campus encounters

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Archive for the category “College Visits”

William Penn University

William Penn University (visited 12/4/19)

WP quadThis is a small Quaker college in a large town in Iowa. The rep, a recent alum, said that she often gets asked, “Why come to small town Oskaloosa?” Her answer: mostly for sports. Many students come from out of state (often the Southwest and other Midwestern states with fewer DIII schools) to play. They just added lacrosse and men’s volleyball; they’ll be adding women’s wrestling and shooting next year. They do get some transfers who didn’t make it at a DI school. Because they’re NAIA, they’re allowed to give athletic scholarships. Academic and athletic scholarships are not stackable; students must choose if they qualify for both.

WP mainI’ve been to some other Quaker colleges (such as Earlham, Haverford, and Guilford) that totally impressed; this one still has some work to do – but I think they’re trying. Although affiliated with the Quakers, nothing is forced but religious life/Meetings are there for those who want it. Students do take an 8-week Quaker values class, but “by no means do you have to believe what they believe. My Catholic grandmother freaked out because she thought they’d convert me, but that’s not what this is about. The class is just an introduction to the basic tenets so you understand the underpinnings of the school’s values.”

WP solar panel

Student-built solar panel

Academically, they offer a fairly typical array of majors and minors except for a few areas. It’s unusual for a school this size to offer Industrial Technology, Engineering (including Software engineering), and Accounting (Public or General). They have a Solar Lab, Media Proeduciotn, and Communications Research Institute. Nursing is now a full program (instead of RN to BSN). They do need to grow some of their offerings (such as they only offer a chemistry minor instead of a major), and some of their facilities need work; departments are tucked into whatever spaces are available. The Education department, for example, seems to be an afterthought up some random stairs snaking through an old building.

WP engo labThe biggest classes cap at about 35 students. The rep’s smallest class had 4 (“It was Comp 2, but I took it in the fall which wasn’t the typical time.”) Her next smallest had 15. “Professors will know you whether you want them to or not.” She chose to come here because she didn’t want to be a number. “I grew up 2 blocks from the University of Northern Iowa. It wasn’t for me.”

WP dorm 1

Hallway of the new dorm

The best change that the rep has seen over her time here is that they’re getting more students (there are 1001 students on campus right now) and there are more things to do. They’ve built some new dorms that are fairly extraordinary with suites. These are located across the main street from campus (there’s a pedestrian bridge). There’s also an older dorm that had been closed but, but they’re renovating them one wing at a time. The rooms open to the outside like an old hotel (and frankly looks a little creepy!). “We try to only put juniors and seniors here because they’ve already established community and know the ropes. It’s a little less secured and there’s less “supervision” so to speak so we want the students who are more independent to live here.”

WP dorms 3

The older dorm that’s getting renovated

There are some things to do in Oskaloosa (Osky) but “It is kind of quiet. You can get bored sometimes, but Des Moines is only an hour away. The town is getting better this year about advertising things going on.” She said that it’s easy to get a job in town and they’ll work around the students’ class schedules.

WP fine arts 2They’re getting better about having things to do on campus, too. A few things she mentioned were Human Foosball games, ice cream socials, and Greek Life. None of the chapters are national and there are no Greek houses “so you don’t get the party vibe.” They do community service, keep a minimum GPA, and provide a community for students. Her chapter won the Governor’s Award last summer for doing so much community service. “It’s more a resume builder; it just gives more opportunities.” They also sponsor Greek games when people pledge in go to a sporting event to support the players.

WP sportsShe said that 80% of students are involved in at least one extracurricular activity (which seems a little low to me). Classes are built around that: all of them meet between 8:15-3:05. Sports and other extracurricular run from 3:30 to 5. Evening classes start at 6. “We don’t want them to have to pick between classes and extra-curriculars.” Sports do seem like a very big deal here. The Admission and Financial Aid offices are actually located in the PAC (Athletic Center) so I was able to see several teams practicing – the track team was on the 2nd floor track overlooking the courts where multiple teams were holding their own practices. They also have a Dance Team.

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Bethel College

Bethel College (visited 11/21/19)

Bethel pond 2Bethel is a small welcoming school on a pretty campus (including several fountains), lots of traditions (a couple involving said fountains), solid academics, and a strong faith-based community; “you have to be willing to engage with the religion,” said the tour guide. Students must earn 3 chapel credits per week in any combination of services (chapel meets at 10am on MWF), coffee with a philosophy professor, small group bible study in the dorms, etc. They’ve switched chapel credits this year, the tour guide thinks it’s a good change: “There’s more choice and it shakes things up a bit.”

Bethel chapel 2

The small chapel

Our tour guide wanted a school that wasn’t just Christian in name. Bethel is intentionally Christian in everything they do, including their Statement of Faith and expectations for the community. People here want to grow in their faith. They choose to participate not just in established activities such as Chapel, but seek ways to go beyond that. For example, our tour guide described “Scripture 66” which takes places over a weekend every fall semester. Students read the entire bible out loud between chapel on Friday and chapel on Monday, usually in the small chapel.

Bethel ampitheaterStudents tend more towards the conservative religious side. If that’s what they grew up with, they’ll be comfortable here. Students have a lot of forums to speak up. The tour guide feels that they do a good job of being inclusive of all races, but “We’re predominantly white. We’re in Indiana. That’s going to happen.” They’ve create clubs for spaces for people and to have a forum to talk to admin. “The effort is there.”

Bethel windowThis still feels very much like a small regional school. Only about 800 of the 1400 live on campus (and, living up to the Christian school norms, it’s a dry campus and dorms have specific coed visitation hours). Retention is ok, hovering around 72% but there’s definitely room for improvement, which they realize. They’re starting a new First-Year Experience to help students create connections, and they’ve hired a new grad to revamp it.

