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Spaulding University

Spaulding University (visited 9/23/19)

Spaulding 3I had no idea what to expect from this school. I thought I’d spend an hour or so talking to the rep, poking around campus a little, and leaving. I didn’t have hugely high expectations. I knew that it was very much an urban campus, Catholic, and from everything I had heard, a small regional school – all of which is true, but I ended up liking several things about it. However, there are a few things that would make it a hard sell for students from outside the area.

Spaulding map

Campus map showing its integration into the city

What makes Spaulding unique is their approach to classes. This is a great school for someone who is looking for a different way of scheduling. There are a few schools in the country where you can take 1 class at a time (usually for 18 school days) and then move onto the next. This is similar but with more flexibility. They split their semesters into three 6-week blocks with a week off in between. Students take either 1 or 2 classes in each block with classes meeting Monday-Thursday for 1 hour and 40 minutes each day. This allows students to take up to 18 hours in a semester while never taking more than two classes at a time and to customize the class load to meet graduation goals. Because a 12-credit semester is considered full-time for Financial Aid and athletics, they can choose to take only 1 class during 1 of the blocks each semester. This is particularly great for athletes during their in-season, students who want to do internships, seniors studying for the LSAT or MCAT, etc.

Spaulding buddhism garden

The Contemplative Garden in progress

The school was founded by Sister Spaulding (Sisters of Charity of Nazareth) when she was 16 in order to “teach girls crazy things like science, math, and reading.” They trace their nursing program back to a cholera epidemic when some students asked doctors to teach them to care for people with the disease. Today, they maintain their Catholic heritage, but the mission extends far beyond that. “We’re as Catholic as you want it to be, but in reality, we’re more historically Catholic than actively Catholic. There’s Mass offered on Tuesday but it’s never required.” Students have to take 2 religion courses, but there are 20+ to choose from. They are currently building a Buddhist Stupa, a contemplative garden, and a Zen labyrinth in an empty lot next to one of their current buildings. You can check out the contemplative garden here.

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Part of the interior of the original old house. 

This is definitely an urban campus. The original building is a gorgeous historic house that was built in 1879 by distillers. “Surprisingly, it became available in the 1920s!” (Fun fact: it’s said to be haunted by a mischievous boy). In the courtyard right outside this building sits a Tulip Poplar, the largest tree in the city. Since the university opened, they’ve bought up several buildings in the surrounding blocks, but there is no central campus although there is a lot of green space, including a 5-acre site that used to be an overgrown parking lot. “We’re trying to bridge the gap in the revitalization.” There is very little security in most of the buildings (although we saw several officers around; it is still an urban campus!),

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The Tulip Poplar

but signs on side doors ask people to use main doors for entry. “You can exit from any door, but only enter in some because of security,” said a rep. They have 8 acres of athletic fields about 4 blocks west of campus. They open these to the community, as well. They have some lined for field hockey and lacrosse but don’t offer them as varsity sports at this point. Most of the buildings are very well maintained and/or have been renovated. The library did smell a bit musty, but they were some really amazing hammocks inside, donated by the President of the college.


Spaulding library hammocks

Some of the hammocks in the library donated by the college president.

The College President, Tori Murden, was the first woman to row across the Atlantic (check out her book Pearl in the Storm), the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole, first employee of the Muhammad Ali museum. She’s doing a lot of things to help the university (she grew up in Louisville and earned her MFA in Writing from Spaulding). Although they don’t have a huge endowment, they’re in no danger of closing. “We err on the side of caution. We don’t borrow. We do fundraising instead of using tuition dollars, and we don’t build anything until we can fund it.”


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Columbia Gym with the replica red bike over the door. 

One of their main buildings is the Columbia Gym which now houses several sports teams, an indoor batting cage and golf center, a large auditorium, and more. Over the main entrance is a replica of the bicycle which was the imputus for Mohammed Ali to start boxing; he had left it outside the building and it got stolen; he went in for help, and got introduced to a police officer who taught boxing. When Clay said he was going to beat up whoever stole the bike, the officer said he’d better learn how to do it properly and started training him.


