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Georgetown University

Georgetown University (visited 1/4/17)


The Front Lawn

In case you were wondering, Hoyas aren’t real things. When the university started, Georgetown students were required to study both Latin and Greek. At that point, the students were known as “Stonewalls” (because they would sit on the stone walls to watch matches on what is now the quad by the main gates) and they would chant “Hoya Saxa!” or “What rocks!” They’ve taken on the bulldog as their mascot, and a real dog, Jack, lives on campus. Students can sign up to walk and help train him.


The clock tower which gets the hands stolen in an annual tradition.

As the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the country, Georgetown was also the first to welcome students of all religious faiths. Bishop John Carroll founded the school (in what was then Georgetown, MD) because all the other existing institutions had been Protestant-based. Much of the campus is comprised of historical buildings. 14 US Presidents (ranging from Washington to Obama) have spoken from the steps of the original building; while most steps have been replaced, the top step has not because of the historical significance. There’s also a tradition surrounding the clock tower on another of the old buildings: somehow, a person or people scale the building, steal the clock tower hands, and send them to someone they’d like to speak on campus. They were sent to Bill Clinton who came and the Pope who blessed them and sent them back with his apologies for not being able to make it.


georgetown-chapel-and-benchesThe Jesuit experience on campus is what you make it. The tour guide said, “It’s like a radio dial: turn it up; turn it off. Whatever.” The admissions rep said, “We ask that you just be respectful of the role religion may play in the lives of your peers.” Their the first Jesuit school to employ full-time clergy of other faiths including a Rabbi and Imam. Students must take 2 theology/ philosophy classes including “The Problem of God,” a course taught by 30 different professors. Another popular class is “Philosophy of Dogs”: “I don’t know what they study, but it sounds cool,” said the tour guide.

georgetown-statueGeorgetown is classified as a medium-sized research institution with 6400 undergrads. However, only 1% of classes have more than 100 students, and 99% are taught by faculty. Our tour guide’s smallest classes have had 12 students (she had 3 this size); the largest was her Principles of Macroeconomics class with 300. She was surprised at how much talking was expected in class. “I just didn’t expect that at a school this size.”

georgetown-1Applicants must apply to one of 4 schools: Georgetown College, Nursing and Health Studies, Foreign Service, Business. There is no advantage to applying to one over the other; all the admissions officers read applications. The rep giving the presentation recommended that students “think about what’s most in line with your interests and apply to that school. There are no walls within these schools, and 10% of students will internally transfer once here. People share dorms, classes, and core classes. You’ll have access to everything regardless of your college.” The 4 colleges are:

  • georgetown-original-bldg

    The original building; the top step of these stairs is of historical significance; 14 presidents have spoken from there.

    Georgetown College: this enrolls about 50% of the undergraduates.

    • Half of those students major in Humanities and Social Sciences. Unusual majors include: Medieval Studies, Political Economy, and American Musical Culture.
      • Law School Early Assurance: Students apply in the junior year for acceptance without the LSAT. There are no specific pre-requisites because there’s no pre-law program. They look to see that students are doing well and challenging themselves.
    • Sciences, offering majors like Biology of Global Health, Biological Physics, and Neurobiology.
      • The Early Assurance Program allows students at the end of sophomore year to apply to the Med School without taking MCAT. They must have completed Organic Chem and at least 1 more pre-med class.
    • Languages and Linguistics, including majors in Comparative Lit and Linguistics as well as in 10 languages. Instruction is available in many additional languages.
  • Nursing and Health Studies: Nursing uses the med center right behind the main campus.
  • Foreign Service: They have famous and distinguished faculty, including Madeline Albright: “Her class is no walk in the park, but the students love it!” Many of the majors “look like double majors – that’s on purpose,” said the rep. All students in this school must take language classes and 4 semesters of econ, micro and macro. A couple majors of note are Regional and Comparative Studies, Science Technology & International Affairs, and International Political Economy.
  • Business: many students will double major or minor.

georgetown-6Despite having to apply to a particular college, students can’t declare a major until the end of sophomore year “with the exception of hard sciences and pre-med,” said the tour guide. She said that a lot of people do generally know what they want to do, but there are always people who change their minds, and she feels that most people take classes with a bit more of an open mind knowing that they haven’t declared yet.

georgetown-archesIncoming freshmen can apply to participate in a variety of special seminars and scholars programs including the Freshman Ignatius Seminar offered during the first semester. There are about a dozen choices, one of which is taught by the college President (a PhD in Philosophy): Contributing to (In)Justice. This was the tour guide’s favorite class.

