College Match Plus visits colleges across the country to talk to senior admissions officers and to investigate, first-hand, the campuses, facilities, and programs that are of interest to students selecting colleges. These college profiles summarize our findings.
Notes on Colleges We’ve Visited
Hamilton College is a private liberal arts college on a 1,350-acre campus in Hamilton, NY, “situated on a hilltop overlooking the picturesque village of Clinton. The College is eight miles southwest of Utica, 45 minutes east of Syracuse, one hour from the Adirondack Park.”
- 1,879 undergraduates from 49 states and 49 countries.
- 29% of students come from outside New York, 71% in-state students.
- 9:1 student to faculty ratio.
- One-third of classes have 9 or fewer students; three quarters have 19 or fewer.
- 56 areas of study including 43 minors.
The Hamilton Promise
- Study What You Love. Hamilton is one of four highly selective colleges with an open curriculum, allowing students to explore whatever they want. Students say that this “raises the bar of intellectual discourse” as they find themselves in a class with students equally as passionate about the subject as they are. This engagement and excitement in the classroom also spills over into the community where students share their ideas and perspectives with other students in an organic way.
- Be Who You Are. Students and admissions staff say there is no typical or “cookie cutter” student at Hamilton. Students explore and pursue many different interests including those offered by more than 200 organizations and clubs on campus.
- Find Your Future. Hamilton promises that students will gain the knowledge, confidence and skills to be successful in life. This includes being assigned a career services counselor beginning on day 1 and having access to an extremely engaged and accessible alumni network. Within one month of graduation, 95% of students are placed in graduate school or other jobs.
The Hamilton Community
- All students live in 26 residences on campus making Hamilton a vibrant residential community.
- 1,000 events were held on campus in the most recent academic year.
- Last summer $250,000 was awarded to students to conduct research on campus.
- A new Health Services and Counseling Center will open for the class of 2022, expanding health services and mental health counseling on campus.
- Restaurants, bars, and local shops are only minutes away in the quaint Village of Clinton.
- 6,240 applications for fall 2018—a 10% increase over the previous year.
- 20 percent acceptance rate.
- Average ACT score (middle 50%) 33; average SAT score (middle 50% 1440-1460).
- Offers prospective students an optional alumni interview
- Personal essay is still an important part of the admissions process including the college’s “Why Hamilton” supplemental essay.
- Hamilton remains need blind in its admission decisions and has worked to expand its need-based financial aid capabilities.
- College does not offer merit scholarships.
- Average need-based financial aid package is over $45K.
- Admissions options: EDI and EDII binding and regular decision.
Syracuse University is a private research university in Syracuse, NY, with solid academics, a beautiful 721-acre campus and strong school spirit.
- 13,000 to 14,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students live on or near the campus.
- Over 200 majors and 100 minors offered within the University’s 13 schools and colleges.
- 49% of students study abroad for at least one semester.
- Average class size: 26 students and “nearly 60% of undergraduate classes have fewer than 20 students.”
- Largest introductory classes: about 150 students
- Top 10% of admitted students get into the Honors Program
- 60 majors and 30 minors offered in the College of Arts and Sciences alone which is “home to one-third of the undergraduate student body.”
The Syracuse Community
- 36 learning and living communities give students the opportunity to live with students who have similar academic interests.
- 30% of students are involved in Greek life (12 sororities and 12 fraternities). Students rush in the spring of the freshman year to give them time to get acclimated to campus life and classes
- 20% of students participate in social clubs and 12% of students are involved in professional and service-oriented fraternities/sororities.
- 300 student clubs and organizations.
- All students in the first year have a faculty advisor, professional advisor, and a peer advisor.
- Launched new Orange Success online system to report on students who may be have difficulties. This system makes it easier for faculty and administrators to identify behavior that warrants interaction with other people and resources on campus.
