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Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart University (visited 10/11/16)


One of the walkways; the brick buildings are dorms

If you’re looking to study at a campus in Ireland or Luxembourg, Sacred Heart might be your school! SHU (pronounced like “shoe”) owns and operates campuses in both places, and they’re well-utilized by a variety of students. Business students even get a tuition waiver for class abroad!


The quad with the chapel on one side

Sacred Heart is another one of those schools that I wish more people knew about. In addition to being a beautiful campus, students are friendly, happy, and engaged in academics and campus social life. The university is student-centered and welcoming to visitors. There are several new buildings with more on the way. They recently celebrated their 50th university; even so new, they’re the 2nd largest Catholic college in New England (after BC).


The chapel interior

The chapel is beautiful in a non-traditional sort of way. The large mural dominating the front of the building was done by a Vatican artist who had done work for Pope John Paul II; this is the only American work of his not housed in a museum. Surprisingly, it only took him 3 weeks to complete. A fun fact is that he never signs his name; instead, he adds a squirrel somewhere in the work.


The squirrel “signature” on the mural

All students take 8 classes in the Core including 1 religion class, The Art of Thinking, and a First-Year Seminar (these last two are taken in freshman year, 1 per semester). My tour guide took Self, Society, and Technology for her FYS, but there are plenty of options (The Seven Deadly Sins was another that popped into her head). Students can only choose their topic if they take it in 2nd semester; otherwise, it’s chosen for them coming in.

Because SHU was hosting a college fair on the day I was visiting, they were not offering the normal 2pm tour, but the admissions rep, who knew I was visiting, had a student give me a personal tour. She was absolutely wonderful – both enthusiastic and genuine. I was sold on the school. “I love giving tours! I want people to love this place as much as I do!”


The lounge in a new dorm

Dorms are spacious, and they’re working on upgrading the oldest buildings while also building more. The newest dorm has a video game room and a cross-fit studio. The pods are “gigantic – they could be triples. It’s like a hotel.” LLC offerings include business, community connections, healthy living, and more. The Honors LLC has 12-person suites. Alcohol is not allowed in the res halls, but they do have a campus pub where of-age students can get beer and wine (no hard liquor is served); “the pub food is great for late night options!” There are 2 buffet-style dining halls, one of which is smartly located in main academic quad. Mac & Cheese is what everyone runs to get.


The foutain

Greek life is one of the fastest growing groups on campus. Football is probably the most popular of the sports, drawing a lot of fans. For students wanting to get off campus, there are shuttles that run to the mall, the transit center and the ferry, and off-campus housing. The tour guide’s favorite tradition is the Penny Parade: during orientation, freshmen march through campus, throw pennies into the fountain, make a wish, and then take a group picture in the shape of their graduation year.


The motion-capture lab

The arts, including Art and Design, dance, music, and theater are popular and strong. The Music department offers concentrations in performance, theory and history, and literature and theory. The Contemporary Art Gallery includes community, student, and staff. They have a few big name alumni, including John Ratzenberger (of Cheers and Pixar fame) and Kevin Nealon.


The new academic building

Business and communications are particularly strong here. They just opened a new building with state of the art equipment for both of these departments; the building has lots of natural light and plenty of seating and meeting areas. It’s so popular with the students as a study area that they school has started putting FYE classes in there so more students have the opportunity to use it. A new health science building is in the planning stages and will look similar to the new building. Colleges of Nursing and Health Professions will be housed in here.

sacred-heart-3The Business department has a Human Subject Lab (used a lot for psychology), a room with an X-box to record and grade presentations, and Stock-Ticker room completely wired for Skype and microphones. The microphones can be turned on to pick up questions and conversation when the Skyping with outsiders; they also can be used to translate spoken words into text for to assist hearing impaired students. The Communications department has all sorts of sets, including a news set donated by Nickelodeon. Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s degrees are available (MA in Comm, Sports Comm and Media, and Media Literacy and Digital Culture).

© 2016

University of Connecticut

UConn (visited 10/13/16)

uconn-sealUConn provides everything you would expect from a top-notch research institution with great academics and well-known athletics. Students here are taken care of under a multiple advisor system, but also will need to be good advocates for themselves. That being said, it’s not so large that they will get lost in the shuffle. Upperclassmen are a great resource for younger students; “they take people under their wings. The underclassmen are going to be the ones to carry on traditions, take over leadership roles,” said a tour guide. They’re clearly doing something right: 93% of freshman return for sophomore year.

uconn-studentsI was impressed that students gave the info session without an admissions representative. The school recommends applying by December 1 in order to be automatically reviewed for Honors and have first access to Merit-based aid. January 15 is the hard deadline. Regardless of when students apply, UConn won’t release decisions until first week in March. The students recommend focusing on the essay: “that’s the only way to speak for yourself,” said a student; they don’t offer interviews.

