RPI, established in 1864, has about 6300 undergraduate students on a 275-acre campus in Troy, NY.
Schools – RPI has 5 schools:
Architecture – The Architecture school has two programs: a five-year B.Arch. and a B.S. in Building Science. Architecture classes are located in one building and there are less than 70 freshmen studying in the Architecture school.
Engineering – Engineering is the largest school and has about half of all undergrads in 11 majors. The first three semesters are the same for all engineering majors, so students can be undeclared engineering to start. The school encourages project-based, collaborative learning. A capstone is required for all engineers.
Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences – This school houses a number of interdisciplinary majors including Cognitive Science; Electronic Media, Arts and Communication; Electronic Arts, and the most popular major at this school, Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences. The school recently started a music major (technical or performance).
Business – This is the smallest school with about 50 – 55 freshmen. This is an AACSB accredited school with strength in technical entrepreneurship. The school has a business incubator.
Science – This is the second largest school and it houses RPI’s largest department, Computer Science.
All majors have a 24-credit humanities requirement.
The Arch – Students mustparticipate in the Arch. They take their first semester junior classes in the summer after their sophomore year. In the fall or spring semester of their junior year they must spend a semester doing an internship, a co-op, a research project, civic engagement or study abroad.
Research – About 700 students participate in undergraduate research each year, as early as the second semester. RPI is a leader in Alzheimer’s research.
Accelerated Programs – Students can gain a Bachelors and a Master’s degree in 5 years, with financial aid carrying into the 5th year. The Bachelors and Master's can be in different disciplines. Students apply for this opportunity when they are an RPI Junior. No GRE exam is needed.
There are also BS/MD, BS/JD, BS/MBA and BS/Ph.D. programs.
Admissions – RPI has ED I, ED II, and Regular Decision. They accept a number of different application forms, including the Common App. Students should have an A/A- average, a challenging curriculum with three years of science including Biology, Chemistry and Lab-Physics, as well as four years of math with pre-calculus (calculus recommended). Students need to submit SAT or ACT scores. RPI prefers that a STEM teacher write the academic recommendation letter. A creative portfolio is required for architecture, music and electronic arts majors and is recommended for game and simulation arts and science (GSAS) and electronic, media, arts & communications (EMAC) majors.
RPI gives credit for a 4 or 5 in AP courses and can students can receive up to 32 credits for AP courses.
Extracurricular activities – RPI has over 200 clubs and activities. The skiing/snowboarding club is the largest club with skiing/snowboarding 30 minutes from campus. It is easy to start a new club.
There is Greek life at RPI and students can “rush” at any time.
There are two NCAA Division I Ice Hockey teams, 21 NCAA Division III sports teams, as well as intramural and club sports. A multipurpose stadium seats 5000.
The student union building is fully run by students.
Housing, Food and Transportation – Students are required to live on campus the first two years. There are freshmen-only buildings and there is themed housing (e.g., leadership housing). There are singles, doubles and triples. There is Greek housing both on and off campus.
There are four main dining halls. Students can have all-you can-eat buffet dining or use their Flex Dollars to buy food in cafes, in the Student Union, in the marketplaces or off-site.
Freshmen cannot have cars on campus. There is a free shuttle on campus, as well as a free local bus.
Financial Aid – No separate application is needed for merit aid. US Citizens, US Permanent Residents and Canadian citizens who submit the FAFSA and CSS Profile are considered for need-based aid.
Freshmen Academics - All freshmen come to Bard for three weeks in
August to take the Language and Thinking Program, an introduction to liberal
arts and sciences focusing on writing. They take a two-semester seminar
entitled “What is Freedom? Ancient and Modern.” During the January break, freshmen take a 2.5 week
Citizen Science class in which they learn lab experimentation,
computer-based strategies, and problem-based learning.
Begin in Berlin – Students can spend their first year in Bard’s
campus in Berlin. Students who spend their first year in Berlin take Citizen
Science during January of their sophomore year.
Distribution Requirements – There are distribution requirements in
Classes – The majority of classes are small, arranged around a
table and are discussion-based.