- Entry into the Honors program is automatically considered upon admission and students also can apply to get into the Honors program the second semester of their sophomore year. Students in the Honors program are required to complete 50 hours of community service, take honors classes, and complete a capstone honors project that is the culmination of your four years of study.
- A quarter of a million Syracuse alumni/ae live in 171 countries around the globe.
- 35,000 applications for fall 2018.
- 50% acceptance rate, but some programs are more competitive than others including the Newhouse School of Communications (6,000 applications for 300 openings), engineering, business, architecture, and the performing arts.
- Admissions officers assess the rigor of the student’s high school courses (this is a very important part of a student’s evaluation) and ACT and SAT scores have become increasingly important.
- Syracuse tracks demonstrated interest (e.g., campus visit, information session, virtual tour online, and interview). Admissions officer emphasizes that “An interview will almost never hurt a student.”
- Syracuse offers merit scholarships and about 30% of students receive some type of merit aid.
University of Rochester
The University of Rochester, in Rochester, NY, is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational research university offering undergraduate and graduate programs.
The Basic Facts
- One of the smallest and most collegiate among top research universities
- Average class size: 21
- 10:1 student to faculty ratio
- 98% of undergraduate classes are taught by faculty
- Over 200 academic majors offered within 8 schools and colleges
Distinctions and Priorities
- Students are authors of their own education. Rochester has an open and extremely flexible general education curriculum and requirements. Students have the freedom to choose classes of interest to them in three broad areas: the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. And because students choose classes of greatest interest to them, engagement and discussion in these classes is lively because students want to be there.
Additionally, students can select a cluster of courses related to a particular interest or theme. As one of the senior admissions staff emphasized, “Students are the authors of their education. Our flexible curriculum and extraordinary research opportunities heighten student engagement in the classroom and around campus.”
The only required class is a first-year writing class which provides students 30-40 options to meet the requirement. The flexibility of the curriculum also makes it easy for U Rochester students to double major — and 45% of students choose to do so. This also makes it easier for students to study abroad even if they are taking engineering or other classes in the STEM fields given the flexibility of the curriculum.
- Research opportunities come in all shapes and sizes at Rochester and are pursued by students across disciplines in the form of self-directed research, faculty-led research, mentorship by faculty, and paid research experiences. This
all happens on a campus that is much smaller than many national research universities, making connections with professors, mentors, and students easier.
- Eight-year combined degrees — BA/BS+ MD and BA/BS + DDS — are offered in medicine and dentistry. These are highly competitive programs and typically only about 10 students are admitted to each program every year.
- Five-year programs allow students to take something of interest to them in the year five without having to pay tuition for the extra year. For example, a student may have an entrepreneurial idea about a startup business and can pursue a project in the year five that enables that student to get the project off the ground.
U Rochester Community
- University of Rochester is divided into three campuses: the main 154-acre River Campus where the majority of undergraduates live and study, the Eastman School of Music at a downtown campus located in the heart of Rochester’s cultural district, and the U Rochester Medical Center located minutes south of the main campus.
- 25% of students participate in Greek life on campus, but there are no fraternity or sorority houses on campus.
- 70% of faculty are involved in research across disciplines which increases the opportunities for students to be involved in research of interest to them.
- 30-35% of students come from New York and 30% of the enrolling class comes from other countries.
- 20,130 undergraduate applications for the fall of 2018.
- Increase of 10.5% in undergraduate applications for fall 2018.
- Rochester encourages students to interview and wants to interview as many prospective students as possible (open May 1 to January). Admissions reps conduct 20-minute interviews to get to know students.
- Admissions options: ED I binding, 11/1; Priority deadline 12/1 to be considered for need-based financial aid and merit scholarships.
- 71 percent of students receive merit aid scholarships. However, a senior admissions officer noted that “Merit aid has been significantly reduced this year (2018). We can’t guarantee as many students will receive merit scholarships in the future.
