little under 50% within 6 years), but at just under $27,000 for tuition, room, and board, this is a great deal. Shy, unsure students will blossom and find a place here. “It’s not for everyone, but if someone needs some care and pushing, this is the place.”

© 2017

Meredith College

Meredith College, Raleigh, NC (visited 3/13/14)

Meredith main bldgMeredith is a Women’s College located less than a mile from NC State University in Raleigh. Unlike some other women’s colleges, their enrollment has been going up. Although they brought in 420 new freshman last year (which is up by about 20 from the year before), they also bring in quite a few transfers, so they graduated 500 students last year, which they expect to remain steady.

~Meredith acad bldg 3Because I was visiting during their spring break, an admissions rep gave me the tour. As a 2012 grad, she had great insight from both sides of the desk. Originally from Winston-Salem, she chose Meredith because it felt collaborative instead of competitive, and it’s close enough to NC State to not feel isolated. The schools provide shuttles between the two, but it’s also walkable. I drove down the street after the tour to check out the area and to get lunch; in 10 blocks or so, I saw two coffee shops, a music store, a book store, and a lot of restaurants including Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and several chain fast-food places, pizza, and bar & grills. There’s also a Ben and Jerry’s directly across the street (“Whoever marketed that was a genius,” the rep said).

An outdoor classroom

An outdoor classroom

Meredith and the five other schools in the area (St. Augustine, Wake Tech, NC State, William Peace, and Shaw) allow cross-registration. Meredith allows their students to take up to 3 classes a year for free. The students can go to any other schools’ events, including athletics, for free with the other school ID (which they get even for a 1-credit PE class). Students at Meredith can get the big DI school at State feel without sacrificing the small school individual attention.

Meredith Penrose floorClasses at Meredith average 17 students. The rep’s smallest classes had 2 (in a research class) and 8 (in a regular class); the largest was 40 (Intro to Psych). Education is one of their strongest departments; their majors have had a 100% passing rate on the Praxis II over the last few years, and schools in the area hire Meredith grads right out of school. They also have 1 of only 11 Autism programs in the world, and the only one where undergrads can work with the kids. A Swiss family moved to Raleigh specifically to have their child in the program. They also have an AACSB accredited business program (held by 5% of programs worldwide).

Meredith Penrose tilingStudents are highly involved in designing areas on campus, often as part of their classes or independent research projects. The tile floor of the Science Building was designed by two students in 2001 as part of their undergrad research project; it’s modeled after the method developed by mathematician Roger Penrose. Interior Design students competed to have their design put into place for the commuter lounge. They put in four outdoor classrooms complete with chalkboards behind one of the academic buildings, and in front of another building, students planted an edible fruit garden with pomegranates, berries, and more.

Dorm balconies

Dorm balconies

The fire pit

The fire pit

The school has some interesting traditions. The first that the rep pointed out was the Class Doll, designed each year by a fashion design major. These are displayed in cases throughout the three-floor atrium of the main building where they also have displays of faculty-done art, photography, dresses, quilting, and more. A second tradition is Dance Works, an annual event held in the spring, and is completely student run from the choreography to the dancing to the marketing of the event. The third, and maybe the biggest tradition, is Cornhusking which is held annually during the last week of October. “It’s one of those things you have to experience!” Essentially, it’s a weeklong competition between classes. Each class is given a theme, and they make up skits and other events revolving around it, including “can art” in which the class uses cans to create artwork illustrating something about their theme; this gets done on one quarter of the quad. Students will stand on the balconies of the dorms to help direct the artwork since they have a birds-eye-view. They also have a fire pit on campus that’s used during orientation and at other times throughout the year including at the “Camping on the Quad” event (which also includes sunrise yoga).

~Meredith chapelThe Chapel on campus dates back to when they were affiliated with the Baptist Church. They are no long affiliated, but they have a non-denominational chapel service at 10am on Wednesdays, although this also can be community wide speaker events (the topic being advertised for the following week was dealing with anxiety and depression). They’ve brought in big-name speakers including Nancy Pelosi, Jane Goodall, and the guy who runs Post Secret. There are no 10am classes on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, enabling them to hold large events or allow clubs and activities to have meeting times.