Bethel pond 5They have some fun traditions: Pond Run is held on the first day of freshman year. Helm Run is held on the day of the first snowfall: guys run in their underwear (and no shoes) from the dorm to the Helm and back. Babe and Dude weeks (Babe Week is usually first) are also big deals – they do slip-n-slide in the dorms, panels, FroYo runs, initiation, etc. They also have good activities such as an Escape Room campus.

Since they’re in NAIA rather than NCAA, they can provide athletic scholarships. They just brought in a new athletic director so games tend to be drawing in more fans now.

Bethel is flexible with AP and dual enrollment. They have some interesting options for majors an minors such as:

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Aquinas College

Aquinas College (visited 11/18/19)

Aquinas path 4

One of the well used paths on campus

Aquinas is a solid school on the outskirts of the 2nd largest city in Michigan; if you want the best of all worlds – a beautiful wooded campus with easy access to a city; strong academics (including some unusual areas of study) and vibrant social life; access to all sorts of sports and arts, a community concerned with sustainability, and a faith community if you’d like to take advantage of that – this could be the school for you!



Aquinas chapel 2

The chapel at dusk

Campus feels very much like a forest or a park. There are lots of walking paths, a stream running through campus, and trees all over the place. Campus is highly sustainable: they have bins in every building to separate out compost, recycling, and trash. Even dorm rooms often have them; the tour guide said, “They’re encouraged but not required.” Ratings Signs get posted in lobbies to show how they did this month compared to last, as well as how much waste was created, recycled, etc. We talked briefly to the Sustainability Coordinator; she said that they’re working on getting goats on campus to take care of the grass and invasive species. They run Saint Swap – students can donate 2 articles of clothing or other items they don’t want and pick up 1 that they do. Leftovers go to community members who need it. They’re also the first college in the country to have a Sustainable Business degree!


Aquinas library

The library is one of the newer buildings; it’s a great space! 

The rep said that she’s often asked, “What’s the worth here?” Like many places, the first thing she said was “Community,” but this seems to include on and off campus. “You’re in a city – but you get to be in a nature bubble within that city. Students have so many resources in Grand Rapids but also because of easy access to Detroit and Chicago. Students can get around town on the city buses for 25 cents a trip. “Downtown is great! There’s ice skating, museums, and restaurants.”


Aquinas eSportsThe admissions rep we spoke to graduated in 2012; she’s seen a lot of great new buildings put up since she arrived including the athletic center and a beautiful science center (they invested $32m in that!) “The growth in athletics is also great to see. It brings in a new group of students.” Aquinas started men’s volleyball about 3 years ago; there has been a huge influx of players. “ESports has been fascinating to see in new and exciting ways.” Basketball and soccer get the most fans. “Saint Slam is the introduction of the basketball team.”

Aquinas grottoThere’s also been a change in students. She’s seen more kids willing to reach out and help. “I think students here have always been nice, but there’s more outreach and community service now. It seems like it’s more part of the culture.” This is still very much a region institution, but that’s slowly changing, as well. They’ll help first-time visitors from out-of-state (and the Upper Peninsula) with travel reimbursement IF they’ve been admitted before the visit: they’ll pay for flight and gas, but not meals, hotel, or the rental car. Of the 1400 undergrads, about 250 come from outside Michigan. Approximately 50 of those are Global Students (I like that they’re called this instead of International!). Global Food Fest is a popular new event where students will cook food from their nation/culture for others. All students and staff are welcome to participate, even domestic students who have spent time abroad or want to celebrate a family tradition.

Aquinas AcThere are multiple global offerings and opportunities to get involved:

Classes, of course, are small because of the school size. The tour guide’s classes ranged from 8-20 students. They have more majors and opportunities than many other places this size.

  • Aquinas sci ceiling stars

    The ceiling in the atrium of the science building – the lights are set up as constellations

    This is one of the few schools I’ve ever seen to offer Translation and Interpretation as a major (and our tour guide was double majoring in this and Spanish).

  • Students who’ve declared an education major take their first education class in 2nd semester; during this, they spend at least 40 hours in a school and must have an exit interview with a member of the Edu dept to make sure they want to continue in the major.
  • Nursing is direct entry for students with a 2.5 GPA overall AND in all their math and science classes and a 1080SAT/21ACT. Technically, they’re doing their nursing through University of Detroit-Mercy: “on paper, they’re UD-M students but with all the benefits of being an AQ student. All their classes are on campus, and clinicals are here.” They have a 100% placement rate; 95% pass the NCLEX on the first try. They’re only allowed to graduate 60 a year by the state of Michigan.
  • Aquinas arts 2

    The art and music center

    Fine and performing arts are huge here:

  • Aquinas Moose 1

    The Moose (called that because of the moose head – look on the far side!) … one of the great dining options that serves as a cafe/late night option. This used to be the old carriage house.

    They’ve done a lot with dual business degrees. Students can pair Visual Arts, Chemistry, Communications, music, sports management, Computer Info Systems. Recently, they added a dual Business-Econ

  • They’ve partnered with Western Michigan for engineering: “It’s constantly changing since we’re learning and growing with it.” Students get an AA from Aquinas before completing their Bachelors at WMU in Civil or Industrial/Entrepreneurial Engineering.
  • Accounting is excellent: they’re in the top 5% for CPA pass-rates.
  • Community Leadership is also uncommon.
Aquinas athletic and dorm

Some of the newer upperclassmen dorms and the athletic fields.

This is a fairly residential campus, but students are allowed to move off; this is in a residential neighborhood so it’s relatively easy to find housing in the area. The dining hall is great about food allergies. Everything is well marked, and they’ll send emails if there’s ever an issue so students can make decisions about where they want to eat for a particular meal – so if there’s an inhalation allergies, for example, they may choose to eat at a different place. The dining hall is open longer hours, and students can come in for soup and salad all afternoon. The popular meals are sweet and sour chicken and popcorn chicken bowl. We ate dinner there; lots of students were there, but there wasn’t any real wait to get food.


