campus encounters

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Archive for the category “South Carolina”

Wofford College

Wofford College (visited 2/25/20)

Wofford mascot

The Terrior mascot

If you’re looking for the smaller academic environment located in a small city and with DI sports and big-school school spirit, check this place out. “Wofford is unique for our area,” said a rep. “If you want a liberal arts northeast college feel but in the south, we can do that. If you’re interested in school spirit and that balance of having popular sports but on a small campus, we can do that. You can have the rah-rah game day experience without being lost in the crowd.” One of the tour guides echoed that: “About 20% of students are on varsity teams. We compete at a high level and are on TV, but you also know the students you’re cheering for on the court.” The other tour guide said that she loved the school spirit here: “You’ll see the terrier everywhere!” (As a side note, they also have an Equestrian Club – not NCAA – which is “not highly competitive, but active”).

20200225_160333

Near the entrance to campus

I’d wanted to see Wofford ever since a student had her heart set on it several years ago. I see why. They’re doing something right with an 89% retention rate and an 81% 4-year graduation rate (well above the national average, even compared to the 6-year rate). This solely undergrad, highly residential campus currently has 1725 students. The rep shared that they may expand by a bit over the next few years but will cap at 1800. Campus is beautiful and well maintained, people are incredibly friendly, and students seem genuinely happy and are making the most of their experiences.

Wofford fountain 2

One of the fountains around campus

Wofford takes care of its students (and they take care of visitors – I can’t tell you how far good signage goes to help new people navigate; it makes a huge different when people feel welcome on campus and aren’t feeling lost). There are multiple ways for students get involved and feel connected to at least one group, but many are involved in multiple ways. They start off with a 5-day new student Orientation with a field day, Summit Adventure, community service, and more. The president makes a point of spending time with students, including randomly picking 12 names every month for dinner at the president’s house. One tour guide said that she got picked her first month on campus. “That was a bit daunting, but it was a great experience!

Wofford atrium 3They offer an impressive array of academic choices for a school of this size, and because classes are smaller, students are more engaged. “As professors, we talk less and ask students to do more.” The majors are fairly standard for a smaller liberal arts school (with the exception of Chinese, Intercultural Studies, and Business Econ). What really impressed me were the Concentrations which includes areas such as Medicine and the Liberal Arts, Middle Eastern/North African Studies, 19th Century Studies, and Computational Science. The tour guide told us that language majors/classes are the 2nd most popular on campus; this shows up on the types of majors and minors the school offers, many of which incorporate language study into the major, even if they aren’t strictly majoring in that language. All students must take a language class (they can’t test out) but they offer a lot of options, includes more unusual languages like Arabic and Chinese.

Wofford hammocks

They have multiple hammock frames around the quad for student use

They’ve been running an Interim Session (like a J-term) since the early ‘70s, so they have this down to a science. “Having it incorporated it so well into the calendar is great,” said one of the students. Students take advantage of this time to complete internships, take travel courses, do research, take a class to get ahead or just for fun, and more. They offer traditional classes as well as things like knitting or sustainable fashion, furniture design, craft brewing, and fiction telling through LEGOS and stop-action animation. For those wanting to get off campus, they often get linked with someone in the strong alumni base. “People are all over. DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, and other cities are teaming with alum who want to help current students with shadowing or internship experiences.”

Wofford greek 2

Part of Greek Village

Almost all students (about 95%) live on campus all 4 years, including local students. That speaks volumes about the community and the dorms. Seniors live in apartments in small houses clustered around a small quad that has a village feel to it. Although almost 50% of students get involved in Greek Life, there’s no Greek housing, so students do stay relatively integrated into the dorms and have diverse friend groups. They’ve recently built a beautiful Greek Village, but the houses are social/meeting spaces rather than residential. Frat houses are open Thursday through Saturday to Wofford students who are at least 18 years old. These become good places for the community to come together. The tour guides rated campus food as 8 and 9 out of 10. They said that people particularly loved the pancakes and the smoothies. Also, some local restaurants take flex bucks. One guide raved about “Miss Cathy’s” (“That’s not its real name; it’s just what everyone calls it because she runs it,” the guide said) which provides bagged lunches with a hot and cold option. “She knows who you are and your order by the end of the week.” They like that they can do a grab-n-go between classes; this is the first school I’ve seen that offers this (or at least the first that let us know that it was an option).

Wofford sr apts 2

Some of the senior apartments

I was a bit disappointed in one of the tour guides who seemed less able to answer questions. For example, she wasn’t able to tell me what she thought the best change had been since she arrived on campus (she was a senior, so she had 3.5 years of experience to talk about) – she gave me a vague, generic answer that change was happening all the time and rattled off a few new buildings. It’s good to know that Wofford is serious about keeping up with the needs of the college for space (they’re putting up a new dorm, for example), but it didn’t personalize the experience or give much other insight into the student experience. She also seemed surprised that I asked about traditions on campus and said she’d have to think about that (which is weird: I could tell people about traditions at my alma mater by the time I finished the 3-day orientation!). The other tour guide, a first-year student, stepped up and told me about a bunch of things:

  • Wofford bikesFirst 54: Wofford plans activities every day for the first 54 days of school; this acknowledges that they started in 1854.
  • Tailgating: They’ve been listed in the top 10 of small schools with big tailgaiting traditions.
  • They also liked that they bring carnivals, food trucks, and other fun things onto campus.

