campus encounters

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University of Utah

University of Utah (visited 9/27/18)

Fun fact: This was founded in 1850 (46 years before Utah became a state) as University of the Desert, making it the oldest one west of the Mississippi. Also, it’s on Buzzfeed’s 2017 “Most Beautiful Campus in Every State”list.

The campus farmer’s market

The U (how it’s referred to locally) provides a great mix of outdoorsy and urban. “We provide a Big School experience (including sports) in a big city with the added benefit of access to an excellent academic experience,” said a rep. Located in Salt Lake City, there’s a vibrant campus life with easy access to a growing urban center. Students get free public transportation, and there’s a Trax stop on campus. Students take advantage of academic and extracurricular exploration outside the classroom. “Everything you want is here and easily accessible.” The Wasatch mountains provide excellent hiking, biking, and skiing. One student we talked to came here specifically for the skiing.

We talked to several students who all described the campus as friendly; the willingness of several students to talk to us as we wandered through the quads and the farmer’s market definitely proved that they’re happy with the school and are outgoing. “The community is inclusive but it’s not as diverse as I’d like, but not every place can be a melting pot,” said an African-American junior from Long Island who came because of the speed-skating of all things! “Speed Skating is a club sport. They definitely work with us.”

This is a major Tier 1 Research institution offering one of the best arrays of academic colleges I’ve seen, grouping many in interdisciplinary ways:

  • College of Architecture and Planning
    • Architecture (3.0 GPA requirement; some students may be a direct admit),
  • Cultural and Social Transformation with concentrations in Ethnic, Gender, or Disability Studies.
  • Fine Arts (BFA): “We’re a great school for the arts. SLC is an artsy, hippy sort of place. We have Ballet West, orchestras, etc. We offer the best non-conservatory ballet experience if students want to pursue something else in addition.” They are currently ranked #2 program after Julliard.
    • Strong Visual Design, film, and music because of the connection to downtown.
  • Their Interdisciplinary programs are impressive:
    • Entertainment Arts and Engineering (basically Video Game Design) ranks #1-3 depending on the year. “It used to be something you got bullied for; now you can get a degree. It’s collaborative and group oriented.” The Founders of PIXAR and Atari graduated from here.
    • They offer a robust varsity eSports program with a League of Legends Scholarship.
    • Interdisciplinary sciences include Genetic Counseling, Biological Chemistry, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Molecular Biology, and Neuroscience.
  • Mines and Earth Sciences includes Atmospheric Sciences, Geology and Geophysics, Metallurgic Engineering, and Mining Engineering.
  • Nursing: Students have to apply separately for the Early Assurance Program; it’s fairly rigorous because of a limited number of spots. Admissions is mostly based off of HS GPA (most admits have at least a 3.7 unweighted). When they apply to the university, students select Pre-nursing.
  • Engineering offers some direct entry, but most students come in, complete the pre-reqs, and apply. They offer unlimited spots as long as students meet the minimum GPA.
  • The Business college “is really amazing,” said one of the students working a booth at the farmer’s market.
  • Honors College: this provides a small Liberal Arts experience (fewer than 3,000 students total) within the university. Students take 2 Honors classes a year and must complete either a junior or senior thesis. They live in Honors housing a little more centrally located. There’s a social justice focus; students look at how to apply their major to the wider community. Students interested in applying must use the Utah-specific app (NOT Common App) by 11/1 and write the additional 500-word essay. The essay is a huge factor. “The number 1 we look for is the desire to be in the program by demonstrated by the essay. Show that they can benefit and want to take advantage of it. GPA and test scores will help, but it’s not only that.”
  • “The Health Sciences are amazing here,” said one student. “There’s a hospital right on campus.”

Even with 24,000 undergrads, 65% classes have fewer than 30 students. “It’s nice to be in some of those lecture classes as a freshman so you don’t have to worry about being called on,” said one student working a booth on the quad. They have a 90% retention rate to sophomore year thanks to a few good programs. One is Block U which is an optional Gen Ed completion course. Students take a few courses throughout freshman year to finish requirements within a year. These are taught by specific professors, peer tutors, etc. “It’s good for undecided students, but lots of others do this too,” said a rep. Another is LEAP, their Academic Learning Communties. Students take courses with the same professors and students over the course of the year. This is more flexible than Block U because it’s only 1 course per semester and they can take other pre-reqs concurrently.

Students never have to live on campus, and housing is not guaranteed; they don’t have enough room. Just over half of freshmen (and 10% of all undergrads) live on campus. “We have a reputation of being a commuter school. It’s definitely been worse in the past. There are a lot of students who live right off campus in houses,” said a student. Usually, if students want housing and apply before the March deadline, they get it. Incoming students can apply for housing before they commit to the university; however, they’ll lose the $150 housing deposit if they decide not to attend Utah or not live on campus.

