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University of Utah

University of Utah (visited 9/27/18)

Fun fact: This was founded in 1850 (46 years before Utah became a state) as University of the Desert, making it the oldest one west of the Mississippi. Also, it’s on Buzzfeed’s 2017 “Most Beautiful Campus in Every State”list.

The campus farmer’s market

The U (how it’s referred to locally) provides a great mix of outdoorsy and urban. “We provide a Big School experience (including sports) in a big city with the added benefit of access to an excellent academic experience,” said a rep. Located in Salt Lake City, there’s a vibrant campus life with easy access to a growing urban center. Students get free public transportation, and there’s a Trax stop on campus. Students take advantage of academic and extracurricular exploration outside the classroom. “Everything you want is here and easily accessible.” The Wasatch mountains provide excellent hiking, biking, and skiing. One student we talked to came here specifically for the skiing.

We talked to several students who all described the campus as friendly; the willingness of several students to talk to us as we wandered through the quads and the farmer’s market definitely proved that they’re happy with the school and are outgoing. “The community is inclusive but it’s not as diverse as I’d like, but not every place can be a melting pot,” said an African-American junior from Long Island who came because of the speed-skating of all things! “Speed Skating is a club sport. They definitely work with us.”

This is a major Tier 1 Research institution offering one of the best arrays of academic colleges I’ve seen, grouping many in interdisciplinary ways:

  • College of Architecture and Planning
    • Architecture (3.0 GPA requirement; some students may be a direct admit),
  • Cultural and Social Transformation with concentrations in Ethnic, Gender, or Disability Studies.
  • Fine Arts (BFA): “We’re a great school for the arts. SLC is an artsy, hippy sort of place. We have Ballet West, orchestras, etc. We offer the best non-conservatory ballet experience if students want to pursue something else in addition.” They are currently ranked #2 program after Julliard.
    • Strong Visual Design, film, and music because of the connection to downtown.
  • Their Interdisciplinary programs are impressive:
    • Entertainment Arts and Engineering (basically Video Game Design) ranks #1-3 depending on the year. “It used to be something you got bullied for; now you can get a degree. It’s collaborative and group oriented.” The Founders of PIXAR and Atari graduated from here.
    • They offer a robust varsity eSports program with a League of Legends Scholarship.
    • Interdisciplinary sciences include Genetic Counseling, Biological Chemistry, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Molecular Biology, and Neuroscience.
  • Mines and Earth Sciences includes Atmospheric Sciences, Geology and Geophysics, Metallurgic Engineering, and Mining Engineering.
  • Nursing: Students have to apply separately for the Early Assurance Program; it’s fairly rigorous because of a limited number of spots. Admissions is mostly based off of HS GPA (most admits have at least a 3.7 unweighted). When they apply to the university, students select Pre-nursing.
  • Engineering offers some direct entry, but most students come in, complete the pre-reqs, and apply. They offer unlimited spots as long as students meet the minimum GPA.
  • The Business college “is really amazing,” said one of the students working a booth at the farmer’s market.
  • Honors College: this provides a small Liberal Arts experience (fewer than 3,000 students total) within the university. Students take 2 Honors classes a year and must complete either a junior or senior thesis. They live in Honors housing a little more centrally located. There’s a social justice focus; students look at how to apply their major to the wider community. Students interested in applying must use the Utah-specific app (NOT Common App) by 11/1 and write the additional 500-word essay. The essay is a huge factor. “The number 1 we look for is the desire to be in the program by demonstrated by the essay. Show that they can benefit and want to take advantage of it. GPA and test scores will help, but it’s not only that.”
  • “The Health Sciences are amazing here,” said one student. “There’s a hospital right on campus.”

Even with 24,000 undergrads, 65% classes have fewer than 30 students. “It’s nice to be in some of those lecture classes as a freshman so you don’t have to worry about being called on,” said one student working a booth on the quad. They have a 90% retention rate to sophomore year thanks to a few good programs. One is Block U which is an optional Gen Ed completion course. Students take a few courses throughout freshman year to finish requirements within a year. These are taught by specific professors, peer tutors, etc. “It’s good for undecided students, but lots of others do this too,” said a rep. Another is LEAP, their Academic Learning Communties. Students take courses with the same professors and students over the course of the year. This is more flexible than Block U because it’s only 1 course per semester and they can take other pre-reqs concurrently.

Students never have to live on campus, and housing is not guaranteed; they don’t have enough room. Just over half of freshmen (and 10% of all undergrads) live on campus. “We have a reputation of being a commuter school. It’s definitely been worse in the past. There are a lot of students who live right off campus in houses,” said a student. Usually, if students want housing and apply before the March deadline, they get it. Incoming students can apply for housing before they commit to the university; however, they’ll lose the $150 housing deposit if they decide not to attend Utah or not live on campus.

