campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “superscore ACT”

University of North Carolina – Greensboro

UNC Greensboro (Visited 3/15/17)

UNCG original bldg

The original college building

Little known trivia about UNCG: it’s the only college in NC that has a Bojangles! UNCG also has a free tour app that’s worth checking out.

UNCG 5Although originally known as the Education school of the UNC system (it started as a teacher’s college), UNCG also has strong sciences and other programs. Academics are so impressive that the school has been listed as one of the country’s best institutions for undergrad education annually since 1999. It’s also the most diverse of the 17 UNC schools.

UNCG quadI was surprised to learn that Greensboro was one of the founding members of the UNC system in 1932 along with UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State. This is a research university serving about 16,000 undergrads. Faculty are still engaged in their fields, and they bring the undergrads along for the ride. Despite the size, the rep giving the info session, herself a UNCG grad, only had 1 lecture-style class with 125 people during her time here. The tour guide said that her biggest, also an intro science class, had 150 people but only had 17 in her English class the first year. She’s had classes with 7 students in her major. Her favorite class was an Anthropology class called Cults and Conspiracies. “The Anthro department gets really creative!”

UNCG minerva

Statue of Minerva sits in the middle of campus

A few things surprised the tour guides about UNCG: first, that everything stayed open late (“I’m from a small town; I’m not used to being able to get food after 10!”); second: “it initially feels huge but it’s really not! I see people I know all the time” (and you can walk campus corner-to-corner in 15 minutes); and third: “how helpful the professors are. They seem scary but aren’t.”

Some programs unique to UNCG (within the UNC system) include:

UNCG clock and quad

Don’t walk under the clock or you won’t graduate on time! (Every campus has one of these rules). 

Other notable/unusual programs are:

UNCG bell towerQualified students can participate in the UNCG in 3 program, an accelerated pathway to the degree available in about 30 majors. To be eligible, students must come in with at least 12 credits (AP, Dual Enrollment, etc). Benefits include priority registration and dedicated advising.

UNCG honors dorm

The honors dorm

Students from all fields of study are welcome to apply to the Honors College. Students who meet the HC criteria when they apply to the university will receive an invitation to apply to the HC. Because this is an internationally-focused program, students do need to study abroad for at least a semester. All students can take advantage of study abroad programs, including summer (but that alone does not fulfill the HC requirement). Many study abroad programs offer a 1-to-1 student exchange which helps increase diversity on campus.

UNCG plaza 4

One of the many plazas with seating areas. This sits between the dining hall and dorms.

Located in a residential area not far from downtown, the UNCG area caters to students. “You have all the things you’d expect like coffee shops,” said the tour guide. The Yum Yum shop got particular mention (“It serves hot dogs, hot dogs, ice cream, cheer wine, and hot dogs. If you want any of those, you can’t go wrong”). There are 3 free shuttle and bus routes available for students: the UNCG shuttle, the HEAT bus which runs between several Greensboro area universities, and the Greensboro City bus which has stops on campus. Students are able to take classes at other Greensboro area schools including Guilford, A&T, Elon, and Greensboro College. Everything is easily accessible, and the school provides transportation even the airport which is 10 miles away.

UNCG rec pool 2

The rec pool where Dive-In Moves are held.

There’s no lack of things to do on campus. Students love the “Dive-in Movies” held at the recreational pool. The art museum has exhibits from students, faculty, and even famous artists (they had a Warhol exhibit last month). All UNCG sporting events (there are 17 DI teams) are free for students. All teams compete on campus except for basketball that plays at the Coliseum just over a mile away.

UNCG dorm 2

One of the 2 largest dorms on campus (the other is next door and looks similar). This houses freshmen.

There are 26 residential halls, including special-interest housing. “Rooms in the ones with double names are a little bigger!” said the tour guide. Students are never required to live on campus, but about 80% of freshmen will live on campus in traditional hall-style. Apartments and Suite-style are available once they reach sophomore standing, and “at least 60% of students stick around.” There are some off campus apartments with shuttles available to campus. Shuttles also run around campus every 10 minutes.

UNCG art museumUNCG does not take the Common App; students need to apply through SpartanLink. Application review begins September 15th, and Priority Consideration is 12/1 which includes Priority Scholarship Consideration (certain scholarship winners are selected from this pool). They will superscore both the SAT and the ACT. Essays and recs are optional but encouraged. Due to NC regulations, applicants need 1 math beyond Algebra 2.

© 2017

 

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University of New Haven

University of New Haven (visited 10/12/16)

new-haven-sealUNH has their act together. They know who they are and what they expect from the kids. Their tag line is “Leader in Experiential Education,” and having seen their resources and talking to several of their kids, I believe it! One of the students I spoke to said, “There are so many resources and opportunities. I’m really proud to be here.”

Internships are required for about 80% of majors (all majors encourage it); most research is available in the sciences, but some companies hire business and engineering students to work on projects. Employers mention the passion and knowledge that UNH students bring to the job; they are mature and well-spoken, and employers keep coming back knowing that they’re going to get quality students. Additionally, the alumni network is strong; they’re willing to employ graduates or interns. “Wildcats look out for wildcats.”

new-haven-4

The Kaplan building with no 90 degree angles (except where it meets the ground and on the roof).

I had no idea that UNH was founded conjunction with Northeastern and Yale. Now, the campus is in a safe suburban area of West Haven (not in its original location downtown). This great college town has music, theater, and a world-class restaurant scene (including Peppi’s Pizza, ranked #1 in the world). When students get sick of New Haven, the are 2 train stations within 10 minutes will get students into NYC (1.5 hours on MetroNorth) or Boston (2 hours on Amtrak). The beaches are only a few miles away.

