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Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University (visited 2/24/18)

FAU mascot

The mascot, a burrowing owl, with the football stadium in the background

This seems like a fairly run-of-the-mill large school with about 21,000 undergraduates on the main campus in Boca Raton. “We aren’t a college town. We’re in Boca which happens to have a major state institution in it,” said the Admissions rep at the info session. They’re only 2 miles from the beach and located almost exactly between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale (each 25-30 minutes). If students are looking for a school with solid (but not at all overwhelming or competitive) academics, warm weather/access to a beach and time to enjoy it, and a bit of a rah-rah atmosphere without the intense tailgating atmosphere of some of the SAC schools, this might be a good choice. Athletics are D1 (students get free admission to home games) with football domineering the scene, particularly after they became the 2017 conference champions. Fun Fact: their stadium is the only one in the country with a view of the ocean.

FAU walkway 2

The Breezeway

In regards to the main campus, one of the tour guides said, “It looks like such a big school, but it’s not! I can get places in 10 minutes” (although a trolley runs around campus if they don’t want to walk). Partly this comes from only 25-30% of students living on campus (about 5000). The rep described FAU as, “A bigger school with a smaller-school feel. We have resources, and we’re growing. Students can be part of that, making traditions, stuff like that.” FAU was founded in 1961 on an old Air Force Base – “in case you’re wondering why the Breezeway is so long and straight, it was built on the old runway,” the tour guide said.

FAU student union

The main entrance to the Student Union

That being said, I don’t get the sense that there is a vibrant campus social life. There is stuff going on (things you’d expect: clubs, speakers, and a movie theater with $2 tickets) but the students indicated that most of the fun is found off campus. No doubt that stems from a majority of students not living on campus, but it could also be a feature of the location with so much off campus to choose from. The beach, obviously, is a big draw. There is free bus that gets students around the area.

FAU runs five other campuses including:

  • SeaTech: FAU was the first to offer Ocean Engineering
  • Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
  • Honors College: This is its own campus. The rep likened it to a private liberal arts college. “It’s all honors, all the time. Courses are more rigorous across the board.” Students can major in many areas, but not engineering, music, nursing or other “specialty” majors. There is an Honors Program on the main campus for students who do not want that particular environment, or who want to major in an area not offered at the Honors College.
  • Architecture: This is a 5-year program in Fort Lauderdale. Architecture isn’t capped “but is limited access.” I had to prod the rep a bit to get her to explain what that means: “there’s a supplemental application process. You have to have selected architecture on your application. Once admitted to the university, it’ll trigger the next step. Students need to do supplemental work like submitting drawing, etc.” This appears to be more like a portfolio process: if a student is qualified, they’ll be admitted into the program
FAU freshman housing

One of the freshman dorms

Freshmen are required to live on campus unless living with parents within 30 miles. There are 3 freshmen housing options: Parliament is a little newer but a little further away. Suites house 4 students (in 2 double or 4 single rooms) with 2 bathrooms. Glades and Heritage (4-person suites but 2 doubles or 1 double/2 singles) only have 1 bathroom and separate vanity. They’re at 100% capacity for freshmen but they’re adding housing. Off-campus housing is relatively easy to find. “It’s expensive around here, but it’s not more than living on campus.” The students I talked to before the tour said that they wish they had Greek housing.

FAU quadThe tour guides said that campus food is generally good, and there tends to be enough choices so it’s not boring. They love The Burrow which serves food late-night and has trivia nights, karaoke, etc. In the main dining hall, mac-n-cheese tends to draw the crowds.

FAU 3Admissions is rolling (they only accept their own application), but “merit aid is competitive, so it’s better to apply early,” recommended the rep. No essay is required, but students must self-report grades. Students can check their Application Status directly on the application page. The university can admit students for either fall or a summer-start option. Generally, the GPA requirement is higher for the fall (the incoming class averages a 3.8-4.45, summer averages 3.4-3.9). They will weight the GPA on their end, counting major classes and electives. If admitted for fall, students can switch to summer, but cannot switch back (only 1 switch is allowed). If admitted for summer, they can ask to be reevaluated for fall-entry if test scores or grades go up.

FAU 2Decisions take about 4 weeks, give or take. Decisions for Limited Access Programs like nursing or architecture take a little longer. Nursing is capped at 120 students. Art and music applicants need a portfolio or audition for admission into that program, and applicants into engineering require need a 3.0 in their math classes and have completed at least 1 math above Algebra 2.

There are a few academic programs worth noting:

FAU 1Freshmen classes can run 100-200, but the average lecture class size is 39; average labs have 20 and discussion classes are 30. The tour guide’s smallest classes were 10-13 (both English); largest classes were 125-140 (general lab science).

I asked one of the guides about the types of students who might not fit in at FAU: “People who are ignorant and unwilling to go out of their comfort zone won’t do well here. People are accepted here; they’re safe to be who they are. The people who judge or make them feel safe don’t last.”

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