The Lessonde Entrepreneur Institute is a highly sought-after dorm/LLC with 4 themed residential floors (video game, entrepreneurial, etc). “There are large open spaces including lounges and kitchens. Students have to apply and write an essay to show how they’re entrepreneurs to get housing there,” Said the rep. The building has 20,000 sq ft of work space (design computers, metal working, meeting rooms, etc.) to promote creativity and free thinking. Anything created there remains the intellectual work of the students. A number of student inventions and business were created there such as outdoors stuff (portable tent and hammock). The space is open to all students, but the residents have access 24/7. “They’ve snagged Ivy-League students because they have all this attention and resources.”

Cost of attendance is higher than other Utah schools. Freshman should try to get applications in by 12/1 for automatic scholarship consideration. The FAFSA deadline is 2/1 but they encourage families to do it before the end of the calendar year. If students do know what they want to major in, they’re encouraged to look at the departmental websites for scholarships for incoming freshman. The U provides about 120 WUE scholarships, making it one of the most competitive; students cannot get in-state residency with the WUE. “61% of our students graduate without debt. Even those with debt, it’s lower than other PAC-12 peer institutions.”

© 2018

 

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Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (visited 2/23-25)

MST civil engo student

A student working in the Civil Engineering lab

Missouri S&T is perfect for dedicated students who want hands-on experience at a medium-sized school and a job at graduation. In 2015-16, 1158 employers recruited on campus. “Students get the outcomes they want,” shown in top rankings for return on investment.

 

As one of 4 state universities (and the Land Grant school), MST is a top public research university and ranked #3 Best Engineering university after Colorado Mines and Georgia Tech beating out RPI, WPI, and MIT! Students are problem solvers; most students complete a Freeform lab where they have to figure out how to do the labs! “Math and science are our tools. You need to be capable. That doesn’t mean you love it or use it every day.” Non-engineering students take Business Calculus (except bio and chem majors who take engineering calc).

MST wave machine

Wave Machine lab

“Engineers know this is a top-notch school – but we’re hidden because we’re in Missouri,” said a student. Located about 1.5 hours from St. Louis, Rolla is a small city but there’s still plenty to do. One of the counselors asked about racial issues and the general climate in town. “This can be a difficult sell,” said a rep. “I understand the fear. It’s rural Missouri, but in a liberal bubble. That being said, it’s also a STEM school which makes it heavily male.” However, the women graduate at an 8% higher rate and can say why they’re doing what they’re doing … this was evident through multiple conversations with students over 3 days on campus. The gender ratio is going up. “You get used to it. It’s less pronounced at the beginning, but is more so as you get further into the major. The professors definitely know who the girls are!”

 

MST design center 2

The Design Center for Design Teams

“Students are excited to be here. These are serious students. College is on purpose. They’re not doing it to get away from home,” said a professor. A rep echoed that: “It’s a point of pride to have the highest GPA in the fraternity.” Everyone loves what they do. That goes for athletics, too: “There are lots of athletics, but no one is going pro. They know that. We don’t have the winningest football team, but we do have the smartest!”

 

Another rep said, “Our kids come from the top of their classes. They’ve been the ones helping others. The big challenge is getting them to ask for help when they need it.” A professor said something similar. “Most of them have never needed help before.” Student success is a high priority. If grades drop “beyond a percentage of the student’s normal grades,” the system alerts the faculty who talk to the students. They think this is partly responsible for retention rising to the high 80s.

MST civil engo int

The Civil and Architectural Engineering building

With 15 engineering programs, the College of Engineering and Computing draws the most students. In addition to the more common types of engineering, they offer:

 

  • Ceramic: One of the students wants to work on shuttle tiles for NASA
  • Petroleum: this is one of the highest paid degrees
  • Geological: Students are helping to develop grasses that absorb specific elements to help determine where mines are in minefields.
  • Mining
    • The experimental mine is about 10 minutes off campus.
    • Undergrads can earn a certificate in Explosives (Explosive Engineering is a graduate program)
  • Nuclear: There’s a working nuclear reactor on campus, 1 of 9 available to undergrads in the US.
  • Architectural: 1 of less than 25 in the country
  • Metallurgical
  • There are several engineering minors including Biomedical, Mineral Process, Automation, and Humanitarian Engineering and Science. These pair well with a major directly related to what they want to do.

MST mine 6

The experimental mine

Regardless of which engineering degree they choose (or being undecided), freshmen spend 3 semesters taking pre-req coursework and career exploration. The students we spoke to found this invaluable. One student didn’t change his mind, “but it confirmed what I thought I wanted.” Another student changed her major, and a third said that it helped her figure out what was out there.