- Average GPA and test scores for admitted applicants: 3.82 unweighted, 1410 SAT, and 32 ACT scores.
- GPA and test scores of students placed on the wait list: 30 ACT score, just under 1400 SAT. For the fall of 2018, 3400 students were placed on the wait list.
Rochester Institute of Technology
For students who are turned off by the word “Institute” as part of an institution’s name, think again. The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), in Rochester, NY, is a school with strong programs in engineering, computer science, and other STEM fields, but it is also a place that offers strong industrial, interior, and graphic design programs.
The Basic Facts
- Nine colleges: Engineering, Business, Computing and Information Sciences, Health Sciences and Technology, Imaging Arts and Sciences, Liberal Arts, Sciences, National Technical Institute for the Deaf (1200 students with hearing impairment attend RIT, but this provides learning/other opportunities for all RIT students) and University Exploration which gives students a year to explore a major and choose a college.
- Four campuses (in addition to Rochester) around the world in Dubai, Croatia, China and Kosovo. Four additional places for students to take classes and pursue other opportunities. Also has a satellite campus in the Dominican Republic.
- 18,900 total student population (15,700 undergraduates).
Distinctions and Priorities
- Faculty, rather than graduate students, teach all classes.
- Has one of the largest cooperative education programs in the country (in addition to Drexel, Northeastern, University of Cincinnati) and many experiential learning opportunities for students, giving them on-the-job, paid experience and other opportunities to put their knowledge into practice.
- School of Design ranked 11 in the world, offering programs in graphic design, new media design, 3D digital printmaking, industrial design, and interior design.
- Workforce-driven academic portfolio (education that prepares students for their future careers and gives them the intellectual flexibility to pursue a variety of career paths). Students gain a set of skills beyond their specific disciplines.
Intentional RIT program priorities: focus in discipline, general education courses, immersion in the liberal arts, and technical and experiential learning.
Among RIT special centers and initiatives:
- Albert J. Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Promotes and fosters innovation and entrepreneurship through academic programs, a student business development lab, and business development activities.
- National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at RIT/NTID are unmatched by any university in the world. Career-focused programs that reflect the needs of today’s employers, work experience gained through the university’s cooperative education program, faculty who specialize in educating deaf and hard-of-hearing students, outstanding graduation and job placement rates, and unparalleled access and support services.
- Golisano Institute for Sustainability. GIS consists of a diverse set of academic programs, applied research centers, sponsored programs, and initiatives that focus on industrial collaboration on the deployment of new technologies for more efficient and sustainable products and processes.
- 13:1 student to faculty ratio
- All students admitted to their majors from day one. However there are caps on the number of students admitted to programs, particularly highly competitive programs in engineering and business
- RIT offers students the option of entering into an “exploration program” in their major in the first year to help them narrow down their area of focus within the major (for example, chemical versus biomedical or electrical engineering)
- 88% of classes are under 40 students
- 80% of programs require students to participate in a co-op experience (students participating in a paid co-op experience do not pay tuition)
- 4 job placement rate within six months of graduation
- 22,000 undergraduate applications received for fall 2018
- 50% of applicants admitted (lower percentage for students who applied to be admitted to schools of engineering, business, and imaging and industrial design)
- High school record most important of admissions review: overall GPA, rigor of the course work taken, grades in core courses, and competitiveness of the student’s high school
- Average high school GPA 93
- Average SAT mean 1337
- Average ACT mean 30
- 77% of students at RIT received some form of need-based financial aid and/or merit scholarship
- Total cost of attendance for 2018-2019 academic year is $59,230 (this includes around $2,000 of incidental expenses such as airfare, books, etc.)
- Admissions options: Early Decision I (binding) November 15 and Regular Decision January 15
Davidson College is a selective liberal arts college that I visited in May on my tour of colleges in the southeastern US.
Davidson College, in Davidson, North Carolina is 20 minutes from Charlotte, the largest city in the state and the “second largest banking center in the country.” Davidson has an undergraduate enrollment of about 2,000 students.
