campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “test-optional”

Wofford College

Wofford College (visited 2/25/20)

Wofford mascot

The Terrior mascot

If you’re looking for the smaller academic environment located in a small city and with DI sports and big-school school spirit, check this place out. “Wofford is unique for our area,” said a rep. “If you want a liberal arts northeast college feel but in the south, we can do that. If you’re interested in school spirit and that balance of having popular sports but on a small campus, we can do that. You can have the rah-rah game day experience without being lost in the crowd.” One of the tour guides echoed that: “About 20% of students are on varsity teams. We compete at a high level and are on TV, but you also know the students you’re cheering for on the court.” The other tour guide said that she loved the school spirit here: “You’ll see the terrier everywhere!” (As a side note, they also have an Equestrian Club – not NCAA – which is “not highly competitive, but active”).


Near the entrance to campus

I’d wanted to see Wofford ever since a student had her heart set on it several years ago. I see why. They’re doing something right with an 89% retention rate and an 81% 4-year graduation rate (well above the national average, even compared to the 6-year rate). This solely undergrad, highly residential campus currently has 1725 students. The rep shared that they may expand by a bit over the next few years but will cap at 1800. Campus is beautiful and well maintained, people are incredibly friendly, and students seem genuinely happy and are making the most of their experiences.

Wofford fountain 2

One of the fountains around campus

Wofford takes care of its students (and they take care of visitors – I can’t tell you how far good signage goes to help new people navigate; it makes a huge different when people feel welcome on campus and aren’t feeling lost). There are multiple ways for students get involved and feel connected to at least one group, but many are involved in multiple ways. They start off with a 5-day new student Orientation with a field day, Summit Adventure, community service, and more. The president makes a point of spending time with students, including randomly picking 12 names every month for dinner at the president’s house. One tour guide said that she got picked her first month on campus. “That was a bit daunting, but it was a great experience!

Wofford atrium 3They offer an impressive array of academic choices for a school of this size, and because classes are smaller, students are more engaged. “As professors, we talk less and ask students to do more.” The majors are fairly standard for a smaller liberal arts school (with the exception of Chinese, Intercultural Studies, and Business Econ). What really impressed me were the Concentrations which includes areas such as Medicine and the Liberal Arts, Middle Eastern/North African Studies, 19th Century Studies, and Computational Science. The tour guide told us that language majors/classes are the 2nd most popular on campus; this shows up on the types of majors and minors the school offers, many of which incorporate language study into the major, even if they aren’t strictly majoring in that language. All students must take a language class (they can’t test out) but they offer a lot of options, includes more unusual languages like Arabic and Chinese.

Wofford hammocks

They have multiple hammock frames around the quad for student use

They’ve been running an Interim Session (like a J-term) since the early ‘70s, so they have this down to a science. “Having it incorporated it so well into the calendar is great,” said one of the students. Students take advantage of this time to complete internships, take travel courses, do research, take a class to get ahead or just for fun, and more. They offer traditional classes as well as things like knitting or sustainable fashion, furniture design, craft brewing, and fiction telling through LEGOS and stop-action animation. For those wanting to get off campus, they often get linked with someone in the strong alumni base. “People are all over. DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, and other cities are teaming with alum who want to help current students with shadowing or internship experiences.”

Wofford greek 2

Part of Greek Village

Almost all students (about 95%) live on campus all 4 years, including local students. That speaks volumes about the community and the dorms. Seniors live in apartments in small houses clustered around a small quad that has a village feel to it. Although almost 50% of students get involved in Greek Life, there’s no Greek housing, so students do stay relatively integrated into the dorms and have diverse friend groups. They’ve recently built a beautiful Greek Village, but the houses are social/meeting spaces rather than residential. Frat houses are open Thursday through Saturday to Wofford students who are at least 18 years old. These become good places for the community to come together. The tour guides rated campus food as 8 and 9 out of 10. They said that people particularly loved the pancakes and the smoothies. Also, some local restaurants take flex bucks. One guide raved about “Miss Cathy’s” (“That’s not its real name; it’s just what everyone calls it because she runs it,” the guide said) which provides bagged lunches with a hot and cold option. “She knows who you are and your order by the end of the week.” They like that they can do a grab-n-go between classes; this is the first school I’ve seen that offers this (or at least the first that let us know that it was an option).

Wofford sr apts 2

Some of the senior apartments

I was a bit disappointed in one of the tour guides who seemed less able to answer questions. For example, she wasn’t able to tell me what she thought the best change had been since she arrived on campus (she was a senior, so she had 3.5 years of experience to talk about) – she gave me a vague, generic answer that change was happening all the time and rattled off a few new buildings. It’s good to know that Wofford is serious about keeping up with the needs of the college for space (they’re putting up a new dorm, for example), but it didn’t personalize the experience or give much other insight into the student experience. She also seemed surprised that I asked about traditions on campus and said she’d have to think about that (which is weird: I could tell people about traditions at my alma mater by the time I finished the 3-day orientation!). The other tour guide, a first-year student, stepped up and told me about a bunch of things:

  • Wofford bikesFirst 54: Wofford plans activities every day for the first 54 days of school; this acknowledges that they started in 1854.
  • Tailgating: They’ve been listed in the top 10 of small schools with big tailgaiting traditions.
  • They also liked that they bring carnivals, food trucks, and other fun things onto campus.

Wofford is test-optional, and they only take the Common App. There are a few specific scholarships that require test scores, but students will be given full consideration for general merit aid without standardized testing. Their acceptance rate varies greatly between applications types: about 90% in Early Decision, 60% in Early Action, and about 30% in Regular.

© 2020

Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University (visited 10/13/16)

ecsu-sign-and-towerECSU 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.

ecsu-seating-and-acad-bldgAs 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.


The Student Center

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.

ecsu-2The 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.


One of the dorms

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”


A small pond with dorms in the background

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.


The Planetarium

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.


One of the academic buildings

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.”

