campus encounters

"Get the first-hand scoop about colleges and universities"

Archive for the tag “landscape architecture”

Clemson University

Clemson University (visited 2/26/20)

Clemson main 4

The iconic building that’s on many of their promotional materials. There’s a bell tower here where students can actually learn to play the bells. “You hear some weird stuff coming out of there!” said one student.

I asked one of the students what I should tell the high schoolers I work with about Clemson: “Clemson is awesome. That’s all.”

While not necessarily an attractive campus, this is a vibrant one! “The typical Clemson student is open and willing to join things. This is an involved campus,” said one of the six students I spoke with at the welcome center while I was waiting for the info session. “If they are willing to try things, they’ll be successful here.” Another student said that she chose Clemson because she wanted a true college town environment. People definitely get that here.

Clemson students

Part of the res life area – student center, dining options, etc

“I thought it was going to be huge and scary,” said another student. “I was intimidated, but didn’t feel that way at all after the first day. I got lost and frustrated my first day, and a senior stopped and asked if I was ok, then walked me to class.” Another student also said that she was excited to see how small it can feel while still being so big. The campus is set up in “rings” with academics at the center, surrounded by residential life (dorms, food, etc), and then sports and other auxiliary program making up the outermost circle. Our tour guide said that most things within the academic ring only take 5-10 minutes to walk to. “I can get across the whole campus in about 15-20 minutes.

Clemson tiger paws

Tiger Paws

Athletics are very much a part of campus life, and a lot of people know Clemson because of their athletics They field 19 NCAA DI teams, offering the sports you’d expect (although they do only have a women’s crew team, not one for men); football and basketball, as you could probably guess, are the most popular. School spirit is high, and Tiger Paws are everywhere painted on sidewalks. Clemson pride can be felt throughout the state “where everyone is either a Tiger or a Gamecock!” someone told me) and among alumni.

Clemson Death Valley

The view of Death Valley, the football stadium, from campus.

Death Valley, their football stadium, is part of campus. This is great, since so many schools have stadiums far enough away to require shuttles. Game tickets are all free, although there’s a lottery for football tickets. “When I was a freshman, I didn’t miss a game,” said one student. They do designate a certain number of tickets for each class so the free tickets aren’t simply snatched up by seniors. If they don’t get free tickets for the student section, they can still buy tickets. They’ve been ranked #2 for their fan base; people pack the stadium. The football players run down The Hill from the field house into the stadium at the beginning of games; they also rub the Rock (which came from the actual Death Valley in CA) for good luck on the way into the Stadium.

Clemson dorms

Some of the dorms

Many events are held in Death Valley, as well, including Greek Rush. “You don’t go building to building like at other places. Having it all in the arena is great because you feel like you’re in it as a group, and there are places to hang out, rest, and talk to people in between meetings.” Almost ¼ of students participate in Greek Life. Most of the students I spoke to are involved and had great experience. Rush happens the week before classes start in the fall, “but you can drop it in the first 2 weeks if you end up not liking it,” said one student. They also don’t have to rush first year. One student chose to rush 2nd year and said he had a great experience. Students can’t move into Greek Housing until Sophomore year, “and it’s optional.” There are no separate houses, but instead, there’s a Greek quad; organizations have a hallway in a house with 2 other sororities or frats. There are currently 12 sororities (and in the process of adding 1 more) and 20 frats; 8 of the Devine 9 are on campus. However, “life here isn’t just about Greek life. Do what you love – it’s inclusive.”

Clemson innovation center

The Innovation Center

Clemson is, of course, known for its engineering programs, but it’s also got amazing agricultural, health sciences, and business programs among others. Students raved about their experiences in and out of the classrooms. They work well with their students to prepare them for life after college and were just ranked #1 for Career Services (2020)

  • Nursing is direct entry. It is possible to apply to get into nursing once here, but “This is one of the most difficult switches – you can, but I would not recommend!” said one of the students. She transferred from engineering when she realized that it wasn’t for her, and she’s graduating a semester late. She thinks the program is a bit harder, but it’s worth it. “If you’re a Clemson grad, you get a GPA boost when you apply to grad school because it’s notorious for being difficult.” They had a 100% NCLEX pass rate last semester on the first try. “You’re required to Kaplan benchmarks every semester. No one in my cohort has failed a benchmark so far.”
  • Clemson engineering row

