Virginia Commonwealth University (visited 3/13/17)
Students looking for an urban campus with lots of diversity, school spirit, and big sports will do well here. However, they need to be willing to advocate for themselves.
This is a state school with 24,000 undergrads, 37% of whom are male and 89% coming from in-state. Gen Ed classes run 150-200 students in lecture halls, but the upper level major classes average 27 students. “It’s the students’ job to take advantage of the opportunities.” Classes are varied, as you’d expect from a school this size. A couple favorite classes were Cultural Text and Context about Egypt and Women in Global Politics.
Campus sits in the middle of Richmond with almost no “central campus” in the traditional sense. However, location means there’s plenty to do, and students have opportunities to connect to the community, get internships, and apply what they’ve learned. The James River is minutes away from campus with hiking and other activities. Richmond itself is centrally located, only 1.5 hours to Virginia Beach and a little more than 2 hours to DC.
VCU is a relatively new institution, starting in 1968 when 2 colleges merged. The main campus sits on the site of one school; all the medical programs (including graduate schools) are on the other one a couple miles away. The do offer a Guaranteed Admissions Program for some honors students into several of the graduate health programs as long as they meet the minimum requirements. This is not binding so it’s ok if they change their mind. Applications for this have a hard November 15 deadline; students need a 1330 SAT or 29 ACT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA. Beyond that, they should have done something to stand out such as shadowing or volunteering.
Engineering and the Arts are big here:
- Engineering has offerings in Biomedical, Chemical and Life Science, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical and Nuclear.
The Arts Department includes both visual ad performing arts.
- Visual arts are very much studio-based. “It allows us to establish ourselves and experiment,” said a junior painting/printmaking major from Kansas. “I wanted to go somewhere where I had the resources of an entire university.” He loves the program and is very happy with his decision to come to VCU, but said the downfall is that they don’t get any help in establishing a design portfolio. “We’re on our own to figure that out.” There also aren’t really any internships easily available or at least advertised. “I looked online; I think this major is the only one with nothing listed for internship opportunities,” he told me.
- Unusual offerings include Kinetic Imaging and Craft and Material Studies.
Humanities and Sciences, of course, is the biggest school. A few unusual offerings are Military Science and Leadership, Statistical Sciences and Operations Research, Kinesiology, and Forensic Science.
The smallest majors/schools are Social Work (35 freshman) and Life Sciences with 51 freshmen (this includes Bioinformatics, Envi Sci, and Integrative Life Sciences; biology and other sciences are in the Arts and Sciences division).
Students really like the diversity on campus. “Campus shows off the spectrum of people there. I’ve made friends from all over,” said one of the tour guides (we had 3).
There are plenty of living opportunities such as LLCs and Global Living. There is no residency requirement, but 74% of freshmen do live on campus. Food gets good reviews from the students: “There’s so much food! They keep adding new options every year.” The dining hall sometimes runs what they call ‘Upper Cuts’ which serves “really, really great food!” according to one of the tour guides. It requires a second swipe on the meal plan. Restaurant Row, on one of the main streets running through campus, takes Rams Bucks. For students living off campus, it’s easy to find apartments and houses to rent near campus.
Admissions is rolling, and it takes about 4-6 weeks to get a decision after application is complete. They recommend that students include their SSN on the app to facilitate the link to FAFSA. This streamlines, the process, reduces mistakes, and allows them to get the package to students earlier. Students applying by Jan 15 will get an answer by April 1 at the latest. Test scores are optional for students with a 3.3 GPA at the time of application BUT are required for merit scholarships, the Honors College, Engineering majors, and for homeschooled applicants. If you want to get considered for automatic-consideration scholarships – apply by 11/15!!!
The Honors College will look at writing on standardized tests; regular admissions does not. Priority deadline for freshman Honors Program is 2/1. The Guaranteed Admissions program falls under the honors college: if you’re admitted to GA, you’re admitted to HC, but not vice versa! The application for GA is on the Honors College website and is completely separate from the Common App.