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Central Washington University

Central Washington University (visited 6/21/17)

CWU 2CWU was a surprise in the best possible way. I walked away knowing that I’d be comfortable recommending this school to students: it’s a welcoming, modern, attractive campus with a lot of unusual majors that would appeal even to students coming from across the country. Check out this YouTube video put together by the Arts and Humanities Departments – made entirely (including the music) by faculty and students in that school!

CWU mascot 2

The mascot in front of the student center which also houses their Outdoor Pursuits and Rentals office

All first-year students are required to live on campus and therefore get priority for housing. Many live in 4-person “pods” (like suites). There are about a dozen LLCs available; our tour guide lived in the Aviation LLC his first year even though he ended up not majoring in it. There are some university-owned apartments available for upperclassmen. Off-campus housing is relatively easy to find and not expensive. Ellensburg is a small, easily manageable city with things to do and with lots of access to outdoor activities. Students can fly into Sea-Tac airport and get school shuttles for the 2-ish hour trip to campus.

CWU sculpture

One of many such sculptures on campus

Despite being a medium-sized university of about 11,000 students, they take excellent care of students and work hard to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks. Students get both a Major and a Support Advisor so there are plenty of people checking in on them. They are dedicated to providing accessible education for students, particularly those who historically have not had easy access to higher education. Their first-gen students graduate well above the national average, for example. One student spoke to us at dinner; he was extraordinarily grateful for the opportunities and support he received at the college, saying that his success came due to the support he got from faculty and the institution as a whole.

CWU sci 1

One of 2 new science buildings

The evening we were on campus, one of the physics students gave us a mini-lecture on Dark Matter… we couldn’t believe he wasn’t a professor! The Astronomy Club gives monthly presentation, so this was something they would have available to students and the community at large. A physics professor then let us crawl into their portable planetarium (who knew that was even a thing!?); it looked a bit like an igloo and easily fit 25 people. (We also got to go into their permanent planetarium but the equipment was being upgraded so we were unable to see it in action). He gave us a great presentation followed by an extensive tour of the geology and physics labs and ending at the telescope and observatory on the roof.

They offer a number of interesting and/or unique majors such as:

  • CWU museumMuseum Studies
    • They’ve excavated a mammoth about 30 minutes from here and will most likely keep the bones on campus since students did a lot of the work.
  • Law & Justice
  • Para-medicine
  • Aviation/Aerospace/Aviation Management
    • Aviation has been going on for about 40 years; there’s a pilot shortage and they’ll get jobs, but it’s a lot of money up front for the training.
    • There are additional admissions requirements such as a physical for flying.
    • There are 60 incoming freshman bringing it up to 160 total. They’re hoping to bring even more in next year.
  • CWU mammoth

    The first mammoth bone excavated

    Music

  • Sciences (College of Sciences combines Computational, Natural, and Social Sciences)
    • They have a Cadaver Lab!
    • The geology department is the largest in the state
    • A physics professor has a grant to discover exoplanets.
  • Primate Behavior and Ecology: Washoe, one of the original chimps that was taught ASL lived here.
  • Integrated Energy Management
  • CWU japanese garden

    Part of the campus Japanese Garden

    The Business School is AACSB accredited (less than 5% of more than16,000 schools get this). Admission is not competitive but must keep a 2.5 GPA to stay in the program; students can declare after 30 credits.

    • There are 8 concentrations including HR, Economic Forecasting, Supply Chain, and Managerial Economics
  • Safety and Health Management: they have the top program in west. Two professors got awarded National Educators of the Year awards.
  • Apparels, Textiles, and Merchandising: graduates can work as designers or buyers.
  • Global Wine Studies: This is not meant to teach students how to make wine (although they do learn how) but focus on the marketing.
  • Craft Brewing: Students do learn how to make beer in this major! “They get a lot of science.” They can also get a certificate in this if they don’t want the whole major.
  • They’re starting Hospitality Program and will incorporate the beer and wine programs into the event management. This will be an international program where they can work in Spain, too. Getting a dual degree from each institution will be a possibly.
  • Their Army and AF ROTC programs win awards across the country.
CWU creek 1

This stream runs through campus. “You could swim in it, but I’m not sure you want to,” said the tour guide. “However, it is tradition for seniors to float down it in tubes right before graduation.”

