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Oregon State University

Oregon State University (visited 7/16/13)

OSU nobel

Pauling’s Nobel prize for Chemistry

Oregon State sold us when they took us into their Special Archives and Research Facility on the top floor of the library to show us their Linus Pauling collection … and let us hold both his Chemistry and his Peace Nobel prizes. Pauling, who at 15 had earned enough high school credits to start at OSU (but was missing two required classes to technically graduate from high school), started taking classes. When he had to drop out in order to support his widowed mother and his siblings, the university offered to let him continue if he would teach introductory chemistry classes for them. Their generosity turned out well for OSU because they were given all of Pauling’s stuff(including both the Nobels) for their archives – which holds much more than this. They’re also known for their collections on the History of the Pacific, History of Science, and more. They’ll hire students as interns; the current curator is an alumnus who started as an intern and is now in his seventh year as a full-time employee.

Living Sculptures

Living Sculptures

OSU Waldo

Waldo Hall

The outskirts of OSU are not attractive (it looks like a stereotypical big state university), but the main part of campus is attractive and had a blend of old, renovated buildings and brand new facilities. There were five construction projects going on, including a new Business facility. Waldo Hall is one of the nicest of the old buildings; although it’s touted as having a “Harry Potter feel,” I don’t think it really does (although it’s beautiful – and supposedly haunted!). We passed by an amazing Living Sculpture called “Pomp and Circumstance” meant to convey a professor and several students. Completed several years ago out of birch, willow, and other branches, the willow branches have since started to regrow, making it a true living sculpture.

The engineering complex

The engineering complex

OSU engo bldn

The inside of one of the Engineering buildings

OSU’s Engineering department is perhaps the “flagship program” of the university. There are approximately 5000 engineering students (about 20% of the student body) with women and minorities making up about 20-25% of the program. Students start immediately Department, taking the basics for two years before specializing in one of 14 different areas. Their Nuclear Engineering program is one of 20 in the country, and Oregon State Troopers are stationed on campus because of the nuclear reactor. The Environmental Engineering program is a collaboration between agriculture and engineering. The Automotive Engineering program is amazing. Students form teams to create cars and race them in international competitions. Every student on the team has a chance to drive during the testing phase; the group decides who is the most skilled/fastest for the actual competition. They’ve won against hundreds of other universities, including Cornell and MIT. Outside of the classroom, there are 40 engineering-themed clubs and organizations that involve of hands-on collaboration and competition. Overall, 97% of the students who take the FE exam pass it; it isn’t required of all students because some don’t need it (the Biomedical students going on to med school wouldn’t take it, for example), but it is encouraged.

OSU 2OSU is a land, air, sea, and sun grant school (Cornell is the only other school in the country with all four designations), and they are considered the state’s research university. Several of their programs (such as forestry and marine sciences) demonstrate their commitment to and strength in these areas. They also have strong apparel and interior design programs complete with extensive textile labs; their business and education programs also earn high marks from faculty, students, and outside ranking agencies.

OSU baseballIt’s no surprise that sports are big here. The baseball team has made it to the College World Series, and football is a huge part of the culture here. Of the two students I spoke to, both said that their favorite school tradition is the way that students get tickets for games: they can camp out for 2 days before regular games and up to a week before the Civil War (aka the game between OSU and U of O).

OSU 1During lunch with some faculty members, I asked what the draw might be for students coming from the East Coast. They agreed that students come here for the lifestyle. Corvallis has 35,000 students and has lots to do (they noted that’s it’s a big foodie haven). Outdoorsy people love it because of the proximity to so much from the coast to the mountains.

OSU dorm

One of the dorms

OSU, along with several other schools on the West Coast, uses the “Insight Resume” as part of the application. There are six short-answer questions required ranging in topics from Community Service to Dealing With Adversity. They use this to look at students’ involvement, realistic self-assessments, commitment to activities over time, and more. Students must submit standardized test scores; these are used in the admissions process if the student is on the bubble for admissions, and they’re used for distribution of scholarship and invitation into the Honors Program. To be considered for scholarships, applications need to be submitted by February 1, although admissions itself is on a rolling basis. They do not award WUE.

OSU quad

The quad as seen from the top of the library

It was nice that the tour guides had to think about things they’d want to change about the school. One eventually mentioned that some of the roads could use repaving. However there’s not much driving allowed through the middle of campus (mostly delivery trucks come through). They like that parking is relatively easy: all parking is along the outskirts of campus and lots are big. Permits cost $200 a year. The school is expanding in many ways: they’ve hired 18 new faculty members, built a new business school, a new residence hall, and even a longhouse. There are currently 14 dorms (plus the new one opening soon), and students can apply for housing after they’ve been admitted. Roommates are selected through an “eharmony type of matching process” and can find their own. Campus is safe, with bike theft and minors in possession pretty much the extent of crime found on campus.