© 2016

Stetson University

Stetson University (visited 2/10/16)

Stetson 3D equipment

3D printing equipment in the library

This is the first university I’ve visited that has power tools, sewing machines, soldering irons, 3D printers, and more in the library for students to access. They have a whole innovation lab in the library at the students’ disposal.

Stetson printed objects

Students’ printed objects

I enjoyed Stetson and can see why students are drawn to it. People are friendly, the campus is attractive, and its ranked Top 5 Universities in the South by USNWR. It’s a small school with a big school feel. Even the town of DeLand (just north of Orlando) was named in the “Top 3 Best Main Streets in America” by Parade Magazine (

Stetson dorm lounge

A dorm lounge

Stetson is growing, currently with just over 3,000 undergrads. About 40% of students come from outside Florida, including 185 students from 55 countries. They make it easy to get to and from campus with airport shuttles. They’ve added dorms to keep up with the demand: there’s a 3-year residency requirement, but most seniors stay on campus with 86% of students on campus. Almost 1/3 of students go Greek; housing is available but limited.

Stetson library

The library

This is an animal-friendly campus; we saw several dogs around campus, and a student had a dog with her in the library as she was studying. There is a friendly, family feeling here. Students talked about lots of traditions such as the candle ceremony at the beginning of the year where freshmen carry a candle through the original gates.

Stetson organ

The organ in the music school

All students need to accumulate 24 cultural credits to graduate. These can include anything from watching a debate and discussing it, attending any of events at the music school, or going to a lecture by a visiting academic. “It’s easy to do. Most people go to these things anyway, and most of my friends are done with their 24 events well before the end of sophomore year.” This is a highly engaged campus in many ways including with high voter turnout. The political divide is almost equal: 32% democratic, 28% republican, 18% independent. Whatever political side you lean towards, it’s ok here.

Stetson bikes

Bikes are a favorite way to get around campus

There are 18 DI teams (as a side note: Stetson alumni won the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards in the same year). Football is in its 4th year. They have a Mad Hatters section for students at games which is often full (yes – they’re the Hatters … it is Stetson University, after all!)

They’ve hired several new faculty members to keep up with the increasing academic opportunities, and classes are kept small. Our tour guide’s smallest class had 6; her largest was 33 (Intro to Bio). On the student panel, we asked what their favorite classes were and why:

  • Pirates: “Pirates are just cool!”
  • Poverty and Micro-credit: “it was a service-learning class; we worked in a prison helping with entrepreneurship.”
  • Predictive Analytics: “We did real-life stuff like working with an airline.”
  • Calculus 3: “The professor combined computer programs and the process and theories behind it. It was hard but learned a lot.”
  • Spanish: “The professor offered us accelerated learning when he saw that a few of us were ready to move ahead more quickly.”

Stetson 7They have 3 undergraduate schools as well as a law school (Florida’s first):

  • The School of Business Admin is accredited in both business and in accounting.
  • Arts and Sciences: They have many traditional offerings plus:
  • Stetson quadTheir School of Music is impressive.
    • They take 80 students per year and graduate 55-60. Many change majors but stay at the university. They’re encouraged to dabble early if they’re interested because it’s so heavily proscribed – it’s easier to move out than in.
    • Everyone majoring or minoring need to audition and must be admitted to both the university and the music department. Because it’s a school of music and not a conservatory, they can be accepted at several levels (for a minor but not a major, etc). They can also audition for entry during their freshman year.
    • About half of the students go into music education; they’re in very high demand. 50% graduate in performance or composition.
    • There’s no marching band (no football team!) but the students can get experience working with a local high school that has a 400-member marching band.

Many students Study Abroad, and those who do a language immersion can complete a minor in 1 semester or a major in 2.

Stetson bell towerStudents in the Honors Program can design their own majors by combining any passion and interest; their degree is whatever they label it as. One student combined Art, Art History, and Chemistry to make an Art Restoration major. Students live in honors housing, receive a $2000 stipend for travel or research, and are exempt from many of the gen ed requirements. Students admitted to the honors program average 31.5 ACT or 1410 SAT. They like a 30 ACT and at least a 600 on each of the SAT sections.

The Bonner Program brings in 18 students each year as a cohort; this is reserved for people with a true passion for community service and engagement. The application deadline is Feb 25 with the finalists invited to campus later in the spring.

Stetson cafeAll students complete a research project. Their major will determine the type of research they do, but there’s always an oral presentation component. A Senior Research class gives them some time and structure to do this as needed, but there are multiple opportunities outside the class to do the research.

Admissions is test-optional. If students choose to submit their scores, Stetson will superscore the SAT but not the ACT. They will recalculate GPA (.5 to Honors, 1 point to AP and IB). Students who visit get their application fee waived, and 0ut-of-State students get a 1-time $1,000 travel scholarship. International applicants can have the TOEFL waived if they completed 3 years in an English-speaking school; otherwise, they need a 79 on the test.

Stetson 8Students are automatically considered for Merit Scholarships up to $33,000. Music scholarships are done separately and require an audition; the deadline is 2/25. Non-majors are welcome to apply. Scholarships for DI athletics and ROTC are also available. These are stackable with merit scholarships. The J. Ollie Edmunds Scholarship awards 1 full-ride scholarship each year: students with a 3.5 GPA are eligible to apply. They usually get about 350 applications for this. Four finalists are selected from this pool to come to campus to interview. The winner gets everything paid (including fees) plus 2 study abroad stipends. Additional scholarships for those qualified for the JOE scholarship include one for Humanities, Environmental Sustainability, Writing, and Business Systems and Analytics.

Stetson 2We asked students on the panel to complete this phrase: “I want to thank Stetson for …”

  • Making me who I am.
  • The people. I had a question for a professor who couldn’t answer it right away but had an answer in my email by the next day.
  • Lots of connections with professors and the alumni.
  • Being welcoming. Sometimes change is hard. They did a good job at making the transition easier. People reach out. Everyone has a hard transition but no one admits it. Everyone has that moment when it clicks and you know you’re supposed to be here. The support is here.
  • Expecting us to step up into leadership positions.
  • I had a wakeup call with academics. You might have been the best student in High School, but they expect a lot here. I had a 20 page paper due but never wrote one longer than 5 before. I wasn’t getting the grade I wanted, but the professor met with me in the coffee shop and worked with me. The writing center is there. You can do it.