    “Engineering Row”

    One of the students in the welcome center was a Mechanical Engineering I asked him if he knew he wanted mechanical coming into college. “I knew I wanted engineering but not what kind. I always loved math and physics and I’m good with my hands. The first year here in the department was great because I could figure it out.” All students interested in engineering start in the General Engineering program. They have access to a lot of resources, including a seminar class that he estimates 45-50% of engineering students take. They hear from a variety of faculty in different areas and get to learn about various types of engineering before declaring a track. Some more unusual options include Biosystems, Automotive, and Environmental.

  • Clemson 10They’re one of only a few schools in the country to offer a Packaging Science
  • They have a Turfgrass major! As the Land Grant institution SC, it’s not surprising that they offer unusual and strong agricultural, environmental, and other similar programs in their College of Ag, Forestry, and Life Sciences.
  • Their Architecture department is part of the Arts& Humanities School, as is Landscape Architecture and City Planning & Real Estate Development. Architect students are actually required to study abroad (and there are programs for all majors, even in engineering).
  • A few other programs of note include Aerospace Studies, Graphic Communications, Construction Science & Management, and Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management.

I asked the students what their coolest class was and what they liked about it:

  • Clemson 1Consumer Behavior: “It’s a whole different way to think about marketing. There’s lots of psych to it. We’re learning about what catches eyes – placement, colors, etc.”
  • Creative Inquiry: “This is a research program for undergrads. It’s not exactly full-on research but more engaging and hands-on in smaller classes. I’m working in a Social Media Center looking at tweets that were banned. My class and the federal government were the only ones who had access to these tweets! I got an internship that used Sales Force because I knew about it. It’s a really cool application and it was great to see the trends and give the info back to the government.” These are team-based investigations lead by faculty, and students can take these classes outside their major; the engineering student did one in business looking at qualitative research.
  • Nursing: “ All my classes involve sim labs which is cool.”
  • Molecular Cell Bio: “I bet you never heard that before! The class was hard but teacher was great. She’s genetically reversing a dino from a chicken!! There are only 3 groups doing this – she’s trying to make it grow a longer ‘velocoraptor tail’.”

Clemson 9Clemson is clearly doing a lot right with a strong 93% retention rate and 83% grad rate. Currently, they accept about 50% of their applicants but are becoming more competitive. Just over half (56%) of accepted students are in the top 10% of their high school class. They ask students to rank their first two choices of major on the application, and they look at this as part of their application. “Don’t put the same thing down twice,” recommends a rep. “If you don’t give us a backup, you’re kind of backing us into a corner if we can’t get you into that major.”

Clemson library

The main library

The rep also recommends that applicants use the “tell us about yourself” section to tell them things that you feel that your transcript or test scores don’t show. Test scores must be sent directly from testing agency (they don’t allow self-reported scores). For Merit Scholarships, all applications must be on file by Dec 1 and completed (aka supporting documentation – transcript, scores, etc) by the end of December. For Restricted (need-based) scholarships, grants, loans, the FAFSA should be filed by January 1.

There are a few alternative paths for acceptance into Clemson that are by invitation only. These are by invitation only; students can’t self-nominate or apply to this. There’s a question on the application if they’re open to starting in the summer, but it’s offered by admissions to those who express interest and are qualified.

  • Bridge Program: students accepted into this live on campus and receive all the perks of being a Clemson student, but their first year classes are taken at Tri-County Community College. They must maintain a 2.5 GPA there and then “transfer” into Clemson in sophomore year.
  • Tigertown Summer Bound: these students come in the summer as a cohort and must successfully complete 2 classes; then they can start full-time in the fall term.

Just over half of the students (55%) are from South Carolina, but since freshman are required to live on campus, people get to know others quickly and it ends up not being a suitcase school. Housing placements are done in order of when students sent in their Clemson application, not on date of acceptance! The tour guide said that she lucked out – she wasn’t planning on applying to Clemson (“much less go here!”) so she applied late, but she was paired with someone who know this was her first choice and applied in September so they got some of the best freshman housing.

