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Western New England University

Western New England University (visited 5/29/19)

WNEU fountain“I chose to come here because people here looked happy. Everyone at the other school I was considering looked stressed out. I definitely made the right choice.”

I feel very confident recommending WNEU to students. I love walking away from a college with that feeling, particularly when I knew almost nothing about it to start. First, I love that WNEU made their campus easy to navigate – and particularly that their Welcome Center was so easy to find.

WNEU 2More importantly, I love that WNEU is able to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Because of this, enrollment has been going up despite the declining demographics. I spent over an hour talking to the Dean of Admission: “I love where we’re going. It’s so different from when I was in school. We’re looking to add majors and programs. The only true competition we have in the area is UMass.”

WNEU 9

The Library entrance

It’s no secret that universities face a lot of competition, particularly in the Northeast. Because there are so many institutions to choose from, WNEU has deliberately differentiated themselves. “We tend to sent trends. We get things going, and within a couple years, it seems like other places are starting to pick up on what we’re doing, but that just helps us to keep thinking outside the box.” One way they do this is by the working between the colleges:

  • WNEU sci bldg int

    The atrium of one of the science buildings

    They are one of the few schools this size to have a Law School on campus. They use this to their advantage.

    • They’ve created a BS/JD Engineering and Law program for people who want to go into patent law. “This is a really rigorous program and usually only a few students will do this in any given year.”
    • They offer a 3+3 accelerated law Students essentially finish their major/core requirements in the first 3 years and “save the electives for senior year. The first year of law school basically fills those electives, and then they get the Bachelors degree.”
  • Business:
    • WNEU solar house

      A solar house built by students; they took this to a national competition in California

      Ohio University was the pioneer of the Sports Management, but WNEU has the only other one with double accreditation. “Don’t come here for Kinesiology. Come here for the business side.” They’ve been ranked #1 in this department.

    • They have a strong programs in Arts and Entertainment Management, Sport Leadership and Coaching, and Pharmaceutical Business.
    • Accounting is ranked #2 for recruitment of students by major companies out of Hartford (only UConn beat them and they’re 4 times bigger).
    • They are 1 of only 7 schools offering classes in SAP and the only one to offer its students a chance to gain certification. Students with this often get a $6,000-8000 bump in salary. They also offer SAS certification in Business Analytics. Market Analytics is also getting big, especially for non-profits.
  • WNEU lab 2

    One of the labs

    Engineering puts students into labs immediately as freshman, they complete group projects every year, and every student gets a paid internship before graduation. The university has good relationships with United Technology, Smith & Wesson, and many more. Some freshmen even get internships because the program is so strong, but they can’t earn credit until junior year.

  • WNEU Sci and PharmHealth Sciences has almost doubled in size in the last couple years. It’s their version of pre-med.
    • Pre-Optometry and Pre-Physician Assistant are 4-year tracks that aren’t capped.
    • Pharmacy is a 6-year program (2 in pre-pharm, 4 in pharm). They only take 65 students into the program each year, and the SATs are required. If they’re accepted, it’s early-assurance. If they earn a 3.3 GPA in the first 3 semesters with no grades lower than a C-, they’re guaranteed a seat without the need for rec letters or tests. “This helps the students know that it’s really what they want so they can change their mind and still transfer credits into another major. It also helps the school by not having them transfer out of the professional program.”
  • WNEU psych classes

    A poster helping students navigate the multitude of options within the psychology department

    In the Arts & Sciences, Criminal Justice and Psych are the biggest majors.

    • CJ offers concentrations such as Homeland Security and Terrorism, Victim Studies, Criminal Investigations (like the forensics w/o the science), legal studies.
    • Psych: offers both BA or BS (more research oriented) with more than 15 tracks (not a concentration) such as clinical, sports, forensics, environmental psych, and industrial/organizational.
    • Forensic Bio and Forensic Chem are also popular.

WNEU 6I love that they offer so many accelerated, direct-entry, and 4+1 programs. “Anything we can do to help out the student and maybe save them a bit of money is beneficial.”

It’s amazing how deliberate they are in helping students find the right fit, even if that isn’t WNEU. “The resources and the opportunities make it the right fit. I’d rather lose kids who don’t want to be here than try to convince them to come and then lose them. That doesn’t help anyone. If we can’t support you, if we don’t have the major you want, then I’m going to tell a student to look at another school.” This plays a huge role in retention.

WNEU 10Another way they help prospective students is to tell them where they stand if they bring a transcript and test scores to their visit. Many programs (particularly business and Arts & Sciences are test-optional). “We can let them know if sending in test scores is a good idea or not in these cases when we look over stuff.”

“We’d rather take the B/B+ students who work hard and have been involved in school life because they’re the ones who will take advantage of more opportunities. The 4.0 kids are often more focused on the books. The others are looking to get involved and do really well here. We’ll have the kids who struggled or didn’t want to come here to give tours. They’re the best ambassadors we have.”

