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Ripon College

Ripon College (visited 4/16/15)

~Ripon students on quadFor a college that many people have never heard of, it has some famous alumni including Harrison Ford (who, although he didn’t technically finish his senior thesis, from what I’m told, is still considered an alum!), Spencer Tracy, Al Jarreau, about a dozen NFL and several NBA players, and McKey Sullivan (winner of America’s Next Top Model). Also, the town saw the start of the Republican Party in the 1800s “which was pretty progressive 160 years ago!” said one admissions rep.

~Ripon tablesI wasn’t even sure how to pronounce the name of this school before I got here (like “ripin’” if you’re wondering) and I walked away loving it. This is a small liberal arts college with just under 800 students although they’re working on growing to at least 1000 students and currently have the capacity to go to 1100. The majority of students come from the upper midwest but there are students from all over the country and world. They’re so serious about attracting students from other geographic regions that they’ve instituted a fly-in program where they will reimburse accepted students who submit original receipts up to $300 in travel costs for visiting. They’ll even pick up students from the Milwaukee airport.

~Ripon sculptureBecause it’s small, students can take things in a lot of different directions, dig deep, and look at things from a variety of angles. “Students here are just so excited,” said one professor. “I look at them and think, ‘Was I ever that earnest?’ They’re just really good kids!!” Faculty don’t always stick to the syllabus and can take students’ interests into account. There are several interdisciplinary majors. Students who thrive here like to be involved in a lot. “We’re too small for them to do just one thing.”

~Ripon quad 1Students are confident, want to be challenged and pushed, are willing to take on responsibilities, and can make their own way. One student said that Ripon made her more open/respectful of ideas. “You think you know who you are. You don’t.” Students and professors both brought up the fact that people on campus truly want to discuss not only academics but larger issues as well. “We have really good discussions about diversity,” said one student. The campus even now has gender-neutral bathrooms at the insistence of the students because of discussions people were having on campus.

~Ripon classOne of the Communications professors is a Ripon Alum. He did his PhD at a major research university and people expected him to take a job at another major institution, but he jumped at the chance to come back to Ripon. When asked why, “I told him it’s because I believe in this place. The guy was silent and then said that was the first time he’d ever gotten that answer.”

~Ripon greenhouseCurrently, they’re wrestling with areas of distinction. They understand that they need an answer to the “What makes you different?” question to draw people to them. They’re undergoing a curriculum review and have hired a new Dean. Despite this (or maybe BECAUSE they’re willing to be critical of their programs and be forward-thinking), there are already wonderful things happening in Ripon’s academic world. Programs of note include:

Dr. Zach Messitte, Ripon’s President, still teaches in the Political Science department and often runs a non-credit sophomore seminar on Presidential stuff. He also often leads a trip during the 3-week May term for the Liberal Arts in Focus program. 2015 trips also include an Ornithology class, Peace Studies in Jamaica, Language Immersion in Spain, and a trip to Germany.

~Ripon acad bldg 2Ripon has active, committed alumni who look out for their alma mater and the current students. They even help pay for students to go on career trips! A group of students recently went to DC for 4 days and paid only $400 for the entire trip which included airfare, hotels, meals, ground transportation, etc. The students got to attend career workshops with alumni, tour companies and other organizations, go on interviews, and more.

~Ripon loungeThey’ll take either the Common App or their school-specific application, and they don’t charge an application fee. “We want to take down as many barriers to applications as possible.” Getting a decision takes about 2 weeks after the file is complete. “If something seems off, we’ll ask the student for an interview.” Most scholarships are granted automatically but there are some that students need to apply for such as those for forensics, music/art, ROTC, diversity, etc. These additional, specialty scholarships are stackable with the automatically granted academic scholarships up to $19,000 a year.

~Ripon Lincoln 3Freshmen are usually housed together; after that, housing is generally mixed. Almost ⅓ of the students affiliate with a Greek organization and can live together on a floor in the dorm. Some apartments are available usually for Juniors and Seniors who must fill out an application; GPA is taken into account when assigning the apartments. Themed Housing is available and can be coed.

Ripon does a great job providing things to do on campus. “The town is a bit remote. We can’t do anything about that, but we can make campus fun.” They have an active performing and visual arts groups; students can and do get involved even if they aren’t majoring in those areas. Clubs range from the athletic (including 3 different Equestrian teams and a Women’s Boxing Club) to charity groups and honor societies. Students also find their own fun: “There’s a great sledding hill that’s well used,” said one students. Ripon is supposedly the second most haunted campus in the Midwest, so ghost-hunting is always an option!

(c) 2015

Albright College

Albright College (visited 11/19/14)

One of the most distinctive parts of Albright is their “co-major” program. Rather than simply designing their own major, students can link 2 half-majors to create a new one. Each major has a designated “co-major” track with 7 required classes; unlike completing an entire major, there is no flexibility in those classes.

Arts Building

Arts Building

The arts are huge here; the college was named in the top 25 nationally for artistic students. Non-majors still get involved in improv, a cappella, music, and acting. “You have to earn your spot at the table,” said a Theater Professor. “If you’re a freshman and you’re the best choice for the role, you get it over the senior. We have bio majors getting parts over theater majors. There’s no free ride.” One of the theatre majors said she picked Albright because of what she could do. She said this wasn’t a snooty place, unlike other places she toured. “I don’t care who went there; I care what I’m going to get to do. No one is working with that famous pop star so it doesn’t matter.”