Wofford is test-optional, and they only take the Common App. There are a few specific scholarships that require test scores, but students will be given full consideration for general merit aid without standardized testing. Their acceptance rate varies greatly between applications types: about 90% in Early Decision, 60% in Early Action, and about 30% in Regular.

© 2020

Clemson University

Clemson University (visited 2/26/20)

Clemson main 4

The iconic building that’s on many of their promotional materials. There’s a bell tower here where students can actually learn to play the bells. “You hear some weird stuff coming out of there!” said one student.

I asked one of the students what I should tell the high schoolers I work with about Clemson: “Clemson is awesome. That’s all.”

While not necessarily an attractive campus, this is a vibrant one! “The typical Clemson student is open and willing to join things. This is an involved campus,” said one of the six students I spoke with at the welcome center while I was waiting for the info session. “If they are willing to try things, they’ll be successful here.” Another student said that she chose Clemson because she wanted a true college town environment. People definitely get that here.

Clemson students

Part of the res life area – student center, dining options, etc

“I thought it was going to be huge and scary,” said another student. “I was intimidated, but didn’t feel that way at all after the first day. I got lost and frustrated my first day, and a senior stopped and asked if I was ok, then walked me to class.” Another student also said that she was excited to see how small it can feel while still being so big. The campus is set up in “rings” with academics at the center, surrounded by residential life (dorms, food, etc), and then sports and other auxiliary program making up the outermost circle. Our tour guide said that most things within the academic ring only take 5-10 minutes to walk to. “I can get across the whole campus in about 15-20 minutes.

Clemson tiger paws

Tiger Paws

Athletics are very much a part of campus life, and a lot of people know Clemson because of their athletics They field 19 NCAA DI teams, offering the sports you’d expect (although they do only have a women’s crew team, not one for men); football and basketball, as you could probably guess, are the most popular. School spirit is high, and Tiger Paws are everywhere painted on sidewalks. Clemson pride can be felt throughout the state “where everyone is either a Tiger or a Gamecock!” someone told me) and among alumni.

Clemson Death Valley

The view of Death Valley, the football stadium, from campus.

Death Valley, their football stadium, is part of campus. This is great, since so many schools have stadiums far enough away to require shuttles. Game tickets are all free, although there’s a lottery for football tickets. “When I was a freshman, I didn’t miss a game,” said one student. They do designate a certain number of tickets for each class so the free tickets aren’t simply snatched up by seniors. If they don’t get free tickets for the student section, they can still buy tickets. They’ve been ranked #2 for their fan base; people pack the stadium. The football players run down The Hill from the field house into the stadium at the beginning of games; they also rub the Rock (which came from the actual Death Valley in CA) for good luck on the way into the Stadium.

Clemson dorms

Some of the dorms

Many events are held in Death Valley, as well, including Greek Rush. “You don’t go building to building like at other places. Having it all in the arena is great because you feel like you’re in it as a group, and there are places to hang out, rest, and talk to people in between meetings.” Almost ¼ of students participate in Greek Life. Most of the students I spoke to are involved and had great experience. Rush happens the week before classes start in the fall, “but you can drop it in the first 2 weeks if you end up not liking it,” said one student. They also don’t have to rush first year. One student chose to rush 2nd year and said he had a great experience. Students can’t move into Greek Housing until Sophomore year, “and it’s optional.” There are no separate houses, but instead, there’s a Greek quad; organizations have a hallway in a house with 2 other sororities or frats. There are currently 12 sororities (and in the process of adding 1 more) and 20 frats; 8 of the Devine 9 are on campus. However, “life here isn’t just about Greek life. Do what you love – it’s inclusive.”

Clemson innovation center

The Innovation Center

Clemson is, of course, known for its engineering programs, but it’s also got amazing agricultural, health sciences, and business programs among others. Students raved about their experiences in and out of the classrooms. They work well with their students to prepare them for life after college and were just ranked #1 for Career Services (2020)

  • Nursing is direct entry. It is possible to apply to get into nursing once here, but “This is one of the most difficult switches – you can, but I would not recommend!” said one of the students. She transferred from engineering when she realized that it wasn’t for her, and she’s graduating a semester late. She thinks the program is a bit harder, but it’s worth it. “If you’re a Clemson grad, you get a GPA boost when you apply to grad school because it’s notorious for being difficult.” They had a 100% NCLEX pass rate last semester on the first try. “You’re required to Kaplan benchmarks every semester. No one in my cohort has failed a benchmark so far.”
  • Clemson engineering row

    “Engineering Row”

    One of the students in the welcome center was a Mechanical Engineering I asked him if he knew he wanted mechanical coming into college. “I knew I wanted engineering but not what kind. I always loved math and physics and I’m good with my hands. The first year here in the department was great because I could figure it out.” All students interested in engineering start in the General Engineering program. They have access to a lot of resources, including a seminar class that he estimates 45-50% of engineering students take. They hear from a variety of faculty in different areas and get to learn about various types of engineering before declaring a track. Some more unusual options include Biosystems, Automotive, and Environmental.