 

new-haven-bikesThe 4,600 undergrads are evenly split between men and women. Sixty percent come from outside of Connecticut with 41 states and 22 foreign countries represented. Diversity in all its forms is getting better. “A couple years ago, it wasn’t so good. It’s a lot more inclusive now,” said the tour guide in response to my question about how well different groups were represented on campus.

new-haven-lower-quad

Lower Quad where many of the dorms are located

About 2/3 of students live on campus; this will rise when the new building opens in fall 2017 with 67 suites, parking, and retail space (Starbucks and a burger place are confirmed; the rest is still in negotiation). The freshman dorm opened that in 2014 has bathrooms attached to each room. There are still some forced triples, but students in those get $500 off R&B. First-year students can choose an LLC (Army ROTC, honors, arts, marine bio, engineering, forensic science, criminal justice) filled on a first come, first served basis. The tour guides encouraged students to look into these: “They can help a lot in the first year, particularly in more competitive majors or those with lots of projects and late nights such as engineering; if you’re up at 2 am working on something, it’s nice to have others around doing the same things.”

 

One of the tour guides said that he was surprised at how good the food was on campus. The Dairy Bar is the first 3-star certified green restaurant in New Haven.

new-haven-galleryAnother student said he was surprised at how much there was to do outside the classroom. “I was never bored.” The Juggling and Hammock clubs are particularly popular. Students get free tickets to sporting events; the only game that might be difficult to get tickets for is the one against U Maine, their big rival. “We’ll camp out for tickets – that’s half the fun!” Intramurals are a big draw, particularly Broomball.

With 100 majors (and growing) and 70 minors/concentrations, students have no shortage of options. Many programs are hands-on and/or professionally-focused. Students start early doing real work in the field.

  • new-haven-crime-scene-bldg

    Crime Scene Building

    Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences: This is their claim to fame. Henry C. Lee, a nationally known forensic scientist (and still consults for shows and agencies), runs the program.

    • CJ has 7 concentrations: Corrections, Crime Analysis, Law Enforcement Admin, Victim Services Admin, International Justice and Security, Juvenile and Family Justice, Forensic Psych, Investigative Services
      • There’s a crime scene house (“My friends have done 11 hour labs there!” said a tour guide) and a building with crime scene rooms for labwork.
      • new-haven-crime-scene-room

        one of the crime scene lab rooms

        The National Cold Case Center sends information to campus; students and faculty get to work on these.

      • “The forensics floor smells pretty funky, but you’ll get used to it. A professor does research on Forensic Entymology up there,” said a tour guide.
      • One student studied in Australia and worked at a body farm.
    • Fire Science (Arson Investigation or Fire Admin)
    • Fire Protection Engineering
    • National Security Studies: Most students in this major will minor in a language (Chinese, Russian, Arabic are encouraged)
    • Paramedicine
  • Arts and Sciences
  • new-haven-6Business
    • Economics: Students can specialize in General, Behavioral, or Economic Sustainability
    • PACE program: individualized major within the school
    • Hospitality and Tourism Management: students run the campus café and restaurant on campus from top to bottom (marketing, scheduling, food service, purchasing, hiring and firing, etc)
    • The 3+1 Fast-Track allows students to get the Bachelor’s in 3 years. Although not required, it is helpful if students have AP or dual-enrolment credits coming into this program. 4+1 is also an option.
  • Engineering: This school puts a big focus on leadership, communication/presentation skills, and team building.
    • Cyber Systems, Cyber Forensics, and Cybersecurity
    • Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • New Lyme College of Fine Arts: When Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts closed, UNH acquired them and merged the programs into the university.

new-haven-1If students can’t (or don’t want to) spend a semester or year abroad, they have several 2-week intensive study abroad options or can spend first semester freshman year in Prato (Tuscany). A cohort is sent with bio and engineering professors to teach the same classes they’d take here. Music students go to Nashville, working in studios during the day and take classes at night.

New Haven is strict about application deadlines: EVERYTHING has to be in by those dates, not just the student applications. They only require 1 letter, and they will superscore both tests. Interviews are required for Early Decision only. The rep said, “Send things in early! We have the most money to give out and there’s space in all our programs. Applying early means that you have the best chance to be placed in the major you want.” The Priority App deadline is March 1, but if there is space available, apps will be evaluated on a rolling basis after that.

© 2016

Southeastern University

Southeastern University (visited 2/5/16)

SEU archTo imagine what this campus looks like, think Spanish moss (a la Savannah or Charleston) meets Southwest Architecture. The school is relatively new; although it was established in 1935 in Alabama, it relocated to its currently location in 1952 (accreditation was granted in the 80s). Buildings are new, remodeled, or well maintained so everything looks modern and attractive. Music gets piped around the main quad; when we were there, there were a lot of movie music being played. They were running a film fest, and one of the Pixar guys was on campus leading a seminar on storytelling.

SEU statueThis is a conservative Christian school, and students definitely live the mission. “I feel like the people here walk the walk. They want to be here,” said our tour guide. Applicants need to be highly invested in living their faith here. “It’s not someplace to come to explore if you believe; you come here because you DO believe and want to be surrounded by like-minded people and taught in a way that enforces that. All classes are taught from a Christian world-view, and that involves Creationism.” Another student on the panel said, “A lot of people think that god and science are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they don’t have to be.”