(c) 2013

Ohio State University

The Ohio State University (visited on 4/17/12)

OSU 1

One view of campus from the top of the library.

Driving onto campus, one of the other counselors said “It’s clear to see where Ohio is spending its resources . . . and it’s not Kent State!” It’s true that OSU is flashier and feels newer, but they are also very different campuses in more way than one. Physically, yes, OSU seems to have many newer buildings, but it’s also a much larger, busier university with high-rise, institutional dorms and buses that are constantly loading and unloading students. The edges of the OSU campus, although as rough as Kent, quickly gave way to an impressive campus; buildings were newly built or renovated, new construction was underway (apparently the President said that if there weren’t at least 3 cranes on campus, not enough was happening), and campus was clean and well-maintained. I was much more impressed with the University than I had expected to be. I assumed that it would feel much larger and more impersonal because of its huge size (with 40,000 undergraduates and 16,000 graduate students, I think it has the 3rd largest student population in the country after Arizona and Florida? By comparison, Penn State with several thousand fewer students, felt more overwhelming and sprawled much more than Ohio State).

OSU 6They started our tour at the top of the 15 floor library (which, by the way, has about 10,000 people a day come through its doors . . .) where we had panoramic views of the entire campus – not a bad first impression! I asked the director of admissions how far the main campus stretched, and he pointed out the four boundaries. The compact size of it surprised me; he said that you can walk from corner to corner of the main campus in 15-18 minutes, although there are other satellite buildings that fall beyond the borders.

OSURecently, there has been a big push to increase student engagement and happiness which is paying off in retention, currently at 93% from freshman to sophomore years. Their First Year Experience gives students a chance to learn how to navigate OSU and Columbus and to feel at home and engaged in the opportunities around them. There is some recent impetus towards adding a “Sophomore Year Experience” of sorts, including a sophomore residence requirement. Currently, only freshmen are required to live on campus unless they are from Columbus. Clearly, OSU is already doing something right since their five-year graduation rate falls in the mid-high 70s, above the national average. They are very intentional about tracking freshmen, especially those who come as Undecided Majors – they have an office dedicated to one-on-one meetings with undeclared students, checking in on their progress with classes (what they’re registering for as well as how they are doing with their grades), and providing a lot of guidance.

OSU 3

Another view of the campus from the library tower.

Unlike a lot of schools, they separate out their Honors and their Scholars programs even though the two programs overlap in terms of who qualifies. Students in the Honors program tend to be more academically focused while the Scholars lean towards community service and global learning; they also live in a cohort and many tend to stick together for more than just their first year. For both programs, they look for people who want to push themselves and are looking for rigorous academics as well as opportunities for leadership, research, service, and global experiences. In terms of general admissions to OSU, their profile has been steadily going up for the past 20 years. The biggest admissions factors are grades, high school curriculum, and test scores. They will consider leadership, extra-curriculars, and other factors, but they are less important. They offer several merit based awards including the Buckeye Award (worth $10,000) to students in the top 40% of the class and a 28+ ACT or 1260+ SAT. They also have the Eminence Scholars Award which is a full ride plus a one-time stipend of $3,000. Specifics of these awards are listed at meritawards.osu.edu.

Several people – students and staff alike – bragged about the diversity offered to students both in terms of who is around them and what is available to them. Students can choose from 175 majors, 475 specializations/minors, and over 12,000 classes a year. The School of Arts and Sciences is the most popular with almost 39% of students in there (not surprising for this type of school); engineering has just over 15% and business has almost 14% of students. Their Agriculture, Pharmacy, and Nursing programs are also strong. They push internships and co-ops hard, which are not hard to come by since Columbus is so large (1.7 million people); students can also go abroad for internships. On-campus research is available; they are 9th in country among public universities for research expenditures which gets a lot of kids involved.

OSU 2I was very impressed with OSU; for students looking for a large university, I would definitely recommend it. They seem to have their acts together; kids don’t fall through the cracks nearly to the extent that I had thought they might at such a large school. Students seem happy with their education and the resources on campus, and the retention and graduation numbers back up what I saw and heard on campus. The location is fabulous since so much of Columbus is available to them. It’s definitely worth checking out.

(c) 2012

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