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Fairfield University

Fairfield University (visited 10/11/16)

fairfield-statueStudents who are willing to explore or who have a professional mind-set but don’t want to be stuck on a single track are going to love Fairfield. “We do a great job with the undecided students helping them to find a path,” said the admissions rep.

Fairfield is a hidden gem. They take great care of their students in all realms, true to their Jesuit roots. As 1 of the US’s 28 Jesuit universities, there are 3 core values to Fairfield’s philosophies:

  • A liberal arts education: Jesuits are known for being educators and have a commitment to social justice. All students, regardless of area of study, will engage in core classes. They engage with people who have a range of interests.
  • fairfield-bell-tower

    The bell tower by the chapel

    Cura personalis: care for the whole person. They want students to think about where they’re going in mind, body, and spirit. Obviously, students are growing intellectually in the class but also outside of it. They’re using NYC, going to lectures, etc. Body – Healthy Living Floors, classes on meditation, using the rec center.

  • Men and Women for others: They want students be asking, ‘How are they able to give back?’ … and then following through. Many students take classes with Service Learning components (such as Non-profit Accounting, developmental psych, or Non-profit grant management) where things are built in. They look at how they can engage in the community using what they learn in the classes and at other community service.

fairfield-quad-1Clearly they’re doing something right. They have an impressive 89% retention rate from freshman to sophomore year (and they’re actively working to get that into the 90s). They hold two 2 orientations programs in June and August, and the FYE class taken in the first semester is an outreach from Orientation. The 3800 undergrads are happy on campus, and Fairfield works hard to make sure they graduate: 82% within 4-years, 84% within 6 (both of which are well above the national norms).


Sculpture in front of the chapel as seen through the bell tower.

About 2/3 of students self-report as Roman Catholic (which doesn’t necessarily mean practicing!). Things are there if you want them, including on and off campus retreats. During masses, music is often provided by students. All students must take 2 religion classes: the first, an overview, is required; the second is a choice.


The fountain in the pond on the edge of campus

This is a beautiful partially-wooded campus in a residential area, but there are things to do within a 10 minute walk. Sunny Daes is a favorite ice cream place, Archie Moore’s has wings, and Peppi’s Pizza (5 minutes off campus) has been ranked the #1 pizza. They’re also close to local farms for apple and pumpkin picking. For those looking for more action, a MetroNorth stop is close to campus; Grand Central is an hour away by train. Shuttles run all day every 30 minutes starting at 7am on weekdays, 11am on weekends. It’s a full-sized bus so there’s always room!


Freshmen dorms in the center of campus

Most things on campus are within a 10-minute walk, with a few more minutes to reach some of the outlying corners. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years, but about half the seniors choose to live off campus. Dorms are fairly traditional for freshmen. Many sophomores are able to move into suites, and apartments and suites are available for upperclassmen.


Some of the upperclassman suites in a “village” on the side of campus

A couple favorite traditions include Midnight Breakfasts and the senior tradition of going to the beach to watch a final sunrise with friends before graduation; Fairfield Beach is just a couple miles from campus, also making it a favorite place to hang out during good weather.

Most intro classes are capped at 30; chem is one of the few above this number (capped at 40). Students can choose from 44 majors, 16 interdisciplinary programs, and 12 4+1 programs:

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    The business school

    Business: Dolan is ranked as one of Bloomberg’s Top 50 Undergrad Business Schools. All business majors all get a broad basis before specializing. It’s not unusual for students to complete 2 or 3 internships. They’re close to several Fortune 500 companies in Stanford. They run startup competitions and Elevator-pitch competitions.

  • fairfield-new-construction

    Expansion of the Nursing and Health Sciences buildings; they’re very careful to leave the trees intact.

    Nursing: This is Fairfield’s only direct-admit program. Students can’t transition into nursing because classes start immediately in freshman year and clinicals start sophomore year. Students can study abroad for a semester in Brisbane or Ireland (where they’ll complete their surgical rotations) or in Nicaragua for a shorter experience, usually getting experience in clinics.

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    The mascot

    Engineering: incoming students can apply to a specific program or come in as undecided. Students can complete a 4+1 in Management of Technology to be ready to cross over into the business section and be ready to manage if they want.

  • Arts and Sciences: Among the many majors, students can choose: Irish Studies, Black Studies, Digital Journalism, Judaic Studies, and Behavioral Neuroscience.

Almost half (45%) of students spend at least a semester abroad; 70% graduate with some sort of international experience such as the short-term classes.


The student-run sustainable garden

Fairfield is Common App Exclusive, and admission is test-optional. Last year, 39% of students did not submit test scores. Interviews, which tend to be informal, are available through Thanksgiving, and can be done by admissions rep OR a senior. The top 10% of applicants are named Magis (“The More,” a very Jesuit term) Scholars. Students getting this tend to be those students who enhance lives around them, who push themselves hard, and tend to have a 31+ on the ACT.

© 2016

Franklin and Marshall College

Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA (visited 1/25/12)

Occasionally, I find a college that makes me want a “do-over.” This is one of them. The campus has a quintessential college feel to it: quads, lots of brick buildings, statues of the college namesakes. It’s absolutely gorgeous! There is a lot of flexibility in academic programs and an expectation that students will “step up to the plate” and take charge of their learning. Students tend to be creative, curious, outgoing, engaged, and socially-minded.

There are two main quads on campus – the academic and the residential. The residential halls are long, 3-4 story buildings that line the residential quad. The admissions rep, a graduate of the college, describes them as “Harry Potteresque.” The dorms house all levels of students; first-years get placed into houses, a bit by luck-of-the-draw, and they generally stay in the same dorm all 4 years. It is possible to switch residence halls in future years, but apparently this is not common. First-year-seminar cohorts are placed into a dorm together so the class that incoming students sign up for will help determine where they live. Each dorm has a large common room, and classes are sometimes held there. Dons and Prefects live in each building, and each house also has a House Government so there are a lot of leadership opportunities (these opps are definitely available in other parts of campus, too). 98% of students live on campus. It really is a community. People I saw around campus were engaged with their studies and with each other – they were not isolating themselves in order to do well in classes. They seemed to be taking full advantage of the things going on around campus.

On the main street, there are many houses which hold different programs on campus. I got to tour the Hillel House and the Writing House. Both were being widely used, even around 5pm. A writing seminar wrapped up just before I went into the building; walking by it earlier, I could see the students in the front room sitting on couches and comfortable chairs, actively engaging in discussion.

Classes are all small; there is no hiding in the back of a classroom and passively getting an education here. In addition to being able to major in writing (within the English department, students choose either the literature or writing track), there are other fairly unusual majors for a schools this size (about 2,400 students): there are several majors in non-European languages (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian), Astronomy, Judaic Studies (there is a high percentage of Jewish students on campus), Scientific and Philosophical Studies of the Mind (combining things like psych, philosophy, biology, and computer science), and a combined Theater, Music, and Dance department. Their Performing Arts center is fairly new, and within that major, students can design a program that interests them. If someone wants to major in theater tech, it can be done.

(c) 2012

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