They start offering merit scholarships for applicants at a 2.7GPA and 980 SAT/18ACT. These are good up for 5 years. The AQ commitment says that they’ll meet 100% need for a student if they have a 3.4 GPA or higher. They will try to meet need under that but do not guarantee it.

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Kettering University

Kettering University (visited 11/19/19)

Kettering 1This is a small school that is relatively well-known for engineering and its innovative, mandatory Co-op program operating on 3-month class/co-op rotation that differentiates it from other co-ops such as those at Drexel and Northeastern. One of the reps said, “The kids here are geeks. They thrive off of each other. Just based on conversations, they find a home here they never got in high school. They’re surrounded my like-minded people who challenge them.”

Kettering 3d factoryThe co-op program is one of the big reasons people pick Kettering. Students come in on either the A or B cohort; A starts classes at the traditional time in the fall; B does their first co-op before taking any classes at all. Placement into A and B is totally random but it’s easy enough to switch sections. If incoming students do want to switch, they’re often asked to wait until after the job fair to decide since some companies will only hire for certain sections. These job fairs are open to all students, and the incoming students are encouraged to attend, particularly those in the B cohort who go directly into co-op.

Kettering bioeng research

Bioengineering research lab

I asked both the tour guide and the Co-op Coordinator about how this could possible work and how students would be qualified to do more than make copies or coffee without having some classes under their belts. The coordinator said, “Many companies hire 3 students at a time. They figure maybe one won’t work out, and they hope that one will be given a job offer. They’re grooming their future talent. They’ll take a chance on high school graduates.”

Kettering women engo

Although Kettering is still heavily male (it is a STEM-based school), they do have organizations, including dorm options, to help the females feel more included.

Students need to complete at least 5 co-op terms; most do 7-9 before they graduate. They partner with over 500 employers, many of which are in SE Michigan (the Detroit metro area). It’s rare to get a co-op in Flint. All majors must do co-ops; they have a freshman bio major with the Medical Examiner this year. Students earn an average of $15.50/hour; they often use this towards tuition.

I had high hopes for Kettering. However, the other counselor and I were both a little reluctant to recommend this school. The vibe was a little off. I think that it’s difficult to build community here. There seems to be very little going on around campus other than classes; even the tour guide was hard-pressed to give some examples of things that were happening around campus for fun. There might be a couple reasons for this – first, several people said they were “self-proclaimed geeks.” Second, classes are condensed from 15 to 11 weeks so they’re getting more done in less time (the tour guide estimates that he does 2-4 hours of homework/studying a night to keep up with the academics). Third, when students are coming and going every 3 months, it’s hard to sustain any meaningful clubs or extra-curricular activities. Students don’t do that much other than classes.

Kettering dorm lounge

The dorm lounge decorated for Christmas

However, there are some things going on: they have lots of automotive engineering competitions (which operates as a club). There’s some Greek life, some intramural sports, etc. Greek life does play a large part towards blowing off steam; about 40% of students participate. There are dorms the run activities; the lounge was already decorated for Christmas when we were there; “there’s a big push to do things in the dorms to get students out of their rooms. We’re nerdy. We tend to hold up in our rooms,” said the tour guide. They’re located in a sort-of residential area of Flint; some areas nearby are not in the best of conditions, but the immediate area seems ok. The tour guide also said he felt safe around campus.

Kettering lobby

A mascot decorating competition between Greek organizations in the lobby of one of the main buildings

They have a limited choice of majors, all STEM based except for the Management option. There are 5 engineering options (including Industrial Engineering) plus Engineering Physics. They have a more extensive choice of minors, including History, Literature, Business, and International Studies. The others are STEM based such as Gaming, Acoustics, Applied Optics, manufacturing Engineering, Medical Physics, System and Data Security, and Materials Science. The labs are some of them best I’ve seen – very well stocked with great equipment, allowing for a lot of hands-on experience and practical applications. The tour guide showed us one where they had to simulate production lines (on a very small scale) to figure out not only how to put things together but how to communicate that out. Kettering is also the only place with a crash-test lab for undergrads.

Kettering lab 4

Lab space simulating production lines

Everything they do here is Calc based. Students have to have some trig coming in (but that’s often tagged onto Alg 2 or PreCalc). A 3.0 GPA and 24 ACT will earn students scholarship money. They also have fixed-rate tuition: what you pay the first year is what you pay for 5 years.

Retention is 97% but the graduation rate is about 60%. Disparity comes because of the co-ops; grad rates are based off of 6 years and some students go longer. The thesis project can trip them up sometimes; it takes them a little longer to do the program. It’s also such a niche program that there isn’t much to fall back on. Most graduates go right into the job force, but ¾ eventually get an advanced degree.

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Trine University

Trine University (visited 11/20/19)

Trine quad 2

Some of the original buildings on the quad

Trine is a small university in a small town in rural northern Indiana. In addition the standard array of liberal arts degrees, they offer strong education programs, design engineering tech, biomedical engineering, and golf management as well as lots of unusual minors. Sports and Greek Life are big deals here. One of the old buildings in the attractive quad area had Hall of Humanities engraved in the stone; we didn’t get to go into that, but we thought that might be an indication of what they thought was important, but choices for majors in Arts & Sciences are limited.

Trine gymTrine is the fastest growing private college in Indiana; they’re looking to keep growing over the next 15 years. The main campus has about 2,200 undergrads (skewed heavily male) and 5,000 students total. (There’s a smaller satellite campus in Ft. Wayne that hosts Health Sciences and some online programs). Almost half (45%) of students are engineering majors; the rep, an alum gave us a tour and zoomed past the biomedical building in the golf cart so we didn’t get to see any of the labs which would’ve been cool. (Note: we did ask her to show off what she was most proud of; we ended up spending a chunk of time wandering around the new sports arena; she walked us around the entire perimeter of the basketball court and showed off the bowling alley but not the eSports room … go figure). Although they’re mostly considered a STEM and education school, they do offer some other options:

Co-ops are encouraged but not required; typically students choose to do a full year. This will delay graduation if they choose to do this, but they do get paid and can receive academic credit after the 3rd session. Their 5-year graduation rate is 60% mainly because of Co-ops, although their freshman-to-sophomore retention is also fairly low.

