Eastern Connecticut State University (visited 10/13/16)
ECSU is the great option for students wanting the best of both worlds: a medium-sized research institution with lots of options while still engaging in small classes, being able to create change around them, and forging personal relationships with peers and mentors. This is a solid university that sets its students up for success.
As the smallest and most residential campus of the Connecticut State system (of which, surprisingly, UConn is not a part!), it’s also Connecticut’s only Public Liberal Arts School. They take an interdisciplinary approach to education, including lots of group projects, collaboration, and teamwork. Classes are largely discussion-based to teach students how to think critically and analytically. The average classes have 23; 94% have fewer than 40 students. The largest class last year was 46. No TA/GAs teach classes.
One of the best ways they ensure success is through the Eastern in 4 Program which involves a Dual Advising Program: students get an academic advisor and one from the Professional Advising center; with these 2 people, freshmen create a 4-year plan that helps them think through their interests and professional goals while graduating on time and being hirable. 95% of students complete internships or other applied learning experiences. Additionally, the college provides up to $8000 in scholarship money to make study abroad accessible. Students not wanting (or able) to do a complete semester or year abroad can participate in Global Field Courses (2-3 week study-courses). For example, Tropical Biology went to Costa Rica where they stayed in tree-houses, studied tropical reefs, etc. A Communications class went to London and Paris, a psychology class went to Dublin, and a Creative Writing class went to Italy.
The international experience also comes to campus. The tour guide feels that campus is diverse, with good reason: there’s a great deal of geographic diversity here with 24 states and 23 countries represented (good for a non-flagship state school). Being such a residential campus helps attract people. They do enroll slightly more females than males (about a 55-45 split), and more than 25% are self-reported students of color.
Most freshmen (90%) live on campus but this drops to about 2/3 of all students after the first year. Many on-campus upperclassmen live in suites like mini-apartments. The housing lottery is done with priority points: the more they do on campus, the better housing they’ll get – and there’s plenty to do!
Students like the campus food: “Curley fries on Fridays are the best!” The milk and apples used in Dining Services are locally sourced from nearby farms, as are other vegetables. Even local restaurants and food stores are locally-sourced. When I asked the tour guide what surprised her about the school, she immediately said, “How good the ice cream place in town is!! Ok, really, I guess it’s how nice people are. People will hold doors, say hi to each other, etc”
They offer 15 DIII and 5 Club sports (and they have the highest GPA in their division, winning the President Cup 3 times!). One of our tour guide’s favorite activities is the Thursday Night pancakes served from 9 to midnight. “They do chocolate chip on the first Thursday of the month!” The “Stress Free Days” also draw big kudos. The college brings in therapy dogs, people can get massages, there’s a Panini truck, and more. There’s plenty of late-night programming similar to any other college, as well.
Freshmen can’t have cars on campus, but after that, parking is free. A shuttle runs every 10-15 minutes with 10 stops on campus (although it’s a highly walkable campus) and 2 stops off campus (at the mall and at Walmart). The college runs discounted trips to NYC and Boston fairly frequently (they’re located centrally between the two cities). For example, students can get RT transportation to NY and a Broadway ticket for $35. Longer weekend trips to places like DC and Philly are also available.
Majors are fairly standard here; they don’t offer a ton of options, but what they do, they tend to do well, and major corporations tend to hire them quickly out of school. More than 30 Eastern grads work at ESPN, and not just from their Sport and Leisure Management or New Media Studies programs; one woman is doing their digital art and design work. “When you see the logo pop up, that’s her work,” said the rep. Students in the music program get opportunities such as singing with Josh Groban.
ECSU is test-optional as long as the applicant has earned a 3.0 in academic courses – BUT in order to receive any merit aid, scores must be submitted! They do recommend sending scores because the admissions process is more stringent without them. Decisions are sent out on a rolling basis; the rep suggested: “Between Thanksgiving and winter break would be a good target area. It’s when we get most of our apps.”