  • Clemson 10They’re one of only a few schools in the country to offer a Packaging Science
  • They have a Turfgrass major! As the Land Grant institution SC, it’s not surprising that they offer unusual and strong agricultural, environmental, and other similar programs in their College of Ag, Forestry, and Life Sciences.
  • Their Architecture department is part of the Arts& Humanities School, as is Landscape Architecture and City Planning & Real Estate Development. Architect students are actually required to study abroad (and there are programs for all majors, even in engineering).
  • A few other programs of note include Aerospace Studies, Graphic Communications, Construction Science & Management, and Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management.

I asked the students what their coolest class was and what they liked about it:

  • Clemson 1Consumer Behavior: “It’s a whole different way to think about marketing. There’s lots of psych to it. We’re learning about what catches eyes – placement, colors, etc.”
  • Creative Inquiry: “This is a research program for undergrads. It’s not exactly full-on research but more engaging and hands-on in smaller classes. I’m working in a Social Media Center looking at tweets that were banned. My class and the federal government were the only ones who had access to these tweets! I got an internship that used Sales Force because I knew about it. It’s a really cool application and it was great to see the trends and give the info back to the government.” These are team-based investigations lead by faculty, and students can take these classes outside their major; the engineering student did one in business looking at qualitative research.
  • Nursing: “ All my classes involve sim labs which is cool.”
  • Molecular Cell Bio: “I bet you never heard that before! The class was hard but teacher was great. She’s genetically reversing a dino from a chicken!! There are only 3 groups doing this – she’s trying to make it grow a longer ‘velocoraptor tail’.”

Clemson 9Clemson is clearly doing a lot right with a strong 93% retention rate and 83% grad rate. Currently, they accept about 50% of their applicants but are becoming more competitive. Just over half (56%) of accepted students are in the top 10% of their high school class. They ask students to rank their first two choices of major on the application, and they look at this as part of their application. “Don’t put the same thing down twice,” recommends a rep. “If you don’t give us a backup, you’re kind of backing us into a corner if we can’t get you into that major.”

Clemson library

The main library

The rep also recommends that applicants use the “tell us about yourself” section to tell them things that you feel that your transcript or test scores don’t show. Test scores must be sent directly from testing agency (they don’t allow self-reported scores). For Merit Scholarships, all applications must be on file by Dec 1 and completed (aka supporting documentation – transcript, scores, etc) by the end of December. For Restricted (need-based) scholarships, grants, loans, the FAFSA should be filed by January 1.

There are a few alternative paths for acceptance into Clemson that are by invitation only. These are by invitation only; students can’t self-nominate or apply to this. There’s a question on the application if they’re open to starting in the summer, but it’s offered by admissions to those who express interest and are qualified.

  • Bridge Program: students accepted into this live on campus and receive all the perks of being a Clemson student, but their first year classes are taken at Tri-County Community College. They must maintain a 2.5 GPA there and then “transfer” into Clemson in sophomore year.
  • Tigertown Summer Bound: these students come in the summer as a cohort and must successfully complete 2 classes; then they can start full-time in the fall term.

Just over half of the students (55%) are from South Carolina, but since freshman are required to live on campus, people get to know others quickly and it ends up not being a suitcase school. Housing placements are done in order of when students sent in their Clemson application, not on date of acceptance! The tour guide said that she lucked out – she wasn’t planning on applying to Clemson (“much less go here!”) so she applied late, but she was paired with someone who know this was her first choice and applied in September so they got some of the best freshman housing.

Although there’s a lot to do on and directly off campus, this is also a big outdoorsy school. More than 100 miles of Lake Howell border campus; the SC Botanical Garden borders campus; they sit in the Foothills of Blue Ridge Mountains; and campus is halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte on the I-85 corridor if they’re looking for the big city experience.

Some of the favorite traditions include:

  • Clemson Ice Cream! They have a student-run creamery which was started about 100 years ago in what was then the Dairy Science department.
  • The Clemson Ring: They have the 2nd highest percentage of people who have school rings (“The other university just has more people,” said one of the students). “It’s a great source of pride. The ring ceremony is almost as popular as graduation. Families come to see us get our rings.”
  • Wearing Orange on Fridays: “Alumni still do it!”

© 2020

Southern Wesleyan University

Southern Wesleyan University (visited 2/26/20)

SWU signSWU (and they pronounce that as one word) is a small, pretty, highly faith-based campus located about 10 minutes from Clemson. The main entrance appears quickly; I was driving in some fog on the morning I visited, and luckily the GPS warned me. Although the sign is large, it’s angled in a way to make it easy to miss until you’re on top of it.

SWU swingThe people I met were friendly and welcoming. I had planned on just asking for a packet of information, maybe talking to a student worker for a few minutes, and taking a bit of time to wander campus. The student at the desk introduced me to a rep who sat and talked for awhile, despite her just getting her day going and (I’m sure) having other things to do. When one of the tour guides came in, she took me on a personal tour on the golf cart since there weren’t any families registered for the 9am tour that day.

The tour guide was a senior bio major from the local community. “I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else!” she told me. Most of her family had come here, and she would make the same decision again if she had it to do over again.

SWU ministry center 2

Ministry Center

The rep emphasized the community and relationships with others on campus. Although that has developed into the totally clichéd catch-phrase du jour, I think it’s probably true here. This is very much a Christian campus, and the students choosing to come here are living by a particular code of ethics that “lends itself well to community.” There are service days, mission trips, and other things to link students to each other and the wider community. That being said, I did ask fairly directly how she would distinguish this school from several other highly religious institutions that are scattered throughout the Bible-Belt (including a few within about 45 minutes of SWU). I’m not sure I got a full answer, but she did try: “I hear that relationships here set it apart from others. This is a great place for students who want a small environment, research, and opportunities for personalization.”