~Meredith eating areaStudy Abroad is easy to do. Students can do direct-enrollment programs around the world, but there are also several college-sponsored trips. Meredith runs a Semester in Italy program; they bought and renovated a Palazzo complete with their own chef. “Family lunch” is served instead of a big dinner. Apparently, the chef never repeats a meal the entire semester. Current Summer Study Abroad options include Italy (Childhood Development or Opera Experience), Iceland (Environment and Lit), UK, Italy and Switzerland, China (International Business), Spain (Language and Culture), and France (Fashion).

A dorm kitchen

A dorm kitchen

Arches into the dorm quad

Arches into the dorm quad

Students must live on campus for the first two years. Even though they can move off after that, 86% of all students live on campus. They recently built new campus apartments, increasing the on-campus number over the last few years; students love the convenience, and the apartments are beautiful with hardwood floors, washers and dryers, etc. Dorms have Open Hours when males can be in rooms, but men can visit in the lounges 24 hours a day. Parking is available in “The Pit” which is never full. Passes cost $200 a year. If they don’t have cares, students can rent one of the 2 zip cars or can take the State Wolfline or city bus.

© 2014

East Carolina University


ECU pirate and quad

ECU mascot statue and the quad

Coming into Greenville for an hour in any direction, there’s nothing but cow farms and cotton fields, but within town, there’s a lot to do. I was impressed with the small-city feel with stores, hospitals, their Greenway (Riverwalk), etc. ECU was founded in 1907 as a teacher’s college and became a comprehensive university in 1967. It’s now the third largest public school in the state with 21,000 undergrads (28,000 total). Greenville has a year-round population of 80,000 residents; town-gown relations are strong with lots of purple and gold displayed in stores around town.

ECU has the largest nursing program in the state, but they also have several other programs of note including Hospitality, Interior Design, Coastal Studies, Animation, and the brand new Forensic Science program. Sciences are strong with specialized opportunities such as the Cadaver Lab and the telescope in the physics building. They have a total of about 100 majors across 10 Academic colleges. The average class size is 28. Some of the upper level classes in specialized majors have 2 or 3 kids; the largest classes have about 200.

ECU library arch

Library Arch; chimes sound when motion is detected

The average for Fall 2013 admitted freshmen was a 3.2 unweighted GPA, and a 1080 SAT (M/CR) or 23 ACT (with writing). They’ll superscore both SAT and ACT. UNC Schools require: 4 English, 4 Math (1 higher than Algebra 2), 3 Science, 2 Social Studies (including US History), 2 language. The application opens in September; the final deadline is 3/15, but they release decisions on a rolling basis within that time. The rep strongly encourages students applying for popular majors and out-of-state students to apply early so space doesn’t run out (UNCs cap out-of-state population at 18%). If students apply early in the year and are denied, they can request a reevaluation if they meet any deficiencies (ie, they didn’t have the additional math class, etc).

Students interested in scholarships must apply by 12/1. If applicants meet the minimum criteria of a 3.5 unwighted or 4.0 weighted GPA plus 1200 SAT/27 ACT, the name will be sent to Honor Scholars. If they get in, they get a scholarship equal to in-state tuition. There is a limited number of EC Scholars who receive a $45,000 scholarship plus $5,000 stipend to study abroad. Additionally, there are 4 Early Assurance seats to the Medical School, 2 seat for the PT program, 1 to Audiology, OT, and Nursing, and 10 Business Scholars seats.

ECU dorm quad

Quad in a dorm unit



All incoming freshmen are required to live on campus; there are both hall style and suite style dorms (all with AC). Several Special Program Dorms are available including First-year Experience, Honors, Leadership, and LLCs. Off-campus housing is easy to find; they host housing fairs during the spring. Transportation around town is easy with the largest university transit system in the state (this is included in student fees) with multiple routes all over campus and Greenville. Freshman can bring cars, but “parking is a commodity.”

ECU quad

Main Quad

There’s plenty to do on campus with 400 student organizations, including Greek life, an underwater hockey club, and Pirate Club (booster club). School spirit is high: the air is “electric” during football games, said our tour guide. There are 8 men’s and 9 women’s DI sports. Club sports include rugby, bass fishing, scuba diving, and ski/snowboarding. ROTC is available on campus; their program includes a Virtual Shooting Lab.