Admission to the university is automatic – without the test scores – if a student has a 3.4 and will have completed all the College Academic Requirements by graduation (but they still need to submit test scores; they just aren’t used for admissions, but are looked at for scholarships and for placement). All others go through the comprehensive review process. This is already one of the most affordable institutions in the Pacific Northwest. On top of that, they offer WUE to qualifying students who then pay in-state tuition x 1.5. The average incoming GPAs for WUE students was a 3.31; overall was a 3.1.

© 2017

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Howard University

Howard University (visited 9/13/16)

howard-long-walkHoward is set apart from other HBCUs because of its reputation; it’s not regional like many others. This is a diverse campus, geographically, socio-economically, religiously, etc. “One of the best quotes I’ve heard about Howard is, ‘You can find everything in the black world and its opposite here’,” said the admissions rep. This is a highly tolerant and accepting campus. There are lots of Muslims, lots of non-religious students, etc. LGBTQ students are comfortable here; they’re out and accepted. “People get called out on things if they’re being derogatory or exclusive. People will say, “You may get away with that at home, but it’s not going to fly here.”

howard-6“People are pushed to be better. There’s nothing you can’t do here,” said the admissions rep, also an alum. “Come here if you want to maximize your potential. Students are serious about fun AND serious about work.” She said that if students are not academically prepared or can’t handle the social scene, they won’t make it.

Founded on March 2,1867 to ensure that black students could come to the nation’s Capitol to get an education, Howard now has a long list of distinguished alumni including Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, politicians, actors, and plenty more. Today, the 7,000 undergrads come from 44 states/territories and 23 countries; the biggest feeder country is Nepal!

howard-view-of-dc

The view of the Capitol from campus

Students have formed state clubs and will often host students visiting from that area. “They’ll reach out to prospective and new students to help make the transition easier.” For example, the university does not run shuttles to the airport, but current students will make sure that new students know how to use the Metro or MARC systems to get to and from campus.

 

howard-greek-tree

One of the Greek Trees

Campus/extra-curricular life is busy. There are 19 DI sports; this is the only HBCU with Women’s Lacrosse (Hampton has Men’s). Debate is strong with an annual competition against Hampton, their big rival. They try to have it on the same weekend as the football game. The “Greek Letter Organizations” include honors and major-based (journalism, business, etc) groups as well as social. The Devine 9 were created in response to mainstream white Greek life. Five of those were created on Howard’s campus; members from all over come to campus to “see the birthplace” and visit their chapter’s “tree.” Each organization is assigned a tree that they have painted. Students can Pledge starting in sophomore year.

 

howard-fountain

One of the campus fountains

The biggest campus event is Homecoming in October drawing huge crowds of alumni and friends. Georgia Ave is blocked off for concerts and other fun. First Fridays are also hugely popular. Students looking to get off campus have no shortage of options: the Howard Theater and 930 Club host all sorts of concerts all year, and are within a 10 minute walk. Further afield are all the options available in DC, accessible via the metro stop only a couple blocks from campus.

 

howard-lower-quad

Lower Quad

There are 11 res halls; students are separated by gender for the first year (women by the Valley/lower quad, men by the football stadium) and then mixed. Freshmen are required to live on campus (with some concessions/ exceptions). Upperclassmen can usually live on campus if they want to, but they have the option to move off.

 

Academically, there is a lot to brag about ranging from their amazing Fine Arts programs to the sciences (and they start kids early! The Middle School for Math and Science – or (MC)2 – is right on campus). Howard is ranked #1 for graduating black students who go on to med school and PhDs in STEM fields. This is the only HBCU named as a Tier 1 research institution.

howard-business

The Business building

There are 70 undergrad majors in 6 schools. The top 5 majors are bio, psych, PoliSci, Media/Journalism/Film, and Chem. Among other notable programs are:

 

  • A 5-year BArch program allowing students to sit for their exam right after graduation.
  • Direct-Entry Nursing
  • A 6-year fast-track BS/MD Only 12-15 students get admitted every year and must have passed high-level math and sciences in high school. They complete the Bachelors in 2 years (including summers). Students must be accepted to the university first, then apply to the program by 3/1.
  • Several BFA programs in Interior Design, Fashion Design, Electronic Studio, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Theater Tech, Musical Theater, Dance, Theater Administration, and Acting.
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Administration of Justice (combining Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice)
  • Several Engineering options (Chemical, Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Computer)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Business students start right away; they have to wear business attire 2 days a week.
howard-bio-bldg

