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Lawrence University

Lawrence University (visited 4/17/15)

~Lawrence backpack“Lawrence takes the weirdest, quirkiest, most awkward people and puts them all in one place. Go with it,” said one student.

~Lawrence SLUG and river

The “SLUG”

I loved Lawrence. Students were open, straight-forward, and interested in lots of things – and therefore were interesting people. Students sat with us at breakfast and provided great information that didn’t come up in the more formal presentations. One student was active with the Sustainable Life Undergrad Garden (“SLUG”); another rowed on the crew team. A third told us that he wasn’t sure he wanted to come to Lawrence. “What convinced me was the conversations in the cafe. People are smart, and that doesn’t end in the classroom. They want deep, meaningful conversations and want to know what others think.”

~Lawrence underpassPeople are extremely open and accepting here. This is a great place for LGBTQ students or who just want be themselves without judgment. Interestingly, though, religion isn’t talked about much. Students talk about just about everything else: politics, race, sexuality. The yearly Campus Climate survey data supports that students of faith sometimes feel left out; the administration is aware that this is an area of growth. However, there are student-run religious groups and a Religious Studies major so there’s a space for these discussions to happen.

~Lawrence chapel ext 2Lawrence is a College That Changes Lives. I asked the student panelists how it has changed their lives:

  • It forced me to learn how to deal with people I don’t necessarily agree with. I can manage difficult relationships. That’s a good skill. It’s shaped me to be prepared for the world as it is.
  • I’m from a tiny town and fortunate to be here. I’m engaging with diversity, going to eye-opening speakers, taking part of great conversations.
  • The opportunities – there are so many ways we can engage with each other.
  • The conversations are different. My friends at big schools don’t talk late into the night about big-picture, real-world problems trying to figure things out. It’s life changing.
  • Lawrence’s mantra is teaching you how to think differently. I used to roll my eyes, but I’ve looked back on papers, and I thought, ‘Wow, I was WAY less smart!’ I’m a better thinker now.
  • I was a leader in high school in terms of being able to do things I was told to do, but here, I’m a leader in terms of pursuing my own interests.
  • There’s so much passion here. It’s why there are so many groups and so many individual studies. We want to learn things and bring other people along for the ride.

~Lawrence ampitheaterOne counselor asked, “What frustrates you?”

  • Sometimes the people. It’s a small school. Usually that’s great, but sometimes we push each other’s buttons.
  • There’s so much on campus and people get stretched thin.
  • High and low is the size of the school. Now it feels a little too small. I wish I could have lived in an apartment and had a bit of independence.
  • The bugs . . . but we aren’t supposed to mention them!
  • The winter but Lawrence handles it well.

Someone asked, “What surprised you?”

  • How many smart people there are.
  • The talent. You’re always finding out new things. There’s a girl in my house who yodels. How cool is that?! Next thing you know, there’s someone there with a fiddle.
  • The Academic and Social Honor Codes. People take them so seriously.
  • The campus has a fully functioning cinema including free popcorn.
~Lawrence acad lounge

Student lounge overlooking the Fox River

~Lawrence quad 1Campus is a manageable size with the Fox River running along one side (although much of the sports complex is on the opposite side of the river, hockey being the only exception; the rink 4 miles away). The Club Sailing and Crew teams practice on the river, and the on-campus gym has an erg loft for rowers. They have 22 DIII sports and Club fencing that competes on DI level (against Notre Dame, Ohio State, Northwestern, etc). About 25% of students participate in sports. Basketball, soccer, hockey, and volleyball draw the most fans.

Students hanging out outside a dorm

Students hanging out outside a dorm

~Lawrence Gaming House

Gaming House

Housing is mostly clustered together, and except for one upperclassman-only dorm, has a mix of majors, years, etc. They have 2 floors of Gender-Neutral housing, substance-free housing, and group houses. Groups such as Gaming, Swing Dancing, and Multicultural clubs, must be in existence for 3 or more years before applying for a house. Clubs are generally highly active, and there’s more to do on campus than time to do it in. Favorite traditions include the 50 Hours of Trivia and Stealing the Rock.

Greek Life attracts 20% of students. Three students spoke about Greek life. One got a scholarship from the frat he ended up joining; at the dinner for scholarship recipients, he was blown away by how much it wasn’t about the social aspect but more about philanthropy and helping each other with school. The 2nd person said, “Each one is different and provides a different sort of support system.” The 3rd wasn’t even thinking about joining a frat when he came to college. “I didn’t think it was for me but all my friends were joining. It’s inclusive. Events are open to all of campus.” Rush is delayed to winter term so students have the fall to establish themselves.