© 2016

Loyola University Maryland

Loyola University Maryland (visited 2/19/15)

Loyola statue 2This is clearly Jesuit in spirit as well as name: 2 statues stand prominently on the Academic quad; the chapel is central on campus; paintings, murals, and crucifixes are placed throughout buildings. Almost ¾ of the students self-identify as Catholic. Sean Bray, the new Director of Campus Ministry, calls their approach “Jesuit Care-ism,” inviting people to engage in the larger questions such as how they make meaning, how they engage in the community, etc. “Our mission and values stand squarely in faith and diversity.” They hold retreats at the campus-owned property in western Maryland. These give people a chance to get off campus and connect with other students and faculty. Trips have a variety of themes such as a silent retreat or “Navigating the Journey.”

Loyola chapel exterior 2One of our tour guides goes to mass regularly “which I didn’t do at home, but the priest here is awesome! I never thought that church could be fun.” Another tour guide agreed: “They relate church services to life. They just had a Super Bowl Mass.” Mass is offered on campus every day. While it’s not required, many people participate either in simply attending mass or in other capacities. 30-40 students sing regularly in the choir and many others work in other capacities in Campus Ministry. Different schools in the consortium hold different types of services at different times. Hopkins has a 10 pm service on Sunday that some students go to.

Loyola chapel interiorDespite the overwhelming sense of Catholicism on campus, there’s a significant population of non-Catholics and even non-Christians. One Muslim student said, “I came here because I knew I wouldn’t have to explain myself. People understand my devotion and prayer even if they don’t understand my specific customs.” There’s a Jewish Student Association that hosts celebrations to anyone on campus. A Rabbi will come on campus to work with students, and the JSA hosts a Holocaust Survivor speaker every year. Loyola will also give students free shuttle rides to any service of their choosing (doesn’t have to be Catholic/Christian) within 20 miles.

Before the tour, I spoke with several students. A sophomore from NJ said, “I’m religious but was not looking for a religious school.” She applied to about 8 schools; only one other had any religious affiliation. A junior from western MD said, “I was mostly looking at Jesuit schools, and this has a good psych program.” A freshman from CT said that “this wasn’t my first choice originally, but loved it once I came. I liked the size and distance from home, and it’s got a great business program.” The freshman from Western NY had wanted to go to Bucknell but didn’t get in. She loves it here, though. “It’s got a good engineering program and I can also be pre-law, too.”

Loyola 1Campus is beautiful and safe; they’re located in a residential area of north Baltimore. The students feel very safe and walk around all the time without being worried. “I called for a ride once when it was really really cold at night and I didn’t want to walk!” They’ve never heard of anyone using the blue lights except “one father who pushed it on a tour. I think he thought it was fake or something. He got fined $250.”

Loyola Student Cntr

Student Center

Dorms are some of the best I’ve seen; it’s easy to see why they’re ranked #2 in the country, “number 1 if you’re a boy since the number 1 school in the country is a women’s college!” (I looked it up online later – it’s Bryn Mawr). They even have some apartments for some freshmen. 95% of students stay on campus all 4 years even though it’s not required. This is not a dry campus, but all students in an apartment, suite, or room must be 21 if they want alcohol in the residence. Dining halls “can get really busy during the rush times. You have to time it right. They run out of seating sometimes – but I heard they were going to build another one in a couple years, but right now, it can be tough.”

The Admissions Office is aiming for a freshman class “a little north or 1100 students.” They offered Early Decision for the first time this year and accepted 102 of the 150 applicants. A significant number of ED applicants were athletes and legacies. Students applying (ED or Regular) can choose the test-optional path but will need an additional recommendation or essay in its place.

Loyola Acad lounge

Interior of an academic building

The Engineering program got good reviews. “They we get an overview the first year: we do 6-7 weeks in each area to get a taste and then declare our specialty in sophomore year.” She also has taken advantage of the Baltimore Consortium (Towson, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, U Balt, MICA) by taking classes at Johns Hopkins. Music and Fine Arts are also big here. “You can learn any instrument except the bagpipes.” Students can major in photography, advertising, digital art, and more.

Freshman can sign up for the Messina Living Learning Program. They take a class each term that is linked thematically, and their cohort meets with a mentor for an hour a week. Students are generally very happy here: almost 90% return for sophomore year. Students who transfer out do so for the usual reasons: they changed their major, wanted a bit more of a party school, etc. One guide knew someone who didn’t make the lacrosse team; another left for health reasons even though she loved Loyola.

Loyola quad 3Most of the students stick close to campus for their social lives. “There’s a ton of school spirit here. Everyone is in Loyola gear.” They were a bit disparaging of their next-door neighbors, the students from Notre Dame. “We share a library. We know they’re around, but I don’t ever see anyone wearing ND stuff. I think it’s too much of a commuter campus.” Some of the big traditions are Loyolapalooza (a huge party with music, games, etc held a couple weeks before finals in the spring) and Lessons and Carols before Christmas. Chord Busters, the a cappella group, also puts on a big concert every year that’s well attended.

Lacrosse is the big sport here, but most teams have a good fan base. One student wishes they had a football team. “I’m a cheerleader, and football was a big thing for me in high school.” Their crew team is “small and injured.” Two of our tour guides (we had 1 “official” guide and 2 in training) were on the crew team.

80% of students will study abroad in the true sense of the word (a summer, a semester, or year). They do not consider the short-term (1-2 week) study trips to be study abroad like so many other universities do. Athletes and students majoring in Engineering and Elementary Ed generally can’t do a full semester or year so they often go during the summer for 2-3 months. True study abroad programs carry the financial aid with them since students remain registered at the universities. Short term (summer) and the short study-trips cost students out of pocket.