The biology department with greenhouses on the roof

Students in the Arts & Sciences, Business, and Communications schools can be invited into the Honors program in those areas. Applicants will be considered and invited as long as they declare a major coming in. If they aren’t invited upon entry, students can be invited to start as a sophomore. “The criteria is vague kind of on purpose because each year will be different,” said the rep. These programs open up honors classes and the opportunity for a faculty advisor for a thesis presented at symposiums at the end of the year.

 

howard-chapel

The campus chapel for students wanting to take advantage of its offerings

“The intellectual life here extends outside of the classroom.” For example:

  • The Freshman Class always reads a common text. Last year, it was Citizen by Claudia Rankin. She came and spent the day with the freshman.
  • All freshmen take a Freshman Seminar; they come together once a week for a lecture then once more for smaller section. During these times, they talk about the Common Text, adjusting to campus, and more.
  • The Freshman Leadership Academy focuses on Asian languages (particularly Mandarin). They meet as a cohort for the year and go abroad for 4-8 weeks during the summer after freshman year. After that, they serve as mentors to the new groups coming in.
  • Internships: most students do at least 1, but it’s rare to meet a student who hasn’t had one each year starting sophomore year. “It’s a very professional environment. They’ll go to class in suits because they have to leave for an internship right afterwards.” Students get great internships over the summers at places like Johnson & Johnson, Chase Bank headquarters, etc.
  • 12 schools in and around DC have articulation agreements for students looking to expand their academic options.
  • “Our kids are politically inclined. It’s part of the reason they want to come to DC. They’re always protesting something.”
  • To participate in Study Abroad, students must have sophomore or junior standing, 1 year of residency at Howard, and have at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • Student-led Alternative Spring Break is popular: Students have gone to Flint, Memphis, New Orleans, and other places to work on Anti-gun violence, Water stuff in Flint, tutoring, and housing. Some went to Haiti and Costa Rica (Engineers w/o borders).
  • Air Force ROTC is housed on Howard’s campus. Students wanting Army ROTC can do so at American University.

Howard only accepts the Common Application for admission. Accepted students generally have around a 3.5 unweighted GPA and 1150 SAT 1150 or 25 ACT (which tends to be higher than the national average for African-American students).

© 2016

Villanova University

Villanova University (visited 7/21/16)

Villanova oreo“We tend to attract students who are bright, bright-eyed, and not too cool for the room. They wear their school gear. They’re spiritual.” Clearly Villanova is doing something right: They boast an amazing 96% retention rate (freshman to sophomore years), 88% 4-year and 90% 5-year graduation rate, and a 97% placement rate 6 months after graduation!

Villanova quadVillanova makes 5 promises to its students:

  • Academic Excellence: clearly the university has earned lots of high rankings including Phi Beta Kappa and Center for Excellence for Nursing.
  • Personal Attention: the average class has 22 students with several capped at 15.
  • Strong Community: They’re highly inclusive, a hallmark of the Augustinian tradition. That’s a big deal here.
  • Service to others: Our tour guide was surprised at how service-minded students here are. People flock to service trips, etc.
  • Foundation for Lifelong Success: The 118,000 alums “metaphorically hold the door open for current students.”
Villanova monastary

The monastery

Villanova is named for Thomas of Villanova, the “Father of those who didn’t have.” This is an Augustinian Catholic institution and houses one of the largest Augustinian Monasteries (70 monks live there, 15 of whom are active on campus). St. Augustine became a bishop under one condition: he wanted to continue living and learning in a community of his friends.

Villanova chapel inMasses are held three times each Sunday in the gorgeous on-campus chapel, but masses are not required, and Campus Ministry will take students to other places of worship as asked. Students aren’t even asked to self-report religion until their exit interviews. Students are required to take 2 theology classes, 1 of which is general history.

Villanova stu cntrSports are clearly a huge deal here, especially basketball, but they attract strong athletes across the board. They’ve had a student or alum in every Olympics since 1948. Students get free basketball tickets on a lottery system, and the more games they attend, the higher their lottery number becomes. However, they really are student-athletes, and all teams have at least a 3.0 GPA. Our tour guide is a dancer, and she performs for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Special Olympics held on campus, the largest student-run event of its kind.