SWU chapel 2

The chapel has lots of media!

“We’re faith in action, not just name. We emphasize making a change and working for Christ. We see every vocation as a calling, not just the ministry.” It is a dry campus, as one would expect, and there are limited visitation hours in the dorms – and signs on the doors clearly stated that doors were to be open and feet on the floor. Students must take 3 required religion classes as part of the Gen Eds, and they must earn 24 chapel credits every semester. “A few people complain, but they chose to come here; if you’re not into this, SWU isn’t for you.” Chapels are held every Monday and Wednesday. Church services on Sundays usually don’t count towards this, “but people go anyway because they want to.” The tour guide told me that the style of chapel services varied; some were musical (they have gospel choirs, chapel band, etc), etc. — they put out a schedule of chapels at the beginning of each term so students can plan to attend those they’re more interested in. They also hold Spiritual Emphasis Weeks where students can earn up to 5 chapel credits; often classes are canceled on Tuesdays and they hold special events. In addition to a Religion major (concentrations in Ministry, Worship, and Youth/Children’s Ministry), students can choose Church Music (BM degree) as well.

SWU media green screen

The communications room with the green-screen against one wall

They have a new program working with the County Disability Services. They have a special education facility for adults; they have jobs here and at Clemson (they can ride the CAT bus) and can even take some classes. Special Education majors work there, and can even be RAs in the facility. The participants are selected by Disability Services since they know who will be successful, would qualify for the classes, and benefit from the program.

SWU old church

Freedoms Hill Church

This is a great community for people who love being outdoors. There’s 100 acres of woods on campus, high and low ropes courses, bike trails, and more. There’s a small town within a couple blocks of campus, and Clemson is about 10 minutes away. Students can participate in Army or Air Force ROTC on Clemson’s campus.

One of the buildings on campus is the Freedoms Hill Church which was a stop on the Underground Railroad (and still has bullet holes in the door). “It smells like history!” said the tour guide. They were going to tear the building down, but the campus saved it.

SWU Crime house

Bard to see through the fog, but this is the crime house

There’s also a Crime House where the Criminal Justice and Forensic Science majors can do hands-on work on forensic investigations.

The new dorm is great! It houses about 250 students, coed by wing. There’s a small fitness center and a small chapel in addition to a great central lounge (the 2 single-gender wings come off of here) with a fireplace and coffee bar. The housing deposit determines placement. The rooms are huge and are set up suite-style (2 bedrooms with a bath in between.

SWU new dorm lounge

The lounge of the new dorm

They have a great gap year program called One Life that involves travel. Usually students will do this right out of high school, but there are options for doing it once they’ve started college. They earn 30 credits so they aren’t actually behind. I spoke with a student working at the coffee bar (thank you SWU for the coffee!) who had participated in the program. “It was the best thing I’d ever done. There are a lot of weird boundaries and rules like we’re not allowed to have our cell phones for a lot of the time. Vulnerability is encouraged. Looking in from the outside, you’d ask why anyone would ever do this. We joke that it’s like a cult, but it’s an intense discipleship. It helps you find god’s calling even if you don’t want to go into the ministry.” He’s studying Media Communication and couldn’t be happier. Right across from the coffee bar (which is entirely student-run, by the way) was a new media room with one wall serving as a green-screen.

I asked the tour guide about the LGBTQ community. She did say there were a few people who self-identified as members of the group, “but we are a Christian school. We love the person. We’re all sinners. We don’t condone actions, but we love the person because that’s what we’re called to do as Christians.” We talked about the choice to attend a school with this set of expectations: “It’s like going to Chapel. If that’s not something you’re comfortable with, this isn’t the place for you.”

© 2020

Converse College (soon Converse University)

Converse College (visited 2/25/20)

Converse main bldg 2

The main building

Here are a few fun facts: 1) “Our pool is famous!” said the rep. “This is where Julia Robert’s character learned to swim in Sleeping with the Enemy.” 2) They have one of the largest music libraries in the south. 3) This is the only women’s college (for a little while yet!) in the nation to compete at the NCAA DII level, including an acrobatic/tumbling team. They do have an IHSA Equestrian team (which is NOT part of the NCAA).

Converse 4Converse is well worth taking a look at if you’re want a smaller school with a lot of academic, social, and athletic options located in a small city with accessible off-campus options and near an airport and other public transportation (so easy to get to for students coming from a distance!).

I knew almost nothing about Converse before arrival other than it was a small women’s college located in Spartanburg, about 5 minutes from Wofford. I expected it to be a bit overshadowed by its neighbor – but quickly learned that it’s holding its own. This is a pretty campus with plenty of green space and easy access to the wider Spartanburg community. I left impressed with the school. I was a little bit put off at first … although they had clear admissions parking spots and signs for Admissions pointing to the main building, once I walked into the main entrance, it was eerily quiet (granted, it was about 4:15 in the afternoon) and no sense of where the admissions office might be. I had gone a little too far and went in the main entrance rather than a door down the building a bit the right. I guess the couple balloons tied to the porch banister should’ve been a giveaway!