WNEU cupola 2One of the perceived drawbacks of the college is the location, “but this is NOT the same city it was 20 years ago. It’s no longer on the Dangerous City List,” said the rep. Springfield is the 3rd largest city in Massachuetts and the city of Firsts (Basketball, Goodyear tires, and the Webster dictionary to name a few). The casino has come in, people have moved up from Hartford, and there’s quite a bit of revitalization. There are resources available for students, not just in the city but the region.

WNEU mascot 2

The Mascot statue which students ride

Campus is also booming. They have clubs for transfers, vets, and commuters so they look out for all sorts of students. One of the most popular “and one of the most welcoming clubs I’ve ever seen” is Warp, a gaming club. They’re looking into adding E-Sports, potentially starting it as a club. There are a number of popular traditions, including:

  • Students are supposed to ride the Bear statue (the mascot) before they graduate
  • Painting the rock to advertise something
  • Midnight Madness – intro to winter sports
  • Bear Olympics: this part of transitions program in the first 3 weeks. Every dorm and a Commuter Team all compete. I think it’s great that they include commuters in this; they often get left out of dorm competitions.

Sports are also popular, both to play and for students to go watch. They’re starting a Women’s Ice Hockey team in 2020 (this may help balance out the gender imbalance – they’re currently at 60% male which makes sense because of their engineering programs). The rep would love to see an ice hockey rink built on campus. “We’re losing talented players because other places have the rink.” He’d also love to build up the arts a bit more. They have an established theater program but no black box. He’d love to combine Sports Management and Business Analytics. Some Masters programs could be added and increase the offerings – but this just links back to WNEU being on the cutting edge. Everyone is thinking about the next thing there.

© 2019

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Mercyhurst University

Mercyhurst University (visited 3/18/19)

Mercyhurst M and Main

The main entrance

Sometimes visiting a college without knowing much about it first is the best way to approach this. This is definitely the case here. I loved driving onto campus under the metal arch and up the drive leading to the stunning main, original building. This has the feel of a strong faith-based community – there’s no question that this is a religious institution with the statues and the chapel – but I never got the heavy-handed feeling that some other religious institutions have. It just had a sense of calm and purpose permeating much of what goes on.

Mercyhurst chapel 1

The main chapel

The Sisters of Mercy (the first non-cloistered order) started Mercyhurst with 23 female students in 1926 (they went coed in 1969 with the addition of a men’s crew team). Their 2 major tenets include health care and education. If people needed help, they got it. They took care of soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, for example. Someone described them as being on the liberal edge of Catholicism, telling me that it was the Campus Ministry that started the LGBTQ group years ago. “They see the problem, not the details of who the person is. They want people to feel welcome and at home. If you want to be here, they want you to be here. Students seem respectful of people’s opinions and people can say what they feel.” The tour guide agreed: “It’s a supportive environment where you can be yourself.”

Mercyhurst lab

One of the cybersecurity labs

This is still something of a regional school with many students coming from a two-hour radius. Much of this is program driven: the academics have strong reputations, and the university has specialized majors such as Interior Architecture and Design, archaeology/anthropology (including concentrations in Bioanthropology and Bioarchaeology), and Applied Forensic Sciences (with concentrations in Criminalistics/Forensic Bio, Forensic Anthropology, and Forensic Chemistry). They’ve developed majors that enable students to train for jobs that industries need, and have done a great job of being future-focused by creating programs in data science, cybersecurity, and Business and Competitive Intelligence.

Mercyhurst Applied Politics

Institute for Applied Politics polling room

They have created specialized institutes as well, including one for Ethics and Society and one for Applied Politics (Students can work here to conduct public opinion polls on a variety of things, including politics and environmental issues).

Mercyhurst offers a strong Learning Support program as well as Institute for high-functioning students on the spectrum. I met with representatives from both programs and ate lunch with 3 of them. They’re wonderful and clearly love what they do!

  • Mercyhurst nontrad apts

    Some of the non-traditional apartments where students in AIM can choose to live

    LDP (Learning Difference Program) offers two levels of academic support.

    • Students with a current documented disability will be able to get accommodations such as extended time for testing, Assistive technology, etc. For extended time, students get a form that indicates which accommodation they’ve been approved for; they have that signed by the professor and comes back to the office for scheduling at least 5 days before the test date.
    • The Academic Advantage Program is a fee-based program with about 10 openings for the coming year. “Sometimes it’s hard for kids coming from a high school with a real reach-around program. This service focuses much more on organization and executive functioning to make sure they’re getting things done on time and then making sure that they seek out the content help somewhere else. They need to be advocating for themselves.” Students get weekly check-ins with academic counselors who will help create a document to track what they have due, create a weekly time management calendar, and other things to help students stay on track. They’ll also track grades through an early alert programs. Counselors can help students get tutoring.
    • Freshmen also have the option to participate in the PASS summer program; 12-15 students each summer move in at the end of July and take a 3-week, 3-credit class. It counts for the REACH (see below), and it alleviates the fall course load. They can move into their dorm room to get settled early. They also have workshops so they know what the accommodations look like.
  • The Autism Institute at Mercyhurst (AIM) provides support for students on the Spectrum; they support the students’ adjustment to college and provide social and other support to make sure they’re successful. There is specialized housing available, but this is optional. Students can choose to live there or in other available dorms.
Mercyhurst 1