(c) 2015

Bard Early College at Simon’s Rock

Bard Early College at Simon’s Rock (visited 8/11/14)

Simon's Rock town

Great Barrington

~Simon's Rock bridgeLike “Big Bard” (aka Bard Annandale), Bard College at Simon’s Rock looks a bit like a camp. It’s in an idyllic setting on the outskirts of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a “destination town” in the Berkshires

After checking in for the counselor event, a student walked me to the dorms. Andre, a sophomore from Seattle majoring in Psych and Cross-Cultural Studies, started here after his sophomore year in high school, a “normal time for students to come,” he said. He, like everyone else, dropped out of high school to attend; they will not get a high school diploma along the way. We asked an admissions rep later if they saw any problems with students not receiving a diploma. He said there were rarely problems but did show up on occasion, particularly in two areas: if students ever wants to take any enrichment programs at a community college, or if they transfer and want to play a DIII sport.

~Simon's Rock dino skull 1

Dino Skull replica in the Science Building

At Simon’s Rock, students find the rigor, support, and independence that they don’t find anywhere else. “No one has to go to college early. People who are here are really delighted to be here!” Students are “kindred spirits.” They aren’t all geniuses, but they are curious and are looking for an academic program. People don’t come here if they don’t want to dig in, to ask questions. “This is an Early College. It’s not College Lite,” said one of the Creative Writing professors. The classes are as rigorous as any other place.

~Simon's Rock dorms

Upperclassmen dorms

The admissions office, like the rest of the college, works to make sure that students are treated as a whole person. Decisions are made on a rolling basis (they will accept a small number to start in January), and they are test optional because most students just don’t have test scores yet. However, at TOEFL is required for students whose first language is not English and who have not been in an English-Instruction school for the two years prior to enrolling. They require a score of 100, but will take students in the 80-99 range if they are willing to take an extra year to complete the AA.

The application requires both an interview and a parental supplement. “If the parent isn’t comfortable with this, it isn’t going to happen.” The reps work hard to develop a good relationship with the family. The school prefers that students interview in person (“Anything can look good on in a shiny brochure; we want them to see the school and students in action.”). About 80% of students come to campus for this, but they recognize that not all the students can, so they do skype interviews as well. They want to make sure that applicants will be able to fit into the community. They will counsel students out if it’s not a fit. Their admit rate is in the 80% range and yield is about 70%. “It’s a very self-selecting population.” About 5% of students leave after first year; some transfer to a 4-year school or finish the AA at a community college. Very rarely do they go back to high school.

~Simon's Rock study lounge

Study area in an academic building.

An academic building

An academic building

About 50% of students transfer after the AA. “Big Bard” gets the highest number of transfers, but students go to lots of different places, including many of the “big name” schools. Simon’s Rock has quite a few articulated agreements, including a 3-2 with Columbia and Dartmouth (“When our students go to Columbia, their GPA goes up,” said one of the reps), a 3-1 with Vermont Law (students get a BA from Bard and a BA in Environmental Policy and Legal Studies from Vermont), Munich School of Business, the University of Manchester (Creative Writing), and more. However, students have all the resources of Bard at their disposal, and juniors and seniors can take the shuttle over to take classes there as they wish. All students end up with both Bard and Simon’s Rock degrees.

Transitioning can be a bit rough, but students have a lot of support. They meet at least once a week with their advisor, they meet with residential staff, etc. Freshmen are allowed to drop classes as late as the November of their first semester. All students are given narratives in addition to grades; students sign releases so that these are sent to parents as well, and the staff is in close contact with the family, especially the first year. “It’s the best of a college with best of a prep school.”

~Simon's Rock acad bldgStudents must have a primary and secondary concentration (or they can double major). Creative Writing, PoliSci, the natural sciences, and Psych are particularly strong. Only 10 classes have more than 25 students – and those barely go over that number (“they may have 27 or 28,” said the rep). Most classes have fewer than 15 students. There are 3 core classes that all students take, and everyone completes a senior thesis. Jody, our tour guide (a senior Math/Comp Sci double major from MD) said that his largest classes had about 15; his upper level classes were all around 3-6 students. He showed us the lecture lab in the science building that holds the biggest classes, and even that was fairly small. “We use it a lot more for things like Super Bowl parties and other fun things when we want a big screen.”

Simon’s Rock is a dry campus since all students are underage. Like most places, though, if people want alcohol or drugs, they can get them. However, the students said that usage is low, and alums have reported that they ran into far less peer pressure about drugs and alcohol than in their high schools.

During the student panel, these were some of the questions asked:

Why did you choose to come here??

  • I was taking really hard classes, not trying very hard, and getting As. I just went to school because I had to but wasn’t passionate about it. SR turned that upside down.
  • I was stuck in the HS track and studying things because that’s what was expected. Here I can choose.
  • I’ve been passionate about music, and if I had stayed, my exposure would have been band class once a week.
  • I was under-performing and there wasn’t any system of support. Coming here is an opportunity to get more out of academics and get support. There’s more expectation for my future. I’m excited about graduate school.
  • I was having a lot of trouble in school socially and academically. Classes weren’t hard, but I had trouble working in the bigger classes. I was originally going to come after my freshman year but wanted to try IP and AP classes first – but they still felt like HS classes and weren’t working.”

What’s been your biggest academic or social challenge?

  • Going into freshman seminar. We read 4 books and were told to write a paper — without a prompt. In HS, they ask a question and you answer it. Here, you don’t and it tore down my world! It took awhile to work through that.
  • I came after 9th grade so I was a little younger. As excited as I was to have the freedom, I wasn’t used to being away from home and not having the overarching supervision of parents.
  • Dealing with people in HS was like a business relationship. I showed up, said hi, and never saw them again. At first, I was always in my room, went to bed at 9, and now I seek out common areas.

I want to thank SR for ___ :

  • Teaching me how to be part of a community. I’m on a first-name basis with faculty, students can participate in student government, be active in how the community is developed. I’m living here and sharing this space. I’ve learned how I can contribute.
  • Exposing me to issues that are larger than myself. I came from a small white town, and we never talked about sexism or racism, or any of these larger things.
  • Allow me to explore my passions and find out who I am. I thought I was going to be an architect, and then a computer science until I took a class for 3 weeks and found out I hated it. I loved my psych class, though, and in my second semester, I enrolled in 3 psych classes and love it!