Although there’s a lot to do on and directly off campus, this is also a big outdoorsy school. More than 100 miles of Lake Howell border campus; the SC Botanical Garden borders campus; they sit in the Foothills of Blue Ridge Mountains; and campus is halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte on the I-85 corridor if they’re looking for the big city experience.

Some of the favorite traditions include:

  • Clemson Ice Cream! They have a student-run creamery which was started about 100 years ago in what was then the Dairy Science department.
  • The Clemson Ring: They have the 2nd highest percentage of people who have school rings (“The other university just has more people,” said one of the students). “It’s a great source of pride. The ring ceremony is almost as popular as graduation. Families come to see us get our rings.”
  • Wearing Orange on Fridays: “Alumni still do it!”

© 2020

University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky (visited 9/23/19)

UKY lawn artThis is one of only 8 universities in the country with the full complement of liberal arts, engineering, professional, agricultural, and medical colleges and disciplines on one contiguous campus. This is a large university with 22,000 undergrads in the 16 academic colleges (plus the Lewis Honors College) but they’ve done wonders at making it feel accessible and smaller to students with quite a few initiatives:

  • UKY students on walkwayThey’ve moved up to tie for 60th nationwide among public universities because of the capital campaigns, the graduation rates, and record retention rates hovering around 85% and they’ve set a goal of raising this to 90% within the next few years.
  • They have Exploratory Studies options for undecided students in nine colleges so they all have a home college and guidance from their very first day. They can do career assessments and more – “and that may mean jumping from one exploratory major in one college to another,” said one rep. That’s doable because everything is on the same campus.
  • UKY housing complexThere are no “traditional style” dorms left on campus, and none of the dorms are older than 2005. There are 13 LLC programs including Health Care, Creative Arts, engineering, and Honors to help students create community.

UKY 10Lexington sits right in the middle of Horse Country and has been dubbed “Athens of the West” and “City Within a Park” because of the horse farms. “You have the urban environment but you can be out in the farms in about 10 minutes.” Keeneland Race Track is a popular spot for students in April and October. They held the first Breeders Cup with 13 races over 2 days and a week-long festival. This will return to the area in 2020. The city itself has over 300,000 people with almost 550,000 in the metro area, ranked #7 Best City for new college grads and #3 safest metro city in the US. There is a city airport, but many students will fly into Louisville or Cincinnati and use shuttles from there.

UKY sci bldg int

Science Building atrium

UK is an attractive, well kept-up large public university that’s nicely incorporated into the city of Lexington. “We have great new facilities, but it’s more about what happens within the space, the collaboration, the community.” Many buildings are new or newly renovated (although there are certainly some older buildings, as well). Something like $22 million was put into the science building that came from the athletics department. “It really shows that they want academic success, not just athletic success,” said the tour guide. Students make amazing use of green space, and students were seen using the Adirondack Chairs, swings, and other lounge areas on campus. Campus is easy to get around, and has been voted most Bike-friendly.

 

UKY 12The university has recently started several new initiatives:

  • Smart Campus Digital Initiative: Apple iPad distribution was one of the most visible things. “Alone, they’re just a thing, so we focus on how we can use technology to leverage the enhancement of well-roundedness, improve wellness, jumpstart and ease the transition from high school, create a digital career portfolios, and develop proficiencies in coding.”
  • E-Sports: something like 19,000 HS students in the state are in gaming. They currently have competitions (Cats Clash) etc, and this will grow. However, they aren’t going to give scholarships because they’re often given for a particular game; “What happens if that game goes away?”
  • The Winslow Project: They are designing an Innovation Center which will have an App Development Lab, the eSports center, retail space, and more.

UKY int seatingUK is tied for 3rd among colleges and universities with graduates who are CEOs of Fortune 100 companies. They do some great work with their academics here. They boast that 85% of classes have 50 or fewer students. My tour guide’s biggest class had 450 students; his smallest had 6. There are a few academic programs or special entry requirements that are worth noting:

UKY 14The application to the honors college is part of the regular application to the university, but they must apply by 12/1. Benefits include priority registration, access to the Center for Personal Development, mentoring, and 4 residence halls as part of the LLC. Students don’t have to live in the LLC, but they try to steer them in that direction. The Honors Program costs $500 a year.