Moderation – To declare a major, students go through a moderation
process in the second half of their sophomore year. Students prepare two
moderation papers assessing their work in their first two years and identifying
their goals and study plan for the remaining two years. These are reviewed by
three faculty members.
Senior Project – All students work on an original, year-long Senior
Project. Students start preparing for this project as a junior.
Trustee Leader Scholar Program – Students can start and staff community
programs to address social issues on the local, regional, national or
international level. These are financed by the college.
Freshman Residential Life – Each of the four community houses has a
faculty member living on campus and helping to develop house programs.
College Architecture – Each building has its own unique style.
Applying – Students can apply using the
Common App or they can use the Bard Entrance Examination, an online essay
Bard College is a liberal arts and
sciences college of just under 2000 undergraduates in a park-like campus of
about 1000 acres in the Hudson Valley, about 90 minutes from New York City by
In addition to study abroad in
Berlin, students have an opportunity to study abroad in places like Kyrgyzstan,
Hungary, Paris, Ecuador, Cairo, Japan, the Netherlands, and South Korea. A third of
students study abroad.
Research opportunities, in addition
to the senior project are available, especially in math, science, neuroscience, and
the environment. These include a one-semester research opportunity available at
Rockefeller University in New York City for advanced science students.
There are 3+2 and 4+1 opportunities
for dual Bachelors and Masters degrees at Bard, as well as a number of US (e.g.,
Duke, Columbia, Dartmouth) and international universities.
There are over 150 clubs on campus.
Athletic teams compete in NCAA Division III Liberty League.There are club and intramural sports, as well
as hiking and cross country skiing trails on campus. The 69,000 square foot
athletic center includes a pool, squash courts, a gym and more.
The Bard shuttle bus takes students to nearby small towns and to train stations.
New York State does not have a flagship university. Instead, it has four University Centers. Last week, I visited one of these University Centers, Binghamton University. Binghamton University is a research university that boasts “excellence and value.” It has about 13,600 undergraduate students.
Location– Binghamton University is in upstate New York. The main campus is located on Vestal Parkway in Binghamton. Vestal Parkway has lots of chain stores and restaurants.
In addition to the main campus, there is a building in downtown Binghamton that houses the College of Community and Public Affairs. There has been a resurgence in downtown Binghamton in the last five years.
A new pharmacy building will be finished this summer in nearby Johnson City. The School of Nursing will be moving to Johnson City in about two years.
Both downtown Binghamton and Johnson City are about a 7 or 8 minute drive from the main campus.
Housing, Transportation and Food -Binghamton has residential communities on campus, with a faculty member living in each residential community. Each residential community has its own culture, traditions, student government, and quad. Students can live in a learning community. Each learning community has a theme (e.g.,health and wellness, nursing).
There are different styles of housing and there is no freshmen-only housing. Housing is available all four years although many students move off-campus for their junior and senior years.
The meal plan is a pay-for-what-you-eat plan. There are no all-you-can-eat offerings.
There are blue buses, driven by Binghamton students that take students around campus and nearby, including the other two campuses, off-campus housing, and shopping areas. There is a bike-share available on campus. Freshmen cannot have a car on campus.
Education– Binghamton offers 130 academic programs in six schools. The six schools are:
College of Community and Public Affairs
Decker School of Nursing
Harpur College of Art and Sciences
School of Management
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Thomas J Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Students can double and sometimes triple major and still graduate in four years. The majors can be in different schools. There are over 50 accelerated bachelor/masters degrees available.
There are honors programs including the Freshman Research Immersion Program, two Scholars Program, and the Summer Scholars and Artists Fellowships.
The Freshman Research Immersion Program has 300 freshmen. In the Fall of the Freshman year they take a research methods seminar; in the Spring of the Freshman year they take a Research Stream Lab Course where they develop a research proposal; and in the Fall of the Sophomore year they conduct research.
Close to a third of students will be involved in research with faculty before they graduate.