~Lawrence sci bldg

Side of the science building

Classes range from 40 (Biological Anthro) and 60 (Intro to Biology) to 2 (Independent Study) and 8 (Sr. Experience and Statistics). Students call professors by their first names. Favorite Classes include:

  • Topics in Middle East and India Through Ethnomusicology
  • Geology
  • Intro to Drawing: “I draw like a 5 year old, but that’s ok at Lawrence!”
  • Computer Science: “So hard and so good!”
  • Gender in Cinema: “We watched Clueless and Top Gun. We queered up that movie so bad! We talked for 2 hours about the relationships in that movie.”
  • Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion – uses HP to learn about Medieval Witchcraft
  • Defining Frenchness

Notable majors include: Linguistics, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Biomedical Ethics, Chinese, and Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

~Lawrence Con building

Conservatory with a food truck – makes for easy lunches between rehearsals

Lawrence has an excellent music conservatory. Classes in “The Con” are open to all students regardless of major. Productions are inclusive and mostly based on ability: if you can do it, you can get in. We asked if there was a divide between the Con and other students; most agreed that if there was any divide at all, it was between the Conservatory and Athletics. In an effort to keep that at bay, they hold “Flip-flop Weekend” when those 2 groups go to the other one’s activities.

There’s only one application regardless of whether a student applies to the Conservatory or not. Con students apply ONLY regular decision and go through the audition process then without a pre-screening. If a student can’t attend an on-campus or one of the 12 regional auditions, they can send in a video. They’ll get the decision for admission to Lawrence and the Conservatory at the same time. If a student applies for a dual-degree program, they’ll still be looked at academically for the university if they aren’t eligible for the Con.

Appleton is a great small college town; town-gown relations are good. The airport is 10 minutes away making it easy for the international students and others who need to fly to and from school to get there and back home.

(c) 2015

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Monmouth University

Monmouth University (visited 7/29/13)

~Monmouth wilson hall stairsMonmouth is a private university with about 4400 undergraduates. The main hall on campus is Wilson Hall built in the early 1900s and named for President Wilson who had stayed there during his 1916 campaign for president. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it is surrounded by the Shadow Lawn Estate, modeled after the Gardens of Versailles. Many people will recognized it as Dr. Warbuck’s mansion from Annie. The Guggenheim family “cottage” (mansion) is also on campus and now houses the library and cafe.

~Monmouth fountainMonmouth stresses Experiential Education, required of all students. This can be fulfilled through study abroad, internships, or other similar experiences. Classes are caped at 35 with an average size of 22. The tour guide’s largest classes were 35 in her Gen Ed classes; the smallest had 8. She had transferred from Ramapo (a larger public school) for the hands-on experience and to take advantage of the 5-year BA/MBA program; she’s planning on doing her MBA in Health Care Management. “I like that they make sure we succeed. It’s not survival of the fittest here.”

~Monmouth businessThere are several notable academic areas to point out:

  • There are multiple 5-year Bachelor/Masters programs. Their Social Work (concentrations in International and Community Development or Families and Children) and Software Engineering programs are top ranked.
  • They have a student-run record label!
  • Marine Biology is well-regarded with research opportunities in the Bahamas.
  • The Center for Entrepreneurship. One student started a natural pet treat company and donates 10% of profits to animals for military
  • Their Clinical Lab Science major is unusual. Students can complete concentrations in Cytotechnology or Medical Lab Sciences.
  • Other unusual majors include: Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy, Chemistry: Chemical Physics, Homeland Security, and Fine Arts with concentrations in Creative Writing, Animation, or Graphic Design.
  • They’re starting their nursing program in the fall of 2014 with 25 spots anticipated. Students will need about a 1600 SAT and 3.25 GPA and must write an essay addressing interest.
  • They offer 3 free rides to law school.
  • The art museum has exhibits and studio space.

~Monmouth 4~Monmouth flowersHousing is guaranteed for freshmen, and starting this year, for sophomores as well (a new sophomore residential hall just opened up). A tunnel under the road leads to the residential oval where there’s a 50/50 split between traditional housing and suites, although freshmen tend to be in more standard cinderblock set-ups. Dorms are wired for wifi, but rooms have backup Ethernet hookups. Each room has cable access for students wanting to buy into that system. There is no official Greek housing, but groups can live together on a hall as long as they don’t exceed 15% of space. Most students will opt to live on campus, but there’s plenty of off-campus housing should they choose to move off. Most students living in non-campus housing will need cars or will ride the shuttle into school. Parking costs $300 a year in the assigned lot; it’s first come, first serve.