Villanova 8In addition to sports (both participating and watching), there are plenty of other things to do. “Cornhole is big here,” said the tour guide. “I’m not sure what that’s about!” A couple favorite traditions include Hoopmania before Basketball games, and on Fridays, people pass out lollipops at the end of classes. 20-30% of student join Greek life with Rush delayed until 2nd semester. All 3 ROTC branches are offered here, but Navy is the biggest. They produce the 2nd highest number of flag officers after the Naval Academy. For students wanting to go off campus, it’s easy to navigate through the city. Two trains run through campus, and students can be in downtown Philly in 20 minutes. They can also get to the airport easily.

Villanova gardensHousing is guaranteed for 3 years, and they triple up a lot of freshmen. They don’t currently guarantee housing for all 4 years. However, this might change with the Lancaster Avenue Project, opening in fall of 2019: The large parking lot across the street from the university is being transformed into a Performing Arts Center (the new President had been the Head of the Theater Department and a new Res Hall with 1200 beds. This will bring the total number of students on campus to 85%. They have a new parking lot already going up to replace the parking spots they’re losing.

Villanova fountainAn admissions rep said, “We want to reward hard work, not just potential.” Test scores aren’t the end-all. “Community is a verb here. We look at what people do in their free time and are productively using their time.” For the first time this year, they’ll be denying people in the Early round. “It’s the moral and ethical thing to do.” About 9% first-gen and 13% Pell-eligible enrolled in last year’s first year class.

Students interested in the Honors Program, Villanova Scholarship, and Health Affiliation need to apply by the Early Action deadline of 11/1. Presidential Scholarship applicants must apply by 12/1.

Villanova labThe university offers majors in 4 undergraduate divisions:

  • Nursing: (last year, they got 1,046 applications for 90 spots)
  • Engineering: (last year, they got 2549 applications for 270 spots)
    • They only offer 5 undergraduate majors, but they get more specialized at the graduate level. Qualified students can do a 4+1 bachelor’s/master’s program.
    • They offer a couple interesting minors including entrepreneurship and biomed.
    • The department is ranked nationally in the top 15. Students take 1 semester of multi-disciplinary work, then declare their track during 2nd They do a lot of flipped classes: they’ll watch lectures for homework and then do projects in class.
    • They run engineering-specific trips to places like Madagascar and Cambodia.
  • Villanova 1Business: (last year, they got 4697 applications for 405 spots. “It’s hard to come in through the back door. It’s highly selective,” said the rep)
    • In addition to the fairly typical majors found in most business schools, they offer 3 “co-majors” in Real Estate, International Business, or Business Analytics
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences: (last year, they got 8065 applications for 325 spots in Science and 580 in LA)

Fun fact: The sister of the Liberty Bell is on campus.

© 2016

Texas Christian University

Texas Christian University (visited 3/3/15)

~TCU main sign~TCU flowersOne of the big question a lot of us on the Counselor tour had was, how Christian is TCU? The general consensus was: as much as you want it to be. The school is insistent that students figure it out for themselves and be respectful of others. “We have really interesting conversations about God,” said one of the tour guides. Students are required to complete 1 theology class as part of their distribution requirements, but the choices range from Religion in the Arts to The Afterlife in Roman/Greek Traditions (taught by a German professor). One student on the panel wishes that the university were more Christian. “It’s in the name; no one is hiding that it’s part of who we are, but there’s 1 cross on campus. I’ve actively looked.”

~TCU main quad~TCU fountainThe campus is attractive with nice architecture and wonderful landscaping; daffodils were already popping up in early March, despite the chilly weather and dreary skies. Many of the buildings are made of yellow brick, and they’re making an effort to keep consistent to the general feeling as new construction goes up. The campus is located in Fort Worth, a city described by a student as a “booming suburbia.” It has a definite residential, family feel; students and younger professionals tend to like living here. “Dallas feels more business-like than here,” said one professors. Students can take easy advantage of the city with free bus rides with their TCU ID; they also have access to bike shares. However, there’s lots to do directly off campus, as well. Students get discounts at many places in town including free lunches at some places on Fridays. 35 places off-campus will take Flex Bucks.