There is an effective career and professional development center on campus. There are job and internship fairs in the Fall and Spring. There are also employer visits hosted in New York City, Washington, DC and other cities. 73% of students will have an internship.
About a quarter of students study abroad.
We did a deep dive into the School of Management and learned that the school focused on experiential learning. There were case competitions where students pitched to major companies, hands-on courses where students worked with faculty and client companies, 22 business student organizations, an entrepreneurship living community, an opportunity to invest some of the university’s money, as well as many internship opportunities.
Extra-curricular– Binghamton is a NCAA Division I school with 21 athletic teams, but it does not have NCAA Division I Football.
There are over 300 student organizations. There were several theaters and an art museum.
When I visited, the campus was setting up for Spring Fling. Spring Fling includes a great band, amusement park rides and carnival-type food.
There is even a bowling alley.
Admissions– Admission is by school. Currently the Engineering and Nursing schools are the hardest undergraduate schools to get into and the Management school is the next hardest. You can only select one school on your application.
Students need a minimum SAT Math score of 670 to get accepted into an engineering or computer science major. The hardest undergraduate major to get accepted to is Computer Science
Binghamton accepts the Common App. They are trying to increase enrollment of out-of-state students. The mid-50% of accepted students have rigorous high school classes, an unweighted high school GPA of 3-4 – 3.9, and an ACT score of 29-31 (not superscored) or an SAT Math score between 650 - 720 and an SAT EBRW score of 630-710. About 75% of students apply Early Action.
The school offers credit for AP classes taken in high school, if the student received a score of 3, 4 or 5.
Cost– The price for an out-of-state student is similar to the price for Rutgers University. Merit aid of up to $12K per year is available for out-of-state students.
Merrimack College is a private Roman Catholic college in the Augustinian tradition in North Andover, Massachusetts. It is a career-focused, personalized, success-driven college that wants to "make good students great."
What’s New – Merrimack College has made significant changes in recent years including the following:
Significant growth of undergraduate population (from 2259 in 2011 to about 3500)
Hired 17 new tenured track professors this school year
A successful 50 million dollar capital campaign
Switched from an undergraduate institution to a Masters-granting institution
New business building opened in Fall 2017
Invested heavily in academic and social support for students to increase retention and improve 4-year graduation rate
Addition of computer engineering major
Planned changes include:
Addition of nursing, physical therapy, chemical engineering and industrial engineering majors
Completion of a new building to house both the Welcome Center and the Career Development Center
Growth of the undergraduate population to 4000 students
Moving from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I.
Academics – The most popular majors are in Business (representing 30% of the school). Other popular majors are in Family and Consumer Sciences, Health Professions, Engineering, Education, Psychology and Security and Protective Services. There are also a number of 4+1 programs where the students can earn a Bachelors and Master’s degree in 5 years.
Some special academic activities and/or features are:
All freshmen get an iPad
All freshmen participate in the First Year Experience where they learn things like time management and study skills, identify their strengths, learn about the supports available at the college (e.g., tutoring, writing center, math center), and have diversity training.
There are six career advisors in each school and every freshmen meets with one in their first semester
There is a 2-day professional development retreat in Boston that lets 60 students work on their soft skills with alumni in the fall and in the spring. These include things like how to eat in a high-end restaurant.
There are two jobs/internship fairs a year. Forty companies recruit accounting and finance students in the fall. One hundred companies recruit students in all majors in the spring.
There are semester-long and short term study abroad opportunities based on student’s major and goals. There is also a semester of study available in Washington, DC for Political Science majors. Often study abroad incorporates service learning or an internship. Students can learn more about these opportunities at the fall and spring Global Education Fairs.
Business students get Bloomberg-certified as freshmen
The investment club is investing some of the college’s funds.
Campus – Merrimack College has a suburban campus which is less than an hour north Boston, not far from the New Hampshire border, and 45-minutes from the beach. The campus is over 200 acres. It is relatively flat with low-rise buildings, many of which are red brick.
Housing – 85% of students live on campus for the freshman year. Housing is guaranteed for four years and all students can have cars on campus.