Describe a meaningful academic experience:

  • I took a theoretical math class and had to do a final paper. I could combine the math and computer science stuff that I loved. I did research for weeks ahead of time. I ended up getting a B+. Before, I would have been upset at getting a low grade for so much effort, but now I’m proud that I produced something that was so intrinsically meaningful for me.
  • The first was my study abroad in China. The other was more recent: One of my professors sought me out after a concert to see what I thought because he wanted to put me into his review. They genuinely care about our opinions.

© 2014

Brandeis University

BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY (visited 4/10/14)

~Brandeis acad bldg 2

Freshman quad

Freshman quad

The best way I can describe campus is “eclectic.” Scattered over a hillside, the buildings seem to reflect whatever style was in vogue when it was built. The Student Center, for example, is a large building covered in sheets of copper (now green). Except for the two freshmen dorm quads, nothing really goes together. The two quads look like they came out of a traditional campus; one has a pond in the middle, the other has a large lawn.

I appreciated that they had a senior speak during the info session. Rayna was able to put a bit of personal perspective on what was otherwise a fairly bland discussion.

Science building

Science building

Classes average about 15 students and are designed to be discussion based. About half of the students double major and/or minor, and it’s easy to be part of multiple academic departments. There’s a great deal of interdisciplinary work, so students could be taking a class in their major that’s taught by someone in another area. Although they have a strong Liberal Arts focus, it’s also a major research institution, recently being awarded $20 million in NIH grants. There’s a big push to help students get to know professors, although they’re already accessible, according to Rayna. One of the programs that Brandeis has instituted is “Take your professor to lunch;” the university will pay for the food.

~Brandeis statueLouis Brandeis was “the people’s justice.” He gave back to the community in various ways; this is where the university gets its mission. They sell themselves as thinking outside the box. They send several students to do study abroad and internships abroad (including in places Rwanda). There are a few ways to travel. First is through CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts. Students needed to be fluent in the language for this. The senior who talked to us went to Barcelona; she had a Homestay and enrolled directly at University of Barcelona where she took 3 classes. She had an additional class in the Study Abroad program with the 27 students in the program. She volunteered at the Red Cross there and got to travel. For students who are not fluent and therefore don’t qualify for CIEE, they can take part in one of 350 approved programs and have no trouble transferring their credits back to Brandeis.

~Brandeis statue and observatory

The Castle (now a dorm)

The Castle (now a dorm)

Brandeis is now test-optional, giving students three options during the application process: 1) submit scores (they’ll superscore both exams); 2) Submit a combination of SATII and AP scores from 3 different subject areas; or 3) Submit a graded paper from Junior or Senior year, usually English or History. Students have to make a decision about which of these three options they want and indicate their choice on the application; they can’t submit everything and hope for the best. The optional supplement is, of course, encouraged, and hey do want to see demonstrated interest. Interviews are available but not required; they give a lot of options, including by a rep during a high school visit or by the Senior student interviewers.

Sign in a window of the Castle

Sign in a window of the Castle

Student Center

Student Center

Students seem fairly happy on campus. Several small groups of students were hanging out in the student center, but many more were simply walking alone on with one other person around campus. There was some interaction as people passed each other. Our tour guide said that there was lots of school spirit and involvement. Students enjoy going to athletic games (the mascot is the Judge and fans are called the Jury). Shuttles are easy to catch into Boston, but there’s plenty to do on campus. One of the favorite yearly traditions is the 24-Hour Musical. Students show up to audition for an unknown production about a week ahead of time; on Saturday morning, everyone shows up and are told what the musical is, what the roles are, etc. They have to learn lines, put a set together, gather costumes, etc. by Sunday when they put on the production. They do plenty of other regularly run productions throughout the year which anyone can get involved in. Students are highly involved in music, as well, here. There are plenty of practice rooms that individuals or groups can use. This is also only the 2nd university I’ve heard of who will allow students to rent art from the art museum on campus for $5 per semester (the other being Oberlin).

© 2014

Marist College

MARIST COLLEGE (visited 7/25/13)

Marist chairs and riverEven driving onto campus, I was more impressed with Marist than with some other campuses. It was open, places were well marked, and the atmosphere seemed inviting to visitors. The admissions office was well-organized and people were genuinely friendly, greeting visitors and being willing to help, even though it was busy. Another person and I had trouble finding parking since the visitor’s lot was full, and the person (I later found out she was a student) immediately got on the phone to security to let them know where we parked so we wouldn’t get ticketed. All the students seemed to be like this: proactive problem-solvers.

Marist flagsmarist walkwayThe information session was one of the best I’ve ever attended. As people got settled into the room for the presentation, a slideshow played with some facts about the school. The rep, an alum, spoke beautifully about life at Marist from both sides – her love for it as a student and then as a rep who helps recruit students who will fit into Marist life and thrive there (with a 93% first-year retention rate and a 83% graduation rate – both 20-30% over the national average — they’re doing something right). She showed a short video showcased what students are involved in as well as the beauty of the Hudson (the campus sits directly on the river) and surrounding area. She talked about what made Marist unique (which is rare; too many presentations talk about the same sorts of things: study abroad, faculty accessibility, internships. All schools have those; we need to know what makes a school different!). They ended with a five-student panel, one of the few times I’ve ever seen that in a general info session. The students fielded questions for about 20 minutes before taking people out on tour so we got multiple perspectives on life on campus.

Marist 1Students raved about their experiences on campus; they’re intellectual without needing to flaunt it, they’re social, and they’re just nice. They talked about their academic experiences with enthusiasm: their favorite classes were Intro to Criminal Justice (she liked the topic and the professor who was a retired cop), Human Resources (taught by a professor with experience in HR and shared lots of stories), Creative Writing (this made her fall in love with English again), and upper level theater. Their smallest classes ranged from 7 to 12 students, and the largest class any of them took had 26 students in it.