Converse quad 1

Some of the academic buildings

In February 2020, the Board voted to change their name to Converse University AND to go coed by 2021. They’ll continue to have Converse Women’s College under that umbrella as well as Converse University International. “We already have male students on campus for evening and graduate classes. It’s just broadening that.” Eight campus buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the large main building. In addition to offices, the dining hall is in there, so all students come through on a regular basis. There’s also dorm space in one wing.

Converse statue 2

Part of the quad with one of the many statues around campus

They recently slashed tuition by 43%, so that now sits at $19,500 (2020-21 school year). Scholarships are now lower since they’re already starting at a much lower price-point. Out-of-state can get an additional $1,000 scholarship. Sliding Scale is 60% GPA, 40% test scores. Went test-optional in November. If they don’t want to submit, they select that on the app. They scrutinize the transcript more and work off a different scale. They have some stackable awards: to get a named Music scholarship, you have to major or minor; for smaller ones, you only have to participate in an ensemble. For Dance, they have to be in the minor (there’s no major); for Musical Theater/theater, you don’t have to major or minor.

A few of their traditions include:

  • Converse dorms 2

    Some of the dorms

    Big Sis/Little Sis – incoming students (including transfers) gets paired with someone in junior class. They get hints and gifts during the first week, and then there’s a reveal night.

  • Every student in Even Years become Pink Panthers; Odd Years are Red Devils. The Bigs will make horns/tail or panther ears/tail for their Littles (and sometimes these get worn at graduation!). Sometimes there are competitions.
  • Opening Convocation: Faculty and Staff in are regalia, the Honor Code gets signed (And then hangs in the Main Building), and there are picnics and other frivolity.
  • Founders Day with a picnic on the lawn with fried chicken and Strawberries & cream for dessert (the founder’s favorite meal).
  • Each class has a special ceremony in the spring. Freshman pick their mentor (advisor, another student, coach, etc – whoever helped navigate the first year) and they present the pin to the student. Sophomores get a Sisterhood Bracelet. Juniors get Class Rings.

Classes are typically capped at 25 students (usually those are Gen eds); most classes are smaller. All students take a First Year Seminar which is fairly typical to what you’d find at other schools.

They have a few fairly specialized majors for a school this size (a little over 1,000 undergrads):

© 2020

 

University of South Carolina

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA (visited 4/4/14)

~USC fountainUSC had one of the best organized visit programs I’ve seen; in a way, it has to be with the numbers of people visiting. They had an individualized welcome packet for each person, info sessions in two areas to make it feel less impersonal, and tour guides with a list of people assigned to their tour, partially based on region so they could talk to a student as close to home as possible. My tour guide, a PoliSci and Journalism double major from Burlington, NC, transferred here after freshman year because she wanted a big town feel and liked the idea of being in a capitol city for the political science opportunities. She feels like she has plenty of opportunities for education and recreation; off campus, she likes to go to 5 Points which is like their version of College Town.

~USC flowers 2~USC bikes 2Almost 2/3 of USC’s 20,000 students are from in-state, but they attract students from all states and more than 100 countries. NC, VA, MD, GA, and NJ are the most highly represented states outside of SC. Campus is breathtaking; the central campus has trees, bushes, and flowers everywhere, and students were out enjoying the quad. Although there are major roads surrounding campus, this is very much a pedestrian campus. All students can have cars, and there are garages available which alleviates parking issues and helps maintain the beauty of campus. Campus is highly walkable, and people walking in groups and socializing, but there is a campus shuttle for those who want it. It’s also very safe; the only time our tour guide had heard of anyone using the blue light was when someone who was allergic was stung by a bee and needed an epi-pen.

~USC hammocksQualified students wanting more of an academic challenge can participate in one of two “challenges”: the Capstone Scholars, a two-year program to which applicants are given automatic consideration. The scholars live together in one of the largest residence halls, located in the Humanities area of campus; it looks a little like a “spaceship” which also has a revolving restaurant on the top floor (the only one in SC). They take special classes and take a trip abroad every May (last year it was to Iceland; this year it’s Greece). It is possible to transfer into the Honors Program afterwards. The other option is the Honors College which has been ranked as #1 in the nation. This is a four-year program and is highly competitive, requiring an additional application consisting of six essays and two letters of recommendation. Classes are much smaller; students get priority registration as well as other benefits.

Museum

Museum

Students wanting an “Early Answer” (their version of Early Action) must submit their application AND have all test scores and transcripts in by October 15. They’ll take the highest composite for ACT and superscore the SAT. To be considered for the Capstone or Honors and for scholarships, applications must be in November 15. Scholarships are given to approximately 1/3 of students and are awarded based on GPA and test scores. Since the applicant pool changes every year, they don’t have specific GPA or score cut-offs. Notifications are sent out after 2/1 when the see the complete application pool. Their application includes an “Optional Personal Statement.” The rep said, “Use it!! Here’s an Insider Tip: Tell your story! Brag on yourself a bit. We’re holistic; we want to admit a well-rounded person.”

~USC quad 4Students tend to continue being well-rounded and involved once they get on campus. Last year, students completed 472,152 service hours and raised $1.3million for charity. 1100 students studied abroad last year in 50 countries. All freshmen must live on campus; housing options include 17 Living-Learning Community as well as more traditional dorms. There are 22 dining options in 13 buildings (and they brought us into one of the traditional dining halls about halfway through campus and let us get drinks). About 20% of the students are involved in one of the 40 fraternities and sororities on campus, and housing is available in the Greek Village. They have 400 organizations and an active performing arts community (their theater was used as a Civil War Morgue; theater students do a haunted tour in there every Halloween). Gamecock Pride is huge. Many people participate in sports, and many more go out to support the athletes at games.