The library and an academic building connected by an overhead walkway

The Core Curriculum is called REACH in which they take 10 classes in 10 disciplines, 2 in each of the following areas: Reason & Faith, Expression and Creativity, Analytical Thought, Contexts & Systems, and Humans in Connection. Freshman also take two semesters of Intro to Mercyhurst classes which purposefully mixes students of different majors and different geographic areas so they interact with people they might not have. These classes help to ensure that students know where resources are on campus.

Mercyhurst sky roof

The “sky ceiling” in one of the academic buildings.

The university has recently revamped their academic calendar to incorporate “mini-terms” into their semesters. This effectively splits the semester into 2 8-week sections, and students can go on “mini-semester travel.” They also have a campus in Dungarvan, Ireland “that’s really an extension of our campus.” Freshmen can go if they’re in the honors program (but this option is not always available every year). Depending on the major, they might be able to take some of the requirements for the major. About 25% of students will study abroad.

Mercyhurst reading room

One of the reading rooms

They do have a 4-year residency requirement. “People aren’t leaving en masse on the weekends. They’re here and doing things.” Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus, but all students get passes for public transportation. There’s a lot to do in Erie including an indoor water park, mini-golf, theaters, Target, etc. “There’s cool local music downtown,” said the tour guide. Presque Isle (about a 15 minute drive; the bus line also goes there) is a popular spot with walking trails and beaches; sometimes the college hosts events there. “Erie is like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh,” said the admission rep. “We’re trying to come back from being primarily an industrial city so things are getting revitalized.” Gannon University is also in Erie, so a lot of places cater to college students.

Mercyhurst motto

The college motto

A couple fun campus traditions mentioned by several people are:

  • The Sister Damien Spirit Bell is a fixture at hockey games. The tour guide told me that she was such a supporter of the Mercyhurst teams (and about 30% of students are athletes) that “she would tell the opposing team that they’d go to hell if they beat her boys.” The bell is still rung at athletic (“and personal”) victories. They have 3 DI sports (men’s and women’s ice hockey and men’s crew). All other sports are DII.
  • The new President (well, sort of new – he’s in his 4th year) established Hurst Day. On a random fall day, he cancels classes with a big scavenger hunt (based on the history of campus, etc), games, activities, competitions, and a big dinner.
Mercyhurst quad

The quad

Improvements are student-focused (such as the new sophomore res hall being built). “Things aren’t done blindly on campus; it’s done on purpose.” They just opened a bar on campus in Mid-March. It’s run by the cafeteria so food can be bought with their card; they need cash for alcohol which is served with a 2 drink limit “for student safety,” said the rep. The tour guide said, “It’s great. It’s been open 3 days and I’ve been there twice.”

Mercyhurst birds 2

Artwork by one of the art professors (also a Mercyhurst alum)

Admissions is fully test optional; those who don’t send scores are still eligible for Honors Programs, scholarships, and any major. They’ll superscore both the SAT and ACT if sent, and admissions will counsel students if they aren’t sure if they should send in scores. “We’re not super selective. We work well with students who aren’t your traditional A student or who needs more hands-on.” They have a 15-to-finish initiative: they work with students to take at least that many credits per semester so they’re on track to graduate. “But it’s not just random credits. We have advisors who make sure they are taking the RIGHT 15 credits.”

© 2019

Utah Valley University

Utah Valley University (visited 9/25/18)

UVU 1This is an interesting, “Dual Mission” institution that combines a Community College with a full Bachelor/Master/PhD granting university, giving all types of students access to programs from hands-on to theoretical. They serve students who already know what they want all the way to those students who may need to prove themselves before moving into a Bachelors if that’s right for them.

UVU fountain 2The university started to fill a need for specific training during WWII; it is now the largest institution of Higher Education in the state with close to 37,000 undergrads. “There have been lots of growing pains, but we have figured it out, and we’re able to adapt to meet the needs of students.” UVU’s trade programs (44 certificate programs and 62 AA/AS degrees) are nationally ranked, but they also have robust Bachelors and Masters programs. They’re particularly known for providing real life, practical engagement (ie, students in the Mediation class worked in courtrooms).

UVU students fountainStudents are supported in all aspects, including with good accessibility Services. One student said, “I know I’m going to be successful. I know that I’m cared for and that I’ll be helped and can help other people as well.” The tour guide said that she has loved the opportunities, friends, and scholarships here. At one point, she went through a hard time at home that made it almost impossible to stay, but the profs worked with her to help her catch up. She said that this is an inclusive, safe place for all types of students: “I think it’s more accepting here. There are safe zones, houses for students who maybe can’t stay home anymore.” Some of her friends transferred here because they felt more comfortable.