Trine 3They are in a small town that’s difficult to get to for students coming from a distance; there’s no convenient public transport. The closest airport is 50 miles away (Ft. Wayne); the nearest train station is 15 miles (Waterloo). The town of Angola isn’t big, but there are a few things to do in town: students get free movies on Mondays at the Brokaw; MTI hosts College Bowling Nights 1-2 times a week, there’s Open Skate at the Thunder Ice Arena, and the Y hosts Trine Nights where students can use the pool, fitness center, sauna, etc. There is no pool on campus.

Trine apts 2

upperclassmen apartments

As counselors, we’re always looking to see what a school’s hook is – what would draw students to that school over other similar ones. This is a cute school with a few niche majors, but we had trouble finding a compelling reason to recommend this to people from a distance. We asked her what her “elevator spiel” was when students stopped to talk at a college fair and what would draw a student (particularly one who had to travel and really work at getting to campus) to Trine over another school. Unfortunately, she didn’t really have an answer to that. She mentioned the small school/class experience (LOTS of colleges have that), the “community feel” (pretty much every school out there talks about that), and that she would talk about her experience on campus – which she didn’t share with us.

Trine Greek 3

One of the Greek houses

Trine recently built Stadium Hall, a new dorm, to accommodate the growing population. Students have to live on campus until they’re 21, unless they’re in one of the massive Greek houses (about 25% of students join Greek life but few live in the houses; the rep said, “Greek life is not dominant but it’s present.”) or in the non-denominational Christian Campus House which is technically not considered on-campus (landlords are different). They have 3 houses: 1 each for men and women and a Main house (surprisingly, only about 15 students total live there despite this being one of the biggest groups). They serve free hot dogs on Wednesday and pancakes on Fridays; host a “root beer kegger” during orientation; and offer alternative spring breaks, mission work, etc. Trine is not religiously affiliated, by the way.

Sports provide much of the social life on campus. They’re DIII with 35 competitive teams. Bowling, eSports, Cheer & Dance, and Synchronized & Figure Skating are club sports so they can give scholarships to students. Lacrosse is a big draw for East coast students. They’ve invested a lot of money into their facilities, including a great indoor track including long-jump sand pit.

Scholarships are based on GPA and scores, and they’ll accept new scores and transcripts until May of senior year. Students can only earn one academic scholarship but can stack up to 2 more awards such as Diversity, valedictorian/salutatorian, legacy, activity award (music, choir, skating, etc), or Pre-Health Profession Track. Students can be invited for the Scholarship Days where they come to campus to compete for certain awards.

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Holy Cross College (IN)

Holy Cross College, IN (visited 11/21/19)

Holy Cross stained glass

Stained glass and some of the pews in the Holy Cross chapel (formerly a foundry for Notre Dam).

Fun fact: the Holy Cross Chapel used to be the foundry that made the bricks for Notre Dame’s iconic yellow buildings. Started as a 2-year all-male “feeder” school, this is now a full 4-year coed school in its own right, but it still feels a bit like Notre Dame’s forgotten younger brother. The people we met (an admissions rep/alum and a current senior) were incredibly helpful and so happy to show off their school. They said that they feel like the younger-brother feel has definitely dwindled in recent years, but it’s hard to shake that. However, for students looking for a much smaller academic environment but with easy access to the large rah-rah feel of Notre Dame (they’re literally across the street), this could be a good alternative – and for students who might like to transfer later, they have a specific articulation agreement with Notre Dame in which a select group of students can transfer as long as they’ve met the minimum requirements.

Holy Cross archAs an out-of-state counselor, it was hard to find what would bring students to Holy Cross from a distance other than as a stepping-stone into Notre Dame. This is a very small school of only about 600 students but may eventually grow up to 1000. This allows for personal attention and remaining true to the mission of the Brothers of the Holy Cross, the same group that started Notre Dame. “The motto is that the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart,” said the rep. Their mission is education, holistically developing people, and giving back. They want to develop active global citizens; “students should engage with the people they’ll be serving.”

About 1/3 of the students do not identify as Catholic. Attendance at Mass is not required, but students must take 2 academically based theology classes. “They teach what the Brothers believe and what they do with that belief. It’s not to indoctrinate people,” said the rep.

Holy Cross quad 3

The quad (which had been a parking lot not too long ago) and some dorms

Only about half of those students live on campus; they draw a lot of local students, and Juniors and Seniors may move off campus. They are located directly across the street from Notre Dame which helps alleviate some of the small feeling; St. Mary’s is only a couple blocks to the north. Student can get involved in clubs and activities, to the football games (it costs $330 for the season; it sounds like it’s an all or nothing deal “unless you can find someone selling an individual ticket,” said the tour guide), and take classes (1 per term) on the other campuses. Freshman can take classes at St. Mary’s right away; only sophomores with a 3.0 or higher can take classes at ND.

Holy Cross view of ND

Some of the iconic Notre Dame buildings as seen from the Holy Cross campus. They really are right across the street from each other.

Very briefly (a couple years), Holy Cross was single-gender (male) when it served as a seminary (and the student body is still about 60% male); it remained a 2-year school until the early 2000s. They still offer a few AA degrees and some students take advantage of that, but mostly local students who will transfer or those who are Notre Dame hopefuls. They offer a Gateway Program which provides a direct transfer to ND; there are maybe 75 per cohort can transfer to ND after a year as long as they maintain a 3.5 GPA and are in good disciplinary standing. Students are selected from the Notre Dame applicant pool; they cannot self-select or indicate that they are interested in this program. There’s also a self-selected Driscoll Scholars program, a 2+3 engineering degree with ND; students major in a STEM field at HC for 2 years, then go to ND for 3 years for an engineering degree.