St Leo treeApplicants confirm their beliefs on the application. Although associated with Assembly of God (Pentecostal), they have students from a wide range of Christian faiths. An admissions rep said, “We do ask about faith on the application. We won’t reject someone outright if they check the No box, but we’ll have a conversation to see why they’re interested in this environment. We have a very small percentage of non-Christians who enroll.” Part of their application is a Christian Character Reference form from someone they’ve known for more than 6 moths.

SEU 2A variety of chapel services are offered multiple times a week. “We know that people worship in different ways. Some are more quiet and reflective. Others are more boisterous.” Southeastern’s Core Values are Academic Excellence, Spiritual Formation, and Social Engagement. More than 50 student-led mission trips happen each year. When the tour guides talked about their trips, it seemed like a lot were conversion-based trips, but after talking more to students, it seems like many really are more help-based as well as having conversations and exchanges of information.

There’s no official dress code here. “Essentially, it’s based on modesty,” said the tour guide. “No cracks in the front or back!”

SUE butterfly statueSoutheastern’s enrollment has been growing steadily over the last several years to its current enrollment of 4,538 total students, 57% of whom are women and 36% are minority. Racial diversity was evident as we walked around campus; geographic diversity showed up in the license plates from all over the country. They currently have 74 international students; the highest number is from Brazil (5). However, there are no shuttles to and from the airport for kids who have to fly in. “A lot will take a SuperShuttle or get a friend to pick them up.” Freshmen can have cars on campus; parking is tough but a garage is in the works.

SEU new LLC bldg

The new LLC construction

There’s space for1600 students to live on campus but they’re adding 450 new beds in the new LLC that’s currently going up and will be open for fall of 2016. The 1st floor will have food, the 2-3rd floors will be offices and classrooms, and dorm rooms will take up the 4-5th floors. There are no coed dorms, and this a dry campus. The myriad of social events has led to the reputation that this is “party school of Christian schools.” There’s plenty to do on campus. Sports are a big deal, both playing and watching. Football is now in its second year, and wrestling is new. When students want to get off campus, they can use town buses for free.

SEU dorms

One of the dorms with a sand volleyball court in front

Overall, it seems like students like it here: “I was worried about whether I could have fun and be a Christian, too, but here you can.” Lakeland is a college town “but on a smaller scale than you might expect.” The beach, water parks, and Disney are all within an hour’s drive. Most students seemed happy, but while on the tour, three girls started saying, “Don’t do it! Don’t come!!” while shaking their heads vigorously behind the tour guide’s back. Another counselor and I went over to talk to them for a couple minutes and asked what they didn’t like about it. They said it wasn’t what it seemed and wasn’t worth the cost. However, when we entered the dorm, we talked to two students in the lounge. “On a 1-10 scale, it’s an 11! I love it here!”

SEU stadium

The football stadium

Of the 50 majors, graphic design, poli sci, and nursing are the newest. The students we talked to said that their largest classes were 115, 40, and 50; the smallest were 4 and 8. All students must complete 18 credits in Religion, so all of them end up with a minor in Bible Studies. They also have to earn 30 Chapel Credits per semester. “It’s pretty easy to do, and people want to go anyway.” The FYE is tied into Chapel; these classes are single-gender. There’s also a student-led workshop team: it’s a selective group involving a lot of singing, and students have to audition; they put out a yearly CD.

SEU sci bldg

The Science building

In the lobby of the science building is a mastodon skeleton named “Suzy.” It was found in Florida and on loan to the university for 6 years.

This school is an amazing bargain at $31,000 per year. The average financial aid package is $18,000 with the top scholarships going up to $15,000. Honors students (the ones getting the most money) need a 3.6 to keep their merit aid. Scholarships are generally given based on the applications; they will superscore both the ACT and the SAT. They accept counselor and teacher recs but don’t require them.

© 2016

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (visited 7/28/15)

Once known as North Adams State, this 1800-student college is nestled in the small but bustling town of North Adams in the Berkshires. The students rave about town: “There’s so much to do! Mass MoCA is free, the ice rink is free on Tuesdays, there are movies, pubs, restaurants. We saw Lady Gaga last week at Tanglewood [about 45 minutes away]. If we want to get out of town, there’s any outdoor activity you can think of.”

√MCLA acad bldg 1Campus architecture ranges from beautiful old houses to almost-ugly 60’s and 70s buildings to a brand-new environmentally friendly science center that has solar panels and a wind turbine on top. Many of the central buildings are connected or only steps apart. For example, one of the gyms and the theater are both attached to the student center. Campus is not huge: “You can get across it in about 5 minutes.”

√MCLA quadEnglish, Business, and Psychology are some of the biggest majors, and (not surprisingly given its history as a Normal College), Education is strong. They also have Arts Management, unusual for a school of this size. MCLA offers 2 “Jump Start” summer programs. The first is a week-long leadership initiative for approximately 30 students each year called LEAD (Leadership, Education, Action, and Development). The Second is STEM Academy which takes about 16-20 students.

√MCLA outdoor class

Outdoor classroom

The tour guide could not say enough about the teachers. “I know it sounds really cliché, but they do care.” This is one thing that really surprised her about MCLA. She had been told in high school that college professors wouldn’t care about how she did, and yet the do. She went on to say that even the librarians care about the students. One of the traditions she loves is that at the end of each semester during finals, they order food for students and will go through the library to tell them that the food has arrived so the kids can take a break.