© 2014

William Peace University

William Peace University, visited 3/15/14

~WP balcony and downtown

View towards downtown from the main building

WPU is nestled on a pretty campus not too far from downtown Raleigh. This had been a Women’s College under the name of Peace College from 1857 (its founding) through 2012 when it went coed. There was controversy with this move, and some students and professors left. However, it’s also attracted many more students: enrollment has grown from just under 500 students in 2011 to almost 850 in 2014 with a current freshmen class close to 350 students. They’re already at 35% men, several of whom entered as transfer students.

WP main

The main building; the chapel is inside towards the left.

The university was started by William Peace, a Presbyterian minister. Today, although loosely tied to the Presbyterians, there are no religious overtones other than the original chapel still located on campus. There are no required services, but they are offered for interested students. Part of their distribution requirements includes 5 classes under “Critical Thinking about Culture and Society,” one of which is a religion class, but there are several options that will fulfill this.

~WP quad 3Our tour guide was Brendan, a sophomore psych major from Harlem. I asked him how he learned about WPU; one of his friends had already applied and was talking about it. The friend had come to visit and told the admissions rep about Brendan; the rest, he says, is history. He loves being in Raleigh: “It reminds me of Times Square without the neon!” Transportation around town is easy; students can take city buses or the NC State shuttle if they have a State ID (given if they take any classes, even a 1 credit gym class, on campus).

~WP dorms


~WP seatingHousing is currently the biggest problem. Dorms are spacious and well maintained, but with the recent growth in population, they’re struggling to provide living space. The freshmen and sophomores must live in dorms or university-affiliated housing, including Wolf Creek (an option for sophomores, juniors, and seniors) which also houses students from Shaw, St. Augs, and Meredith colleges, giving students a unique way to expand social circles and creating more of a college community in Raleigh. Since students can also cross-register at these universities (as well as NC State), students are more likely to take advantage of this opportunity because they already have friends on other campuses. They can take up to 5 classes at other campuses towards their majors; after that, the credits count towards electives.

~WP quadI asked Liz Webb, the admissions rep for my area, what types of classes students often took on other campuses. One example is not many languages are offered at WPU so students often go to State. ROTC is also offered there or at Shaw. There are some chances for students to join Greek life at State, as well, since there are not any Greek options at WPU, but this can be more difficult since it’s such a social thing and the students often don’t get to know people there well enough to rush.

~WP quad 2

Library first floor

Library first floor

There are several new buildings on campus, but they’ve also maintained the historical buildings. The original building is a beautiful 4-story structure in the middle of campus (on a historical note, it used to be a hospital in the Civil War). Rumors say that the fourth floor is haunted. “I’m not sure I believe it,” said Brendan, “but I stayed there last summer, and if I heard weird noises at night, I definitely didn’t go investigating!” The library is another older building. It’s small but conducive to studying. They rely quite a bit on online journals and other sources, and with the easy accessibility of other university libraries, not having an overwhelming number of books on site isn’t much of a worry.

~WP game design

Game Design classroom

Two unique majors are Simulation & Game Design and Criminal Justice with a forensics minor being added this coming year. Liz said that she would love to see more programs added, especially in engineering. They offer a BFA which is also unusual for a school this size. They have two beautiful theaters (regular and blackbox), and there are several practice rooms available for musicians. We spoke to one of the girls in the program who was friendly, outgoing, and more than willing to share her experiences. She loves the professors who are active in their fields and get the students out and about in the music and theater worlds; they also bring visiting lecturers in who will do workshops. Students get a lot of experience with auditions before having to head out into the “real world.”

~WP events

Activities offered on campus

The largest lecture hall on campus seats about 85 students. Brendan’s largest class was his biology class with about 80 people; his smallest had 9. All freshmen have a Common Reading summer assignment. His was Wine to Water by Doc Henley; he came to speak to the students (as other Common Reading authors do). He loved the book and liked having the assignment: not only was it interesting, but it also gave people something to talk about.

I asked Brenden what he would like to see changed about the college; he had to think for a minute, but he finally said, “I wish more people knew about us. We’re not very popular; we don’t win big sports tournaments. It’s a good school, so I’d like people to know our name.” They have the standard sport offerings, and are adding lacrosse next year. Brendan liked that the school was willing to listen to what students wanted in terms of new programs.