UVU library

The library

A big drawback (really the only one I can think of) is that there is absolutely no campus housing at this point, although there is talk of up to 1500 students being housed over the new performing arts center when that’s built. This college, despite amazing academics, would be a hard sell for many of my students from the east coast because of this. However, we passed by a lot of housing complexes directly surrounding the university, man of which are within easy walking distance. Costs are highly affordable (and there are some housing scholarships); rent can range from about $180 – $450 depending single or double rooms and extras offered at the complexes. There’s a free service for students to get paired up with an apartment that meets their needs (costs, etc), and students get free UTA passes; buses come every 7 minutes. There’s also a new transit systems (also free for students ) running between cities.

UVU mascotNo housing doesn’t mean that there’s no social life. Athletics are HUGE here. Their basketball team recently was highlighted in “Toughest 24” after they played Duke and Kentucky back-to-back. There’s also a lot of turnout for soccer and volleyball. One of the campus traditions is for students to rush the field after a win.

UVU outdoor adventures

The Outdoor Adventure Center

The Provo/Utah Valley area (just south of SLC) has 60,000+ college students (Brigham Young is the other major university nearby); Utah Lake sits on one side of the city, and the mountains surround the area. Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and more are popular; UVU runs a large, active Outdoor Center for students where they can run supplies or sign up for trips. “Sometimes people practice paddle-boarding in the fountain,” said the tour guide.

UVU sci bldg in

The science center atrium with a pendulum. Tradition says that if a student sees one of the pegs get knocked over, they’ll pass their exams.

They bring in 6,000 traditional-age freshmen each year. More than 80% of students self-identify as LDS, and therefore the 4-year graduation rate is low; the 6-year bounces up to about the national average which makes sense when considering that many students take time off for their religious mission work. Incoming students can also defer for up to 7 semesters for military service, religious missions, medical leave, etc so it’s not uncommon to see older non-traditional students.

UVU mntsThe campus is modern with large interconnected buildings so students can get from one end to the other without going outside. Signage is obvious within the buildings so it’s not difficult to get around or know where you are. A new Performing Arts complex (with at least 6 stages) will be completed by spring 2019. Their Center for Autism is the only one of its type: they saw a need to train teachers to teach students on the spectrum so they built a state-of-the-art center for education majors. The Health Sciences building looks like a hospital to help students acclimate to working in that environment. They even have a cadaver lab!

UVU automotive

The Automotive lab

The tour guide’s largest class had 160 students; her smallest was 15. Her roommate had one with 6. They offer some highly unusual programs including Mechatronics Engineering Technology, Digital Audio, Emergency Services Administration, Indian Affairs Administration (within PoliSci), Computer Forensics and Security, Forensic Chemistry (within Chemistry), Ballroom Dance (within Dance – ballet and modern dance also available), and Geomatics.

UVU glass panels 2

Stained glass panels in the library

Tuition is very reasonable, and students can declare Utah state residency after living there for a consecutive 365 days (yes, they have to stay over the summer). Some of their scholarships give a 1-year tuition waiver, and then they can qualify for in-state tuition.

© 2018

Towson University

TOWSON UNIVERSITY (visited 9/30/16) (Click HERE for updates and more information from my visit on 4/16/19)

towson-bball-field

Baseball Field and campus buildings

As the second largest university in the Maryland system, I expected more of a state-school feel with large somewhat sterile buildings. I should know better. There are definitely parts of campus that fit this description: parking garages, plain (even outdated, not attractive) concrete buildings. The worst of these, an imposing concrete tower, had been a dorm until they closed it with the intent to knock it down, making way for an updated building.

towson-cola

College of Liberal Arts building

That being said, there are gorgeous parts of campus with historic and new buildings. Some of the newest buildings are in West Village, new residential units with Hotel-Style (bathrooms in each room; these rooms cost $600 more per semester), apartments, suites, and more. West Village Commons has a buffet-style dining hall, grab-and-go eateries, meeting rooms, and a group exercise room. There’s also a new union under construction in the middle of campus. In addition to the 2nd of 3 buffet-style dining halls and more meeting space, this will house an American Ninja Warrior Course. The new, LEED-certified Liberal Arts Building might look familiar to House of Cards fans; an episode was filmed inside.

towson-towersI went on tour with several families and 2 tour guides, 1 of whom was training. Because of this, I overheard things that they’re supposed to include on tours: the already-trained tour guide said (either not knowing or not caring that he was saying this within earshot), “I don’t usually bother telling people about that place down there because how many people care? But if you don’t say it on your evaluation, you’ll fail.” He was incredibly hard to get “off script” during the tour; sometimes he would give perfunctory answers and/or say, “We’ll get to that later.” They’re clearly trained to only talk about certain things at certain times. For example, I asked when the last time he heard of anyone using the blue lights. His answer: “We’re 5 years crime free. We’ll talk about security later.” That’s great but didn’t answer the question.