Cohorts – There are many different cohorts at Merrimack. The more cohorts a student belongs to, the higher their retention rate. 70 – 80% of students are in at least one cohort. The different cohorts include:
Guided “undecided major” program
Honors program (top 7-10% of applicant pool) – These students can live in the Honors Living/Learning Community. They take 8 Honors classes and do a capstone project or social justice project.
Dean’s Forum is a program for those students who are academically just below the Honors program. They meet as a group monthly with a Dean.
Promise Program is a program for 140 freshmen who enter with a 2.5 – 2.6 GPA in high school. They receive weekly coaching.
Compass Program for 60 freshmen who enter with 2.0 – 2.2 GPA from high school; these students are provided with extra support in a structured program.
Phoenix Program is for those on academic probation.
Living/Learning Communities (LLC) – LLCs are intentional living arrangements where residents share common goals, engage in a common academic program and participate in experiential learning. There are 5 LLCs for freshmen and 2 for upper classmen.
Athletes – 620 students currently.
Extra-curricular activities – There are over 70 student organizations. Over 250 students who are doing community service in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a struggling mill town about five miles from campus. There is Greek life on campus. Currently, ice hockey is an NCAA Division I sport and the other school sports are NCAA Division II.
Some clubs and activities the students I met were involved in were: the Green Team, Student/Alumni Association, the Dance Team, Ambassadors, Orientation Leaders, Cross Country Track Club, Resident Assistant, Relay for Life, and Best Buddies.
Applying/Financial Aid – Merrimack Collegge accepts the Common Application. The average high school GPA of incoming students is 3.1. The college is test optional and there is no application fee. The application deadlines in 2017-2018 were 11/15 for Early Decision and Early Action I, 1/15 for Early Action II, and 2/15 for Regular Decision. 82% of applicants were accepted (fall 2016/fall 2017).
Students need to fill out the FAFSA to qualify for need-based aid. The college is need-aware and does not meet 100% of need. The college provided some form of financial aid to 99% of students in 2017-2018. Students get their financial aid package with their acceptance. Merit scholarships range between $6K and $21K.
There are sibling discounts for families with more than one student in a family attending Merrimack at the same time.
Moving In – Upperclassmen meet freshmen on move-in day and take their belongings to their dorm room.
In March 2018, I attended Johnson and Wales University (JWU) brunch for NJ counselors and
educators. I wanted to hear what had changed since I visited the Rhode Island campus in 2014.
The highlights were:
The culinary classes have been reworked based on
industry input and now look at market segments like chef-driven corporate
dining and chef-concept restaurants, in addition to fine dining.
The College of Health and Wellness was opened in
2016 offering a B.S. in Health Science, a B.S. in Public Health and a B.S. in
Dietetics and Health Nutrition. On the graduate level the school has a
Physician’s Assistant program in which they hold 12 seats for JWU graduates.
In the College of Engineering and Design, the
hottest program is the two-year old Cyber Threat Intelligence & Defense
program. A new major in Digital Marketing and Social Media starts in Fall 2018.
A new building, the Center for Science and
Innovation opened just over a year ago.
Early action admission was offered for the first
time in Fall 2017.
High school students often worry whether they will get into their first choice college or university. One way to assess their chance for admission is to use Naviance scattergrams as described in this Forbes article.
Here are three additional considerations when using Naviance scattergrams. If:
Very few or no students from your high school have attended the college you are interested in, there won't be a scattergram for you to use. Don't let that discourage you from applying. You can still assess your chances for admission by looking at data like acceptance rate, GPA distribution, and mid-50% ACT or SAT scores of accepted students. This data is generally available on the college's website and/or or college search sites like the College Board's Big Future (which includes it under the "Applying" tab for each college).
There is a Naviance scattergram with only a few points, the scattergram will be less reliable than if many students from your high school had applied to this college. You may want to use the techniques listed in 1. to better assess your chance for acceptance.
The college you are looking for has an acceptance rate of less than a third, the college will most likely be a reach school.