Marist new and old

Old and new parts of campus merge together

Marist is academically impressive in the range and strength of their curriculum. It has a nationally accredited Core Curriculum and they’re offering a First Year Seminar (FYS) for the first time. There will be a common reading expected of all entering students; this year, it’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and the author is coming to campus to talk to the students about the book. Their Business School is accredited by AACSB (which only accredits only the top 25% of business schools in the world). International Business majors must study abroad and present an independent project when they come back. Additionally, all students majoring in areas falling in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences must complete internships and/or field work before graduation. Marist maintains a close relationship with the NYPD, NCIS, FBI, CBI, Homeland Security, and the Hawaii Department of Education where several Marist graduates go to teach when they graduate. They’ve had a 100% law school placement rate over the last couple years, and 100% job placement for the Medical Technology majors since 1982. Over 90% of students are admitted into graduate, medical, and health professional schools. Since 2006, 3 Marist students have been selected as Goldwater Scholars.

Marist 5Their Politics and Public Policy programs are worth noting. Last year, 4 of the 20 students nationwide selected for the Hansard Scholars Programme were from Marist. This program sends Politics or Public Affairs majors to London for 14 weeks, allowing them to take classes at the London School of Economics and providing internships and other hands-on experiences with members of British Parliament and other similar places. There are plenty of other options for studying away, as well. The Albany Internship Experience allows students interested in politics the chance to work in the state capital, and anyone can study for a semester at American University in DC.

Marist archStudents don’t have to move off campus to have amazing internship or field-experience opportunities because of Marist’s location. Student use the Hudson and the entire Valley as a lab for study (one of FYS is about environmental activism in the Hudson Valley). Poughkeepsie and the immediately surrounding towns have a lot to offer including five colleges within about 40 minutes (Vassar and the Culinary Institute of America are both less than 10 minutes away) which makes this a great college town. Poughkeepsie is located almost exactly halfway between Albany and NYC, giving students opportunities for internships in all sorts of fields. The MetroNorth commuter rail station is five minutes from campus giving students easy access into New York, and busses regularly run up to Albany. The Marist Institute for Public Opinion pairs students with NBC News for Polling purposes (the got a lot of experience during the last election cycle). The FDR Library and Museum, located nearby, provides history majors or other interested students the chance to do research and internships. The university also has close ties to IBM which is located down the street. Because of this proximity, students have access to extensive research and internship opportunities. Even the library uses IBM digital library technology as an electronic gateway for advanced storage and retrieval technology. Marist stresses technology usage; the rep said that they use “advanced technology in the pursuit of excellence” which fits into their Mission Statement: “Help students develop the intellect, character, and skills required for enlightened, ethical, and productive lives in the global 21st century.”

In addition to the main campus, Marist maintains a Marist in Italy program. One of the programs they offer is the Freshman Florence Experience: approximately 20 students go together to study there their entire first year. Any student can complete a Bachelor’s in one of 8 areas, mostly in the arts (studio art, art history, conservation, fashion, and interior design); Italian Language is the only non-artsy major offered there. They also offer a 1-year Masters in Museum Studies.

One of the dorms

One of the dorms

Life on campus is vibrant, and students certainly don’t need to leave campus to have fun. Even visiting in the summer, there were students everywhere, walking across campus, studying on the grass, and in the library. Marist has 23 DI teams which are well supported with a fan base. There are over 90 clubs and organizations ranging from ice hockey and fencing to political and religious groups. Clubs, in keeping with the college’s mission, must provide some sort of community service as part of their charter if they want to continue getting funding from the school. Marist, although still named for the Marist brothers who started the college, is no longer religiously affiliated. The university went coed in 1968, and control of the college was turned over from the Marist Brothers to an independent Board of Trustees a year after that. However, there are several Marist Brothers who still live on campus and are active in Campus Ministry. However, today there is a great deal of religious diversity within the student body.

Admission is selective with about one-third of the applicants getting offered a spot. The top 10% of applicants are invited to the Honors Program which opens up additional opportunities and specialized coursework. Once in the program, they must maintain a 3.5 GPA. Marist is a test-optional school.

© 2013

Hartwick College

HARTWICK COLLEGE (visited 7/24/13)

HartwickHartwick mainHartwick is a small liberal arts college with its traditional-looking brick buildings built onto a hillside in Oneonta, NY. A student in the admissions office said that she wishes she had known about the stairs before she came: “They kind of suck, but at least I have good legs now!” Oneonta is a very small city (large town?) with a relatively active downtown main street that caters to the college students (the economy seems to very much depend on them). Our guide said that “The walk to town is 5-10 minutes. The walk back to campus is 15-20 because of the hill.” However, Hartwick and SUNY-Oneonta (about a mile away) share shuttles into town (and can be used to get between campuses). Hartwick has 7 stops on campus and will stop at 4 locations downtown including a movie theater and Walmart. From the downtown bus stop, students can get to Albany and Binghamton, both about an hour away.

Hartwick ValleyNeither student I spoke to was unhappy with the variety of activities to choose from on and around campus or around town: “I have to decide between events sometimes.” There are a ton of things to do on campus, and it’s easy to do things around town. Every semester, 2 trips to NY and 1 trip to Boston are offered for $30. The weekend-long OH (Oneonta-Hartwick) Fest in the Spring is a big deal; the campuses come together to put it on. Main Street gets closed down (the public is welcome to join in the fun) and filled with venders and activities, including concerts. Sports on campus are DIII EXCEPT for Women’s Water Polo and Men’s Soccer which are DI.

Conference rooms

Conference rooms

Hartwick statueClasses are typically small with only a handful of introductory classes like Psych and Biology that are capped at 100 students. My tour guide’s classes ranged from 3 (Spanish) to 25 in her Freshman Seminar. Classes are very hands-on and interdisciplinary, requiring a lot of group work. One of the newer academic buildings has break-out rooms with a table that seats 6 and a tv that can hook up to a computer so that students can work together. My tour guide’s favorite classes have been in the Education department because they’ve been thought provoking and make her question how she sees things. She’s also taken Glass Blowing which was creative and a great break from academics. Hartwick offers a wonderful variety of classes that aren’t often seen at smaller schools such as geochemistry and oceanography in the Bahamas. If Hartwick doesn’t offer something they’re interested in, students can take 1 class per semester at SUNY-Oneonta; the tour guide specifically mentioned that classes like ASL, Italian, and scuba diving were classes on Hartwick students’ radars.