towson-4The guide-in-training was more personable, willing to answer questions, and give insight into what it was like to be a student. She walked some of us across campus to where we had parked (the tour ends at the bookstore – go figure! – nowhere near where we parked and started the tour!). During those 10 minutes, I learned more about the student experience than during the entire 2-hour tour. She picked Towson over another Maryland school because of its diversity. “I see a lot more people like me here, and I have friends from all over, of many different races, different religions. It feels more like the real world.” She is thrilled with the academic offerings, the social life, the location, and pretty much everything here. She didn’t have much she’d want to change other than the parking situation. Freshman are no longer allowed to have cars on campus; parking on campus costs “$300-something per semester. It’s a lot.”

towson-stevens-hall

Stevens Hall, the iconic building that shows up on several of the marketing materials for the university.

Admission is selective but not overwhelmingly so: mid-range ACT scores are 21-26 (average of 23), and with the new SAT, they’re expecting at least a 1000 (CR&M). They use their own online application with a personal statement. “We want to know your story: Who are you, and what can you contribute to the Towson community?” said the admissions rep. “Make it as close to 500 words as you can get.” Applicants can expect an answer within 3-6 weeks. They will start releasing decisions in November and keep going until the class is full. However, students who want a guaranteed review for scholarships should apply by December 1.

towson-mascot

Towson’s  mascot

The Honors College application is built into the regular application, needing a 3.6 to be considered. If you indicate that you’re interested, an additional writing prompt pops up. The HC operates like its own college. Students must earn 24 Honors credits, including 9 seminar and 6 thesis credits. Honors students are guaranteed premium housing without the additional cost, $1000-3000 additional scholarship, and priority registration (right after the athletes and students with accommodations).

towson-dorms-2

West Commons dorm buildings

Housing is guaranteed for Freshmen. There are a couple dorms without AC that apparently have the highest retention rate at the university. The tour guide suggested it was because there was a real community feel because “everyone leaves their doors open for the breeze.” Residential freshmen must get a weekly meal plan and “use it or lose it” (it doesn’t roll over). Upperclassmen and commuters can choose a Block Plan with a set number of meals per semester.

towson-psych-bldg

Part of the academic side of campus

Towson requires 14 core classes. No classes are taught by GAs or TAs which is wonderful for a school this size. All freshmen get a FYE advisor (in their major if they’ve declared one, otherwise they’re assigned at random); they get a new permanent advisor as a sophomore. Average classes sizes over around 24-30. The tour guide said that “classes are maxed at 35” but this is clearly not the case. The tour guides said that they’ve had classes of about 100 students (Microbiology and Intro to Psych); their smallest ranged from 7 (a seminar class) and 20 (ASL).

towson-enviro-cntr

Part of the Environmental Center

They have a great, albeit small Environmental Center on campus with 121 indigenous plant species. There’s a pedestrian walkway over part of this as well as outdoor classrooms, picnic tables, benches, etc. Freedom Square, surrounded by academic buildings, is a favorite hangout for many students. There are 2 chalkboards for students to write comments, put up ads for campus events, etc. There are plenty of benches and other places for students to congregate.

There are several “Screened” majors. Students interested in these come in as “pre-____”, take preliminary classes, and apply to the major once they’re here. Some of these include:

towson-cafe-enactus

Cafe Enactus was a “senior thesis” by a business Honors student in the class of 2015.

Other programs of note include:

Students in all programs can study abroad for 2 weeks to 2 years, or they can participate in the US Exchange program to study at another university for a period of time.

© 2016

 

Chestnut Hill University

Chestnut Hill University (visited 7/19/16)

Chestnut HIll 2“You might have noticed that this campus is very Harry Potter-esque,” said our tour guide as we started on the tour, and it’s true. There are lots of large, impressive, stone buildings. One of the things the college is proud of is their annual Harry Potter Festival (complete with Quidditch tournaments) to which the community is invited.

Chestnut HIll 1This is a Catholic institution affiliated with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. About 50% of the students self-identify as Catholic; surprisingly, there are also lots of Buddhists on campus. Masses are held Monday to Friday morning and Sunday PM in the small chapel within the main building. Mass is never required, but students do need to take World Religions. This was the tour guide’s biggest class with 28. She also took a class called Spiritual Life Journey which was one of her favorites: rather than talking about a particular religion, it talked about spirituality and each person’s personal path.

Chestnut HIll lounge

One of the lounges

There are only about 950 traditional undergrads, 60% of whom live on campus. Housing is guaranteed for full-time students, and the dorms have the most amazing lounges I’ve seen! Apartments are reserved for students with a 3.5 GPA. They have to write an essay as part of the application to live there. Dorms are single-gender by floor except for suites.

Freshmen are required to take an orientation class during their first semester where they meet with a mentor professor and have to participate in a certain number of events such as lectures, attending a club fair, participating in a dorm event, etc. They get their “passports” stamped to show they attended. It’s designed to ensure that they are acculturating to campus and getting involved.