Last year, about half of the applicants were for the STEM fields. Connecticut recently gave UConn a $1.2billion grant for STEM development, and there’s quite a bit of work being done on campus. They even have a new Next Gen Dorm, housing students in the STEM fields.

uconn-6About 30% of students come in as Undecided. These students are placed in the Academic Center for Exploratory Students program with an advisor to make sure they graduate in 4 years. These advisors are trained to work with Undeclared Majors and know how the different core requirements work at the 12 academic colleges.


Some of the dorms

Housing is guaranteed; 90% of freshmen and 73% overall live on campus including LLCs and Greek housing (13% of students go Greek, but not all live in housing). 86% of students who live off-campus are within a 3-mile radius, and an off-campus housing office helps them find rentals. Students easily get around campus and town on the 8 bus lines, running every 15 minutes along 4 routes.

Students get unlimited swipes on the meal plan which they can use in any of the 8 dining halls, most with themes (International, All-American, Comfort Food). They also have one of the best Gluten-Free programs in the country; the Children’s Hospital modeled their program after UConn’s.

uconn-athleticsStorrs itself is small, “about 4 blocks long. Everyone asks, ‘Where’s the city?’” However, the town caters to students, and certainly there’s plenty to do on campus. “There are more activities than we know what to do with.” High-end performers come here regularly: academic speakers are free; others cost $20. A favorite yearly event is Oozeball where they turn the South Quad into a giant mud pit and have a volleyball tournament.

uconn-basketballAthletics, of course, are a big deal. They have 24 D1 teams with 21 national championships. Football and basketball tickets cost $49 for the season – if they’re a lottery winner to buy them at that price. The number of entries into the lottery depends on the students’ year: seniors get 4, freshmen get 1. If they don’t get this, they can buy regular tickets as available. Soccer also draws a lot of fans.

Community service is not a requirement, but students contribute 1.5 million hours annually, placing them as one of the top 5 schools in the country for service. Huskython is an annual Dance Marathon for Children’s Miracle Network. Another group, the Global Brigade, focuses health and welfare. They travel domestically and abroad (most recently to Panama to open a clinic). UConn offers IDEA Grants for student-designed projects to encourage entrepreneurial, service, and research projects. Grants can be up to several thousand dollars and are open to all majors. One nursing student created a mobile clinic for Korean-Americans and Korean immigrants.

uconn-1There are 6400 classes offered every semester. Eighty-two percent have fewer than 50 students; “.01% have more than 300.” Writing classes are capped at 19, math at 30. The students’ largest classes all hovered around 225 students (Intro to MicroEcon, Intro to Psych, and Communications 1000, “The most taken class for Gen Ed.”) Most of these had discussion sections of 30-32 students. The Smallest classes ranged from 10 (Spanish) to Economic Inventive Design with about 30.

Most academic buildings are in the Academic Quad, “kind of the first ring or center of college with 2 more rings outside it.”

  • uconn-4As the Land-Grant institution, it’s no surprise that the Agriculture School is strong. There are 2 AA degrees (including one in Ornamental Horticulture & Turfgrass Management!); students with a 2.7 can roll into a Bachelor’s program.
  • The School of Fine Arts requires a portfolio/audition for acceptance.
    • The Conn Repertory Theater works with the fine arts students.
    • There are several art galleries (offering a range of artistic styles) as well as a puppetry institute available for internships and gallery showings.
  • uconn-business-2The Engineering program is doing great things.
    • Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM), combines Business Management and Mechanical Engineering. Students in the program can graduate in 4 years if they start right away; it’s very structured. There are lots of engineering projects like creating the dissolvable screw for ACL surgery.
  • Education and Pharmacy programs accept applicants as “pre-“ students: they take pre-reqs as freshman and apply into the program to start as sophomores.
  • FYE is not required but taken by 70-75% of freshman (and it’s open to sophomores, too)
  • The Business School is ranked #1 in New England and top 25 in the country. GE donated 75% of the capital for the new building and remains one of the top recruiters for both Engineering and Business students. They recommend applying directly into the business school as a freshman; current students need a 3.5 GPA to get in.