The majority of students complete 2-3 internships, both over the summer and during the year. More than half the students will study abroad through direct matriculation (enrolling at the other institution) or at the Georgetown Villa in Florence (complete with private chef): 30 students go with faculty and are taught in English.

Georgetown makes a big deal about the 3 communities to which students belong:

  • This is a compact, urban campus but with a traditional feel. Students can walk across it in 10 minutes.
    • georgetown-apts-and-river

      Balconies of the Village Apartments overlooking the Potomac River

      Students must live on campus for 3 years: 1st and 2nd years and then either 3rd or 4th with 87% living on campus at any given time. Those who life off-campus live right in the Georgetown area.

      • There are several brightly colored townhouses right outside the main gates; many of these are Living-Learning Communities.
      • There are lots of options on campus, including 4-9 person apartments that had been housing for Jesuits until a new residence was recently built.
      • Village A is an apartment complex overlooking the Potomac and Kennedy Center.
    • georgetown-townhouses

      Townhouses across from the main gate where students can live

      The residential campus builds close-knit relationships and active, varied clubs including GUAC: the Georgetown University Avocado Club

    • People do embrace the “men and women for others” motto of the Jesuits. Not only do they do a lot of service on and around campus, but graduates join the Peace Corps and Teach for American in record numbers.
  • Georgetown Community: This is about 12 square blocks with M and Wisconsin at the center. There’s a lot to do within walking distance of campus.
  • Freshmen orientation takes students on a scavenger hunt around the city, and classes often utilize resources such as museums, federal agencies, and more. There is no metro stop on campus; the Rosslyn stop is ¾ of a mile across the river, and the Foggy Bottom Stop (at GW) is about 1.5 miles – both walkable, but shuttles will take students there and other places in the area.

Building on these communities works: retention from first to second years is at 97%, and 93% of students graduate within 4 years.


Dorms with some athletic fields beyond them.

In terms of admissions, Georgetown doesn’t take the Common App. There’s a main app and a supplement; submitting the main part will also activate an alumni interview info (no interviews are done on campus). The transcript is the most important piece. They do strongly recommend that applicants send in 3 SAT Subject Tests, but understand that this may be a financial hardship. They are not a score-choice school; the entire testing history is required.


If students apply Early Action, they may not apply Early Decision elsewhere. EA applicants are either admitted or deferred, and the admission rate under EA (13%) is similar to RD (16%). Georgetown is need-blind and will meet 100% of demonstrated need with a $6000 cap on self-help aid (loans and work-study).

Students are happy with the facilities and activities on campus;

  • georgetown-dance-studio

    One of several dance studios available for classes, clubs, and general use

    Sports, of course, are a big deal. Everything is on campus except for basketball; those games are at Verizon Center downtown to provide enough space. Students pay $125 per season for basketball tickets.

  • There are a variety of dance teams, and Georgetown hosts the largest student dance performance in the world with 500 people participating.
  • The Outdoor pre-orientation program is popular, as is the Outdoor club which gets kids out of the city for activities.
  • There’s a farmer’s market on good-weather Wednesdays with lots of ethnic food offered
  • georgetown-intl-center

    The InterCultural Center; the farmer’s market is held out front

    The Corp (Students of Georgetown, Inc) is the largest student-run group of business in the country: they run 3 cafes, Hilltop, and more. This gives students experience with all aspects of business and customer service.

  • There are plenty of food options typical to a university of this size. The tour guide told us that there’s never much of a wait for food. “Chicken Tender Thursday is super poplar. People without a meal plan try to get others to swipe them in!”