They m~USC observatoryake admissions decisions without taking a declared major into consideration, so no major is capped. Students complete a Common Core in first two years so it’s easy to change major or double major. Of the 95 majors, some of the more unusual or noteworthy include:

  • Arts & Sciences: Criminology, Marine Science, Religious Studies
  • Business. International Business #1 in the country for 16 years straight
  • Mass Communication: Journalism is most comprehensive of its kind, including Print, broadcast, and more
  • Engineering and Computing: undergrads can minor in Aerospace Engineering (and stay for a Masters)
  • Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. Students complete internships at places like Gucci, the NFL, Marriott, Verizon, and the Olympics.
  • Health Sciences: They offer a 6-year PharmD as well as Nursing which is competitive: students are admitted to lower division of nursing and start clinicals in first two years.

~USC theaterOnly 3% of classes have more than 150 students; 75% have fewer than 40. Our tour guide’s classes have ranged from 19-200. Her favorite class so far has been her Environmental Studies class. She liked the practical nature of the education, such as when they walked around campus at night to study the university’s energy usage and see what might be improved. She also loved her National Parks elective because it was so unusual.

The USC campus also houses the National Advocacy Center which trains 15,000 judges, lawyers, and others in the legal profession every year.

© 2014

Winthrop University

WINTHROP UNIVERSITY (visited 4/4/14)

~Winthrop sign ~Winthrop flowersWinthrop is a Comprehensive Liberal Arts Public University located on a 100-acre campus in Rock Hill, SC, a small city with 65,000 residents, which is considered an “outskirt” of Charlotte (the 2nd largest financial district in the US after NYC). Without traffic, students can be in Charlotte in about 20 minutes. In fact, they’re so close that they have a loose affiliate with UNC-Charlotte; any student doing AF ROTC goes there for the classes. Army ROTC can be done at Winthrop.

They currently have just over 5000 undergrads (plus about 1,100 grad students) and are growing by 3-4% a year. They have a warm and welcoming Admissions Office. The visitor coordinator was outgoing and friendly, greeting and chatting easily with visitors. Coffee and water were available in the large room used for the info session. They made a very good first impression!

Winthrop Business tickerSome unusual majors include Finance (either Corporate or Financial Planning); Health Care Management; Sustainable Business; Digital Commerce; Human Nutrition; Integrated Marketing Communication; Science Communication; BFA offerings in 11 areas including Photography (either Commercial or Fine Arts), Jewelry/Metals, Sculpture, Interior Design, and Illustration, and Bachelor of Music or Music Education. Art students can showcase work both on and off campus, and theater students can write and direct their own work.

~Winthrop swingsThe average class size is 24, but “that seems inflated by freshmen classes which are capped at 29,” said the admissions rep. Intro to Biology and Intro to Chem tend to be the largest classes with up to 40 per class. Their 3 most popular majors are pretty typical: Business, bio, and psych. Fine arts and Early Childhood Education round out their top five. They are known for fine and performing arts, and they are the Flagship School of the SE Region for Education. They maintain a satellite campus consisting of Wetlands, used primarily as a lab for bio classes.

~Winthrop ampitheaterAdmitted students have an average 3.8 GPA, a mid-50% SAT range of 960-1150 or average ACT of 23, and almost 50% in the top 20% of their class. In addition to other merit scholarships, they do offer an IB scholarship and Talent Scholarships which require a portfolio or audition (and are judged by the faculty).

In order to help students thrive and persist towards graduation, freshmen and sophomores must live on campus unless they live within a 50 mile radius. In addition to regular style dorms, they have several themed residence halls such as Math and Science, Honors, Leadership, Helping Hands, Historical Perspectives, Creative Habitat, Around the World, Environmental Issues, Healthy U, and more.

~Winthrop little chapel

Little Chapel

Robert Mills, who designed the Washington Monument, also designed Little Chapel on campus. This tiny building (it looks like it might hold 30-40 people) is tucked into a small garden in the middle of campus near the amphitheater (next to which stands a statue of an Amphibian Quartet, donated by an alum).

~Winthrop harry potter hallStudents definitely don’t lack for fun on campus. There is a multitude of cultural events (speakers, concerts, etc) on campus; students must attend 18 cultural events to graduate. The tour guide got most of hers done the first year. About 50% of students are involved in Greek life. “It’s a big deal,” said the tour guide, “but you don’t have to affiliate to be included in events or have fun on campus.” There is a full movie theater in the student center; movies are shown on Wednesdays and Saturdays and cost $2 per movie or $10 for a semester pass. The school maintains an18-hole Disc Golf Course. Athletic events are in the Rec Center a mile away, and the school provides shuttles. Their DI sports play in the Big South Conference with Baseball ranked #1 in the division and #3 in the state after USC and Clemson. The Women’s Basketball team was in March Madness.