The average accepted student has a 3.0 GPA and a 900 CR&M SAT or 20 ACT score. The admissions team looks for students “who want to prove to themselves that they can do what others said they couldn’t.” Liz says, “The students really appreciate being here.”

© 2014

Davidson College

DAVIDSON COLLEGE (visited on 3/17/13)

Davidson 5I wish I had visited Davidson sooner. I was highly impressed with the campus and the opportunities available to students. It’s unfortunate that it isn’t on more people’s radars. I had heard a lot about it after moving to the state, and I finally had a chance to bring some students for a visit on the way to a College Fair. This selective school of just under 2,000 students sits on a beautiful sprawling campus in the city of Davidson, about 20 minutes outside of Charlotte, NC.

The dining hall

The dining hall

Davidson acad bldg 2We visited on a Sunday when the admissions office was closed, so a student from Hillel gave us a tour and took us to brunch. Although there weren’t a lot of students in the dining hall when we first arrived a little after 11, it was getting busy by the time we left a just before noon. The food was excellent and there were plenty of options. The student we were with said that the line to swipe in can be long during the busiest times, but it moves quickly. The “make your own” stations can take some time to get through because the food is made fresh to order. The most popular stations are the noodle and the omelet bars, but any of the hot food is good because of the variety offered. They’ll hold international theme days (Singapore, Russian Culture Night – including dancers, Peru, etc) which students really like since it’s different. The Thanksgiving Dinner is also well attended and tends to be a highlight of the year. Since the campus is small enough, they only have one main dining hall, but there are a few other dining options on campus. The Davis Cafe in the Union is available for late-night food (it’s open until midnight), and the Cats Den in Sports Center is open for lunch (mostly sandwiches and other “grab and go” options). Also, instead of fraternities or sororities, they have “Eating Houses” which give students a group to join. There are several small houses with kitchens where members can go eat, giving them a small social group to connect with. The multi-cultural House also has a kitchen which groups can reserve, but it has to be educational or part of a recognized group on campus.

Students eating and working outside during lunch

Students eating and working outside during lunch

The statue of the mascot in front of the athletic complex

The statue of the mascot in front of the athletic complex

The sense of community is strong here. Although it’s a smaller school, there’s something for everyone. There’s a lot to do on campus: parties in the quad, movie nights, speakers, clubs that sponsor events (often with food!). A regular email gets sent to students called the “Cryer” which lists the upcoming events including deadlines for grants, internships, summer opportunities, and other similar things. Tables get set up across campus to provide information about everything from clubs to special events to offices (such as Religious Life) on campus. It’s easy to get off campus since the college runs shuttles. Wi-fi is everywhere so students can work outside. Tables and chairs are everywhere, and students were all over on campus utilizing them. They even had tables with umbrellas for shade near the large outdoor stadium. I image those are highly sought-after on game days! Their entire athletic complex is impressive. Davidson is a DI school which surprised me since they’re so small.

One of the dorms.

One of the dorms.

Davidson 4Their freshman dorms are traditional style with bathrooms down the hall, but each room has its own sink. People work hard to create a feeling of community within the dorms, both formally and informally. Our tour guide said that during orientation week, one of the activities was a cake race. Everyone in the hall brought back the cakes they won and had a social. After the first year, students can choose from a variety of dorm styles, including suites. There are also other types of living halls, including “Sub (substance) Free” halls in which residents pledge not to bring in alcohol or come back drunk. New sophomore dorms have kitchens on each floor which other students can use, even if they don’t live there. Most students live on campus, but there are apartments right across the street from campus in which about 100 students are granted permission to live through an application process. All students are allowed cars on campus allowed; parking costs $50 for unlimited parking or $25 for the lots far away. Cars aren’t necessary, though, since campus is in town and things are accessible. The college will run shuttles to the Lake Campus daily and to the Charlotte airport before and after breaks for $30. Lots of students will bring bikes on campus, especially those living in the upperclassman dorms located on the outskirts of campus.