New tower dorms

New tower dorms

Townhouses on campus

Townhouses on campus

MCLA has a 3-year on-campus residency requirement, and 95% of traditional aged students live on campus. Dorms range from traditional hall-style double rooms to suites and townhouses, both of which have singles and double bedrooms and which can be coed by suite. Townhouses have full kitchens and house only upperclassmen (MCLA defines this as sophomore and up). The new towers have suites which will usually have 4 doubles and a single.

√MCLA gates

The infamous gates

Another popular tradition/superstition revolves around the gates. At the beginning of the year, freshman will enter the gates from the main road, meet the president and their peers, and then have a party. The seniors will walk out of the gates at graduation. Rumor has it that walking between the gates before then means they won’t graduate – at least on time. “I know someone who walked through them accidentally. He graduated a semester late. I like to think it’s because it wasn’t intentional . . . otherwise he’d never get out of here!”

√MCLA sci cntr 2

Science Center

The tour guide’s largest class was Intro to Bio with 45 students. “We met for 2 hours twice a week. Usually we’d have a lecture for half and a lab for half.” Her smallest, College Writing 2, had 8 “which is weird because that’s a core class.” Her favorite has been Behavioral Analysis because the professor would tell them real stories from the field.

In terms of admissions, MCLA is a state school so they generally have to follow the Department of Education regulations which include 4 units of math, one of which has to be taken in the senior year. “We have a tiny bit of wiggle room to admit a few students to don’t immediately meet the requirements but who we think will be successful,” said a rep. Usually this is saved for out-of-state students who may have graduated under other requirements. They will superscore both the ACT and the SAT.

√MCLA walkwayVery few students come from out-of-state: probably only about 10% come from outside of MA or the Capital Region of NY (technically OOS, but only an hour away – closer than Boston). These students make up about another 10% of the student body. Transportation can be a little bit of an issue, but certainly doable. “We have a student from Colorado who just grabs a ride with a friend to Albany and gets a plane from there.” There’s also a bus that will stop at Williams College only a few miles down the road. Amtrak also goes through Pittsfield which is about 25-30 miles away.

“Students who are looking for a small liberal-arts, New England campus in a great cultural center and who have a sense of community service or activism will do really well here,” said the rep.

(c) 2015

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) (visited on 12/9/13)

UMBC 1 I visited campus on a snowy, overcast day, but that didn’t dampen the activity on campus. Roads and UMBC 2sidewalks were cleared, and people were outside. I was impressed with the sense of camaraderie exhibited by the students. People were talking and laughing, greeting each other as they passed, making plans for activities. Very few students were plugged into music as they walked around.

~UMBC bldgs 3The campus is well planned out (not surprising considering that it’s about 50 years old). I expected a more traditional campus with large green spaces; it is located in the suburbs, after all. Coming in from the parking lot, the campus struck me as a bit sterile, but this impression changed quickly. There is a pond and fountain and some areas of open space. It is a lovely campus which is clearly well-thought out in terms of how it was developed.

UMBC 3

Info Tech and Engineering building

Biological Sciences building

Biological Sciences building

UMBC’s stellar reputation in STEM fields unfairly overshadows their other opportunities; they offer 44 majors, 41 minors, and 20 certificate programs. The university is ranked with Yale, Notre Dame, and Berkeley for teaching quality, and it’s been listed as a best value in education (it’s public). Experiential Learning (including funding undergrad research through publication and presentation) is part of their mission, and the Shriver Center helps students set up internships, co-ops, and service learning. President Hrabowski sits on President Obama’s council for education, has done TED Talks, and was listed on Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2012. He’ll eat with students in the dining hall or talk as they pass by on campus. Our tour guide said when he sees people with books, he’ll ask what they’re reading, and he remembers things like when they’re taking tests; weeks later might ask how the exam went.

~UMBC trips poster

Poster advertising trips offered to students.

Students can get into downtown Baltimore in 15 minutes and into DC in about 45 minutes. The College Park Metro Stop is about 30 minutes away (as is the flagship campus of the UMD system), or students can take the MARC train into DC (which recently started running from Baltimore to DC on the weekends, as well). BWI (airport) is about 10 minutes away and Penn Station (Amtrak) is about 20 minutes away.

The University System of Maryland Inter-Institutional Registration Program allows students to cross-register at institutions such as University of Maryland College Park (30 minutes away), University of Baltimore (20 minutes), Bowie State (30 minutes), Towson State (30 minutes), and University of Maryland at Baltimore (15 minutes). Enrolled, degree-seeking students with sophomore and higher standing can take classes at other UM schools and receive credit at their home institution. No spots get reserved for students from other schools, so it’s first-come, first-served. Students must meet whatever prerequisites are in place and pay any additional class-specific fees.

One of the dining commons

One of the dining commons

~UMBC mascot

Mascot

Students get highly involved in campus. Sports and school-spirit seem to be big here; many students were wearing athletic and Retriever gear (the mascot is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever; students rub the nose of the Retriever statue in front of the Athletic Center for luck). The school takes the success of their athletes seriously and has an Academic Center for Student Athletes in the athletic center; the center is open to all students and there’s plenty of space for all sorts of fitness activities (including both an indoor and an outdoor pool). There are lots of other ways to get involved beyond sports. During Welcome Week, organizations set up tables in the quad so that students know what’s going on and get join groups. The university purposefully sets up “Free Hour” during which no classes are scheduled, giving everyone, including commuter students, the chance to be part of clubs and other activities on campus. There is no Greek Housing but Greek Life is active; students can rush after getting a semester of credit. One of the students’ favorite events is Quad Mania, a sort of Spring-fling event.

