Centenary University (visited 11/12/19)
My visit totally started off on the wrong foot. I arrived about 20 minutes early for my 2pm tour. I arrived at the given address and found the large main building with the gold dome; it’s hard to miss. However, there’s no parking to be found. No visitor lot, no signs for admissions parking, nothing to direct people arriving from off campus. No signage is a huge red flag for me. I circled the area, pulled onto a couple small roads into campus thinking it might lead me somewhere. I saw a lot of old buildings, nothing that looked well kept up, no signs for anything. Pulling onto another main road, I saw a small (like the size of a sheet of paper) sign that said “Centenary Parking” with an arrow. I followed it. Saw another one indicating I was still in the right direction. I ended up at the Hackettstown train station about 3 blocks from campus (which is a bonus, I’ll say – so there’s a plus in the university’s favor). I pulled into the lot and called the admission office, explaining that I had no idea where I should be going or parking. “Oh, you need to park on the street!” – which they never indicated on the website or in any of the emails confirming my visit. I explained that I had been circling for about 10 minutes; no spots available. “Then just go to this other place.”
I finally found someone who had pulled out, I parked on the street, and I made my way into the building. Right inside the main doors is a Welcome Center; I figured that was maybe the admission hub since there were no other signs for admissions. I thought that was great! A lot of schools don’t have that. I went in, introduced myself, and said I was there for the 2pm tour. “You’re in the wrong spot. You want Admissions.” Nothing else. Ok … where would that be?? I got pointed in the right direction.
I seriously almost walked away at that point. It’s hard to feel good about a place that seems to almost go out of its way to not welcome people – especially when they’re trying to get enrollment up. How can I recommend a place in good faith when I’m not sure that students will be taken care of, and that starts with visiting Admissions.
Once I got into Admissions (at least it was just around the corner from the Welcome Center), the student worker at the desk was friendly, and things turned around a bit. I introduced myself, and he was enthusiastic and told me that he was going to be the one taking me on tour. While I was waiting for him to get his coat, none of the admissions officers who saw me come in introduced themselves or said hello … and this office was NOT busy. I was the only visitor there; I heard no phones ringing; nothing much seemed to be going on. As a side note, the woman who I had been emailing/talking to also never introduced herself.
The tour was fairly quick – maybe 40 minutes, and we dawdled because I asked a lot of questions. He was totally not scripted and was good about answering things openly. As a senior, he’s got a lot to say, and I walked away feeling like I had a decent grasp on the place.
So, here’s what I can say about Centenary:
- This is a great school for students who are maybe C students in high school and who need small classes and possibly academic support: they offer a couple for-pay support programs.
- “There’s a lot of support here. I failed a couple classes my freshman year, and people worked with me to help me do them over and figure out what I needed to do. I ended up doing very well here,” said my tour guide.
- Project ABLE (Academic Bridges to Learning Effectiveness) and STEP (Summer Transition and Enrichment Program) Ahead offer individual and small group skill building and support for academics, including organization and/or remediation.
- It has a spectacular Equestrian Center. The center is about 8 miles away, about a 15-minute drive through some very pretty countryside.
- “The center is amazing; the classrooms are right there and you can actually watch people riding and doing the things you’re talking about in class.”
- They offer Equine Studies with a variety of concentrations, including: Equestrian Media/PR, Equine Business Management, Equine Training/Instruction, Animal Health (pre-vet track), Equine Science, and Equine Studies.
They run shuttles several times an hour to and from the center; they even have a kitchen there “Because a lot of them are there for a big chunk of the day for classes and riding; they can even use their meal swipes out there.”
- They have a very cool “double-decker” (2-storey) chapel on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the main building.
- Campus facilities leave a lot to be desired, although they’re slowly improving upon them.
They have new theater facilities which brings in community members both to perform and as audience members.
- Their DIII athletic teams draw fans, including wrestling, but I get the feeling that it’s because there’s not a ton of other things to do.
- It’s very much a regional school (70% from NJ) with a lot of commuters. “One of my friends commutes from Newark which is like an hour away.”
- They offer 2 cool freshman dorms (attached to the main building), 2 transfer student dorms (which is incredibly smart of them), a couple sophomore dorms (“Middle Campus”) and 2 fairly new Apartment-style buildings. The apartments have 4 singles, 2 baths, a living room, and a kitchen. “You can move in here as soon as sophomore year, but usually only if you have older friends who are willing to have you live with them.”
They have a “Move In Crew” – volunteers from a bunch of clubs that will help unload stuff from onto golf carts and will bring them to the dorms.
- There is no residency requirement.
- Housing is more difficult off campus because “it’s an older town and it’s hard to find landlords to rent out houses, but there are some, and there are some apartment complexes not too far away.”
Students have to complete 10 hours of community service. “Most of them get it done in freshman year because there’s a service project they do as a group during orientation.”
- Enactus is a social entrepreneurship organization and/or class. Students can get a Social Media Marketing My tour guide loved this and got a social media internship between junior and senior years which he credits entirely to Enactus and his concentration.
- They offer a fashion design major – which is housed in the science building. I didn’t get to go in and see the labs, but the building looked like an old elementary school.
- Town is small. “It’s hard to get food late-night, so the school has offered some late night options. People love that!”