Chestnut HIll 8CHC sits on the city limits (the “Welcome to Philly” sign is right outside campus) and is 20 minutes from downtown. The train station down the street takes students to City Center. The school’s Sugarloaf Campus is a mile from Main campus, and shuttles run every 20 minutes. The old hotel (originally owned by Temple and sold to CH) is now a dorm. The Mansion, now used for events, used to be a Speakeasy.

In addition to offering the standard fare of majors, CHC offers some specialty majors like Social Gerontology, Jazz Studies, Forensic Bio, Forensic Chemistry, and biology with a Sports Med Concentration. Certificate Programs include Intercultural Foundations, International Studies, Montessori Specialization, Religious Studies, and Digital Forensics. CHU also runs Dual Degree programs with 2 local schools, Thomas Jefferson (Radiological Sciences or Bioscience Technologies) and Arcadia University (Physician’s Assistant Program).

Chestnut HIll 6In addition to departmental honors, they run an Interdisciplinary Honors Program which allows students to take a different approach to how they approach their work. Departmental Honors can be obtained by invitation after 2 years (60 credits) with at least a 3.6.

Their athletics are DII, which is amazing for a school this size. Baseball, basketball, softball, and lacrosse draw big fan bases. They just added a Sprint Football Team for men (bowling for women to balance it out – not nearly as exciting! The tour guide said she pushed for field hockey but it didn’t happen). There are only 8 schools (including West Point, Navy, and Penn) in the country with this sport. They played – and WON – against Princeton!

Chestnut HIll statueThis is also one of the only colleges with a direct connection to the UN. The send a group every year to address committees at the UN Headquarters in New York. The two Heads of the UN Club this year are African. They draw a lot of international students, both as degree-seeking undergraduates and exchange students. They have a direct exchange “bed to bed/give one, get one” program. Many of these students come from South America and Europe.

© 2016

University of Mississippi

OleMiss (visited 4/19/13)

OleMiss stadiumThis was one of the best Info Sessions I’ve attended (WashU being the other one competing for the top spot). Jasmine, one of the Admissions Reps, was bubbly and personable, and she related well to the people in the room. As a 2010 grad of OleMiss, she spoke intelligently about being there as a student as well as from a Rep’s standpoint. She said that she didn’t even consider OleMiss until she took a school trip here but is thrilled that she made the choice to attend. “Except for the bees flying around, it’s perfect!” She described it as the best of both worlds – the small school feel with the large public school benefits. If you walk around The Grove, you get the small liberal-artsy school feel, but on weekends, you’re going to school with 60,000 friends. She said the school size is perfect: it’s a good medium-school size (16,000 undergrads) with all the options and opportunities that go with that, but not so large that she wouldn’t be able to meet people or recognize other students. She joked that “If I saw a guy walking around, I wanted to be able to stalk him on facebook.”

OleMiss 4

Where the famous OleMiss tailgating happens

OleMiss archOur tour guide was a junior from Massachusetts who came to OleMiss because she was recruited for the Rifle team and is thrilled with her decision. The school spirit is intense on campus. Tailgating is a huge deal; people rush the Grove and stake out spots; it’s an all-day event, and she loves that alum will come back all the time, and she loves that she always gets to meet new people. (However, football isn’t the only sport getting attention. I had parked near the tennis courts, and there was a match going on – the stands were packed, and there was a LOT of enthusiasm in cheering for the players). Our tour guide also loves the other traditions on campus, including the fact that there are 25 things to do before graduating, “not all of which are technically allowed” such as jumping in the fountain. She also appreciates that you can get anywhere on campus in 10 minutes (amazing for a larger state university), but if people don’t feel like walking, they can take the shuttles that run every 11 minutes. She brought a car for her first semester (parking is $80 for the year), then took it home second semester and left it because it was more hassle than it was worth. When asked what she would like to do to improve campus, she said, “Knock down one of the older dorms and build a garage . . . oh, and get more guys!” (The freshman class is 75% women this year!).

OleMiss studentsOxford is very much a college town and is ranked as the safest place in the SE Conference and #9 in the nation. The university has a family feel and the study body is “super-diverse.” Forty percent come from outside of Mississippi (TX, TN, AL, GA, FL, LA, MO, CA, IL, and AR are heavily represented). She said that OleMiss feels very much like Alabama both in terms of how people treat each other and the town (Auburn is like Oxford) but Alabama is much bigger, and some of the majors offered at the campuses differ a bit. Sixty-two percent of students come in as undecided, and entering a major or switching is easy, particularly within the same college, but depending on requirements and when the switch is made, it may take a little extra time to finish the degree, and it’s sometimes easier to switch out of a major than getting into it (business, for example). Some of the majors that Ole Miss is particularly known for are:

  • OleMiss 1

    One of the Academic Buildings

    Liberal Studies: for students who want to create their own Major or combine several interests, they can complete 3 minors which becomes their Major.