UMC 5About 4000 of the 9,500 full-time undergraduates live on campus. All dorms are suites, and facilities are new (a benefit of a newer university). Freshman suites are set up with two bedrooms sharing a bath; upperclassman suites usually also have a common area with a small kitchenette area. There are multiple options, including Living Learning Communities within the Res halls and several apartments on campus. All students living on campus must have a meal plan, but with multiple dining options, they can buy what suits their needs and their living arrangements. Students in the apartments will often buy the 5-meals-a-week plan (the least); freshmen almost always buy the 18-a-week (the most). There are many off-campus housing options, and the Off-Campus Student Services Department in the Commons keeps a listing of apartments as well as helping with roommate matching. The busses serving the university stop at five or six different apartment complexes nearby so transportation is easy. The Res Hall even smelled good.

Admissions is selective with successful applications having mostly As and Bs, but they will look at the trend through high school. Both the ACT and SAT are superscored. They have several Scholars Programs for qualified students: Center for Women in Tech (CWIT), Humanities, Linehan Artist (must audition), Meyerhoff Scholars, Sherman Teacher Education, Sondheim Public Affairs. Additionally, approximately 125 students a year are accepted into the Honors College which gives students the added benefits of Applied Learning Experiences, an Honors Community, and honors-specific classes. Successful applicants tend to have at least a 3.5 and a 2100 SAT or 31 ACT. Our tour guide was in the Honors Program; one of her favorite classes, The Anthropology of Food, was part of this program (and was her smallest class with 17 students; her largest was an Intro to Chem class with about 200).

(c) 2014

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis (Visited 4/13/13)

WashU 1

The original building (built as a Seminary in 1853)

Sometimes, what you see really is what you get; at WashU, the large Gothic building on their promo material IS what you get. Most buildings on the academic side are built in this style; a new building that will house the business school expansion was going up when we toured, and it’s exactly the same as the others (if Stepford Wives had inanimate counterparts, this would be it!). The library (with two of its floors underground) was the only building on that side of campus that didn’t look like the others.

WashU 6

Part of the walkway across the Quad to the library.

I visited campus with two other college counselors, and we participated in the same program that potential students would do during their visit. This started with perhaps the best info session I’ve seen. An admissions counselor, a student, and a professor took turns speaking without relying on a PowerPoint. The professor introduced himself and said, “I’ve been here since 1973. I know that’s way before most of you were born. I’m dealing with it.” He was engaging and interesting; I would have signed up to take a class with him.

Both James (the student) and Bill (the professor) talked about the advising system. Students are assigned advisors “T-60,” as James put it: he got an introductory email two months before classes began which started a dialogue before he stepped on campus. Faculty Advisors are only part of the support system; students have multiple people looking out for them: dorm advisors, pre-professional advisors if they’re on that track, career advisors, etc. They’re all there to help kids get to where they want to go without pressure to do something else. As Bill said, “What you want to do doesn’t need to make sense to me. It only needs to make sense to YOU.”

WashU 7

The law school as seen from the original building.

The 6,000 undergrads (and about as many grad students) are “diverse in every sense of the word.” They come from every state and 50 countries, represent all sorts of religions and political beliefs, and are “even diverse in what they choose to study” according to the admissions rep. There are five colleges: Arts and Sciences is the biggest, and everyone takes classes in this area as part of the liberal arts experience. Applied Science and Engineering is next followed by the Business School (with freshman entry). The smallest schools are Arts and Architecture, both of which give freshman a strong design base before they specialize. Seventy percent of students study more than one thing (double major, major/minor); the areas don’t have to be in the same college. Our Tour Guide was a PNP major (Philosophy, Neurosci, and Psych) major and a Gender Studies minor.

WashU 3The students mentioned some unusual classes that stood out. One was “The Psychology of Young Adulthood” with topics applicable to what they were going through such as how sleep affects moods. The Freshman-Focus program got high marks across the board. One is called “Bad Leadership;” students learn what NOT to do by focusing on people who didn’t succeed, or who had succeeded but made bad decisions and crashed. Another was called “Literature of Post-adolescence.” A third focused on Cuba, and the students traveled there at the end of the year.

Adding a travel component to classes is becoming a big deal, adding real-world applications to the theory. Teachers have taken groups to study biofuels in Brazil, bio-resources in Australia, air quality in Beijing, Mumbai, Seoul, etc. James, who spoke at the info session, took a class as a freshman called “Euro Business Sampler” which involved a trip to Europe in May; they learned about things such as the EU and business laws and regulations as well as going on company visits. He’s now taking “Luxury Retail Industry” and will travel to London, Paris, and Milan to visit several major fashion companies such as Gucci.

WashU deliberately keeps classes small. Eighty percent of classes have 25 or fewer students, and only 2% exceed 100. The largest lecture hall on campuses has 300 seats but is rarely used. During the info session, James told us that he had a large lecture class, and the professor had memorized a bunch of names and faces before the first class and was able to call on people by name. The admissions rep at the info session was a WashU grad; she had a couple classes with 2 or 3 people. Our tour guide, a freshman, has a class of 12.

The residential part of campus

The residential part of campus

WashU 5

The Clock

Beyond academics, WashU takes good care of the students. The “South 40” is the residential portion of campus (the part not built in the gothic style) and looks like a little town-center, with roads meeting at a central square and a clock (all the local delivery places know the Clock so students often get delivery there), and several student-owned businesses (and are sold by graduating seniors to underclassmen). This was the happening place on the weekend; we were there late on a Saturday morning, and a music group was already jamming next to a dorm, and several clubs had tables set up with various activities including a burger table. Seven Residential Colleges mostly house freshmen and sophomores. Incoming students cannot request a specific one which our tour guide says is fine since they don’t know the difference, anyways. During orientation, students get a t-shirt specific to their college to wear for convocation, so upperclassmen can ID the new students in the college. The “Modern Colleges” are suite style, but sometimes the Traditional Colleges are even nicer: they have TempurPedic mattress, for example. All colleges have RAs, Tutors, and faculty associates. Most Juniors live in The Village or off-campus, and most Seniors are in campus housing off-campus

WashU 8

Students in a Club Sport practicing on one of the quads.