~Albright trad campus

The more traditional looking part of the campus

Students come up with project ideas and pitch them to faculty. The common response is, “What are you waiting for? Get to work!” A student on the panel is spearheading an initiative to turn a dorm court into an artistic community. There’s an unused space in the basement that they’re going to use as a theater space, prop storage, etc. They’d also like to create a student gallery. “The first student open mic session is going on this weekend.

~ Albright quadStudents have to attend at least 16 cultural activities to graduate. “They mean it,” said a professor. “We had a student not get his diploma for 6 years because he had only done 13 and dragged his feet doing the last 3.” About 90 options are available each semester ranging from speakers, student theatrical or musical performances, and Broadway shows that the school will take students to for free.

Albright science

Science Building

Although there’s a wide range of artistic majors and minors including Arts Administration; Digital Media, Studio Art, and Video Arts; and Fashion (including Costume Design), there are also many liberal arts majors to choose from. Some unusual majors and minors include: Psychobiology (with concentrations in Behavioral or Molecular Psychobio), Optical Physics, Music Business (complete with their own Record Label!), Environmental Chemistry, Holocaust Studies (minor), and Game and Simulation Development.

Favorite classes of the panelists include:

  • ~ Albright chairPost-Modern Theater
  • English Comp: “It wasn’t just grammar. It taught us to use English to our advantage in the professional world and how language is used to sway thinking.”
  • Drama Through the Past: “We broke down into production teams and had to dramatize a passage.”
  • Mean Girls: they looked at Mean Girls in literature to figure out why they act that way
  • Hitchcock
  • A First Year Seminar on Dionysus

The smallest classes run in the single digits: the panelists’ smallest classes were: 6 in a theater class (as a freshman!), 1-on-1 vocal lessons, 7 in Advanced Acting, and 8 in a business class. Largest classes tend to be Gen Ed (28 in English, 30-ish in others. The largest class on campus is Intro to Bio which hovers around 80 with labs at 20).

~Albright main road

One of the buildings along the main road through campus

The school offers an optional 3-week January term; about 2/3 of students take advantage of it. They may attend every year but only get credit for two years. Classes run about 3.5 hours a day and tend to be collaborative or have a travel component. Someone just donated property in Costa Rican to the college; that will be used for some of these classes. Often, student use this time for ACRE (Albright Collaborative Research Experience). 15-20 students each year get a $3600 stipend with occasional more help to travel to conferences.

~Albright busi computer

A computer in the new business center that can retract into the table.

Campus has two distinct parts: we started our tour at the new Business Center with state-of-the-art technology and innovative classroom layouts, including computers that “emerge” from the table-tops. That building (and many others) sits on a main street; we first thought that there was no “traditional campus” section so we were pleasantly surprised with the second section. One of the original buildings in this part of campus is supposedly haunted; they’ve had ghost-hunting tours in there. There’s a very small “pond”; a big tradition is getting “ponded” on your birthday. Someone was thrown in the night before we toured, even though it was hovering around freezing.

~Albright haunted 1

The “Haunted Building”

Students are happy with the dorms. Rooms come with a fridge and microwave, but there are only 6 washers and dryers for a couple hundred kids. “It’s a rule that you don’t mess with someone else’s laundry. If it’s been in the washer for more than 15 minutes, you can move it to a drier, but don’t turn it on. I almost never had to wait for machines, though,” said the tour guide

All students can bring a car; registration costs $15 a year. There are plenty of parking lots, “but a lot of people park on the streets around campus – you should learn to parallel park!” There’s some stuff to do within walking distances (pizza and Chinese food got several mentions) and plenty of shuttles: “There’s Target Tuesday, Walmart Wednesday, Theater Thursday…”. Day trips are common to Philly (1 hour), NYC and Baltimore (2 hours), and DC (3 hours).

~ Albright quad 318% of women and 12% of men affiliate with a Greek organization. Students rush 2nd semester and must have a 2.5 GPA. Hazing is taken seriously. “Last year, there was a suspicion of hazing, and that fraternity was banned from activities for a year,” said the tour guide.

~Albright mascot


There’s lots of school pride. Basketball is a huge deal; Alvernia is their big rival. Football also draws a lot of fans. Intramurals are popular, particularly softball and rugby.

Only 3% of the students are international representing several countries. The school just dedicated an area near their main entrance to fly each country’s flag. During the dedication ceremony, students raised the flags as their anthems played. International students need to submit TOEFL scores; they’re looking for a 68+ and offer ESOL summer classes if students need to improve.

Applicants can submit a graded paper (teacher comments are important!) in lieu of the essay but can’t use the Common App if they choose to do this. If they use the Common App, they can submit the graded paper as an additional essay through the “other” upload. Albright is test optional, but students must interview if they take this option (skype is fine). They’re considered for the same merit scholarships. The Admissions Rep recommends that if students they fall at or above the mid 50%, submit the scores.

© 2014

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