Strengths and Distinctions
- Students choose from 27 majors and 15 interdisciplinary minors that allow students to take a set of courses that address a specific area of study and complement a major. Among some of the interdisciplinary programs offered: East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, Communications Studies, Film and Media Studies, Health and Human Values, and Middle East Studies.
- A new 149,000 square foot Academic Center opened in August 2016 (see photo above). The Academic Center promotes transdisciplinary collaboration, research, original work, and teaching. The center houses space for public forums, classrooms, research labs, and offices for faculty in the departments of biology, chemistry, psychology, neurosciences, and environmental science.
- The Dean Rusk International Studies Program is named after the former US Secretary of State during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who was an alumnus of Davidson College.
- Students take advantage of the best of two worlds — an outstanding liberal arts education on a beautiful 665-acre tree-lined campus and participate in the professional and other opportunities available in Charlotte, North Carolina, only 20 minutes away. This close proximity provides students easy access to internships, networking, and other professional development opportunities as well as the entertainment, sports, and cultural events this major city offers. Some 70% of students participate in at least one internship before they graduate.
- Student-to-faculty ratio is 10:1
- More than 80% of students study, travel, work, or perform community service abroad
- Davidson fields 21 NCAA Division I sports — highly unusual for a college its size — and 25% of students participate.
- 50% of students participate in Greek life. Rush is held second semester of the freshman year to ensure students have time to adjust to college, focus on academics, and explore clubs and other activities on campus. Unlike other colleges, “There are no rush winners or losers. If you want to be in a sorority or fraternity you can be.”
- 95% of students live in campus housing all four years
- Average class size of 15 students
- Through the Davidson Trust, students have 100% of their demonstrated need met through a combination of grants and student employment. Davidson also offers merit-based scholarships to 10% of an incoming class — those students “whose accomplishments mark them as having extraordinary potential for impact.”
- Offers Early Decision I and II (deadlines November 15 and January 2 respectively). Regular decision application is due January 5
- Nearly 50% of the class of 2021 were admitted through Early Decision I or II
- Last year, Davidson received 5,620 applications and 20% of students admitted
After my son’s wedding in Atlanta in late May, I decided to visit colleges on my way home to Baltimore. Traveling along highway I-75 N and I-81N, there are many colleges on or near these major highways. Since I’d planned three days for travel, I carefully chose my route to include Georgia Tech, Furman University, Davidson College, and the University of Virginia.
While I often recommend students visit two schools a day, my southern college swing made me realize that visiting one institution a day is probably the best strategy for campus visits (unless you’re in Boston where the close proximity of a number of universities and colleges makes it much easier to visit two schools in a day).
My advice for juniors and sophomores hitting the road for college visits this summer is to schedule a tour and information session ahead of time. If possible, talk to the admissions person for your region of the country (each has an assigned territory) and come armed with a few good questions. And, equally important since you will living in that city or community for four years, get to know the place: walk around the city; see a local show or concert; have coffee, lunch or dinner at a cool place near the college. Take the time to see the entire campus, explore the college’s varied and signature programs, learn about special research, internships, and other opportunities available — in other words, truly experience the college or university with all your senses. Here’s the first college profile from my travels through the southeast.
Furman University is located in Greenville, South Carolina. Despite pouring rain the day I visited, it was readily apparent that Furman’s 750 acre campus is one of the most beautiful I have ever visited.
Strengths and Distinctions
- With its new initiative, The Furman Advantage, the college has redefined and reimagined its approach to a liberal arts and science education.
- Campus is about 15-20 minutes from the city center of Greenville — ranked one of the Top 10 Fastest Growing Small Cities in the U.S.; 3rd Strongest Job Market, 2010; and the 13th Best City for Young Professionals. The greater Greenville area has a population of more than 500,000 and is home to many national and international companies including 200 that are internship partners with Furman. More than 70% of majors at Furman have internships built into the major.