Holy Cross library 2

Some of the reading areas in the library

Because of the range of students coming to Holy Cross, there’s also a huge SAT spread (which we know isn’t the end-all of ability, but it can be an indicator of the range of students at the college); their middle 50% ranges from about 1010-1380. The other counselor with me saw that in one of their brochures and asked if it was correct. It is. “From a professor’s standpoint, sometimes it can be challenging to find that sweet spot to challenge people without swamping others,” said the rep. I asked about an Honors College or another way they could keep the high-fliers engaged. He said that they will offer Honors sections – but it’s up to the students to tell their advisors that they want the extra challenge. These aren’t advertised as well as they should be which is a bit concerning.

Holy Cross psych sym 2

A symposium of Psychology 101 research was going on in the atrium on the day we visited

As part of the educational mission, Holy Cross helps DACA recipients. About ¼ of students at HC are First Gen, and they’ve brought on a coordinator to help them while on campus. They’ve started First Gen and Latinx clubs to help people feel more connected. “A lot of us felt like outsiders,” said our tour guide who is a DACA recipient from Chicago. “We felt like having a club would make it feel more at home instead of just a place to go. A lot went home every weekend. We host traditional events. It’s not even exclusive to Latinos. We’ve caught the attention of Notre Dame and the community. I feel like the impact is getting greater every year.” They also now have a Retention coordinator who meets with students who don’t aren’t settling in or who are academically struggling. Currently, their freshman-sophomore retention rate is in the low 60s. While still above the national average, this isn’t great. However, they do lose students in the Notre Dame cohort programs which disproportionately hits their retention and graduation rates.

The rep (an alum) said that he’s seen lots of good changes around campus since he came as a freshman. The quad used to be a parking lot but is now a great green space and gathering spot. “Holy Cross is also becoming it’s own thing rather than Notre Dame’s little brother.” They now have a Tri-campus sustainability class: students go through all campuses, looking what they’re doing to promote sustainability such as the farm t St. Mary’s, Geothermal units at ND, and getting rid of trays at HC. He’d like to see more articulation for Master’s degrees. There’s currently a 4+1 in Data Science and Autism Studies with St. Mary’s.

There are only 11 majors offered at Holy Cross Business, Psych, Theology, and Liberal Studies (with or without a pre-law track) remain the most popular majors on campus. The tour guide’s favorite class was Research Methods in Psych; he got to go to a conference: “it was interesting to present my own study on athletes and bullying.” The rep’s favorite class was Logic; “I liked talking about moral ethics.” Internships are required, as are seminars in Global perspectives. They offer Long Global Trips to Uganda, India, and Peru among other places. These are not tourism trips but try to be as immersive as possible, often staying with priests or brothers at a retreat center. Trips include service components. It’s highly subsidized; most only cost $1-2000. I asked if there was help for students for whom even that would be out of reach; there isn’t much help available.

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University of Michigan – Flint

University of Michigan – Flint (visited 11/19/19)

UMFlint main signUM-Flint is a University of Michigan institution but has its own admissions policies and its own scholarships. “We’re not a satellite of Ann Arbor,” said the rep. However, students who want a UMich education and degree (the diploma just says University of Michigan!) but in a smaller school (8,000 undergrads rather than 28,000 at Ann Arbor), a more urban environment (they’re right in downtown), or who maybe want to get their grades up to be competitive at Ann Arbor would thrive here. They offer great academics including direct entry nursing, business, BFA degrees in fine and performing arts, engineering, psychology, and an array of health-care degrees.

UMFlint ice rink

The campus ice rink

We added UM-Flint to the itinerary at the last minute since we were staying in town and had a bit of time. I did not expect to spend long on campus; in fact, when I contacted the admissions office, I asked if I could pick up a bit of info right before they closed and said that we could just wander a bit on our own. They went way above and beyond: the rep had gift bags of swag, she talked to us for about 30 minutes (staying past closing to do so), and they had a student waiting for us who toured us around campus for an hour in the evening.

UMFlint walkways

One of the walkways between buildings

While this would still be a harder sell for most out-of-state students, there are definite pluses going for it. As a much smaller campus that Ann Arbor, the average class hovers around 25-30 students, so students might find more success and access here, particularly for those looking for a more personal touch in their intro level classes. The atmosphere here is distinct and much more urban. The campus sits close to downtown; 5 or 6 of the buildings are connected by skywalks (“Hamster Tunnels,” the student said) so students don’t have to cross streets or get cold in the winter. There’s a lot to do on and around campus, including the campus ice skating rink. “There are a lot of options within the county, not just Flint,” said the rep. “When I think of local, I think of the entire county. There are tons of things to do.” Students love the Farmer’s Market which is right next to the Freshman dorm, and there are several things within easy walking distance. “There are interesting, one-of-a-kind places around.” Traffic is almost a non-issue as well; it’s very easy to navigate and get around town.

UMFlint quad

The dorm quad at night

“We’re very much a non-traditional school; we have tons of freshmen and transfers as well as adults coming in for completion degrees who are working FT.” Although many people do come from the area, they’re being deliberate in trying to expand their reach out. They’re going to give Out-of-State students free housing this year to help grow the market! They have dorms for freshmen and for upperclassmen, but only about 15% of students currently live on campus. The dorms are phenomenal — all dorms are suite style with single rooms and a great lounge. Hallways look like a hotel, and they’re new and clean. They have the 2nd most affordable housing in the state, and there are tons of options surrounding campus. Freshman must have a meal plan. Parking is no additional fee. “We expect that everyone has a car.”