Hartwick Science

The inside of the new science building

Students have to complete 2 January Term (J-Term) activities which can be a class on campus, study abroad, or internships. They have a large Art and Culture Museum in which students can work as curators and interns. Every major requires an Experiential Learning component; art and anthropology students can complete this in the museum on campus. Hartwick offers MetroLink, a 10-day trip in January in which students travel to NY and Boston to shadow alum in a variety of professions. They offer a similar program in DC during Spring Break.

Hartwick new dorms

New dorms

Dorms are kind of old, but not horrible. Lounges are well used, and the kitchens are good. There are townhouses for seniors, who are also allowed to live off campus if they choose to (but 80-85% of students stay on all four years). Greek life is small with 5 total chapters; they have off-campus housing options, each holding about 20 students. Juniors involved in Greek life can live in Greek housing off-campus if they choose to do so. Housing is chosen based on a system of earned points: the higher the GPA and the more activities that students are involved in, the more likely they are to get the housing they want. The Dining Hall is small and offers limited options. The tour guide said that they “learn to get creative.” Freshmen have an unlimited meal plan; after that year, students can choose 19 or 14 meals a week if they way. They get some flex dollars for use in smaller places around campus, and even some places downtown will accept WICKID (Harwick ID). They do have a totally vegetarian station so vegetarians know that meat has never been cooked there, and soy milk is always an option for people with lactose intolerance or for vegans.

Hartwick dining hallAlmost half of the 1,500 undergraduates are from outside of NY. Admissions is test-optional which is great. They won’t use the scores if it’ll hurt the student. Scholarship aid is generous with up to $23,000 in aid that can be stacked with an additional leadership scholarship (worth up to $4,000). Aid at Hartwick makes their costs comparable to the SUNY schools. The scholarships are theirs to keep with a 2.0 GPA. A merit-aid calculator on their website can help students figure out what they might be eligible for.

Hartwick hill 2The only thing the students said they would like to change about the school is that it’s not really very handicapped accessible. “People are always breaking something in sports; it’s kind of painful to watch them try to get around on crutches or worse.” She also mentioned that several dorms don’t have elevators, which means that if elderly relatives with mobility issues come to visit, they may not be able to access the dorm rooms.

© 2013

Lewis and Clark University

Lewis and Clark (visited 7/14-15/13)

LC Franc house

Frank House

LC pathThis hilly, wooded campus is STUNNING. The central building, housing admissions and administrative offices, is the Frank house (from which you can see both Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens) which had been the Frank family home; after the wife died suddenly, they donated it and left town.

Lewis and Clark brags that this is one of the few liberal arts universities in the country located so close to a major city. Shuttles run every hour to downtown, six miles away, and both students and faculty can commute to school via shuttle. This also gives students opportunities for recreation, internships, cross-registration at other institutions (but there’s no formal consortium). However, they’re still in the woods in beautiful surroundings; the only down-side to the location is that very little is located directly off campus (restaurants and shops) within walking distance. The College Outdoors program is worth noting; they do all the typical things (kayaking, hiking, etc) and some not-so typical events such as Mushroom Hunting and yoga retreats. Students who receive federal financial aid can apply for scholarships for these trips.

LC arena


Mt. Hood from campus

Mt. Hood

Teachers strike a good balance between teaching and research; they’d rather be teachers than researchers, even though they do their own research (and about 10% of the students stay on campus over the summer, many of whom are there to do research with professors). The professors we spoke to at dinner said that it was important for them that their students walked away from classes knowing how to apply knowledge. They clearly want to get to know the students. For example, the Math department builds a close community starting with a Mt. Hood hike every year. Three of them even showed up to the Counselor dinner, more than any other department (although two music teachers were there as a close second). Interestingly, the math and the biochem, bio, and chemistry departments have mostly female faculty.

LC sculptures

Sculptures outside an academic building

LC former stableAcademics are designed to give students a broad perspective on their chosen field, and also let them explore the areas they’re interested in. Psychology is the biggest major and introduces students to all aspects of the field: child, abnormal, developmental, cognitive, neuroscience, and more. The music department is strong and lets them focus on several areas (and includes African Drumming). The Foreign Languages department is unusual because students can declare a FL major and study more than one language and gain proficiency in two or more areas rather than majoring in a single language. International Affairs has become a fairly large department, and they’ve added concentrations (minors) in any of several Ethnic Studies (which are open to any student, not just IA majors). The university has recently added an entrepreneur program which runs for a week in January. Students come to campus for seminars, meetings, and a competition (both current students and recent graduates take part); five semi-finalists are chosen and are given a small fund towards putting the plan into action and taking it to a national competition.

LC 1 LC bridgeWe asked a couple students what their favorite classes were. One said it was “State of the Family,” a Gender Studies themed 2nd semester freshman seminar class: “The professor was 5’ tall and the scariest person ever – but I learned a lot!” Another said it was her 1st semester freshman seminar class, “Creating the Self.” The professor brought them out to one of the gardens, and the student (along with others) performed Antigone on her first day of class. The texts for the 1st semester freshmen seminars are the same but the theme is different. The 2nd semester focuses on whatever the teacher wants, such as Emerging Empire, Dance and Vampires, and Mostly Mozart. The tour guide’s class sizes have ranged from 10-45, so they get time for discussion, hands-on work, and personal attention.