  • Forensic Chemistry: ranked #2 in the country
  • Integrating Marketing and Communications: This combines Business and journalism
  • Center for Manufacturing Excellence: This competitive program combines engineering and business, teaching them the lingo of the other field so they can work together.
  • Political Science and preLaw: They have the 5th oldest law school in the country, and a HUGE network in politics (all but 5 Mississippi politicians went to OleMiss Law).
  • Languages: Chinese and Arabic are ranked at #1.
  • International Studies is ranked at #7. The Croft Institute is competitive; students must study abroad and take a language in this major.
  • Accounting offers a 5-year BA/MBA with a 100% job placement rate.
  • Pharmacy: they have an early-admit program which is competitive.
  • Engineering
  • Medical professions (OleMiss has the only medical, dental, and pharmacy school in the state). 79% acceptance rate into med school.
  • Journalism: Students in this major can specialize in anything, but they have to take classes in everything (digital media, interviewing, filming, etc).
  • Education: Students major in their teaching area, and then spend 1 additional year getting an EDU MA. Certification reciprocity works everywhere but TX and FL.

OleMiss3Students can apply as early as July 1 after Junior year. The application is straight-forward: no essays, no recs, no list of activities. Simply hit submit and pay the application fee. Once this is done, they’ll send an email which asks for three years of transcripts and the senior schedule (they’ll take this through Naviance/edocs, faxed, or mailed) and scores. Once the file is complete, they’ll let applicants know within a couple weeks. If you meet the basic requirements by completing the required number of high school courses (non-MS residents don’t need the Computer App class), have a 20 ACT or 980 SAT (single sitting – they do not superscore), and a 2.5 GPA, you’re in. Once you’re admitted, you can access the scholarship application. Students coming in with AP scores can get credit for 3s or better, but to guarantee credits for a specific class, get a 4 or 5.

OleMiss volleyballThe honors college is one of the most popular programs, and is ranked #12 in the country. Entry is highly competitive: 4000 students applied last year for 300 spots. To even get LOOKED at, students need a 28 ACT and 3.5 GPA, but last year, maybe 15 accepted students didn’t have a 30 on the ACT; the average score was a 31. Once a student is identified as having the minimum requirements, they need to get recommendations and write essays. The Admissions rep also said that students need to show real involvement outside of school: “Do some REAL stuff this summer! Teach kids English, back-flip off the Empire State Building, something!” Students accepted in the program are go-getters at college, too: there have been 25 Rhodes scholars (only Vanderbilt has more from the Conference) plus Goldwater and Truman winners, among others.

OleMiss 2

The newest Residential buildings on campus, opened in 2012

Millsaps quadFreshmen must live on campus and are required to have a meal plan. Our tour guide loves the food: “you can’t go hungry!” Options include traditional dining halls, a food court with choices like Topios, frozen yogurt, Chick Fil-A, a burger place, etc. There are several tiers to the meal plans. The lowest is the Greek Meal Plan which is heavy in fall, light in spring (and recommended if you’re planning on going Greek); plans extend up all the way through the 21 meals per week. There are also several levels of living options. Residential Colleges are suite-style and the most expensive. The traditional style dorms (bathroom down the hall) is cheapest; these are cinderblock buildings with large lounges (home of Monday Night Football parties and Open Mic nights), and large laundry facilities in the basement. Although there are only about 15 machines for the whole 7-storey building, one of the guides said he’s never had trouble getting a machine. “Contemporary Housing” is in between these two, and just opened this past year. Rooms are slightly bigger and each has its own bathroom. Students have to be in a Freshman Interest Group (FIG – there are 2) or a LLC (7 of those) to live there. Each has a kitchen and several study rooms. Greek Life is big, and there are about 20 Greek Houses lining the aptly named street “Fraternity Row,” and several more houses on the other side of campus near the Residential Colleges. Sophomore Pledge Classes each have a floor in one of the dorms. The newer dorms are attractive and clean, and fit in with the style of some of the other buildings around campus.

(c) 2013

Marshall University

Marshall University (visited 4/12/12)

When I originally decided to go to Marshall, I was sure that I wasn’t going to be impressed, but I figured that I was going to be so close, I might as well see it. I was going to arrive late in the day because of other college visits, so I planned on stopping in the Visitors Center (the fancy term for Admissions Office that more colleges seem to be adopting), introduce myself to the NC rep, and then walk around campus a bit on my own. Instead, I found three talkative students in the main reception area who were more than willing to engage in conversation as I waited for the Assistant Director of Admissions to meet me for our appointment. Even though only one was “on duty,” they all joined in the conversation. They were articulate and positive about the school without “gushing” or seeming disingenuous. They told me what they were doing and why they chose Marshall. One is Junior nursing major; he was proud that Marshall had the highest passing rate in WV on the Boards. Another student was a Junior psych major and she said she loved the classes she was taking. The third specifically talked about how school spirit is big on campus; Homecoming and football games got special mention.