UMFlint student cntr

The student center

This is a great option for students who want to earn a UM degree. Students can transfer later to Ann Arbor, but not every class they take at Flint will transfer over. They should work with their advisor to make sure they take appropriate classes if transferring is their goal. “Gen Ed classes are fairly transfer-friendly,” said the rep. Flint’s only offers General and Mechanical Engineering, but they offer a 2+2 with Ann Arbor for the other programs. This is basically a guarantee as long as they maintain grades, etc. The school’s retention and graduation rates are lower than I’d normally like to see – and the rep agrees that these are not where they’d like them, but there are several reasons for this: first, they do lose a lot of students to Ann Arbor, particularly because of the 2+2 engineering program; even though this is a planned articulation agreement, those numbers count against Flint. Second, because they have so many non-traditional students studying part time, they don’t graduate “on time.”

Classes usually run Mon-Thurs so they’re a little longer. Occasionally there’s one on Friday, but often these are graduate or evening classes to accommodate returning, working adults pursing a degree. Flint’s top programs include:

  • Nursing: this is direct admit. It’s relatively new, but eventually they’ll put a limit on it. They must maintain a 3.0 in all their science and nursing classes. All nursing classes must be taken on campus (they can’t take things at a community college over the summer, for instance).
  • School of Management: many students come here for that, particularly Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Organizational Behavior/HR, and Operations/Supply Chain Management.
  • Health Sciences including Public Health, Clinical Health Sciences, Radiation Therapy, OT, PT as well as new graduate programs in nurse-anesthesia and PA.
  • Engineering because of 2+2.
  • Within Arts and Sciences, Psych and Geography/Planning/Environment stand out.

© 2019

St. Mary’s College (IN)

St. Mary’s College, South Bend, IN (visited 11/21/19)

St. Marys pond main bldgSt. Mary’s (South Bend, IN) is a small women’s college clustered in the neighborhood with Notre Dame (which is literally across the street) and Holy Cross (about 2 blocks to the south). Started as the sister school to Notre Dame when they were still all-men, St. Mary’s has held onto their single-gender identity. Unfortunately, they’ve been a bit lost in the shadow of ND as that grew in size and prominence which is too bad; they’re a moderately selective school holding steady with 1,600 students, good retention and decent graduation rates, fairly good geographic diversity (only about ¼ come from Indiana), and strong programs in nursing, communication science/disorders, accounting, and management among others.

St. Marys 1For students worried about attending an all-women’s college – don’t. With Notre Dame and Holy Cross so close, students get the best of both worlds – a small, nurturing, single-gender home base but with access to the large rah-rah feel of an athletic/academic powerhouse. They’ve retained a strong connection to Notre Dame; St. Mary’s students can cross-register for classes at either campus, and they can join clubs and activities (including the Marching Band) at Notre Dame. They can also attend the football (or other) games; tickets run about $330 for the season (the student thinks it might be an all-or-nothing deal unless you can find someone selling single tickets).

St. Marys 6Buildings are beautiful, as is campus. These are mostly made of the same yellow brick as Notre Dame, not surprising since they grew up at the same time. The mud for the bricks is local and was made at the foundry which is serves as Holy Cross’ chapel.

A few programs that are worth noting include:

  • BA/BFA in the Applied Arts and Design, including New Media, design, sculpture, photo media, fibers, Musical Theater, dance, and more
  • St. Marys 2Math/Computer Sciences – including Applied Math (in conjunction usually with Data Science, Computer Science, etc) and Statistical/Actuarial Math
  • Speech Language Pathology
  • Global Studies with concentrations in Anthropology, Economics, Justice and Human Rights, business administration, intercultural studies, and modern European Culture. Students must obtain intermediate proficiency in 1 language and introductory proficiency in a “less commonly taught language” (Arabic or Chinese are offered on campus) to be accepted into the major.
  • Their interdisciplinary programs including film studies, gerontology, justice education, among others.

© 2019

Centenary University (NJ)

Centenary University (visited 11/12/19)

Centenary main 2

The main building as seen through the gates from the street. 

My visit totally started off on the wrong foot. I arrived about 20 minutes early for my 2pm tour. I arrived at the given address and found the large main building with the gold dome; it’s hard to miss. However, there’s no parking to be found. No visitor lot, no signs for admissions parking, nothing to direct people arriving from off campus. No signage is a huge red flag for me. I circled the area, pulled onto a couple small roads into campus thinking it might lead me somewhere. I saw a lot of old buildings, nothing that looked well kept up, no signs for anything. Pulling onto another main road, I saw a small (like the size of a sheet of paper) sign that said “Centenary Parking” with an arrow. I followed it. Saw another one indicating I was still in the right direction. I ended up at the Hackettstown train station about 3 blocks from campus (which is a bonus, I’ll say – so there’s a plus in the university’s favor). I pulled into the lot and called the admission office, explaining that I had no idea where I should be going or parking. “Oh, you need to park on the street!” – which they never indicated on the website or in any of the emails confirming my visit. I explained that I had been circling for about 10 minutes; no spots available. “Then just go to this other place.”

Centenary chapel 1

The balcony of the chapel which sits under the gold dome.

I finally found someone who had pulled out, I parked on the street, and I made my way into the building. Right inside the main doors is a Welcome Center; I figured that was maybe the admission hub since there were no other signs for admissions. I thought that was great! A lot of schools don’t have that. I went in, introduced myself, and said I was there for the 2pm tour. “You’re in the wrong spot. You want Admissions.” Nothing else. Ok … where would that be?? I got pointed in the right direction.

I seriously almost walked away at that point. It’s hard to feel good about a place that seems to almost go out of its way to not welcome people – especially when they’re trying to get enrollment up. How can I recommend a place in good faith when I’m not sure that students will be taken care of, and that starts with visiting Admissions.

Centenary quad 1

The main quad where there are often activities held, including a massive Easter Egg hunt,

Once I got into Admissions (at least it was just around the corner from the Welcome Center), the student worker at the desk was friendly, and things turned around a bit. I introduced myself, and he was enthusiastic and told me that he was going to be the one taking me on tour. While I was waiting for him to get his coat, none of the admissions officers who saw me come in introduced themselves or said hello … and this office was NOT busy. I was the only visitor there; I heard no phones ringing; nothing much seemed to be going on. As a side note, the woman who I had been emailing/talking to also never introduced herself.