© 2016

Babson College

BABSON COLLEGE (visited 4/11/14)

~Babson globeBecause Babson was running an Admitted Student Day on the day I was visiting, I hadn’t registered for a tour. However, I was taking a late morning tour of Olin; the two campuses literally run right into each other, so it was easy to head onto Babson’s campus before checking in at Olin. Walking onto campus, I passed a huge globe outside one of the buildings. In the 80s, this was the largest rotating globe in the world (it’s no longer rotating). I learned later that the campus also has one of Newton’s apple trees which someone grew from a seed. As another fun fact, the students I talked to told me that one of Babson’s mistresses is buried somewhere on campus (although they couldn’t agree on whether she was a mistress, a wife, or a mistress-turned-wife).

~Babson frat dorm 2

Dorms and BBQs

It was relatively early on a Friday morning, but there were several students out already (although it was far from hopping!). I stopped at a booth in a quad by several dorms to ask one of the students if I was on the right track to get to the Admissions Office; I ended up never leaving because the kids were talkative and interesting, and more than willing to share information about the school. It turned out that they were staffing a 24-hour BBQ booth, a biannual fundraising event run by a fraternity. They had already raised $1600, “plus the credit card sales which we haven’t tallied yet.”

~Babson acad bldgWhat surprised the students about Babson was the motivation and focus of the students, the diversity of the campus, and the networking opportunities. “Babson delivers.” All students graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Business and can choose a concentration (or not – the senior I spoke to doesn’t have one). They all raved about their education. They love that all the professors have real-life experiences. A sophomore told me, “This is their retirement job. Lots of them still work or are on Boards. One guy flies in a couple times a week on his private jet just to teach class.” One of the girls (a freshman) said, “If your students want Accounting or Finance, send them to Bentley. Anything else, send them here.” This isn’t a traditional Business School; instead, it takes an entrepreneurial approach. “It’s a unique place; no other place lets you start your own business as a freshman.” One of the seniors I spoke to pulled out his business card and said, “If you have other questions or have students who want to email me, feel free!” I’ve never visited a school before where a student had a business card (a non-admissions one – this was for his own business!).

~Babson dorms 2All first-year students take Foundations Management and Entrepreneurship (which ends up being the biggest class they take). They’re put into teams, taught how the basics of Entrepreneurship, and then they run a business for the second half of the year. They’re even given up to $3000 to start it. Proceeds from the business go to charity, and the group does community service for whatever group they’re donating money to. The freshman telling me about this program was in a group that created athletic shirts with iPod attachments. They had to do everything from the concept to the supply chain management to finding manufactures to HR.

Babson bldg and grillThere were several other programs that the students shared with me. One was the Ultimate Entrepreneur Challenge that takes place in one class; the professor tells them that they have a week to get food for the class for free. The students have to figure out how to barter or in some way convince food providers to provide the food. Another is a travel program called BRICK which is a one-semester trip where students spend 4 weeks each in India, Russia, and China. Finally, they are part of a consortium with Olin (next door) and Wellesley (about 2.5 miles away). They’re allowed to take 1 class per term at one of the other colleges, and a fair number of people take advantage of this. One of the guys tried a class at Olin: “I was a sophomore and they put me in an upper level class; it blew my mind.”

Beyond the education, one of the things they like the best about Babson is that “It’s the perfect size. I can ignore people I don’t want to see but I can still meet people every weekend. The students who don’t want to socialize or who aren’t go-getters aren’t going to do so well here. “If they just sit in their rooms, they’ll be miserable.” They said that students may need to look a bit for activities: “they’re not going to be sitting there outside the dorm waiting for you – but they are there!” Winter can seem a little like a ghost town on campus because people tend to stay inside, but people do enjoy being out during the warmer months. However, there’s still plenty to do in the winter, including using the campus’ skating rink where students can rent skates (or use their own) during Open Skates. It’s also easy to get off campus: the commuter rail is about a mile and a half away, and the Green Line is 3 miles away. They’re talking about starting a potential bike share, and buses into Boston on the weekends are $5.

About 15% of students are Greek, and “Greek Row” is located in a dorm. The freshman I talked to isn’t part of Greek life and doesn’t feel like she needs to join to have a social life. “I can go to events if I want to.” Freshmen rush in the spring; transfers or upperclassmen can rush in the fall. A little more than 25% of the students are international or have dual citizenship. “You get to meet people from all over.” Many students stay on campus all four years, but they can move off if they want. The university owns two apartment buildings about a 10 minute walk away which is a nice “in-between step” for students wanting a little more autonomy but don’t want to move completely off campus. Students living there are the only ones who can go off the meal plan. Most of the kids agreed that the campus food leaves a lot to be desired. A sophomore said, “Expect to be disappointed with the food” – but they’re changing vendors, so they’re hopeful that it’ll get batter. A freshman told me that she as on a task-force talking about the food. “I told them that if it doesn’t get better, we should be able to go off the meal plan. I eat out a lot, and if I’m spending this much for school, I should be able to get a decent meal without spending more money.”