© 2014

College of Charleston

~CofC sign 2COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (visited 4/5/14)

~CofC mascot

Mascot

COC was founded in 1770, making it the 13th oldest university in the country. Much of the campus reflects this feel with central campus dominated by historic buildings and moss covered trees. Although started as a private college, it’s now public school with about 10,050 undergraduates; however, they draw a significant number of their students (about 38%) from outside of SC. Housing is guaranteed for freshmen, but most students move off campus after that. There are several historic houses that upperclassmen live in, and “commuting” is usually within walking distance. Parking is available but expensive, so many students don’t bring cars. Downtown is within easy walking distance, including a lot of restaurants and stores.

~CofC walkway 3~CofC fountainUnique or strong programs include: Arts Management (looking at the business side such as running galleries, music, etc), Historic Preservation and Community Planning (lots of experiences in the city, and they have a Joint degree in Preservation with Clemson); Astrophysics; Computing in the Arts; Computer Science (very popular – they’re putting up a new building, and students work for Google and Boeing, both of which have big offices in town); specializations within Business Admin (the most popular major in terms of enrollment) including Commercial Real Estate, Global Logistics and Transportation; Hospitality and Tourism Management (the flagship program); and Leadership, Change, and Social Responsibility; International Business (students must minor in a language and must study abroad); and Education (they have the highest Praxis II scores in the state). Foreign languages they offer (to at least the Intermediate level) include: Ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, and Russian in addition to the more popular offerings.~CofC acad bldg 3~CofC chapel and bikes

~CofC archStudents admitted to the Honors College almost always come in as freshmen so they can start and continue through with their cohort. There are also specific classes they need to take through the Honors College. If they think they want to apply once they’re on campus, they should talk to advisors to make sure that they don’t enroll in classes that they’ll have to repeat. Classes are smaller, averaging about 14 students per class. Honors students will complete an independent study in one semester and a bachelor’s paper which normally takes two semesters to complete. There is new Honors-specific housing available consisting of two floors of coed suites.

They’re a DI school playing in the Colonial Conference, and basketball is the big spectator sport. Unusual sports include sailing (both men and women) and sand volleyball (women).

© 2014

Coastal Carolina University

COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY (visited 4/5/14)

~Coastal arch~Coastal 2Coastal is a beautiful campus located 20 minutes from Myrtle Beach. Someone said that he had always perceived it as “an extension of a community college.” I think this might have been more accurate in the past; I don’t think this holds up anymore. There has been extensive growth and it’s become more selective in recent years. Started as a branch campus of USC in 1954 with only 150 students, it’s now the fastest growing comprehensive public university in SC with 9,500 students. It’s been listed as a 100 Best College Buys school, placed on Forbes America’s Top Colleges 3 years in a row, ranked in top 15% of 4-year schools, and was named as a College of Distinction (based on engaged students, performance after they leave, faculty commitment, and more) in both 2012 and 2013.

~Coastal fountainThe school has been conducting Exit Surveys for several years and have found that students love Coastal because of:

  • The 70+ Academic Programs. The most unique are: Marine Science, Musical Theater (BFA), Exercise and Sport Science, Intelligence and National Security (faculty are former CIA and FBI), Professional Golf Management or Resort Management (within the Business Program), and Nationally Accredited Teaching Degrees.
  • The Small Classes. Freshmen level classes average 30-35, and there’s no room on campus that can seat more than 125. Of the students I spoke to, the smallest classes were: 4 (Education) and 7 (Business law); the largest were 93 (Intro to Bio) and 60 (Marine Science). “Even in my biggest class, the professor got to know us. She took roll every morning and had extra office hours so we could talk to her.”
  • The Location. Great weather, great internships (especially for Resort or Golf management and Marine Science), and great access to Myrtle Beach. Students love the stuff to do around town, including the research and networking opportunities and the internships. Coast owns Waites Island (a 1000 acre barrier island with no public access) and Coastal Explorer (a research vessel).
  • On-Campus opportunities. In addition to all sorts of usual things that many campuses have, they have a recording studio accessible to anyone. Big-name acts come, including yearly performances by the Carolina ballet. They host weekly a Farmer’s Market which outgrew the small area in front of the admissions center, and has moved to a larger quad.
  • The Tuition. In-State is $17,810, Out-Of-State is $30,820. The in-state tour guide that I spoke to said, “I’m pretty happy with my tuition.” I think that’s a first! Students are automatically considered for scholarships (In-state ranges from $1,000-$6,000; out-of-state ranges from $6,000-$11,000.)

~Coastal clock towerBefore the tour, I spoke to several of the tour guides who were there to help direct the flow of students:

  • One was a Marine Science major from Ohio. He picked Coastal because of the major and proximity to the ocean. He’s getting a hands-on education and is doing an internship at the aquarium. He’s looking to get a job there and wants to do marine Veterinary work. He also scubas with sharks!
  • Library

    Library

    Another was an Elementary Education major. She loves that this is one of the top 3 programs in her field. She’s a junior and is already completing her 2nd placement. She transferred in from another school because this was closer to home, her sister was here, and she liked the program.

  • The third was a senior Business Major from DC. He learned about Coastal from a guidance counselor and like what he learned about it. He’s had a chance to get highly involved in campus life and even started a Latino fraternity.
  • Another student was a Marketing major from NJ. He came here as a back-up option. “I was on the athletic track, but busted my knee senior year. I came with the idea that I would transfer, but I fell in love with it.” The only thing he didn’t rave about was the dining hall: “It’s ok; it’s pretty typical for a college.”
  • The last student I spoke with was an Education major from SC. “Dorms are an 8. Dining hall is a 6; grab-and-go options are an 8.”