UKY chairs 3For Admission purposes, they’ll take the December SAT, but for scholarship and honors applications, the Oct ACT or early Nov SAT will be the latest they accept. They do not superscore for admissions or scholarships – but it can be useful to have all test scores, particularly if there’s a higher subscore because it helps for placement and to show competency.

December 1 (Early Action) is the final deadline for Honors College as well as the competitive and academic scholarships. The Presidential Scholarship (tuition for 4 years) and the Singletary Scholarship (tuition for 4 years, housing for 2) have an additional essay topic. This year’s question is, “What 4 faces would you put on Mt Rushmore and why?” As soon as students get their acceptance, they can apply for housing, etc.

© 2019

University of Rhode Island (Take 2)

University of Rhode Island (visited 4/30/19 … Click HERE to see pictures and notes from my previous visit on 3/21/14)

URI 5One of the Producers on the Ellen Show is a URI alum – so many of URI’s Film & Media majors can intern on Ellen.

“The sense of place here is tremendous. Rhode Island itself is stunning. The state of Rhode Island only has about 10,000 high school graduates each year. What that means for us is that we have a flagship university but a diversity of enrollment. About half of our students come from outside RI,” said one of the admissions rep.

URI 3“We like our size [they have about 14,500 undergraduates]. It allows us to keep resources accessible.” They have also hired 346 new faculty in the past 6 years. This enables them to offer incredible majors and programs, many of which are interdisciplinary. In fact, one of their Core requirements is a Grand Challenge Course, an interdisciplinary class that looks at a modern issue or problem that needs to be solve like coastal resilience, mental health, diversity and inclusion, etc.

I spent about 15 minutes talking to a Classical Studies student who is actually double majoring and double minoring. She said that the advising here is wonderful, and they help her get in everything she needs – and she’s on track to graduate in 4 years. The department is small so she gets a lot of individual time, but she loves all her department and loves that URI allows her to explore all her interests instead of having to choose.

URI 6Since I visited URI several years ago, the university has put over $900 million into their infrastructure. One of the most obvious changes is that the Engineering building is being renovated. They offer a wide array of engineering options including Ocean, Industrial & Systems, Biomedical, a Polymer certificate within Chemical, and their International Engineering Program in which students earn 2 degrees within 5 years: a BS in engineering and a BA in a language (French, Spanish, German, Italian, or Chinese )

URI mascot

The mascot in front of the new welcome center. 

The International Degree programs are impressive. The Chinese Language Flagship Program allows students to earn 2 degrees in 5 years – a BA in Chinese and another degree in the major of their choice. They have three more programs similar to the Engineering option: International Business, International Computer Science, and International Studies and Diplomacy.

Not surprisingly, URI capitalizes on their location near the water with many of their academic offerings, including the Ocean Engineering (We had to ask a rep what that was since we had no idea. I really wish they had spent more of their time emphasizing more of their unusual majors while the Counselors were there on campus). Other majors include Aquaculture and Fisheries Science, Physics and Physical Oceanography, Geology and Geological Oceanography, Marine Affairs, and Marine Biology. They also do a great job with natural resource management and similar majors like Animal Science and Technology, Plant Science, and Environmental and Natural Resource Economics.

UIR coloring

Stress relief coloring options!

Hands-on majors are also strong, including Landscape Architecture, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Medical Lab Science, Textile Marketing and the Textiles, Fashion Merchandising, and Design. Nursing is hugely competitive with a limited number of spots available. Students have to complete the pre-requisites and then apply for a spot in the program. Seats are not guaranteed, so this might not be the best option for students who are sold on nursing.

URI 1A new 500-bed apartment complex will open next year. This will take away some of the parking spots, so they’ll stop allowing freshmen to have cars on campus. They do offer shuttles around campus. Students can also move off campus in the last two years. Many of them can rent beach houses and commute to school since owners often rent these from Labor Day to Memorial Day. The area is very easy to get around, including the Amtrak station that’s a mile away and a public bus that runs to the Providence Airport.