© 2014

University of Baltimore

University of Baltimore (visited 12/10/13)

I knew nothing about UB before visiting, including that it’s been ranked as the #5 college city in the country. This is a unique campus that feels very much part of the city but without being overwhelming or without a cohesive campus.

UB 1

The main courtyard of UB

UB started in 1929 as a university serving non-traditional students, mostly in the evenings, and developed into a comprehensive university. Now it’s in the Maryland State University system (it joined in the 80s and is known as “The City Campus” of the state system) and was directed to go back to a professional school. For a while it served only Juniors and Seniors – kind of a “reverse community college.” Six years ago, they reverted back to a full four-year institution and have graduated two complete groups of students who started as freshman (this year will see the third class graduate). They are still moving down the path of attracting freshman, but it’s happening quickly. They matriculated 300 freshmen last year, and expect that to keep growing; they’re particularly interested in growing their out-of-state population which currently stands at about 6%. They offer merit-based scholarships ranging up to $7000 a year. Students can start getting scholarships (about $1000) with a 2.5 GPA and a 900 SAT. They also offer a full in-state tuition scholarship to students transferring in with 60 credits. Their Entrepreneur Fellows program, available to UB students entering Junior year, covers full in-state tuition. These students are also given a Baltimore-area mentor who has successfully started a business; in Senior year, they can compete for seed money to start their own business.

UB 3

The glass building of the law school behind another UB building

UB has the 4th largest law school in the country. Their undergraduate jurisprudence and criminal justice programs are very strong, as are their Business program (with 10 specializations) and Public Policy programs and several other areas people would associate with a long-standing professional institution. Pre-law students have two options if they’re interested in staying at UB for law. One is the Early Admit program. Students with a 3.5 GPA and a 156 on the LSAT can combine their senior year of undergrad with the first year of law school. The second option is the Automatic Admit program, available to students with a 3.35 GPA and a 154 LSAT.

UB 5

Part of their Business building

The university has invested more than $250 million towards additions to buildings and programs. They have some amazing options for majors such as Simulation (four categories including game and educational software), Integrated Arts (they don’t offer too many arts classes or music on campus, but this is a good option for people interesting in teaching), a shared MBA with Towson (students can take classes at either or both campuses to count towards the degree), and an agreement with MICA to take elective credits under UB (state) tuition. Additionally, students interested in ROTC can take advantage of this program on the Johns Hopkins campus.

UB 2

One of the student apartment buildings over the book store on campus

One of the most unique aspects of the university is that there are no dorms and no cafeteria on campus. They had a cafeteria for a while for both MICA and UB students, but UB shut it down since students weren’t using it. There are a few cafes and grab-and-go options on campus as well as lots of food options directly around campus. There are several housing options close by, including one apartment building over the school bookstore and another about a block away. Many of these are furnished and are rented by the bedroom rather than the full apartment, and several of these buildings are rented solely to students in the area. The university maintains close ties with all these apartment buildings and help students find an apartment as well as roommates if appropriate. This is a nice option for students who want to room with friends who are attending MICA, JHU, or other area schools. Financial Aid can also be used to cover housing costs. This comes in the form of a refund check from the school rather than the school paying directly. All the apartments are affordable, especially considering the cost of city living and the room and board expenses incurred at other universities.

UB 4

The stairwell of one of the older buildings

They look for students who want to take advantage of opportunities. Students need to be more independent than a lot of freshmen because of the housing situation. The students are doers, and even though there’s no official residential life, the students are still involved in clubs and activities. The office of Student Engagement is frequently used. Lots of activities give away pizza and t-shirts, a sure-fire way to get kids to show up. There are the typical range of academic, religious, political, and interest clubs (including a knitting club). They also have a Rec/Athletic Center just like other universities; the difference is that this one is located on the third floor of one of the buildings. Even though it was exam week, it was being well utilized. There are no official sports teams, but they do offer club sports which are active.

UB 6

The Edgar Allen Poe statue on campus

The campus is only 1.5 miles to Inner Harbor and located right next to MICA. They are also literally across the street from Penn Station which serves both Amtrak and MARC which now runs trains into DC on the weekends, as well for $7 (student rate). The Charm City Circulator is free; the purple line goes right past campus and goes to Federal Hill. Students are able to take advantage of all sorts of activities within the city, including $5 student-rate tickets to the Orioles (located on the Light Rail line).

(c) 2014

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