Spaulding Ali sign 2Spaulding has 1700 students with undergrads making up about half of that. Incoming classes have 150-200 each. “We’d like to be closer to 210-220.” Retention first-second year is 76% with graduation rates in the 60s. “It’s not where we want it to be. There are several factors that feed into that,” said the rep. “One big one is that we tend to take chances on students that maybe other schools won’t. They often say the right things in admissions but can’t walk the walk. We’re over 50% Pell Eligible here. We try to give them wrap-around support, but for some it’s more difficult.”

Spaulding sign“We’re striking a balance between supporting people but also being mission-appropriate in reaching out to people who need it,” said another rep. They’re working with an Educational Advisory Board to try to increase success rates. They have a software programs that will look at things as simple as tracking attendance and using analytics to look at courses like the SU100 (intro to college). “If you aren’t successful in that class, you won’t be successful in others. It’s an effort class: If you show up and turn in the work, you’re going to get an A or B.” They take conditional admits who complete an intensive 1-week bridge program over the summer and meet with success coaches throughout the semester. To be an unconditional admit, students need a 2.5 GPA and 20 ACT (or SAT equivalent).

Spaulding patio

One of the many courtyards that helps make it feel a little less urban.

Dorm capacity is about 450; students coming from further than 50 miles away must live on campus for 3 years. Local students are welcome to live on campus, but they want to provide an opportunity for them to stay at home if that helps them finance their college education. Only about half the undergraduates live on campus, making Spaulding (at least as a non-commuting student) a harder sell – but students find connections through athletics or video games or even the city! “You’re in Louisville and there’s a ton of great things to do off campus, including UL (DI) football games.

Conversely, the price-point is phenomenal and makes this an easier sell for students! The cost of attendance for tuition, fees, and R&B (double occupancy and a standard meal plan) falls just under $33,000! They have some really good scholarships, too, including:

  • Heartland Scholarship: anyone coming in from outside Kentucky gets a 10% reduction.
  • Bonus award: This is worth $1,800+. Students with an 18 ACT+ composite score (or an equivalent SAT) receive their score x $100! Scholarships are stackable up to the Cost of Attendance.

Classes are kept small. The largest ones are usually 20-25 in the first year and 12-14 in upper levels. Many of the majors are profession-focused: business, communication, education, psychology, social work, and natural science including the pre-professional and Health Science tracks.

  • Students can double major in Accounting and Business and graduate in 4 years!
  • They have a BFA in Creative Writing and a renowned MFA program.
  • Criminal Justice started in 2019 with concentrations in Corrections, Forensics and Electronic Crime, Juvenile Justice, and Law Enforcement.
  • Nursing: there are spots for everyone as long as they meet the minimum GPA requirements and pass the entry exam.
  • Fine Arts has concentrations in General FA, Graphic Design, Digital Media, Painting/Drawing, and Interdisciplinary Sculpture.
  • The Center for Behavior Health provides counseling services for low-income in the area (students can get clinical or shadowing hours), and students can get EdPsych testing done for free by the Psych Doctoral students!
  • Students can come in with AP credit for scores of 3, 4, and 5, allowing them to graduate early and save tuition money.
  • Spaulding has paired up with Western Kentucky University for a Study Abroad consortium. WKU has a winter term right after New Years. Spaulding students can enroll in the pre-class during Block 3 and travel right after the holidays.
  • Students can supplement their schedule with classes at nearby schools (up to 2 per term)

© 2019

Colorado College

Colorado College (visited 10/1/12)

CC green spaceColorado College is one of the few colleges in the country on the block schedule: students take one class at a time, 3 hours a day for 18 days, and then have “block break” (Wednesday afternoon through the weekend); when they come back, they start a new class. Professors also only teach one class per block so they are also fully invested in the class and the students. The best thing about this is that there is so much flexibility in how the class meets: if they want to meet in the afternoon instead of the morning, they can; if they want to take a day-long (or a week-long) field trip, they can just go! The geology class, which is apparently hugely popular, goes to New Mexico for a week for field-work. A sociology class about deviation in society goes to a prison for a day. They also have classes that go places for all three weeks like a theater class in London or the “Yachtyssey” which studies Homer’s Odyssey from aboard a yacht, going to many of the places mentioned in the literature.