Davidson acad bldgDavidson artsClasses are kept small here; even as a freshman, our tour guide’s largest class (a music class) had 23 students in it; her smallest (Chinese) had 8. Even though this is a small campus, students are not limited to the academics which they can take. The Charlotte area has a consortium of colleges (including UNC-C, Queens, and Belmont) at which students can cross-register with the approval from the Registrar. This is easy to do if the class isn’t offered at Davidson, but harder for more popular subjects like History. Additionally, students can do independent studies for some languages that are less common and aren’t offered – although Davidson does offer a lot, including Chinese and Italian. Students do have a language requirement in which they have to successfully complete three semesters (through 201) of a language, but they can place out if they come in with enough competency. Other requirements include a class in Cultural Diversity, Religion and Philosophy, Social Science, Math, Science with Lab, and English. All freshmen take a Writing Comp class that has some sort of theme (Memory, Gender, Music and Literature, Revisiting the Library – about history and archives), and they’re taught from professors from all disciplines (history, religion, anthro, etc).

(c) 2013

North Carolina A&T State University

North Carolina A&T University (visited 3/22/13)

Several things surprised me about NCA&T. First, I had driven by campus and had seen a tiny portion of it; from this small glimpse and from what I had heard from others, I expected the campus to be fairly ugly. It wasn’t! Second, as an A&T, I expected the sciences to be strong (and they are), but they have an impressive array of other majors and programs as well.

The Greensboro 4 statue

The Greensboro 4 statue

A&T 2

The newest dorms on campus, named for the Greensboro Four

Most of the campus is beautiful. There are a few older buildings that could use work, but those are being taken care of bit by bit. There is a lot of construction going on around campus. A new Union is being built and the school recently completed several new dorms; the four newest and nicest are named after the Greensboro 4, the students from A&T credited for starting the Sit-In movement at the Woolworths counter in downtown Greensboro. They have a large statue memorializing the Greensboro-Four, and every year on February First, they commemorate the sit-in. The three men who are still living come back to campus every year, and after a large breakfast on campus, the three lead a march to the Woolworth’s (which is now the International Civil Rights Museum, complete with most of the original counter – part of it has been donated to the Smithsonian US History Museum).

The new Union building

The new Union building

There are lots of open spaces and gathering places for students to congregate. “The Bowl” is a large space near the new union; this used to be the school’s football field and is now used for large campus events – fairs, orientation, etc. There were lots of students using these spaces and interacting with each other on the day I visited, even though it was chilly. People really seemed to enjoy being on campus, even though no one is required to live on campus. The dorms are decent with both traditional and suite style to choose from, and most people who want to live on campus can. They also have several theme-based Learning Living Communities. Interested students fill out application and agree to certain aspects of behavior. Students find that this helps them to focus. The tour guides (we had two) both agreed that the food is good, and there’s plenty of variety. Campus is safe; gates close at 11pm so students need ID to drive onto campus, and officers will ask students they see walking around at night for ID, as well. Neither tour guide could remember anyone ever needing to use the blue lights. There was one incident last year off campus involving A&T students but nothing has happened on campus that they’ve heard about.

A&T libraryFor the first hour of the counselor day, about a dozen students had research posters set up around the room where we were eating breakfast. Some sat and ate with us before getting up to stand with their posters to explain their research. I had a chance to talk to about eight of them during the hour. A sampling of what these students were doing include:

  • A sophomore Agricultural Education Major. These majors are usually in high demand, and since she’s already done internships in the field, she has a job waiting for her when she graduates as long as she keeps a 3.0. “If you’re an Ag major and you don’t have an internship every single summer or if you graduate without a job offer – it’s something YOU’RE doing wrong. There are a ton of opps.”
  • A&T acad bldgsA sophomore Computer Engineering major who completed her research in a different department helping to analyze handwriting by using a computer matrix. She’s from Maryland, and was ready to go to GMU but was tempted here for a summer program attracting women into engineering. She and her cohorts got a full semester of college under their belts before they started. She LOVES it here and is glad she came. She can’t imagine anything better.
  • A senior engineering major who designed a robot to enter into a competition and proudly showed off the robot which was able to pick up materials and sort according to color.
  • A Social Work major and Philosophy minor who, as a freshman, has already done quite a bit of original research and oral histories of people in the foster care system, and has presented at several major conferences such as the Daniel Memorial National Foster Care Conference in Canada, the UPenn Multi-disciplinary conference, NACAC, and more.
A&T 1

One of the newest Academic buildings

One of the many eating places on campus, with an attached courtyard.