© 2017

University of Rochester

University of Rochester (visited 10/19/15)

~UR main quad

Main quad with the library at the far end

“We’re fundamentally a research university,” said the V-P of Enrollment. “Faculty are hired because they’re doing good work.” Rochester is nationally ranked in the top 10 for faculty research. Because of this, they’re looking for students who are, first and foremost, curious. “They aren’t asking what they should do – they’re asking why they should do it. We do a lot of things well, and all of them have some research component. We’re looking for students who are prepared – and hopefully excited – about that. If they don’t take advantage of this part of the university, if they aren’t connecting to at least one professor, they aren’t getting what they’re paying for.”

~UR students“We want quirky kids who will push the boundaries and ask probing questions – but not so out-there weird that they can’t live with a roommate.” Teachers go really fast; classes are full of highly motivated students. Rigor is the thing that unifies the entire community. The professors make great teachers because as researchers, they also know what it is to be a learner. They’re guiding the students on the journey, not worrying on Sunday night about that they’re going to say on Monday morning.

~UR walkway 3Because of Rochester’s curricular flexibility and no required subjects, they tend to have a lot of cross-apps with Brown “but we don’t have a wide open curriculum. We aren’t Brown or Hamilton.” Students still have to graduate with a broad curriculum, but it’s an education they come up with for themselves. “That’s part of the reason people need to be willing to self-advocate and ask questions. What’s going to make them a consummate scholar and professional in that field?” They build their curriculum around their interests: they must take 3-course clusters in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences (their major requirements fulfill the cluster in 1 division).

UR acad bldg 1Partly stemming from the fact that students are interested in so many areas, it’s not surprising that Rochetser offers some unusual majors such as:

~UR statue5,100 undergraduates study on the main River Campus (500 students study at Eastman School of Music: see separate write-up), making this one of the smallest research schools in the country. Almost 20% of students are international, one of the highest among research institutions. There’s also a great deal of other diversity: 20% receiving Pell Grants, and “We’re a majority minority institution. When I started here, we were 80% white northeastern students. That’s not the case anymore.”

Admissions is test-flexible: students need to provide some evidence that they can hold their own in high-stakes testing: AP, IB, SAT/ACT, or Subject Tests. They can upload a link to a creative or research project for supplemental materials. Every application is double-read. When the readers disagree, the app goes to committee. Last year, almost 1/3 of applications were sent: “I’m not aiming for agreement,” said the VP of Enrollment. “The most interesting discussions come out of this disagreement. Students who received one of the Rochester awards as a HS Junior have their application fee waived.

~UR frat house

Greek housing

About 90% of students live on campus. Dorms are pre-wired for Cable and students get a pass for HBOgo. If students move off-campus, someone from the Office of Off-Campus Housing will help check places out and read over leases. Students are thrilled with the events on campus. “I was really overwhelmed with the number of extra-curriculars. It’s a ridiculous amount of stuff you can do.” Almost 25% of students go Greek. Sports are popular both to play and watch; they’re DIII except Squash (which can only compete at a DI level). There are several big activity weekends or events:

  • Meloria Weekend (Alumni Weekend).
  • Winter weekend: the school brings in huskies; gives away gloves, hats, or scarves; sets up bonfire and students roast smores, etc.
  • Boar’s Head Dinner is a Medieval-themed dinner (not unique to Rochester but rare enough!). A different professor tells the myth of the student and the Boar, putting their own theme on it. There’s singing, juggling, etc.

~UR shuttle mapWhen students want to get off campus, they can take one of the city buses that stop on campus and cost $1. The school buses are free.

For people worried about winters in Upstate NY, don’t worry too much: a great deal of campus is connected through tunnels. The academic buildings on the main quad are connected, as are several of the science buildings. Dorms are not connected due to security issues.