The woman from admissions spent a great deal of time with me about the university, including pointing out highlights on a map before sending me on my way to walk around campus after the office closed at 5. The fairly compact campus, occupying 4 blocks by 4 blocks, is a manageable size for a medium-sized university. Huntington’s official “downtown, filled with movies, restaurants, coffee shops, and more, is technically four blocks from campus but there are certainly a lot between campus and what the city would call “downtown.” I was impressed at how seamlessly the campus was integrated into the surrounding part of town while still maintaining an attractive traditional campus filed with lots of brick buildings as well as open green spaces. The quad, although it had a lot of grass, was not the traditional flat, grass-filled quad. Instead, it was a rolling area with a lot of trees, bushes, flowers, and brick walkways. A couple statues (one of John Marshall) and sculptures were in the area as well as a lot of benches and other seating areas, tables, and chairs. People were out on the quad interacting extensively. Students were using the seating areas to study as well as socialize, and people were talking to each other as they walked across campus (I saw very few people plugged into their music). Students were dressed in a variety of ways; it didn’t seem like there was a “type” of kid at Marshall – some were dressed up, some were in athletic gear, some in the stereotypical college sweatpants and t-shirt getups.

Marshall is the second largest public university in WV, but with 10,000 undergrads, it’s half the size of WVU. This is a largely residential campus, but not entirely since dorm space just doesn’t allow it at this point. All students who come from outside a 50-mile radius MUST live on campus for freshman and sophomore years, although there is talk of reducing that to a 30-mile radius. The freshman residence halls are only two years old – and each room has a private bathroom. They aren’t even suites, so students only share the bathroom with a single roommate! The upperclassmen halls are suites with either two or four single bedrooms, a bath, and a common space. They do have two large dorms called the Twin Towers which are 8 or 10 floors high. Only one residence hall on campus is all-women; the rest are coed. Freshman are allowed to have cars on campus; parking is accessible and costs $150/semester on a surface lot and a little more in the garage.

The Forensic Chemistry and the Computer Forensics are unique programs on campus. Education is huge; Marshall started as a Teacher’s College, so they have kept the program going strong. Their Business program is Internationally Accredited, which is rare. They have a new Engineering facility, as well, including some new programs that will be coming along shortly. Their Fine Arts/Communications (including Journalism) programs are also worth mentioning.

In order to attract more non-WV students, they have the Horizon Scholarship for out-of-state students who meet minimum requirements; this brings the price to about what an in-state student would pay (and I was told that this makes it cheaper than what a Penn resident would pay for Penn State). They also have the Yeager Scholarship which is a full ride: students need a 30+ on the ACT and need to fill out the application on the website by 12/15. They do not need a nomination. In terms of admissions, they basically look at GPA and test scores. There is no required essay. They do have an Honors College; applicants are invited based on their application. Generally, Honors College students have at least a 3.5 GPA and 26+ ACT scores.

The students who thrive at the college tend to be involved and who stand out; they also want attention in the positive sense: they want to talk to professors, they want to be able to ask questions, they want to discuss things. Marshall is invested in making sure that their students succeed at the college. The Student Resource Center, in addition to providing resources similar to those at peer institutions, also will track the freshman, and if they see that students are floundering, will reach out to them to offer help and set out plans for success (tutoring, study schedules, etc). They also provide excellent resources for students with specialized learning needs (ADHD, dyslexia, etc).

(c) 2012

York College of Pennsylvania

York College of Pennsylvania (visited 1/25/12)

I had been curious about this school for several years because it had started becoming a more popular option among my students. It felt very much like a typical college campus – a main “quad” sort of area, lots of brick buildings, a fountain. Students were everywhere; they were happy and interacting with each other. This is a comfortable-feeling campus. The school has been expanding, so there is a Main campus (the original part) and West Campus which holds the gym, the nursing program, several new dorms, and a lot of parking. Freshman can have cars on campus, and parking passes are only $60 a year. The one thing that my tour guide said she would change about campus was the parking situation; parking can be found, but it’s not convenient. People usually have to park far away from dorms. Shuttles do run frequently between the two sides of campus, however.

Some of the unusual majors that stood out for me were Supply Chain Management (in the Business Department), Sports Medicine, Forensic Chemistry, and the nursing program which students can enter directly as freshman. Business is their largest major, and they are working on a new building now which is scheduled to open in 2013 which will have a stock ticker. Engineering is also very popular, and there are several types to choose from; mechanical is probably the most popular, but the others such as electrical engineering hold their own. They even have Engineering Management.

There is no fee to apply. Admissions is rolling with decisions provided within 4-6 weeks. Recommendations and essays are not required but will be looked at if they are sent. Either the SAT or the ACT w/ writing will be accepted, and they do super-score. Some departments have specific admissions criteria. For nursing, students need a 1040/1600 SAT or 22 ACT score and be in the top 40% of the class; engineering students need a 600 Math SAT score; Forensic Chemistry students need a 540 Math SAT score; Biology, Radiology, and Nuclear Medicine need a 970 SAT or 21 ACT.

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