Centenary tablesThe tour was fairly quick – maybe 40 minutes, and we dawdled because I asked a lot of questions. He was totally not scripted and was good about answering things openly. As a senior, he’s got a lot to say, and I walked away feeling like I had a decent grasp on the place.

So, here’s what I can say about Centenary:

  • This is a great school for students who are maybe C students in high school and who need small classes and possibly academic support: they offer a couple for-pay support programs.
  • Centenary equestrian 1It has a spectacular Equestrian Center. The center is about 8 miles away, about a 15-minute drive through some very pretty countryside.
    • “The center is amazing; the classrooms are right there and you can actually watch people riding and doing the things you’re talking about in class.”
    • They offer Equine Studies with a variety of concentrations, including: Equestrian Media/PR, Equine Business Management, Equine Training/Instruction, Animal Health (pre-vet track), Equine Science, and Equine Studies.
    • Centenary equestrian classroom

      One of the classrooms in the equestrian center that looks onto the indoor arena

      They run shuttles several times an hour to and from the center; they even have a kitchen there “Because a lot of them are there for a big chunk of the day for classes and riding; they can even use their meal swipes out there.”

  • They have a very cool “double-decker” (2-storey) chapel on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the main building.
  • Campus facilities leave a lot to be desired, although they’re slowly improving upon them.
  • Centenary theater

    The interior of the new theater lobby. The black box theater is straight ahead; the large theater is the left.

    They have new theater facilities which brings in community members both to perform and as audience members.

  • Their DIII athletic teams draw fans, including wrestling, but I get the feeling that it’s because there’s not a ton of other things to do.
  • It’s very much a regional school (70% from NJ) with a lot of commuters. “One of my friends commutes from Newark which is like an hour away.”
    • They offer 2 cool freshman dorms (attached to the main building), 2 transfer student dorms (which is incredibly smart of them), a couple sophomore dorms (“Middle Campus”) and 2 fairly new Apartment-style buildings. The apartments have 4 singles, 2 baths, a living room, and a kitchen. “You can move in here as soon as sophomore year, but usually only if you have older friends who are willing to have you live with them.”
    • Centenary middle campus

      The Middle Campus (sophomore) dorms

      They have a “Move In Crew” – volunteers from a bunch of clubs that will help unload stuff from onto golf carts and will bring them to the dorms.

    • There is no residency requirement.
    • Housing is more difficult off campus because “it’s an older town and it’s hard to find landlords to rent out houses, but there are some, and there are some apartment complexes not too far away.”
  • Centenary sci bdg

    The Science (and fashion) building

    Students have to complete 10 hours of community service. “Most of them get it done in freshman year because there’s a service project they do as a group during orientation.”

  • Enactus is a social entrepreneurship organization and/or class. Students can get a Social Media Marketing My tour guide loved this and got a social media internship between junior and senior years which he credits entirely to Enactus and his concentration.
  • They offer a fashion design major – which is housed in the science building. I didn’t get to go in and see the labs, but the building looked like an old elementary school.
  • Town is small. “It’s hard to get food late-night, so the school has offered some late night options. People love that!”

© 2019

Berea College

Berea College (visited 9/25/19)

Berea 17“I flourished in ways that high-school me never could imagine. I felt like my voice mattered and that I belonged.” Berea is changing lives.

An admissions rep opened the counselor session by saying, “Let me tell you about the best kept secret in Kentucky. Lots of schools say they’re unique, but we walk the walk.” Berea targets students with the academic ability but not the financial resources for a college education. This is a 4-year liberal arts college with 1600 students, traditionally serving Appalachia (students from the region, stretching from Georgia to NY, represent just under 70% of the student body) but will serve any qualified student, including about 30 international students per year.

Berea garden 2No student pays tuition. “Financial Aid is different than most places. We have certain requirements that need to meet to be eligible for admission,” said a rep. As long as students’ EFCs make them eligible for a Pell Grant, they can be considered for admission. “If they don’t meet this, it’s a simple no and we’ll communicate that to the family.” There are few exceptions, including faculty children or those eligible for tuition exchanges at other institutions. Also, if students are eligible when they enter and later are no longer Pell Eligible, they are still a Berea student. They won’t have to leave, but they will have to pay more towards their education.

Berea fountain

Fountain with he school motto circling it

Berea’s No-Tuition promise is valued at more than $176,000 over 4 years. Students are asked to contribute towards housing and meals costs. On average, this comes out to about $600 per semester based on their EFC. Books and personal expenses can be covered through earnings in the labor (what they call Work-Study). “My family doesn’t have to get another job to support me, and I was given a job on campus, too. If I go to grad school, I won’t be carrying any loans. Berea is giving me opportunities now and after graduation that I wouldn’t have at another institution.” In 2018, 45% graduated with no debt. Loans are usually only taken out when they can’t come up with the EFC. “Those who incur debt have less than $6700.”

Berea 10Students fill sixty percent of campus positions in 120 departments through the labor program, that allows them to earn up to $2000 as freshmen; that rises as they get promoted. “It can teach you about what you do want – but also a lot about what you don’t!” First year students can’t choose their jobs but can submit a resume and preferences which influences where they’re placed. The goal is ultimately to find students work aligned with job aspirations or majors (allowing for a solid resume): accounting majors can work in the business office, for example.

Berea 12The College President uses the idea of bridging students through the college experience. It’s not enough to just get them into college. “There are multiple ways to set them up for success in the first year.”