© 2019

Utah State University

Utah State University (visited 9/26/18)

USU A quad

The quad and the Aggie A … if you kiss an Aggie on top of the A, then you, too, are an Aggie! It’s a major tradition here.

Here are some cool facts about USU:

  • You can take a Drone Photography class!
  • USU is a NASA Space Grant University: “We send more things into space than any other institution in the US.”
  • They’ve had several Carnegie professors, more than most places!
  • They have the 2nd Oldest Undergrad Research Program in the nation after MIT.
  • They have a spider silk lab on campus. They put the silk into goats and can then extract that from the milk and have as much silk as they want! They’ve made Kevlar vests, ligaments in medical stuff, and more.
  • USU drone 1

    Students in the Drone Photography class

    They are the 7th lowest costing public university in the country: the out-of-state cost of attendance is under $28,000 total (and even lower at the regional campuses).

  • The HOWL is the largest Halloween Party in the country.
  • They have one of the largest LDS Institutes in the country.
  • Their quad is used for military training, and sometimes helicopters land there for ROTC. (Students can get commissioned through Air Force ROTC within the Aerospace Studies or Army ROTC with Military Science)

USU Old MainUSU has 3 residential campuses; the main campus in Logan (a small city north of SLC) has 18,000 undergrads; another 8,000 students study on other 2 regional campuses. There’s also a large online presence, offering 400 online classes for 88 Masters and 41 doctoral programs. All 50 states and 78 countries are represented with 30% of students from outside of Utah; 84% of students “live away from home” (which includes students living in town, not only in university housing).

USU bikes mntnsI was incredibly impressed with the campus. It was attractive and easy to navigate with lots of open space and a mountain vista around campus. This is a great place for outdoorsy types; certainly the winter sports are notable, but people clearly want to be all year with options for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and more. Students were around campus in groups, walking together or utilizing the space on the quad for studying, classes, and hanging out. Students can use Logan town busses for free; shuttles to SLC take about 90 minutes, run 3 times a day, and cost $40.

USU frat house 1

There are a few Greek Houses

The students we spoke to love the school: “there are so many opportunities to do whatever we want in or out of the classroom.” One of them mentioned the weekly campus Farmer’s market. Greek life is almost non-existent (but it’s there if you want it). Sports are a huge deal here, and the football team is doing really well nationally. “Going to games is a big deal – students even camp out for the game against Air Force. They open the gates at 3:00 am. You need to be there to get into the first rows,” said one of the tour guides.

USU engineering quadThis is Utah’s Land Grant institution so it’s not surprising that their Agriculture and Applied Sciences are particularly strong. They offer really cool majors such as Agricultural Communication and Journalism; Aviation Technology (Pilot or Maintenance Management); Landscape Architecture; Residential Landscape Design and Development; Land, Plant, and Climate Systems; Animal, Dairy, and Vet Sciences; and Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. There are further options through the College of Natural Resources such as Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Ecology and Management of Rangelands, Forests, or Wildlife.

USU Book automation

Part of the automatic retrieval system in the library for research books: “It’s like Monster’s Inc,” said the tour guide.

The Engineering Department is well regarded. There’s a Water Lab in the Civil Engineering department. Aeronautics is a concentration within Mechanical Engineering (and they offer graduate degrees in Aerospace Engineering. As long as they meet the GPA, they’re in that program.)

Nursing, however, is competitive, taking 26-30 students at a time. The program just started so they are working on accreditation; they need to have a graduating class before full accreditation can happen; this is “retroactive” for current students so they aren’t hurt by this. Admission to the program works on a points system, students usually apply in sophomore year after completing pre-reqs.

Students can earn a BFA in Art or Theater; they do offer Interior Design as well (BID) and Music Therapy.