One of the many eating places on campus, with an attached courtyard.

The students couldn’t say enough good things about A&T. They gushed about classes, professors, academic and social opportunities, and the city. Their class sizes ranged from 6 to 60. The best classes that a couple students said they had taken taken include Soil Science (she said it was really hard, but she walked away with a lot) and a Hazmat class (mostly grad students so it really pushed him). I had a chance to ask some of them what they would like to change. An agriculture major wanted more money invested in the A&T farm: “a lot of students don’t even know we have a farm.” An engineering major wanted more equipment because the technology is changing so fast. Another wanted more money for scholarships. Although there are several available, students who get merit aid are really the top of the top; he would like more students to be able to afford to go. I asked our tour guides how they felt about the administration’s push towards more diversity. A&T is a HBCU, and they’re trying to get more racial/ethnic diversity. He said it was a good thing, and went on to talk about the diversity already on campus. There’s a bunch of religious and political diversity already, and students come from across the country. There’s so much of this geographic diversity that they actually have clubs based on where people are from (like the 336 Club is the local group named after the area code).

A&T dormsA&T dorms 2The application process is fairly straightforward. Students can use the Common App or, for NC residents, through CFNC. The application fee is waived during CFNC week! However, if students are going to do this, don’t start an app through CA. When students start two apps, A&T will attach a transcript to the FIRST app started, so the app submitted through CFNC will register as missing documents and this will slow down the process. The UNC system has set minimum guidelines for all state schools: 2.5 GPA and SAT 800 (M&CR) or ACT 17, but each university can create thresholds above that. NC A&T, like lots of other state schools, is becoming more competitive. Applications are up almost 40% from last year. The average GPA is up from a 3.2 to 3.4. SAT is up a bit; ACT is about the same. About a quarter of accepted students are the top 5th of the class. Because of the increasing competitiveness, denied students who want to appeal need to write a letter and attach new academic information (new test scores, new grade report with a higher GPA, etc). Otherwise, it’s just like saying, “please” which is nice, but won’t get you far in this situation. The Director will read all appeals and respond.

A&T acad bldg 2There are 6 academic schools and programs within the university:

  • Honors: Students take 24 honors credit which includes two required interdisciplinary seminars. The classes are smaller, they have a specialized lecture series, they have a dedicated Fellowship/Scholarship advisor, and students tend to do better and progress more quickly towards a degree. To get in, students need a 3.75 GPA and a 1160 SAT (CR&M) or a 26 ACT, and must maintain a 3.5 to stay in the program.
  • Agriculture: This is the world’s largest industry. “We’ll have to produce more in the next 30 years than we have in the last 10,000 years.” There’s a lot of variety of majors that fall within this school. Family and Consumer Sciences falls under this school. They also have the only accredited landscape architecture undergraduate program in NC. There is also a 540 acre farm not far from campus. They do agricultural work and also have 8 species of animals such as goats, emus, cattle, and poultry. This is a learning-lab, so it’s very much a hands-on place. Students learn about plant and soil quality, forestry, etc. The equine riding and training team is housed there, as well.
  • Nursing: This has been going for 60 years. Students need a 3.0 GPA and a 930 SAT for entrance. Students are admitted into Pre-Nursing and remain there during the Lower Division (Fr/So years). The minimum GPA is a 2.8 to apply into the Upper Level Nursing program, but they really need a 3.0 to be competitive. 85-90% of students persist and graduate.
  • Arts and Sciences: this is the largest college at A&T with about 1/3 of the students. Most of the minors (which is a new thing at A&T) are in the A&S college. They don’t have majors in foreign languages anymore, but they can minor in French and Spanish and can take elementary Japanese. Their Secondary Teacher Education program is in the A&S division since students major in a subject area found within the school.
  • Technology: One of their unusual majors is Applied Engineering and Built Environments. They also offer architecture. Students can be admitted directly to the Technology School with 1000 SAT and 3.0 GPA.
  • Education/Human Performance and Leisure Studies: This is one of the fastest growing departments on campus. Majors include Pre-Physical Therapy, Hotel Management, Tourism, Parks and Rec Admin, Business Admin, Athletic Training, Sports Management/Athletic Management, and Elementary Education.