The Lessonde Entrepreneur Institute is a highly sought-after dorm/LLC with 4 themed residential floors (video game, entrepreneurial, etc). “There are large open spaces including lounges and kitchens. Students have to apply and write an essay to show how they’re entrepreneurs to get housing there,” Said the rep. The building has 20,000 sq ft of work space (design computers, metal working, meeting rooms, etc.) to promote creativity and free thinking. Anything created there remains the intellectual work of the students. A number of student inventions and business were created there such as outdoors stuff (portable tent and hammock). The space is open to all students, but the residents have access 24/7. “They’ve snagged Ivy-League students because they have all this attention and resources.”

Cost of attendance is higher than other Utah schools. Freshman should try to get applications in by 12/1 for automatic scholarship consideration. The FAFSA deadline is 2/1 but they encourage families to do it before the end of the calendar year. If students do know what they want to major in, they’re encouraged to look at the departmental websites for scholarships for incoming freshman. The U provides about 120 WUE scholarships, making it one of the most competitive; students cannot get in-state residency with the WUE. “61% of our students graduate without debt. Even those with debt, it’s lower than other PAC-12 peer institutions.”

© 2018


Manhattanville College

Manhattanville College (visited 8/12/14)

Manhattanville main buildingManhattanville is 1 of only 6 institutions in the country with NGO status with the UN. UN ambassadors come up regularly as part of the Ambassadors Lecture Series, and one of the current Georgian students has an internship with the embassy through the UN.

~ Manhattanville chapel


Established in 1841 as Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan, the school moved to Purchase (about 30 minutes north of the city) in the 1950s, and then became co-ed and non-denominational in the 1970s. Undergraduate enrollment hovers around 1700 (with an additional 1000 graduate students in business, education, and writing). Not quite half the students come from out-of-state (including a sizable international population), but it’s still skewed at almost two-thirds female. The rep credits this to the school’s start as a women’s college. 80% of classes have 24 or fewer students.

During the info session, the Rep talked about what the “Added Value” was at the school:

  • It’s one of the most diverse for its size with 60 countries and 33 states represented. All sorts of religious, political, and economic diversity is apparent on campus.
  • 80% of students live on campus, making it a strong community. My tour guide drives up every day from the Bronx, but there are a lot of students who use Metro North or buses. He says he doesn’t feel left out because he commutes.
  • They have some unusual majors offered including
    • Digital Media Production
    • Sport Studies (a new interdisciplinary major that pulls in such areas as law, psychology, management. They’re hoping to tie into 5-year programs in management or phys ed.)
    • Dance Studies
    • Self-Designed programs. One of their students is a top Irish Dancer. She choice a Self-designed major that combines biology and dance.
    • They’re hoping to add Video Game Design shortly.
  • Location location location! They’re close to NYC, White Plains, Greenwich, and Stamford, leading to over 450 internship opportunities.

They accept about 2/3 of applicants. The average accepted student has a B/B+ average. International students must have at least an 80 on the TOEFL. Interviews are optional but encouraged.

~Manhattanville athletic center

Athletic Center

Scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $22,000 are automatically granted during the admissions process. Additionally, the Duchesne Scholarship provides $2000 a year for students involved in community service. There is an essay requirement to be considered for this scholarship, and recipients are expected to complete 10 hours of community service a month to keep the scholarship.

~Manhattanville new acad bldgManhattanville Achievement Program (MAP) was designed to make college more financially attainable for students from low-income families. It covers full financial need for 6-10 students a year. Students come 2 weeks early, take intro courses, get settled in at the university. They are monitored academically (although this isn’t designed specifically for students who need academic help) and there is a required community service component.

Manhattanville dining hall

Dining Hall

Students do need to know that they want a smaller school – the students who transfer out tend to do so either to attend a larger school or because they decided on a major not offered at Manhattanville. However, students tend to be happy here. They get involved in a lot of different things, and there’s plenty to do on and off campus. Two specific things that our tour guide enjoyed was the annual International Bazaar which showcases music, food, fashion, and other things from around the world. The other was the “” club. Members helped PepsiCo design a new logo for one of their products last year

Manhattanville studio

art studio

The college is located in a primarily residential area. There is very little for students to do directly off campus, but they are not trapped there in any sense. Buses are free for students, and one of the Westchester County buses stops on campus. Hourly Valiant Express shuttles go to local entertainment and shopping, and the school runs free buses to Grand Central on Saturdays.

~Manhattanville quadThe arts are strong. There are lots of studios, a couple theatres, and even 4 dance teams. There’s “lots of intergroup support” said the tour guide. Athletes come to theater and dance productions, art shows, etc. The “Artsy kids” are also in the stands for games. There is a required art class as part of the distribution requirements, and the faculty expect that students will take advantage of the NYC area. “I took an Art History class to fill that requirement because I can’t even draw a stick figure. We went to the Met and got to see the archives. Seeing the sketches from DaVinci was amazing!”

The tour guide spoke favorably about his Freshmen Seminar on Genocide. I asked why he chose that; he said that they register online for seminars by taking a survey. He didn’t really pay attention to it; “I just wanted to get it out of the way. Probably not the smartest thing I’ve done – but the class was amazing, even if it got gruesome sometimes. I learned so much.” Other options include classes like Brain Injuries in Sports, Geometry and the Idea of Creativity, Terror and God, and Making the Media Ours.

© 2014

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