~TCU dorm hallway

A dorm hallway

TCU has a two-year residency requirement but currently can’t meet demand for juniors and seniors. However, they’re committed to rectifying that and are building a new res hall per year for a decade; 4 new ones are up already. Students are happy that they’re working on the residential issues.

~TCU plaza 2Greek life is a huge part of campus life with almost half of students affiliating (it’s a higher percentage of women than men affiliating – about 55% and 40% respectively – which almost matches up with the general gender mix on campus). One student wishes that she knew how much Greek life was part of campus before she came here. She said that sometimes it feels like much more than half of the students belong to one of the Greek organizations. There is a bit of Greek housing, but many end up living together in regular dorms.

~TCU studentsStudents love the academics here, but “you need to want to learn. They can facilitate the learning, but can’t do it for you.” Favorite classes include:

  • Literature and Civilization: they spoke with a woman from Rwanda
  • Speech Pathology (she’s had her own clients for 2 years now).

~TCU main bldgAs with any university, there are a number of colleges to choose from including:

  • Business
  • Liberal Arts (notable programs: Geography, Criminal Justice, and Hispanic Studies). Students wanting to take classes in Aerospace Studies or Military Science can do so through the Air Force or Army ROTC (respectively).
  • Communications including Communication Studies, Film-TV-Digital Media, and Journalism.
  • Fine Arts: Art, Dance, Music, Theater, Interior Design and Merchandising, and Arts Administration
  • Education
  • Science and Engineering including Physics and Astronomy, Engineering, Computer Science, and the School of Geology, Energy, and the Environment.
  • TCU Honors volleyball

    Sand Volleyball Court

    The Honors College provides small classes and specialized housing (complete with a sand volleyball court!). Honors students have the opportunity to attend a special orientation and have access to Honors Study Abroad trips.~TCU mascot

~TCU mascot statue

Football stadium

Football stadium

Sports are a big deal here. Super Frog the Horned Frog is the beloved mascot (and listed in the top-10 weirdest mascots!); students rub the nose of the Horned Frog statue for luck before exams, and the university even owns a real horned frog. It’s housed at the FW Zoo because it’s an endangered species. TCU’s teams are DI; in addition to the common teams, there are women’s Equestrian and Rifle teams, and men’s DIA football. TCU ranks #1 in the country for attendance at women’s soccer and men’s baseball games. Their big rival is Baylor. Intramurals and club sports are a big part of life on campus, as well. They offer bowling, ice hockey, gymnastics, rugby, and water polo in addition to many other sports. There’s even an outdoor pool with kayaks and canoes available for students.

© 2015

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University (visited 1/28/15)

~WMU quad 6

An academic quad

For a public university, this isn’t huge, especially compared to the other public universities in the state. The campus is manageable; “compact” said one tour guide. “It takes no more than 15 minutes to walk across. You can get from class to class in 7 or 8 minutes.” There are buses, but they’re just not needed simply to get around campus. WMU is located (literally) directly across the street from Kalamazoo College, but there isn’t much intermingling between the schools.

~WMU dining hall

One of the dining halls

Before the info session and tour, I went to lunch with Rachel, a senior  – “but I won’t graduate for another year because I switched into nursing.” She came to WMU for the scholarship and the honors program, and because she felt like she was treated like an individual. People were “super willing to help, and I found that even as a student. Older students, professors, whoever are all willing to give advice.”

~WMU courtyardPeople who will do well here are solid students who also have outside interests, who want the larger school experience with the large athletics, but who still want a campus feel and who don’t quite want to get lost in the crowd.

~WMU quad 5Approximately 1/3 of the 19,000 undergraduates live on campus. Many freshmen live in traditional dorms, but there’s also specialty themed housing with activities, tutors, etc geared towards that subject. Some scholarships carry a residency requirement. Upperclassmen put themselves on waiting lists for the on-campus apartments which are in high demand. The 12,000 or so students who don’t live on campus find housing around town through word-of-mouth, on Craig’s List, or even just by showing up at apartment complexes. I spoke to three students who live off campus; they all said it was easy to find a place.