USU stu cntr intThe admissions office does a lot of national outreach to increase their out-of-state population (already just over 25%), including nationwide open houses where they’ll tell applicants on the spot if they’re eligible for scholarships as long as they apply while they’re there. Scholarships are generous, but many are contingent on students gaining residency after the first year. They recognize that much of this depends on not being claimed on the parents’ taxes. They said that often when families do the math, they could come out ahead with the student declaring Utah Residency. If a student chooses not get Utah residency, the scholarship will only pay the in-state tuition amount after the first year, and the family is responsible for the difference. If students accept the WUE scholarship, they must complete their degree within 4 years; if they go beyond that, they revert to the full out-of-state tuition starting the 9th semester.

© 2018

 

University of Washington (Seattle)

University of Washington (visited 6/22/17)

UW fountain:mountain 2This is a huge school in both population and physical size, “but a fun fact – you’re never more than 2 minutes away from a cup of coffee!” said one of the tour guides. It’s definitely physically impressive/attractive, including a great view of Mt. Rainier! Students will need to be proactive in seeking out their people and join things to find community which could range from an athletic team to research with faculty.

UW students on quadThere’s hardly a shortage of things to do on campus. Obviously this is a DI school; students can attend most sporting events for free – but they do pay for football and basketball. Outdoorsy students will love this school – mountains and ocean are both close with lots of opportunities to get out on the water: UW even has canoes they can use. There are over 800 clubs on campus, including one dedicated to bagels. The campus bowling alleys are free to use on your birthday! Greek life is popular with 18 sororities and 36 fraternities (many of which provide housing).

UW statue and mountain

Statue of Washington overlooking Mt. Rainier

Over 31,000 undergraduates study at UW’s main campus in the University District of Seattle (the 2 satellite campuses in Bothell and Tacoma have about 5,000 on each campus – see separate entries on them). “You can walk to downtown, but it’s not fun,” said one of the students. “It’s all uphill.” Buses run around campus and to downtown; there’s also theStudents have worked in the legislature on budgets, in offices, and more.

UW towerFor the class applying for the fall of 2018, UW will exclusively use the Coalition App. The deadline is 11/15, but students can send test scores until December 31. They do NOT want recommendation letters; domestic students will self-report grade, but international students will need to send a transcript at the time of application. For fall of 2017, they admitted 20,800 of 45,000 applicants. Approximately 45% of domestic and 37% of international applicants were admitted.

Admissions happens in 2 parts:

  • UW quad 2Academic Prep: They want to see a strong level of achievement in college prep courses, test scores, a strong senior year. GPA is looked at in context of the school. They will look at previous matriculations from the high school. Although they rely heavily on academics, that’s not the whole story.
  • Personal Achievements: community service and leadership, significant responsibility, and the “extras” like cultural awareness, unique perspectives or experiences, or overcoming personal adversity can all play a part in the decision.
UW library int

The reading room in the main library

UW runs classes on the Quarter System (as do all Washington state schools now). They have 10 weeks of classes and a week of finals. Research “is truly is boundless … ok, that’s a cheesy way to tie in the motto ‘Be Boundless’” said one of the reps. Students have even gotten grants from NASA to do research. Classes can be huge – our tour guide had 700 in her Intro to Chem class, but she also had 7 in her Freshman Seminar. The 14 libraries on campus cater to different learning styles with some being more quiet or set up to encourage group work.

There are three main pathways into a major:

  • UW 6Pre-major: Most students enter this way. It might be an open major or have pre-reqs that need to be completed before being formally accepted into the major. They’ll meet with an advisor when they arrive on campus
  • Direct to major: they only accept a small percentage under this plan. If students are not accepted directly, they usually come in as a pre-major and can apply at the end of their 2nd “If you’re committed to a certain major and have an assurance from another school, it’s probably a good idea to take it. There’s no guarantee here. We’re space-constrained. Some are more competitive than others, and the competition changes every year based on who is applying.”
  • UW 10Direct to College: Students start in the college as Undeclared and get advising. From there, they place into a program. “It allows for exploration, but there’s no assurance for your first choice within that college.” For example, students interested in engineering will be guaranteed some engineering major, but may have to settle for something other than their first choice. One of the students on the panel talked about this: “I think I would’ve preferred this over Direct to Major because there were things I didn’t even know existed. I would’ve liked to know what was out there.”

Some note-worthy programs include:

They offer 2 different Honors programs: students can apply through their major or to Interdisciplinary Honors.