- Signature program in business offers students either a BA in accounting or a BA in Business Administration. Through its study abroad programs, Furman provides students majoring in business the opportunity to participate in study abroad programs that include internships with organizations and businesses in cities such as Brussels and Edinburgh.
- The University provides $450,000 in funding through its Furman Fellows Program every summer to enable students to pursue projects, internships and other experiences outside the classroom that are aligned with their interests and passions.
- Ranked 4th in the nation for resources committed, funding received, number of publications, and number of students involved in research.
- May Experience, an optional three-week term following the spring semester allows students to explore topics often outside their majors in courses not offered during the academic year including shorter study abroad experiences.
- Student-to faculty ratio 11:1
- About 50% of students participate in Greek life. Rush is held second semester of the freshman year to ensure students have time to adjust to college, focus on academics, and explore clubs and other activities on campus
- 100% residential campus (all students live on campus all four years). This contributes to a close-knit, inclusive community where students across classes develop strong connections and friendships
- Average class size of 19 with all classes capped at 32 students
- 86% of students receive financial aid including 50 million in grants and scholarships
- Early Decision I and Early Action deadlines are November 1. Regular decision deadline is January 15
- 6,000 applications received in the last admissions cycle and 50% admitted
- Campus tour and information session extremely professional and informative — and the campus speaks for itself
Last summer I spent a week on the campus of Swarthmore College attending the IECA’s professional Summer Institute for educational consultants. Beyond the beauty of the College’s 425-acre arboretum campus (the College claims 4,000 varieties of distinct plant specimens), Swarthmore has a lot to offer students who are highly accomplished and intellectually inclined.
Swarthmore College is a small liberal arts college located 11 miles from Philadelphia. Admission is extremely competitive (a notch under the Ivies).
Strengths and Distinctions
- Nearly 100-year-old Honors program modeled on Oxford’s tutorial system and the only one of its kind in the nation. One-third of students participate through small classes and seminars, heightened engagement with faculty, and opportunities for independent learning, special research and projects, and a constant sharing and discussion of ideas.
- Tri-college consortium enables students to take courses at Bryn Mawr and Haverford. Cross registration with the University of Pennsylvania also is available.
- Close access to the Philadelphia (only a 25-minute train ride from campus) and the internship, cultural, and other activities and opportunities available in the nation’s fourth largest city.
- Quaker heritage tends to attract student activists who have an unusually strong interest in civic engagement and community service
- More than 40 majors and programs including one in engineering — not typically offered at a small liberal arts college
- College’s pass/fail grading policy in the first semester encourages freshmen to explore a variety of classes without worrying about their GPA and adjust to college life.
- Generous need-based financial aid program — 50% of students receive some financial aid on the basis of demonstrated need
- Offers Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and regular decision application options
- Swarthmore still offers no-loan, need-based awards for all students receiving grant aid (money students do not have to repay after they graduate)
University of Maryland
The University of Maryland is the crown jewel of the state’s public universities (now one of the best flagship public universities on the east coast). Admission is very competitive.
Strengths and Distinctions
- Among the top 20 public research universities nationwide
- Top 10 best entrepreneurial programs (Smith School of Business)
- Close access to internship opportunities in DC, Annapolis, and Baltimore (metro stop on campus — 10 minutes to DC)
- Over 90 undergraduate majors
- Beautifully maintained and updated campus in a suburban setting (University has experienced the largest building boom in its 160-year history over the last 10 years).
- Student-to-faculty ratio is, surprisingly, 16:1
- Emphasis on smaller living and learning communities — students feel part of a close-knit community typically found at smaller colleges yet have access to the extensive resources of a research university.
- Priority application deadline is November 1. Honors scholars automatically selected from this pool of students
- No personal or Skype interviews offered to prospective students
- Highly informative and professional information session and good campus tour