(c) 2013

NC State

NC State (Visited 3/12)

For such a large campus, I was impressed with how attractive it was. Most of the buildings are brick with only a couple notable exceptions, one of which is unfortunately on an otherwise brick-building-lined-quad filled with trees, flowers, and open grassy spaces. The campus, including the quad, has wi-fi, so this becomes a popular study area in the warmer weather. The “Brickyard” is another open space where students tend to congregate.

State’s library is more notable than most I’ve seen; not only is it extensive (8 floors of stacks and study spaces – and students can access the catalogues and request materials from the Duke and UNC Chapel Hill libraries, as well) but the first floor is a funky, open, well-lit, inviting space for students filled with lots of computers, meeting areas, overstuffed chairs, and even PlayStations. Even though I visited during spring break, this space was well utilized.

My tour stayed only on the main campus so I did not get to see the Centennial Campus (the school is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, just as a side note). The Centennial Campus has most of the Engineering and associated programs and is about an 8-10 minute shuttle ride away. Most Freshmen, even in that department, will take their core classes on the main campus to acclimate before they have to start going back and forth between campuses. The university is also in the process of putting dorms on Centennial Campus to make it easier for students and to alleviate some of the housing crunch. Now, many of the dorms are on the far side of the train tracks (under which runs the “Free Expression Tunnel” full of fun graffiti and signs that advertise all sorts of activities and points of view). The university does not guarantee housing, but reserves space for at least 70% of freshmen to live on campus. There are extensive opportunities for off-campus housing. On campus, there are several themed Villages: Global, Honors, First Year, Scholars, Women in Science and Engineering, and others.

The university is currently in the process of reducing the size of their freshman class by several hundred students to about 4,300 students. Although in part to do with housing, it has more to do with budgets and class sizes. They want to be able to continue providing high-quality education and class availability. Applications have steadily gone up over the past two decades, and this year is the first time that applications have exceeded 20,000. Their acceptance rate in 2011 was 53%. Currently, 9-10% of their students are out-of-state. Like other NC public universities, they have to cap OOS at 18%; they would like their numbers to be closer to that.

Because application numbers are going up so much, they highly recommend that students apply before the deadline. Files are read in the order that they are received so if anything is missing, students will be notified much earlier if they have submitted materials before the deadline – even if it’s just a week. Also, the completed application will be read earlier. If students send SAT or ACT scores during junior year, they will keep them on file and students will be placed on the “perspective” list so they will be invited to open houses, etc. If a student does not report scores until Senior year, the admissions people do NOT recommend rushing the SAT scores – it’s a waste of money and will not really get them to the admissions office any more quickly. Essays and recommendations are not required, but the admissions people will read them if they are sent. Students must apply by 11/1 to be considered for Merit Scholarships.

The most prestigious scholarship they offer is the Park Scholar, named after an alum. This comprehensive scholarship covers tuition, fees, books, room and board, and stipends for living expenses and technology. Students also become eligible for additional grants for study abroad, service projects, or other enrichment opportunities. About 45 scholarships are granted each year. Last year, they received 1500 applications so the acceptance rate is about 3%. Endorsement for the Park Scholar program can come from the school (by 10/1) or from the student (by 10/25). The application is due on 11/1. Students must also complete the NC State application by 11/1 to be a PS candidate. Scholars are selected based on Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character.

The University has several schools; along with the more traditional and expected sorts of majors, there are several unusual ones: 1) College of Natural Resources: Forest Management, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management: Tourism and Commercial Recreation, Natural Resources, Professional Golf Management, Sport Management. 2) College of Management: Internal Auditing, Labor Economics, Supply Chain Management. 3) College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences: Marine Sciences, Meteorology, Financial Mathematics. 4) Engineering: Agricultural, Biomedical, Aerospace, Nuclear, Paper Science, Texile. 5) College of Humanities and Social Sciences: Creative Writing; Public Relations and Organizational Communications; Africana Studies; Science, Technology, & Society. 6) College of Textiles: Fashion and Textile Design. 7) First Year College: Undecided? Use this college to explore, get advice, and figure it out!

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