Converse College (visited 2/25/20)
Here are a few fun facts: 1) “Our pool is famous!” said the rep. “This is where Julia Robert’s character learned to swim in Sleeping with the Enemy.” 2) They have one of the largest music libraries in the south. 3) This is the only women’s college (for a little while yet!) in the nation to compete at the NCAA DII level, including an acrobatic/tumbling team. They do have an IHSA Equestrian team (which is NOT part of the NCAA).
Converse is well worth taking a look at if you’re want a smaller school with a lot of academic, social, and athletic options located in a small city with accessible off-campus options and near an airport and other public transportation (so easy to get to for students coming from a distance!).
I knew almost nothing about Converse before arrival other than it was a small women’s college located in Spartanburg, about 5 minutes from Wofford. I expected it to be a bit overshadowed by its neighbor – but quickly learned that it’s holding its own. This is a pretty campus with plenty of green space and easy access to the wider Spartanburg community. I left impressed with the school. I was a little bit put off at first … although they had clear admissions parking spots and signs for Admissions pointing to the main building, once I walked into the main entrance, it was eerily quiet (granted, it was about 4:15 in the afternoon) and no sense of where the admissions office might be. I had gone a little too far and went in the main entrance rather than a door down the building a bit the right. I guess the couple balloons tied to the porch banister should’ve been a giveaway!
In February 2020, the Board voted to change their name to Converse University AND to go coed by 2021. They’ll continue to have Converse Women’s College under that umbrella as well as Converse University International. “We already have male students on campus for evening and graduate classes. It’s just broadening that.” Eight campus buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the large main building. In addition to offices, the dining hall is in there, so all students come through on a regular basis. There’s also dorm space in one wing.
They recently slashed tuition by 43%, so that now sits at $19,500 (2020-21 school year). Scholarships are now lower since they’re already starting at a much lower price-point. Out-of-state can get an additional $1,000 scholarship. Sliding Scale is 60% GPA, 40% test scores. Went test-optional in November. If they don’t want to submit, they select that on the app. They scrutinize the transcript more and work off a different scale. They have some stackable awards: to get a named Music scholarship, you have to major or minor; for smaller ones, you only have to participate in an ensemble. For Dance, they have to be in the minor (there’s no major); for Musical Theater/theater, you don’t have to major or minor.
A few of their traditions include:
Big Sis/Little Sis – incoming students (including transfers) gets paired with someone in junior class. They get hints and gifts during the first week, and then there’s a reveal night.
- Every student in Even Years become Pink Panthers; Odd Years are Red Devils. The Bigs will make horns/tail or panther ears/tail for their Littles (and sometimes these get worn at graduation!). Sometimes there are competitions.
- Opening Convocation: Faculty and Staff in are regalia, the Honor Code gets signed (And then hangs in the Main Building), and there are picnics and other frivolity.
- Founders Day with a picnic on the lawn with fried chicken and Strawberries & cream for dessert (the founder’s favorite meal).
- Each class has a special ceremony in the spring. Freshman pick their mentor (advisor, another student, coach, etc – whoever helped navigate the first year) and they present the pin to the student. Sophomores get a Sisterhood Bracelet. Juniors get Class Rings.
Classes are typically capped at 25 students (usually those are Gen eds); most classes are smaller. All students take a First Year Seminar which is fairly typical to what you’d find at other schools.
They have a few fairly specialized majors for a school this size (a little over 1,000 undergrads):
- Creative and Professional Writing which is a BFA; students can also complete a concentration in Creative Writing within the English major.
- Education Department offers a wide range of options including certification in Deaf/HH (they’re one of very few schools that offers ASL V as part of the curriculum, and they have strong ties with SC School for the Deaf and Blind and the Spartanburg Hearing Impaired Program), Special Ed (Comprehensive, LD, or Intellectual Disabilities – and a minor in ED), music, and art education.
- Interior Design: this BFA degree is the first in the state to be accredited; they’ve had a 100% placement rate for the last 7 years.
- Medical Technology
- The Petrie School of Music offers a lot including majors in Music Therapy, Composition, and Contemporary Music/Media Applications and minors/concentrations in Arts Management and Arts & Cognition. Petrie offers more than 200 choral and instrumental concerts a year including operas and student recitals.