~WMU dorms 2

One of the dorm neighborhoods

There are also some Greek houses. Many members live in them for a year (sometimes 2 if there’s room). Often they move in the year after they pledge, so most of the residents are sophomores, occasionally juniors. Only about 5% of WMU students are affiliated with 1 of the 30 sororities or fraternities. 20 of these are nationally recognized; the rest are local or service groups.

WMU athletic cntr

The athletic center hallways. Classrooms are to the left.

Hockey is the big sport here; Rachel wishes that they would build a bigger stadium since it’s always packed. Most games are standing room only. Their big Hockey rival is Miami of Ohio; for all other sports, it’s Central Michigan. “Football is also a lot more fun now that there’s a new coach.” Intramurals cost usually $9 per season per sport “unless you have a team from all the same hall. Then it’s covered under student activities fee.”

~WMU windowBronco Bash, best described as a street fair with live music, activities, etc., is a favorite yearly activity. The monthly movies in the school theatre are also popular; for $1, they get popcorn and a movie. These are usually packed. “There’s something to be said about watching movies with 500 college students.” The town of Kalamazoo has plenty to do, including various “fests” (Rib Fest, Irish Fest) throughout the year. For people needing to go further afield for fun, Chicago is 2.5 hours west, Grand Rapids is 45 minutes north, and Detroit is 2 hours east.

~WMU acad bldg 2WMU only pulls about 5% of their students from other states and another 7% from other countries. It’s very easy to get Michigan Residency for tuition purposes. Students must live in Michigan for 12 consecutive months; the school year counts towards this. Students will either stay on campus or sublet an off-campus apartment through the summer so they can take classes, work, and/or do research. Once they live in MI for 12 months and switch their licence, they get in-state tuition.

~WMU rotunda

Atrium of a science building

Academics generally well regarded. Although there are larger classes associated with a large public school, they aren’t overwhelming and the students said that there’s always help available. Largest classes for the students I talked to have all hovered around 200 (Psych, Communication Theory, and Biology). Smallest have been 20 in labs and 15 in English.

Notable programs include:

  • ~WMU muralAviation Programs. The College of Aviation (one of the largest in the nation) maintains a separate facility at the airport in Battle Creek, about 20 minutes from the main campus. One of the students raved about how nice it was.  Majors include Flight Science, Maintenance Tech, and Management and Operations. 
  • Engineering: In addition to the more common Mechanical, Civil, Chemical, Computer, and Electrical Engineering, they also offer Aerospace, Construction, Paper, and Industrial/Entrepreneurial Engineering. The College of Engineering also offers Graphic and Printing Science, Engineering Design Technology, and Manufacturing Engineering Technology. Students applying to this school need a 25 on the ACT math section.
  • Business: students complete one year of “pre-business” before they specialize
  • Freshwater Science and Sustainability
  • Textile and Apparel Studies (Product Development, Merchandising, or Fashion Design). Students complete at least 1 semester at Fashion Institute of Tech or at American Intercontinental University in London.
  • Geosciences, including Geophysics, Geochemistry, and Hydrogeology.
  • The Honors College: Students need a 3.6 GPA and a 26 ACT (1190 CR&M on the SAT).
  • Air Force ROTC
~WMU stud activity cntr

Student Activity Center

Admission is rolling, but for the best scholarship consideration, students should apply by the first Friday in December. Medallion Scholarships award the most money; winners tend to average around a 3.7 GPA and 26 ACT. If they qualify, they are invited to campus to compete. Winners get $12,500 a year, but all who attend the competition are guaranteed at least $3,000. Endowed scholarships are awarded usually around the middle of March. Students wanting need-based aid should file the FAFSA by the priority deadline of 3/1.

Admitted students’ GPAs hover around 3.3 – 3.4; ACTs average around a 23; about a third of their students fall in the top 25% of their HS class. They will recalculate grades with AP classes getting an additional 1 quality point. If students are borderline, they’ll look at the essay, the rec letters, etc.

(c) 2015

Purdue University

PURDUE UNIVERSITY (visited 9/15/14)

Twenty-three astronauts, including Neil Armstrong (for whom their engineering building is named), graduated from Purdue.

~Purdue quad 2 Purdue is Indiana’s land-grant public institution, home to 29,400 undergraduates: 57% are male, 57% are in-state, and 17% are international. We visited on a drizzly day, but the students were out in droves. The level of diversity seen in the student body impressed me.