 

Students tend to be well rounded. They want STEM but don’t want to give up on the other interests they have. This shows up in the minors and extra-curriculars they participate in. One engineering major we spoke to is double-minoring in 2 theater areas.

MST student hammockMST also offers liberal arts degrees (ranked in the top 10% for LA salaries) and looking to grow these. They’re starting a BS in History in addition to the existing BA. This includes the same Gen Ed courses as the sciences and without the BA language requirement. Students can get certified to teach (they have the #1 Secondary Teacher Education Program in MO) including a STEM Elementary Ed program and Program Lead the Way certification.

MST solar house 9

One of the solar houses

All students are required to complete an experiential learning experience. Almost 1000 students completed a co-op (semester+summer/8-9 months) or internship (summer OR semester/3-4 months) in 43 states and 3 international locations earning over $3200/month on average.

 

MST solar house design team

The 2017 Solar House team

Design teams (18 to choose from) count as Experiential Learning. “You need everyone on the team, and there are lots of ways to participate. It opens doors they haven’t considered. It builds a culture of research that’s infectious.” All teams do their own marketing and some fundraising, but there’s lots of corporate and alumni donations. Options include:

 

  • DrillBotics
  • Solar Car
  • Solar House
  • Mars Rover: won a national championship and competed in Poland.
  • Engineers without Borders: There are 4 Teams and 4-5 trips offered every year for ongoing water and sanitation projects.
  • MST steel bridge team 2

    The steel bridge team putting together their project

    Concrete canoe: this has to be filled with water and hold 3 people and still float/perform in races

  • Steel Bridge = 1/10 size
  • Solar House
    • First they submit a design. About 18 are selected to move on.
    • Second, a student-led team builds it on campus and ship it to the contest and without breaking. All must be 0-Net but often produce more energy than they use. Part of the contest is marketability. One house was made out of shipping containers with carpet made from recycled fishing nets. Students now live in the houses!

MST dorm room 1

One of the triple rooms in University Commons

Students must live in university housing until they complete 60 credits. This includes Greek housing (mostly off campus; 22% go Greek but not all live in housing) and the Christian Campus Houses (run by an off-campus entity). Thomas Jefferson Hall offers traditional dorm-style living with a dining hall attached. University Commons offers suite styles with an option for a triple room. These are cheaper and never required. “We found that lots of students came to us in trios from high school and wanted to room together. It’s just another option.” The Student Center is directly across the road with several food options.

 

MST frat house

One of the smaller frat houses sitting right next to campus; the large new ones are off campus

Safety is good. Students said they frequently walk around alone at night and never had an issue. Things are well lit, and no one ever heard of a blue light being used. Parking is available – but not always where they want it! Spots/lots are assigned based on seniority. One student we talked to just parked in town and found it as convenient. “I got 4 parking tickets over 3 years. At $10 a pop, it was cheaper than 1 year of paying to park on campus.” Parking stickers are $135.80 per year.

 

MST quad 1Admissions will take a risk on some kids who have low GPAs with high test scores (“they’re not following through with the work,” said a rep). They’ll bring 160 students into the Success Program and assign them a mentor to get them on track. For scholarship purposes, they only look at GPA through the end of junior year, but students can take the standardized tests through December if they need to increase the score. MST won’t superscore either exam but do not penalize for multiple testing. The Priority deadline is 12/1; based on available funds, they’ll look at apps through 2/1.

MST chem eng bldg

The Chemistry and Chemical Engineering building

New students attend 2 orientations: first, “Preview, Registration, and Orientation (PRO)” starting in February where students take their math placement, get academic advising, Financial Aid and parent info sessions, etc. Then they complete a full-week orientation where they’re assigned to a group of 20 to complete social and team projects. They have Reconnection 1 a few weeks into the year and Reconnection 2 right after midterms. They also have one of the best transfer programs in the country and are known as a model for this.

MST arch engo 1

Some of the Architectural Engineering projects

The big tradition revolves around St. Patrick’s Day; MST gives students 2 days off for “spring recess.” For weeks in advance, they have countdowns, chants on Fridays, etc. In the middle of the night, they’ll paint the street green “using some eco-friendly paint.” On the day, they carve shillelagh and act out mock killings of rubber snakes. They hold contests such as wearing the most green or who can put on the most St Pat’s sweatshirts. There’s a formal ball held that weekend. The official school colors are gold and silver – “it is a mining school!” – but the unofficial color is green because of St. Patrick, the patron saint of miners.

© 2017

 

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