© 2017

Michigan State University

Michigan State University (visited 1/30/15)

MSU bus

One of the buses circulating around campus

~MSU tree and bldgAlthough there’s a lot of traffic around this 2-mile x 2-mile campus, the middle of MSU is lovely and feels cohesive. They boast about their 10,000 feet of sidewalk (portions of which are heated). “Walking from place to place is a good call-home time!” said one guide, but if they don’t feel like walking, there are plenty of buses circulating around campus and through town. A bus pass costs $50 a semester or 80c a ride. Freshmen cannot have cars “which is just as well – parking is located a 15-minute walk away. You aren’t using cars for quick trips anywhere.” Both guides agreed that cars just weren’t necessary. Even getting to the Detroit airport is easy: the university runs shuttles there at breaks.

MSU sculpture 3The tour guides (a junior from Denver and a freshman from Philly) were some of the best I’ve had. They both came from small high schools and were looking for the larger, Big-10, rah-rah sort of school. They clearly loved MSU and used personal anecdotes to illustrate what life was like for them rather than spouting statistics or generalities. I walked away with a good sense of who would thrive here: smart, independent students who are willing to ask questions (not just in class) and get involved in something; it seems like students here have found a really good balance between the academic and the extra-curricular.

A freshman dorm lounge

A freshman dorm lounge

Although campus can seem overwhelming, the guides said that participating in Orientation was key in figuring out how to get around but it’s also on them to make the effort; someone suggested to them that they “walk their schedule” before classes to really learn where they were going. One guide didn’t do that and panicked the first morning – but was able to pick up a map and get directions from the service desk in the res hall. All freshmen are required to live on campus; the dorms are attractive and comfortable. The only complaint is that many rooms don’t have wifi yet (but all common areas have it). They are working on this. Currently, students can request which “Neighborhood” or dorm they want; next year, they’ll be able to pick their exact room.

One of the many dining halls

One of the many dining halls

Each neighborhood has at least one dining hall for a total of 10 around campus. They’re open at different hours (some opens at 7am, some are open until midnight, etc). Students get unlimited swipes so they can grab a coffee or snack between classes. There are also grab-and-go places, coffee shops, etc on campus; many fast-food places directly off campus; and a food truck comes on campus (which only serves food sourced from within 2 miles of campus!). There’s also a bakery in town that provides baked goods to the dining halls.

Even students living off campus often buy a partial meal plan for the convenience and because the food is good. One guide lives in an apartment about a 15-minute walk from campus. “It’s so easy to find a place! There are housing fairs, advertising, stuff like that.” She’s on her own lease even though she shares the apartment with others. “It’s a nice piece of security because I don’t have to count on anyone else if they leave or whatever before the year is up.”

The River

The River

The Art Museum

The Art Museum

It’s hard to get bored on campus with 650 clubs available (which includes Greek life and a Squirrel Watching club). Sports are popular, of course. Students do have to pay for tickets to men’s hockey, basketball, and football games, but all other sports are free. The Red Cedar River, which cuts the campus in half, also provides recreation: students play hockey on it in the winter and can raft down it in the summer. They have an excellent museum designed by a world-class architect. They movie Batman vs. Robin was filmed here; the students are really excited about seeing the final product after seeing the filming!

MSU bikesStudents can take traditional, online, and “hybrid” classes (usually 1 class a week in a lecture hall and the discussions and homework online). One of the guides took a 600-person hybrid business class; her microeconomics class was also huge. However, they also had classes of 17 (writing) and 8 (hospitality/cooking class). Their “Engagement Centers” (there are several around campus) provide tutoring, writing centers, and more for students needing extra help with academics.

MSU began as Michigan’s land-grant institution; not surprisingly, the agricultural programs got mentioned several times, and the Agricultural College is popular and strong. Notable majors include: Fisheries and Wildlife; Construction Management; Landscape Architecture; Sustainable Parks, Recreation, and Tourism; and Entomology. The James Madison College offers 4 interesting majors including Comparative Cultures and Politics, Social Relations and Policy, and Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy.

(c) 2015

Colorado State University

COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY, Ft. Collins (visited 10/3/12)

P1000896

One of the large quads on campus.