~Purdue Boilermaker

The Boilermaker

As part of the counselor tour, some of us chose to ride the “Boilermaker,” a small “train” that goes around campus. We had about five minutes to talk to the students who ranged from sophomores to seniors. Most were in-state; 2 were from other Midwestern states. They were all thrilled with their education and excited to talk about their experiences. One student said that she was surprised at how manageable the campus felt for such a large school; the others agreed that it feels small quickly through the majors, living communities, clubs, etc. Three were involved in Greek life (about 20% of all students are, making it one of the largest Greek systems in the state). The unaffiliated ones didn’t feel left out of the social scene or pressured to rush.

Purdue sign and acad A few things the students particularly like about Purdue are:

  • The President who was a 2-term Indiana Governor. He’s making some good initiatives, including freezing tuition for 3 years.
  • The town. It’s very walkable with lots to do. They are two hours from Chicago; shuttles run all the time. (Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus because of parking limitations).
  • SPORTS! Students can buy a “Boilermaker VIP card” for $250 which gets them tickets to the games.
  • The strong ROTC program in all 4 branches.

There is no residency requirement but almost all freshmen live on campus. “It cuts in half about every year after that,” said the tour guide. A total of 11,500 students live in one of 16 dorms or a learning community (each housing 30-40 students) A new Honors College residence hall is about to be built. Greek housing is cheaper than other on-campus housing.

~Purdue walkwayStudents can be directly admitted to most of the 200 majors; undecided students enter the Exploratory Program. Many of the programs are largely hands-on with the goal of graduating marketable students. The admissions rep talked about their 4-3-2-1 “program” (although it’s not really advertised as such): they want students to graduate in 4 years, keep a 3.0 average, complete 2 hours of study for every hour of class, take 1 leadership role. The university boasts the largest student-run job fair in the country, and students do tend to transition easily into the job market. Our tour guide, an agri-business major, has a job already lined up for graduation (almost a year away!)

Purdue acad bldg 5Classes tend to be large. There are 2 lecture halls with 470ish seats and other halls that hold 120 students. Our tour guide’s smallest classes were 30 (Instructor-led) and 20 (TA-led). There’s support for people who want it, but no one will hold their hands. The OWL lab (writing center) is free. “It’s available online; I used it even as a high school student,” said the tour guide. However, other tutoring costs money.

During our visit, there were two sessions where we had options of seeing several different departments. I first went to the anthropology department and got a tour by one of the archaeologists who works in Egypt. She took us into the osteology lab where a several-thousand-year-old Sudanese skeleton was assembled on the worktable. She showed us some of the discoveries about lifestyle, and explained what type of work the students do in the class she teaches. Eventually it will go back to Sudan, but since they don’t have facilities to store human remains for study, they’re not anxious to get it back.

One of the kitchen classrooms for the Hospitality School.

One of the kitchen classrooms for the Hospitality School.

~Purdue fountain 3The second tour was the school of Health and Human Sciences. This encompasses everything from Hospitality and Tourism Management and Consumer Science to Nursing, Psychological Sciences, and Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. I talked to a Dean and a current Hospitality student. He showed off the school, including the sit-down restaurant on campus where all students must complete an internship.

Notable majors include:

  • Hospitality and Retail. Students can specialize in things like Sporting Events or get certified in Wine Tasting. Students all complete 4 concentrations including labs and internships on campus and must also complete 3 paid internships in different positions, totalling more than 300 hours. There’s one in China at the Shangri La Resorts. The student I spoke to had all his expenses paid, including travel and uniforms. He completed a research project in Employee Retention, so he spent a lot of time with HR.
  • PHASE (Purdue Hearing and Acoustics in Science and Engineering) which includes Acoustic Engineering and Biomedical Acoustics.
  • A new Brain and Behavioral Science Major, popular with the pre-med crowd (as is the Nutrition Science program).
  • Fashion Merchandising: They can spend their junior year at FIT in New York.
  • Financial Planning (one of the majors requiring an internship).
  • Aviation – complete with an airport on campus.
  • Selling and Sales Management. “They do lots of improv; they know how to deal with lots of situations,” said the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Education – they work in their first year.
  • Pharmacy is # 7 in the country. Students complete 2 years of pre-pharm then 4 years of pharmacy.
  • Film/TV and Communications is overlooked.