Of all the clubs mentioned, the most unusual was the Butter Churning Club (there’s a first for everything!). They offer three levels of athletics: DIII, club, and intramural (including arm wrestling and inner-tube water polo!). About 80% of students participate in community service, and the musical groups are active and popular, including ten a cappella groups (one of which sings only Disney songs). Our tour guide’s favorite tradition is Thirteen Carnival, the oldest student-run carnival in the nation. Also, we got to see the set-up for the tradition in which fraternities and sororities pair up to build something based on the theme for that year and raise money for charity. The university makes it easy to get off campus by providing a free unlimited Metropass. There are 2 light-rail stops on campus that go to the airport or to downtown. The pass also works on the buses. Forest Park (bigger than Central Park) hosts festivals such as the Chinese Lantern Festival, and has a free science center and botanical garden. For science students, this top-notch plant research center serves as a place for internships and research.

In terms of admissions, they obviously look for academic fit, but also for character, integrity, collaboration, and how a student will contribute to the dynamic community. Their guiding question is “Going to school has been your job. What did you do there?” They only require 1 teacher rec and ask that if a student sends more than that, the additional letter says something new. They take the Common App with a short supplement (no additional essay). They superscore both the SAT and ACT, but don’t require ACT writing or SATIIs. If a student has earned a 4 or a 5 on AP exams, they will allow the student to enter with up to 15 credits. January 15 is their hard deadline for scholarship consideration.

(c) 2013

Florida International University

Florida International University (visited 1/24/13)

As luck would have it, I sat next to a recent FIU graduate on the plane to Miami. She did her master’s work there, and while her experience was clearly different from undergrads, she shared insight and knowledge about FIU. She raved about her experiences, the campus, and the school. She was also a Miami native and knew a lot about FIU and the University of Miami and talked a bit about real and perceived differences.

The FIU admissions counselor literally went out of her way to help me. I had emailed her in advance asking if I could join the afternoon tour and info session; I told her I had planned on hopping on a bus to get to campus and asked for directions from the bus stop to the admissions office. She told me not to worry about the bus; she would pick me up on her way back to campus after a high school visit. She also took me back at the end of the day. I found that this friendliness was not uncommon; people seemed more than willing to help others. I walked away with a real sense of community – something I don’t often get when visiting such large schools.

FIU is a large public university. It opened in 1972 and has grown to 34,000 undergrads, but it feels smaller because of the high commuter population. Approximately 6,000 students live on campus, giving this the feel of a medium-sized university but with the myriad of opportunities of any other large state school I’ve seen. True to its name, there’s an extensive international population; Trinidad, the Bahamas, and China are the most-represented countries, and India is quickly catching up. Additionally, the cultural diversity of Miami is also well represented on campus. (As a side note, the TOEFL exam is not required for students who graduate from a US high school and who have been here for at least 2 years).

All dorms are apartment or suite style – none have communal bathrooms (another surprise at such a large school, but indicative of the lower residential rate). Suites have 3 or 4 single bedrooms with some sort of common space and a bathroom, often with at least 1 sink outside the bathroom. The upperclassmen suites tend to have a kitchen in the common area; freshmen dorms usually don’t. Each dorm has a mail room, a staffed front desk, and laundry facilities. New dorms are being built for upperclassmen which will increase the number of students living on campus. About 15% of the students are involved in Greek Life. Freshmen can rush; sororities rush in fall and frats rush every semester. There are only two frat houses on campus; they’re large, beautiful buildings near the entrance to campus that house 30-40 students each.

Scholarships range from 50% tuition to full rides (including R&B and fees) for National Merit Finalists. The percentage of tuition applies to either in- or out-of-state tuition, whichever the student would be paying. Scholarships are awarded at the time of acceptance with few exceptions. They super-score both the SAT and the ACT. If grades go up during senior year and the most recent GPA would help move them up for a higher award, they can submit updated grades for reconsideration. There is also an Honors program that students are invited to when they apply; students admitted to this program usually have a 4.0 GPA and 2000 SAT (or equivalent ACT).

The Biscayne Bay campus houses the Marine Science, Journalism, and Hospitality majors. Although these majors don’t seem to go together, they’re placed there because of availability of resources: the marine science obviously has the bay; the journalism is placed there because it’s closer to many of the major networks and newspapers, so students have easy access to internships and hands-on experiences. There’s also a separate Engineering campus. Shuttles run back and forth all day to all campuses until 11pm.

The main campus is beautiful, well-laid out, and easy to get around; the tour guide lived on campus her first year and said that it took “7 minutes at a normal pace” to get from her dorm to her furthest class. There is far more grass than I expected of such a large university; sculptures are everywhere. Visual and performing arts are active, and one part of campus has an “Avenue of the Arts” with the Fine Arts building on one side and the Music School at the end. The tour guide said that that the arts programs could use more money, despite all the theater productions and the multiple Art Expos each year showcasing student’s work. A farmer’s market is held on campus every Wednesday, and group yoga and tai-chi classes are often held around the fountain. The Architecture, Business, and Law schools are all centrally located among the other buildings. The law school has two working courtrooms which are used for actual trials as well as for teaching. The largest auditorium on campus holds 280 students. The tour guide’s smallest class had 18 students; the largest was 280. When students register for classes, they can actually see how big the enrollment is in that class. The entire campus is wi-fi accessible, and printing (5 cents per page) is available in all the buildings and can be accessed by swiping ID cards.