New suite style dorms

New suite style dorms

LC dining hallThey don’t have any Freshman only dorms, but they do have upperclassmen only dorms. Freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus; 60% of juniors and seniors stay. They have a great deal of support for First Gen and low-income through multi-cultural affairs and student affairs offices. Students get actively involved in activities. Forty percent of students participate in sports (DIII). Football has lots of fans, as does volleyball. Crew is increasing in popularity. There is no Greek Life (a donor who gave a lot of money stipulated that she wanted ice cream served at every meal, a piano put into every common room, and no Greek life). This is an open, inclusive community with a high minority population and people coming from all walks of life. They have a feminist student union, queer resource center, united sexualities, etc. Students are ok with whatever people are into.

Sixty percent of their students do a true study abroad (not a week-long learning extension of another class). “Where are you going?” is commonly heard; it’s a question of when and where they’ll study abroad, not if they’ll go. The school is serious about providing students with an international perspective on the world.

LC PO BoxesThis is a test-optional school; the “portfolio path” which replaces standardized test scores includes 2 graded pieces of work: 1 analytical and 1 quantitative, and then 2 recs speaking to those two areas. 10-12% of applications go that route, and the students accepted do fine at the university. This is a good option for someone who works hard and has good grades but does test well. Merit scholarships are awarded at the time of admission based on grades in the core classes including weight on AP and honors classes (and there’s no limit to the number of AP credits they can transfer in). They also give scholarships for leadership, music, and debate, but the faculty decide on these based on auditions or portfolios/DVDs.

© 2013

Furman University

FURMAN UNIVERSITY (visited 3/11/13) (click here to see notes from the 2/2020 visit)

~Furman fountain quad~Furman porch chairsThe city of Greenville has a beautiful downtown and is much bigger than I expected it to be. The university is five miles straight down Poinsett Boulevard; the university has its own entrance off what is essentially a highway at that point. As you pull in, you’re met with a beautiful fountain and the visitor’s center. That sets the stage for the feel of the whole campus. Behind this is the Furman Mall; this grassy area extends back for several blocks and is lined with large trees. The university has done wonders with landscaping and maximizing green spaces. During the student panel, a counselor read an introductory paragraph from one of the college guide books that called Furman a “Country Club” and asked students if they felt that was accurate, too harsh, whatever. The students laughed, but then said, “Look outside! Who’s complaining??”

~Furman interior

Dining Hall

Dining Hall

The students do say that Furman can be a bit of a bubble because there’s so much to do on campus and because downtown isn’t in walking distance, but none of them saw that as a hindrance or drawback to campus. The college works hard to bring in programs, and the student groups themselves (clubs, music ensembles, theater, etc) do a lot of programing. All students have a Cultural Learning Experience (CLE) requirement in which they must go to 8 events a year. These can be lectures, plays, concerts, etc. Our tour guide said that she actually likes it – whenever something is offered for CLE credit, it will clearly state it on the promotional materials, so she said that it makes her consider things that she might not have paid attention to without this requirement. There are also a lot of campus-wide events; some of the students’ favorite traditions involve carnivals such as O Week, Homecoming, Spring Week. Also, it’s easy to get off campus. The college runs shuttles all around town, and all students are allowed to have cars on campus.

~Furman chapel~Furman patioAlthough every admission office will say they want to attract and admit the best students for their institution, this admissions office is very clear on articulating their mission: “We want to recruit graduates, not students,” and they clearly have thought through how they want to accomplish this. They look at three types of fit: academic, social, and financial. If any of these three are way out of whack, it causes stress and a negative experience, usually leading to the student transferring out. The admissions deans were also very clear on how they evaluate students for admission: They use a 1-60 scale when looking through files. 22 points comes from what the schools tell them in the form of letters of recommendation. GPA and course selection counts for 24 points. They are a test-optional school – but if applicants submit scores, they will be used as part of the consideration. The nice thing about Furman is that they are also test-optional for merit scholarships, which is a little more unusual. Scholarship consideration is automatic in most situations, but there is a separate application for the four most competitive scholarships.

~Furman 1

Student Center

Furman is also actively trying to increase their diversity. They have attracted students from across the US for a while (22% of students are from SC, 60% from the Southeast including SC), but are now increasing the international population which has grown from 5 or 6 students to almost 7% of the student body. Racial diversity has increased quite a bit in recent years, bringing the population up to 22%. The students on the panel said that the campus is impressively diverse politically. The panelists themselves represented the spectrum including the President of the Student Republicans group and one campaigned heavily for Obama. The college is now working on increasing religious and other types of diversity on campus. They recently built a Hillel space and have hired a campus Rabbi.

~Furman dorm


More dorms

More dorms

Surprisingly (since it goes against the norm for smaller liberal arts schools), Furman has more males than females on campus. Greek life is VERY popular on campus with more than 50% of students belonging to a Greek organization. The students we talked to who were not involved, though, said that they didn’t feel left out, nor did they feel any pressure to join. A lot of events are open to the entire student population, and there’s no Greek housing, so people aren’t separated out. Rush also takes place second semester after everyone has settled in, so there people already have their social circles before joining. It’s not unusual for groups of friends to have members in different frats or sororities, and the dorms are mixed, too. Freshmen and sophomore dorms are typical hallway dorms, but the Junior/Senior apartments have full beds and kitchens. It is a residential campus; although the numbers have been holding steady at about 2600-2700 students, Furman can go up to almost 3000 students and remain residential.

~Furman acad bldgs 2

The resident cat who lives at the Environmental Center on campus

The resident cat who lives at the Environmental Center on campus

Some of the favorite classes of the students on the panel were Medicine, Morality, and Culture (taught by a Philosophy prof), a hiking class, Comparing Vietnam and Iraq, PoliSci 100 (because it included “Real world stuff” and they got to read the NYT and novels), and Perspectives on American Education (it was discussion based, the read three Young Adult novels, utilized journals, etc). All the students gushed at the quality of teaching and accessibility of the professors. The biggest lecture hall on campus has only 60 seats, so no class can exceed that. There are supports in place for struggling students, and the faculty gets involved since classes are small enough to pay attention to students, but it’s ultimately the students’ responsibility to take advantage of safety nets. Clearly, students are looked after though. Graduation rates across the board are high, and they rank third nationally (after Notre Dame and Colgate) for athletes who graduate in four years.

(c) 2013

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