~Coastal 4Food seemed to be the one thing that students didn’t love. When I asked them if there was a meal that everyone loved, two tour guides said, “Fried Chicken Friday!” in unison. Another tour guide later also referenced this. “That’s the only day that there’s a line for food!” Other than food, no one could really think of anything to do to improve. “Anything we want, they’re doing already – 3 new academic buildings, additions to the library, new dorms, etc.” One of the reps said, “The students would say parking. We don’t really have a parking problem. We have a walking problem.”

(c) 2013

Furman University

FURMAN UNIVERSITY (visited 3/11/13)

~Furman fountain quad~Furman porch chairsThe city of Greenville has a beautiful downtown and is much bigger than I expected it to be. The university is five miles straight down Poinsett Boulevard; the university has its own entrance off what is essentially a highway at that point. As you pull in, you’re met with a beautiful fountain and the visitor’s center. That sets the stage for the feel of the whole campus. Behind this is the Furman Mall; this grassy area extends back for several blocks and is lined with large trees. The university has done wonders with landscaping and maximizing green spaces. During the student panel, a counselor read an introductory paragraph from one of the college guide books that called Furman a “Country Club” and asked students if they felt that was accurate, too harsh, whatever. The students laughed, but then said, “Look outside! Who’s complaining??”

~Furman interior

Dining Hall

Dining Hall

The students do say that Furman can be a bit of a bubble because there’s so much to do on campus and because downtown isn’t in walking distance, but none of them saw that as a hindrance or drawback to campus. The college works hard to bring in programs, and the student groups themselves (clubs, music ensembles, theater, etc) do a lot of programing. All students have a Cultural Learning Experience (CLE) requirement in which they must go to 8 events a year. These can be lectures, plays, concerts, etc. Our tour guide said that she actually likes it – whenever something is offered for CLE credit, it will clearly state it on the promotional materials, so she said that it makes her consider things that she might not have paid attention to without this requirement. There are also a lot of campus-wide events; some of the students’ favorite traditions involve carnivals such as O Week, Homecoming, Spring Week. Also, it’s easy to get off campus. The college runs shuttles all around town, and all students are allowed to have cars on campus.

~Furman chapel~Furman patioAlthough every admission office will say they want to attract and admit the best students for their institution, this admissions office is very clear on articulating their mission: “We want to recruit graduates, not students,” and they clearly have thought through how they want to accomplish this. They look at three types of fit: academic, social, and financial. If any of these three are way out of whack, it causes stress and a negative experience, usually leading to the student transferring out. The admissions deans were also very clear on how they evaluate students for admission: They use a 1-60 scale when looking through files. 22 points comes from what the schools tell them in the form of letters of recommendation. GPA and course selection counts for 24 points. They are a test-optional school – but if applicants submit scores, they will be used as part of the consideration. The nice thing about Furman is that they are also test-optional for merit scholarships, which is a little more unusual. Scholarship consideration is automatic in most situations, but there is a separate application for the four most competitive scholarships.

~Furman 1

Student Center

Furman is also actively trying to increase their diversity. They have attracted students from across the US for a while (22% of students are from SC, 60% from the Southeast including SC), but are now increasing the international population which has grown from 5 or 6 students to almost 7% of the student body. Racial diversity has increased quite a bit in recent years, bringing the population up to 22%. The students on the panel said that the campus is impressively diverse politically. The panelists themselves represented the spectrum including the President of the Student Republicans group and one campaigned heavily for Obama. The college is now working on increasing religious and other types of diversity on campus. They recently built a Hillel space and have hired a campus Rabbi.

~Furman dorm

Dorms

More dorms

More dorms

Surprisingly (since it goes against the norm for smaller liberal arts schools), Furman has more males than females on campus. Greek life is VERY popular on campus with more than 50% of students belonging to a Greek organization. The students we talked to who were not involved, though, said that they didn’t feel left out, nor did they feel any pressure to join. A lot of events are open to the entire student population, and there’s no Greek housing, so people aren’t separated out. Rush also takes place second semester after everyone has settled in, so there people already have their social circles before joining. It’s not unusual for groups of friends to have members in different frats or sororities, and the dorms are mixed, too. Freshmen and sophomore dorms are typical hallway dorms, but the Junior/Senior apartments have full beds and kitchens. It is a residential campus; although the numbers have been holding steady at about 2600-2700 students, Furman can go up to almost 3000 students and remain residential.

~Furman acad bldgs 2

The resident cat who lives at the Environmental Center on campus

The resident cat who lives at the Environmental Center on campus

Some of the favorite classes of the students on the panel were Medicine, Morality, and Culture (taught by a Philosophy prof), a hiking class, Comparing Vietnam and Iraq, PoliSci 100 (because it included “Real world stuff” and they got to read the NYT and novels), and Perspectives on American Education (it was discussion based, the read three Young Adult novels, utilized journals, etc). All the students gushed at the quality of teaching and accessibility of the professors. The biggest lecture hall on campus has only 60 seats, so no class can exceed that. There are supports in place for struggling students, and the faculty gets involved since classes are small enough to pay attention to students, but it’s ultimately the students’ responsibility to take advantage of safety nets. Clearly, students are looked after though. Graduation rates across the board are high, and they rank third nationally (after Notre Dame and Colgate) for athletes who graduate in four years.

(c) 2013

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