The library tower is the tallest building on campus and serves as a good reference point for finding your way around. The first two floors are “loud floors” with study rooms, group spaces, and lots of centralized seating. The rest of the floors are quiet. Under the library is a breeze-way with a mini-mart on one side – this is very popular for students wanting a study break. Clubs and organizations often set up tables for information or fund-raisers. One club was having a bake sale when we went by.

There are no obvious blue security lights around campus; the tour guide said these were mostly around the outskirts of campus and in buildings. There are two police stations on campus and 36 officers stationed solely on campus. Even though this is a city campus, she said that she has always felt safe on campus. Parking isn’t really an issue. People can get parking spots – but there is a “parking convenience problem.”

The tour guide is a big fan of the food, especially being able to get breakfast all day at the dining halls. She still buys into a partial meal plan even though she lives off campus. Students living on-campus must have a meal plan; those living off-campus can choose. The VIP5 allows students to get meals Monday – Friday, and includes $300 in Panther Bucks for use at satellite food outlets. The VIP7 meal plan is all week and includes $100 in Panther Bucks. On-campus locations that take Panther Bucks include Chili’s, a sushi place, Dunkin Donuts, Einstein Bros, Subway, Burger King, a Middle Eastern restaurant, Starbucks, mini-marts, and more. Many of these are located in the University Center food-court; it feels like a mall food court with lots of seating and even a fishtank. We walked through in mid-afternoon and it was being well-utilized. Clearly it’s a comfortable, central hang-out.

(c) 2013

University of Denver

UNIVERSITY OF DENVER (visited 10/4/12)

DU~DU 7Before arriving on campus, I had never heard of a Green Ambulance, aka one that is Solar Powered. It was developed at DU (yes, they call themselves DU, not the other way around. We couldn’t find someone to tell us why) and now serves the campus community. People probably don’t think of DU as a college that’s developing new things, but a surprising amount of interesting stuff is being done here. However, after learning about the types of students they are attracting to campus, it wasn’t so surprising after all. DU is committed to drawing students who will actively engage in opportunities and will think outside the box. In the application and in the optional interviews (which can be done with any of a number people – faculty, staff, alumni), they look for evidence that students are motivated to learn, that they’re concerned about honesty and integrity, and are open to difference and new ideas.

The light-rail stop on campus

The light-rail stop on campus

DU debateI visited the University of Denver right after the first Presidential Debate, and there was clearly still a lot of residual energy surrounding that. We took the light-rail from downtown to the stop directly across the street from campus (students get to ride for free with their Student ID). This beautiful campus is located in a residential area of the city called (appropriately) University Place. There are malls nearby, and the first Chipotle ever opened is located only a couple blocks away. Downtown is seven miles away; a major technology corridor is six miles south (also on the light-rail line). Students use both areas for internships. Beyond that, students have access to all that this part of Colorado has to offer, including six ski areas within 90 miles.

~DU 6Denver is a medium sized school with just over 5,000 undergraduates, but they also have a sizable graduate population which includes their law school and PhD students. Less than 40% of the undergrad population is from Colorado; they draw students from every state and 61 countries with almost 10% of the population coming from abroad. The city of Denver is a major draw for people coming from out-of-state. It’s a major metropolitan area (one of the very few in the country that has every major sports team!), an amusement park within the city limits, and more – but also has the additional appeal of being so close to several smaller cities (Boulder, Colorado Springs, etc) as well as the Rockies and other outdoor opportunities.

~DU seatingDenver runs on the quarter system with three 10-week sessions and an optional 4th summer session. Because of this, students have a 6-week winter break from Thanksgiving to beginning of January which students find helpful if they want to get seasonal employment. Students complete a Common Curriculum comprised of a series of writing classes, arts and humanities, and social and natural sciences.

Denver has 13 schools with more than 100 areas of study including interdisciplinary and pre-professional programs. More unusual DU4majors include: Rhetoric and Professional Writing, Animation and Game Development, Real Estate and Construction Management, Astrophysics, and Cognitive Neuroscience. They have a full Music school, and the opera program is reportedly excellent. Students not majoring in music still have access to many classes in that school, but students must audition in order to major in music, and can only apply under the Regular Decision deadline. The Art school requires a portfolio, and Theater students who want scholarships must audition. Students interested in Business don’t apply to Daniels until freshman year for entrance into the school during the fall quarter of sophomore year; they are interviewed and submit a resume as part of the process. Special degree programs include 3+2 and 4+1 in Business, Education, and Social Work (in which students can study something different as undergrad), and in Art History, GIS, international studies, public policy, and engineering (in which students must major in that field as an undergraduate).

~DU gardenDenver prides itself on active, not passive, learning with average class sizes of 21. Our tour guide’s smallest and biggest classes have DU2been 17 and 120. Ninety-five percent of classes have fewer than 50 students; 82%% have fewer than 30. Every first-year student works with a faculty mentor. The five-year average retention rate is 88% (freshman to sophomore year). Professors teach 99.8% of the classes and are known for cutting edge contribution to research. Ninety percent of the full-time faculty hold the highest degree in their field and/or are active in their field such as the music professor playing in the symphony or the business professor who owns her own business. Sixty-five to seventy percent of students complete at least one internship before graduation. Over 200 students participate in research with faculty each year, and the school helps to pair up students with professors; students regularly publish and present their findings. About 1,250 students participate in 80 service-courses each year. DU is on the US President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll because of the amount of service they provide in the wider Denver area. They also want students to study abroad and have started the Cherrington Global Scholars program: If students have a 3.0 GPA, they can study abroad and not pay any more than they’d pay at DU. About 70% of students participate before graduation.