Purdue acad bldg 1Students must apply by November 1 to be eligible for scholarship money. They will superscore the SAT or take the highest composite ACT. They only need 1 recommendation letter which can come from the high school counselor.

© 2014

Embry Riddle Aeronautic University

Embry-Riddle Aeronautic University (Informational Lunch on 9/18/14)

ERAU has two campuses: one in Florida (located next to the Daytona airport) with 5,500 students, and one in Arizona with 2,000 students. “The Arizona campus is up in the mountains and just stunning!” said one of the reps. Students come from all over the country, and per capita, they travel further to attend ER than anywhere else in the country, coming from an average of almost 800 miles away. Currently, their student population is almost 80% male, but that’s slowly lowering towards 75%.

The university got its start in 1925 when Embry took a flight lesson – a $20 plane ride –from Riddle. From there, they started a flight school, an airline (now American!), and a mail route. They taught flight and maintenance classes in Miami through WWII, and the school officially became a university in the 1960s.

Some majors are only offered at specific campuses. Global Security, Forensic Biology, Wildlife Science, and Industrial Psychology (among others) are only in Arizona. Aerospace & Occupational Safety, Computational Math, Business Administration, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science (among others) are only offered in Florida. However, most majors are available at either campus. Usually, students will stay at one campus for their 4 years. Sometimes they move after freshman year, particularly if their academic interests shift, but they generally don’t bounce back and forth between the two.

There are a lot of interesting things going on academically. Clearly, any of the aviation sciences are incredibly strong. Options range from Aviation Business Administration to Aeronautical Engineering to Air Traffic Management. “We shape industry and write policy.” They have a crash lab; both airlines and the government will hire them to look at why crashes happen and how they can avoid them in the future. Aviation students pay per hour for flight training which can be $15-18,000 for the first year, and it decreases after that.

Engineering is another strong and popular area. In addition to all the subcategories you’d expect, students can study Motorsports and Unmanned and Autonomated Systems. They offer both Computer Science and Computer Engineering. Comp Sci majors builds the software; Comp Eng builds the interface and is almost a bridge between Comp Sci and Electrical Engineering (they build the hardware). They also offer 2 meteorology programs: Applied meteorology is much more math intensive. These are the people who create the predictive models for weather forecasting. Operational meteorology doesn’t create the forecasting; they have an understanding of the weather, but are looking towards broadcasting or other fields that need that understanding rather than doing the behind-the-scenes forecasting.

Just over a third of the students live on campus. It’s guaranteed and required for the first year, and it’s guaranteed for those who want it during the 2nd year. There’s a housing office to help students find off-campus housing, but a lot is found just by driving around. There are a lot of apartment complexes nearby. Most students will drive in and park on campus. All students can have cars, and at most, parking is 15 minutes away. Parking spaces are based on their residential status (living on campus or commuting).

In terms of admissions, Engineering is looking for close to a 3.9 GPA. They require pre-calc, physics, and chemistry, and they prefer that students already have calculus. For Aviation majors, they must have at least Algebra 2. Students can test out of classes through AP scores, but they recommend that students do the whole program so there are no gaps. It’s a little easier to test out of the English, social science requirements through AP. Merit based scholarships are based on the application. They are now test optional! If they do submit scores, they can’t hurt the students, according to the rep.

Two of the reps I spoke with are alumni. One was most surprised at the all the ways there were to get involved – that’s what made him comfortable, less homesick, and ultimately kept him at the school. The other rep was surprised by the drive and the focus of the students. At first he said that he couldn’t think of anything that they should never change because they shift to meet new technologies and needs of the job field – but then he said that they should never change their flexibility. One of them said that he’d like to improve the endowment so they can give out better scholarships. He said that he expects that this will improve over time: the alums are young, so they’re not donating as much as some other places.

Students who transfer out often leave because their academic interests have changed. Others go to their local state schools because of finances.

Florida has DII sports; Arizona has NAIA. Students can participate in Army or Air Force ROTC on either campus; Navy ROTC is currently only in Florida. About 15% of the students are in Greek life. Clubs include rocket club, skydiving, and scuba diving. There’s a new student center and res halls in the works for the Florida campus. Both reps said that the food is good. Students love the omelets! There’s also lots of non-dining hall options such as Chick-fil-a and Starbucks.

(c) 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

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