~UR chapel

Rochester’s non-denominational chapel

Students are happy with Rochester and were hard-pressed to find anything to change – a couple seemed almost offended that we’d even suggest that improvements needed to be made. A senior said, “Currently, I’d say food, but it’s because I’ve been eating it for 4 years. Maybe they could have a bit more international food??” A Junior said, “Parking was an issue, but they’ve built a new complex, revamped how people get parking passes, etc. We used to pay for laundry, now it’s free. They’ve added all-gender bathrooms. They have options to check off male, female, transgender, and other on the application.”

UR atriumThe school does seem to be responsive to needs and things that students want. They’ve added study spaces to keep up with the increased enrollment. There are even sleeping pods in the library; these were last year’s 5K Challenge winner: every year, students proposals ideas to improve campus. Winners are determined by student vote and are given $5,000 to implement the idea.

One of the students left us with this thought: “You’re bound to be successful here. If you want it, you’re going to get it.”

© 2015

Northeastern University

Northeastern University (visited 3/24/14)

NEU 2 While waiting to be taken to the info session, I chatted with a freshman Computer Science major from Brooklyn. He was wonderfully enthusiastic about Northeastern, saying he picked the school because “unlike the school across town that has a long street of ugly buildings,” Northeastern combines an urban campus with big green spaces. I didn’t have time to take the full tour and therefore couldn’t verify this; there were some grassy areas, but definitely not the large quads that people might associate with a traditional college campus.

NEU 1~NE sign and pathNormally, the info sessions are held in the beautiful new Welcome Center. However, they were throwing a dinner in that building for a Marine Biology professor who had been named as a Nobel Laureate. They moved us to a church that the university has converted to a large open stage space. There were over 100 people who fit in comfortably for the presentation. Unfortunately, it was a canned speech with very little originality from the rep, who also spoke so fast that we could barely understand what she was saying, and she moved through slides too quickly to take many notes. The good news is that much of the information was the type of stuff we could get from the website.

NEU 4NE 1Northeastern pushes their global, experiential education. They are looking for “students who are willing to engage the world and are willing to pursue their passions. We have energetic, creative, focused students. They have a fire in the belly” (according to the admissions video). The Co-op program is highly popular, and they spend a great deal of time talking about it. Students can spend 6 months completing a job placement at a company in their major area; companies such as HSBC, Vogue, Apple, Google, Patriots, White House, Hose, EMC, PWC, and Pixar regularly employ Northeastern students. This is not a guaranteed program and students do have to interview for the jobs, but they boast a 90% placement rate for students seeking co-ops. Those seeking to participate in this program complete a pre co-op class in the semester just before going in order to help prepare them for interviews, resume writing, job skills, etc. Co-ops can be done all over the world, but if they do one in Boston, they can still live on campus and only pay room and board to the university. No one ever pays tuition during their co-op, and in fact, they often get paid. The student I spoke to said that the Computer Science people often get paid up to $22 an hour. There are some places like DC, NY, and LA where Northeastern has some properties where students can live. More than 50% of students get a job offer from a previous co-op employer.


A T stop is located right on campus.

Northeastern is located on a residential campus in an urban environment. All first and second year students must live on campus, and Living-Learning Centers are an option for any interested student. They just built a new dorm, and housing is available for anyone who wants it. Boston is a great college town with 250,000 college students in the metro area. 16,000 of those are NEU undergraduates (5,000 more are full-time graduate and law students). They keep a 13:1 student-to-teacher ratio allowing for “lively discussion and debate” in the classroom. The average class size is 24; the freshman I talked to had classes ranging from 9 (Intro to Linguistics) to 70 (Computer Science 1). There are 140 majors and concentrations across 8 schools, making it easy to create a major, double major, and more. There’s a PlusOne Accelerated Master’s Program as well as a 3+3 Social Sciences and Humanities + Law degree, but it sounds like that’s only for people majoring in History, Sociology, and Philosophy. The school attracts big name faculty, including Michael Dukakis in the Political Science Department.

NE 2This year, they had a new record number of applications (49,700), and they admitted 32% of those. In addition to good grades, they’re looking for personal traits of adaptability, diversity, engagement, experiential learning, and global perspective. They judge these through letters of rec, activities, and essays. Placement in the Honors College was offered to the top 10% of admitted students.

© 2014

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