DU requires that students live on campus for the first two years; 95% of first-year students live on campus (the rest living with family inDU3 town). Dorms are comfortable and modern with cable, a micro-fridge, wireless, and other amenities coming standard. As is becoming more popular on campuses across the country, they have several Living Learning Communities available to First Year students who can choose from themes such as Creativity and Entrepreneurship, Environmental Sustainability, International, Social Justice, and Wellness. DU also provides Integrated Learning Programs which span all 4 years, the Honors Program, and the Pioneer Leadership Program. Students can minor in Leadership Studies which is becoming increasingly more popular.

~DU 11The Early Action and the Regular Decisions rounds are equally competitive. Applicants can use either the Common App or the Pioneer App (specific to DU). They take either the SAT or the ACT w/o writing, and they will SuperScore both tests. They require a counselor recommendation; additional letters are optional. AP scores, if available, can help the students (but to get credit, the student must have earned a 4 or 5 on the exam). Qualifications for scholarships and for the Honors program are evaluated during application process. Those being offered a spot in the Honors program usually have just under a 4.0 GPA and about a 32 ACT or the SAT equivalent. University scholarships can carry over to the 5th year.

~DU chapelCampus has lots of activities to participate in or to watch. DU has 17 DI athletic teams; the college has earned 28 team and 109 individual champions, 308 All-Americans, and 57 Olympians. Non-athletes actively support the teams; hockey is the most attended event. The Alpine Club is particularly popular. Its goal is to get people outdoors, so they have equipment for student use, offer rides, and get discounts at local places. Homecoming, Winter Carnival, and May Days are particularly popular traditions which draw large crowds.

(c) 2012

Colorado College

Colorado College (visited 10/1/12)

CC green spaceColorado College is one of the few colleges in the country on the block schedule: students take one class at a time, 3 hours a day for 18 days, and then have “block break” (Wednesday afternoon through the weekend); when they come back, they start a new class. Professors also only teach one class per block so they are also fully invested in the class and the students. The best thing about this is that there is so much flexibility in how the class meets: if they want to meet in the afternoon instead of the morning, they can; if they want to take a day-long (or a week-long) field trip, they can just go! The geology class, which is apparently hugely popular, goes to New Mexico for a week for field-work. A sociology class about deviation in society goes to a prison for a day. They also have classes that go places for all three weeks like a theater class in London or the “Yachtyssey” which studies Homer’s Odyssey from aboard a yacht, going to many of the places mentioned in the literature.

CC

A class session on the quad

Students usually take eight block classes a year – four during the length of a traditional semester at another school. This gives some flexibility to students who may want to study abroad for a semester or year; they can go away to get a different experience and come back to pick up at the start of the next block at CC. Classes are small – generally in the teens, but all are capped at 25 unless the class is team-taught by a couple professors. Even then, the class size doesn’t double; it’s capped in the high 30s. On the other end of the spectrum, classes won’t get canceled even if only one student signs up.

CC flagpoleCC sukkahTheir required classes are meant to give students critical thinking and global awareness: students take two classes each in West in Time, a college level language (even if they come in with proficiency in language), and Scientific Investigations, and one each in Social Inequality, Global Culture, and Quantitative Reasoning. Several classes can count for two areas, but they will not excuse students from the language requirement since they want students to have their classes which not only include language instruction, but discussions about culture and other topics related to the language.

CC 2One of the traditions that my tour guide talked about was “First Monday.” On the first Monday of every new block, students are invited to a presentation held in the non-denominational chapel (one of the largest gathering spaces on campus). CC brings in big name people; Margaret Atwood (author) was in recently, as was Ralph Nader. Students tend to come in fairly large numbers to these events and others. The typical students are socially aware, intellectually curious, and want to give back to the world. There is an organic farm and a student-run soup kitchen on campus.

CC chapelSeveral years ago, Discover Magazine published a list of Top 50 Women in Science. Three of them were CC grads; only MIT had more – with four. Not too bad for a small liberal arts school! They do a lot to attract good students up front, especially in the sciences: They offer 4 Barnes Scholarship in Natural Sciences which grants a full-tuition scholarship to the winners – 2 in Bio and bio-chem, and 2 in the other sciences. The nice thing is that the winners are chosen by the faculty. They also have a lot more to brag about, including that they are the only nationally ranked Liberal Arts college in the time zone.

CC quadI didn’t realize that CC was so competitive: overall, they accept about 23% of applicants. They accept a little over a third of Early Decision applications, a little under a third of those applying for Early Action, and only about 15% of those in the Regular Decision pool. Because they do try to meet full need of their students, they require that the CSS/PROFILE get submitted with the application. They will superscore both the ACT and the SAT, and because they know that students demonstrate strengths in different ways, they have a policy that allows students to submit a combination of AP and/or SAT II scores rather than ACT or SAT scores. Overlap schools tend to be other small liberal arts schools with highly motivated, smart, maybe slightly quirky students: Bates, Bowdoin, Williams, Pitzer, some of the Ivies, and some Colorado Schools.

(c) 2012

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