A class session on the quad

Students usually take eight block classes a year – four during the length of a traditional semester at another school. This gives some flexibility to students who may want to study abroad for a semester or year; they can go away to get a different experience and come back to pick up at the start of the next block at CC. Classes are small – generally in the teens, but all are capped at 25 unless the class is team-taught by a couple professors. Even then, the class size doesn’t double; it’s capped in the high 30s. On the other end of the spectrum, classes won’t get canceled even if only one student signs up.

CC flagpoleCC sukkahTheir required classes are meant to give students critical thinking and global awareness: students take two classes each in West in Time, a college level language (even if they come in with proficiency in language), and Scientific Investigations, and one each in Social Inequality, Global Culture, and Quantitative Reasoning. Several classes can count for two areas, but they will not excuse students from the language requirement since they want students to have their classes which not only include language instruction, but discussions about culture and other topics related to the language.

CC 2One of the traditions that my tour guide talked about was “First Monday.” On the first Monday of every new block, students are invited to a presentation held in the non-denominational chapel (one of the largest gathering spaces on campus). CC brings in big name people; Margaret Atwood (author) was in recently, as was Ralph Nader. Students tend to come in fairly large numbers to these events and others. The typical students are socially aware, intellectually curious, and want to give back to the world. There is an organic farm and a student-run soup kitchen on campus.

CC chapelSeveral years ago, Discover Magazine published a list of Top 50 Women in Science. Three of them were CC grads; only MIT had more – with four. Not too bad for a small liberal arts school! They do a lot to attract good students up front, especially in the sciences: They offer 4 Barnes Scholarship in Natural Sciences which grants a full-tuition scholarship to the winners – 2 in Bio and bio-chem, and 2 in the other sciences. The nice thing is that the winners are chosen by the faculty. They also have a lot more to brag about, including that they are the only nationally ranked Liberal Arts college in the time zone.

CC quadI didn’t realize that CC was so competitive: overall, they accept about 23% of applicants. They accept a little over a third of Early Decision applications, a little under a third of those applying for Early Action, and only about 15% of those in the Regular Decision pool. Because they do try to meet full need of their students, they require that the CSS/PROFILE get submitted with the application. They will superscore both the ACT and the SAT, and because they know that students demonstrate strengths in different ways, they have a policy that allows students to submit a combination of AP and/or SAT II scores rather than ACT or SAT scores. Overlap schools tend to be other small liberal arts schools with highly motivated, smart, maybe slightly quirky students: Bates, Bowdoin, Williams, Pitzer, some of the Ivies, and some Colorado Schools.

(c) 2012

University of Montana, Western (Dillon, MT)

University of Montana, Western (Admissions Representative Presentation)

UMW is unique in the Montana system in that classes are offered on the block schedule; in this way, they’re very much like Colorado College or Cornell College. Students take one class at a time, three hours a day for 18 days. Classes meet either from 8:15-11:15 or from 12:15-3:15, and the students may NOT take 2 classes during the same 18 day block. At the end of the block, they get two extra days off (so a four-day weekend) and then will start their next class. Classes are capped at 25 with an average of 18.

Half the students are in Education, but Business and Biology are also popular. Geology is the most prestigious, and Natural Horsemanship is the most unique.

This is a small, compact campus with 1400 undergrads. Almost 2/3 of the students are from Montana. For those flying in, Bozeman is usually the most convenient (more flights), but Butte is closer (60 miles). The drive from Bozeman is an hour and 45 minutes. There is definitely a rural feel with the school located near Continental Divide and Ranches. Freshman must live on campus.

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