This was not the clichéd large state university full of concrete and large, looming buildings. We arrived on campus next to a long tree-lined quad. Kids were playing Frisbee or lounging in the sun, and it looked more like a stereotypical small college quad – until we passed by a class of about 16 students sitting on the grass with notebooks and a professor writing on a portable white-board. That was a first for me; although I’ve seen classes meeting outside, those have usually been discussion groups rather than a teacher bothering to bring a white board. It was great to see.

CSU pondCSU started in 1870 as the land-grant institution for Colorado. It’s a major research university with a medium-sized school feel. About 12% of classes are taught by TAs, but those are almost all labs and recitation sessions.

The city of Fort Collins is a big draw for students: with a population of about 144,000 people, it’s diverse and active. They just admitted their largest freshman class – and have had four record years in a row. They expect that next year, there will be more out of-state applications than in-state apps. 200 miles of hiking and biking trails are accessible from campus, and (like other places in Colorado) it has about 300 days of sunshine each year. Students get outside and do a lot; for $40 a semester, they can use rent outdoor equipment from the student center for camping, kayaking, skiing, etc. Students get free city bus passes which run by campus all day. The city and the campus are both extremely safe; the biggest crime on campus is bike theft.

CSU2They’ve done quite a bit of building and renovation on campus. They’re looking to build an on-campus football stadium to replace the one that’s currently two miles off campus. One of the projects that they’re most proud of is the recently completed new engineering building. Students can complete a dual degree in biomed and engineering which is fairly unusual. Students do two separate majors rather than a single biomedical engineering degree. The Biomed Sciences major is the only one to which students must apply to directly. There are only 100 spots so people should apply early. Last year, they filled those spots by mid-December.

CSU dormsThere are six majors (including business, computer science, art, and engineering) which require applicants to have a higher GPA because the programs are more competitive. CSU’s business program is highly ranked, and students often take advantage of internships at places like Hewlitt Packard and other big-name companies in town. Engineering is strong, and the graduates of the program pass the national test at well above the national average. Pre-vet, health, and exercise sciences are very popular and well regarded. The university also has one of the top landscape architecture degrees in the country.

CSU1

The Business Department building

CSU differentiates tuition: business and engineering have an additional tuition charge of $60/credit hour because of the increased costs associated with running those programs. They are a WUE school so students residing in one of the 15 Western states can receive this award; the WUE is considered a merit-based deduction and is renewable with a 3.0 GPA. There are also other scholarships available for students outside the WUE states, including an Honors Program scholarship. The Honors scholarship can be stacked with other merit awards, but other than that, students can only get one merit scholarship.

CSU chapel and hillAdmission to the Honors Program comes with the offer of admission to the university and is based on GPA and test scores. Students can also apply after the first year if they don’t get it coming into the school. There’s an Honors Living Learning Community. The tour guide loves the coursework because of the discussion. Other benefits include early class registration and smaller classes. Our tour guide’s smallest classes had 17 students (Honors) and 30 (non-Honors). The biggest class he took was Oceanography with 300 students. When asked if there’s a lot of need for Oceanography in Ft. Collins, CO, the tour guide laughed and said, “It’s really more theoretical.”

CSU3

Another large open space between several academic buildings and their new athletic center.

The university is committed to helping students get comfortable on campus and to adjust to campus living. Thy run orientations throughout the summer, including one for students coming in from a distance; this happens directly before Ram Welcome (the fall orientation program) in August, so students only have to travel to campus once but still can take advantage of the extra orientation time. Freshmen are required to live on campus; the housing application is due by May 1 and costs $150; $100 of that goes towards the cost of housing. Off campus housing is close, cheap, and easy to find. The university has an off-campus housing office to assist students in finding places to live. Our tour guide said that he had no problem; he’s paying $375 for his bedroom in a three-bedroom house about a five-minute walk from campus. Even people who live off campus stay engaged in on-campus activities, leading to a vibrant campus environment. Only about 10% of the student body are members of fraternities or sororities, but Greek Life is active and many activities are open to any member of the community.

(c) 2012

Post Navigation