  • “We don’t take anything for granted. There are lots of first-gen students here, and many don’t have other support. We put initial support in place before they arrive.” This includes:
    • Pre-Arrival Communication: “we lay the map out clearly before they arrive.”
    • Orientation Programs: online, summer connections, and a welcome week.
  • Berea 19They have a Coordinator of First-Year Programming/Family Engagement and a Family Outreach Coordinator.
  • Several teams implement first-year interventions as needed: intervention response team (talking about things that might jeopardize academic status), students of concern team (more behavioral disturbance), and academic progress. They make plans of action to see how can they help the student.
  • Academic Transition: this provides supplemental advising and programming. First year students are placed in classes in the fall, so they provide a program to teach them how to navigate registration in the spring. In the online orientation, they fill out a course-preference module that is unique to them based on their major and interests.

Berea 13There are multiple first-year high-touch, structural, intentional initiatives. Almost 75% of students participate in one of these (up from 18% in 2012). They want students to make meaningful connections. TAs are integrated into the programs. Someone is aware of the students’ presence, making sure they are known and their needs are met.

  • Berea Bridge is a summer program for 60 students on a lottery system (based on interest) to represent the bigger demographic. They enroll in 2 classes, work 6 hours a week in the labor program, participate in activities and team-building, and check in regularly with TAs and other staff. Transportation is paid for. “Some students cry because it’s so hard – but they usually come back and say their first semester is much easier. Retention of those students is over 90% to sophomore year and with higher GPAs.”
  • Berea 3Emerging Scholars Program does a pre-arrival orientation (transportation costs are covered) for 70 students. Students check in regularly with an Academic Coach, enroll in GST 101, complete activities and team-building outings. This targets students from distressed counties or inner cities but can accept anyone who is low-income and first-gen.
  • GST 101 (Strategies for Academic Success) The 200 students who opt to enroll receive hands-on support in navigating Berea, connecting with classmates who share the same transition experience, develop skills and strategies that support student success.
  • Male Retention Initiatives: Because males were persisting through college at lower rates, they created groups for African-Americans, Latinos, and those coming from distressed Appalachian counties. They take courses and seminars to help with transition, talk about identity, cultural understanding, masculinity; complete regular team-building and trips.
  • Summer Success Experience: 18 students who are at risk of being suspended during their first year are granted another opportunity. The program is a 7-week intensive, supportive, and structured program. Students take 2 classes, attend mandatory study Sun-Thurs, have regular check-ins with staff, and do extracurricular and team-building activities.

The earlier students apply, the better. They start making rolling decisions in November: about half the acceptances are out the door by Winter Break and almost all by early March. “If you wait until the final deadline, the chances of getting in are diminished significantly because the space just isn’t there.” New students only enter in the fall; there’s no spring transfer entry point. They bring in about 50 true transfer students every year, and they welcome transfer credit (including APs). “We’ll do what we can to make it work.” Students must submit the FAFSA as part of their application by 10/31 (priority) or 3/31 (final). They will always look at personal circumstances and use professional discretion if circumstances have changed.

Berea lab 2

Class going on in one of the labs in the new science building; the open concept allows people to see what’s going on from the atrium

Accepted students show a great deal of academic promise: generally, admitted students have a 3.5+ GPA, ACT/SAT of 23/1150+, and are in the top 20%. Averages for the most recent incoming class was 3.6 GPA and 25 ACT. Applicants should demonstrate that they are persistent and self-motivated, have grit, are service-minded, and fit with the labor program. This year, they secured some funds for some travel reimbursement for students to visit Berea; applicants can also stay on campus if traveling from a distance. One student toured campus with TRIO students. “It’s been an amazing journey to see different beliefs and cultures coming together. I was a bit concerned after working in dining services my first year. Now I work in first-year initiatives office. They were the best support. I thought dropping out was the only option my first year, but they got me through.”

Berea App center

The Appalachian Center

Campus is active; the want students engaged partly because they’re in a small town, but also because engaged students persist at higher rates. However, it’s understood that classes are set up on the schedule first, then labor commitment, then the student fills in the gaps. There is a complex web of support to help students navigate things year to year, but the student has to be showing those non-cognitive skills of commitment, grit, determination, etc to build the bridges. “It’s challenging to balance heavy involvement with anything (sports, student government, etc) and takes time management.”


Berea chapel

The Campus Chapel

Academics are impressive. All students get a laptop upon entering; they trade that in for a refurbished one at the end of junior year which is theirs to keep. Nursing is ranked #5 in the nation. Not surprisingly, they have some strength in Agriculture & Natural Resources and Sustainability & Environmental Studies. The wood in their new Science building is all Ash from the Berea Forest, and 10% of food served in the dining hall comes from the farm. Their Appalachian Studies department based out of the Appalachian Center with a library, work spaces, café, and more. They offer a religion major, not surprising given the college history. “It’s not a Christian college, though,” said the tour guide, despite the college motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth.” They’re inclusive of all faiths. Chapel services are never required – but students do take an Intro to Christianity as part of the 3rd year core. “They basically teach the fundamentals of historical stuff, less the actual theology,” said one student.


Berea patio

One of the patios with the Berea Woods in the background

Last summer, 281 students complete summer internships: 71% with non-profits/community service organizations and 28% within the Appalachian Region. It’s treated like a course where they have to write reflections, journals, etc. Funding is available to cover expenses if position is unpaid. Upon successful completion of the summer internship, students are given $1000 because that’s what they would be expected to earn over the summer. Students can do this twice!

There are several funded international travel experiences over the summer, and as 1 of 40 participating in the Watson Foundation, they can nominate 4 students for a $36000 stipend for a year of international exploration. Usually at least 1 Berea student gets selected each year. They host Think Globally It’s Friday! – a student who has studied abroad or a student from another country will present, and food from that region gets served. Students are supposed to go to 7 convocations each semester; they cover all sorts of topics from racial issues, LGBTQ+ issues, speakers including Holocaust survivors, etc. Politics here “are about 50/50,” said one of the students. “There are civil debates and heated discussions.”

© 2019

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