~Monmouth stud cntrThe Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC) was completely built with donations. They have TV and radio stations inside, student activity offices, and plenty of meeting spaces. There are even special recycling bins; by using them, students win points for iPods and more. Monmouth has a world-class debate team which won a national competition last year. Students are given a calendar of activities when they arrive on campus. “There’s a ton to do on and off campus,” said the tour guide. Big campus traditions include Battle of the Buildings (inter-dorms competition in the fall, Winter Ball (prom-like dance), and Spring Fling. Off-campus trips, include weekend shuttles to the beach, require a $5 reservation to hold a the spot, but they get it back when they get on the bus.

~Monmouth mascot~Monmouth hawkAdmitted students tend to have a B+ average and have about a 1600 SAT or 24 ACT. Crossover colleges are often Scranton, Charleston, Iona, TCNJ, Rowan, and Drew. About 65 students are admitted to the Honors program during the application process. They are housed together and have access to specially designed classes that are often thematic and emphasize creativity. Students need to keep a 3.5 in the major and 3.4 overall to stay in the program. The Honors Program has about a 94% retention rate.

© 2014

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

University of San Francisco

 UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO (visited 7/19/12)

USF stepsUSF 1This is a physically impressive campus (and academically impressive, too). We got dropped off at the base of the “infamous steps” and trekked up them (not nearly as bad as I had feared!). There were spectacular views of the city which they consider to be part of their classroom. One admissions rep described it as “423 smaller classrooms in 1 giant one.” The admissions video doesn’t show a single classroom; everything shows students in the city. First year students get this “city as classroom” feel starting right away in their First Year Seminars with classes such as San Francisco Urbanism, Telling San Francisco’s Stories, and Writing in the Gold Gate Park. They bring the city to the classroom and vice versa.

USF courtyard

Part of the campus with the city in the background.

USF windowThe university began in 1855 to educate the children of the gold rush. There were originally two separate colleges for males and females. The nuns got the huge building at the top of the hill which was rare since those Jesuits “like their views” as the tour guide said. Although there’s still “upper” and “lower” campuses separated by a residential block, it’s very easy to get around, and there’s still some campus feel to it. Students can get from one end to the other in 10-15 minutes. It’s also located between the two safest police districts in SF and the students said they felt really safe walking around, even in the residential area dividing the campus. The university is mission driven: education plus service/social justice. As an illustration of the university living their social justice mission, in 1950, their football team (they compete at a DI level, by the way,) had a 9-0 record and were invited to Orange Bowl – but only if they left their black players at home. The team (not the school) declined the invitation to play.

Library reading room

Library reading room

USF chapelThey believe in integrated hands-on research and are nationally ranked for this. USF has strong sciences and a new science building. Nursing is particularly strong. 96% of the nursing students pass the NCLEX on their first try; 98% are employed. Entrance into the nursing program is highly competitive: fewer than 60% are accepted as freshman. The program has high-tech simulation rooms, and clinicals start the sophomore year. Nursing students, since they can’t do a traditional study abroad, can do two international immersions: one in a hospital in Vietnam and the other assisting midwives in Guatemala at a clinic. Management/business is also strong with 7 majors; Entrepreneurship ranks 12th in the country. USF also has a 3+2 engineering program with USC; students spend 3 years in USF’s physics department and then transfer to USC to finish up the BS in engineering.

USF libraryThe Director of Admissions was “our kind of people” as one of the college counselors at my lunch table said: friendly, spoke with ease, was dressed in business casual, and relaxed but not unprofessional. He had the kind of demeanor that put people at ease quickly. He told us that USF just admitted their largest freshman class with 1265 students. Their student population is about 5300 – the “Big end of small or the small end of medium, whichever floats your boat.” No ethnic or racial group makes up more than 36% of the student population. They don’t look at writing on the SAT. Students should apply by the Early Action deadline of 11/15 to be considered for merit aid which is not available for international students, although they don’t have to take the TOEFL if they graduated from an English speaking school.

(c) 2012

Kent State University

Kent State University (visited 4/16/12)

Kent State 1

The main plaza.

I admit it: I was really looking forward to seeing this university because of the historical significance of it. I was a little disappointed to see the “raggedy” edges of campus driving in, but the edges of campus are never what the schools want to show off. Campus was well kept up even though some of the buildings were clearly older. However, there is a ton of building going on, including several new dorms. I liked the main part of campus, but it felt very much like a generic campus. While nothing was wrong with the physical campus, little stood out; one thing that did was the “promenade,” a long, wide, brick-lined walkway cutting through a main part of campus. Our tour guide told us of several events held there, including Welcome Week events and showcases of clubs. It was one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares on campus, and it was well used. Students were out and about, but it was not a hang-out; rather, it was simply an easy way to get from one place to another. People did hang out in the new beautiful Union; there were several food options, a large spiral staircase in the middle of the lobby, meeting rooms, the bookstore, and lots of student-services offices all in the building which was great. Students definitely hung out there, but there was also a lot of foot-traffic of students grabbing food or taking care of things between classes.

Kent State 2

One of the memorials to the shooting victims.

During the tour, we did get to see the Kent State Shootings Memorials. There is a large memorial sculpture in addition to smaller memorials to each student in the location where he or she was shot; they have also preserved the bullet-hole left in a third sculpture. Someone had drawn a peace symbol around the hole. During a core class, all the students at KSU learn about the history leading up to (and what happened after) the campus shootings.

About 16% of the 21,000 undergrads are from out-of-state. They have the University Award scholarship specifically for out-of-state students; this covers ½ of the out-of-state tuition surcharge. To be eligible, applicants need a 2.5 GPA and at least a 21 on the ACT. The Presidential Scholarship is given to out-of-state and underrepresented students with at least a 3.25 GPA. Eligibility for the Honors Program is determined automatically during the application process; students in the honors program can register for special classes, have access to special study abroad programs, and live in the Honors Living Learning Community, among other benefits.

KSU Res Halls house between 56 and 550 students each. Currently they have 12 Living-Learning Communities ranging in interests from Entrepreneurship or Business to Public Health or Nursing to the International Village Experience; the students who live there tend to have higher GPAs. Students from outside commuting distance must live on campus for their first two years; about 80% of freshman and sophomores are on campus. There are 5 dorms that are specifically designated for the “First Year Experience; other housing options are often mixed levels and are assigned by lottery. The six newest dorms, Centennial Courts A-F (very original names!) are beautiful and spacious; upperclassmen snatch them up quickly which isn’t a surprise. I really liked Kent’s “dorm room showcase” in which they have 4 different model dorm rooms open to visitors and students who might not have seen the set-ups in different locations. Although some other people rolled their eyes a bit – “how many dorm rooms do we need to see?” – this is the only university I’ve ever visited that showed us more than one type of room. Although it’s nice to see a typical freshman dorm room (usually those are the worst, smallest, and/or oldest and students can only move up from there), I liked seeing how the different dorms were set up, particularly without having to tromp through several buildings!

Students can choose from 280 majors in 8 different colleges. New programs include Digital Science (including computer design, animation, and game design) and Public Health; fashion design and architecture are strong, hands-on programs. The two most unusual majors are Crafts (ceramics, glass, jewelry and metals, and textiles) and Air Traffic Control which falls under their Aeronautics Technology department. Students graduating with this major go to Oklahoma after graduation for their final 3 months of training and exams before becoming fully licensed. Within that department, they can also focus on Aeronautical systems, aviation management, and flight technology.

Retention rate is in the 75-78% range. The university is working on improving that, through such programs as the First Year Experience and by instituting an “Early Alert” program for students who are floundering in academics. Resident Directors are also told at mid-terms about students in their dorms who are having trouble so there is some tag-teaming between the academic and residential side. Students we spoke to spoke highly of the activities on campus – there are activities calendars posted listing things to on and off campus. Buses into downtown Kent are free and frequent. Buses into Cleveland cost only $5, so a lot of students take advantage of that for sporting events, concerts, and other things. The students we spoke to, although maybe not as gushing as students from other schools, were very positive about their experiences. Almost no complaints came up, even when asked directly what they would like to improve about the school. This confirmed the feeling I had already developed about Kent: it’s a solid school with good resources, good programs, and a good social life. The community feel perhaps is not as strong as I had seen on a few other campuses, but students genuinely seemed to like the school and each other. The students who thrived there were good students who took advantage of the variety of opportunities in and out of the classroom. On the whole slightly more outdoorsy than maybe some other student bodies although I can’t put my finger on why this seems to be the case. Kent is clearly an excellent place for the right student, especially for those looking at some of the unusual majors, but it’s not one I would gush over to a lot of students – but I also wouldn’t discourage anyone; I think it’s strong in a lot of ways but without anything to particularly distinguish it from other places.

(c) 2012

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