I really liked U Michigan. Even with 40,000 students total, the school didn’t really feel that overwhelmingly large. The campus is split into three sections: South Campus houses all of the sports training centers and facilities, North Campus houses the engineering school, as well as the architecture, music and art schools, and Central Campus is home to just about everything else and is integrated into downtown Ann Arbor. Both the South and Central Campuses are very much “traditional” college campuses even though they are in the middle of the downtown area, while North Campus is a bit more spread out and has less of an urban feel. All of the facilities felt brand new and were well outfitted with technological enhancements such as computer labs and stations (which seemed to be everywhere), campus-wide Wifi, and classroom digital projection, document cameras, power outlets, and network Ethernet ports. For a school of 40,000, they seem to deal with class size well, with only 8% of classes with over 100 students and discussion style reviews with grad students for larger classes and lectures. Students describe professors and grad students, who all have open office hours, as “very accessible” and all students are assigned general advisors within their schools and are later assigned advisors specific to their department. There seemed to be plentiful student services such as writing labs and math and physics assistance centers. I thought the freshman dorms I saw were pretty nice as freshman dorms go (better than the ones I had seem at Penn State or Case Western). And of course, there are the sports, which are obviously well known and respected. I can’t imagine myself being bored with such an active student community who are very enthusiastic in their support of their sports teams.
As for the Engineering School, I was very impressed with all of the course and program offerings specific to thatcollege. All students are required to remain “undecided” until their 2nd semester, with the first semester housing many interesting design and programming-geared “introduction to engineering” courses and most students declare as a sophomore. There were quite a few programs and services offered within the college that I would defiantly be interested in, such as engineering-specific international opportunities, an engineering learning and academic support center, an engineering career guidance center, and support for student entrepreneurship. The engineering school is also very involved in UROP, the university’s program committed to undergraduate research. There are also a ton of student-run organizations, such as the “solar-powered car team”, that allow students to collaborate with peers from other departments or schools and travel the world to compete.
Overall, I was very impressed and excited with the program offerings and student life at U Michigan and will definitely be looking at it further in the future.
I liked case a lot more than I thought I would. At around 4,000 undergraduates and 6,000 graduates, it’s a good small/medium size. The campus is intertwined with a culturally rich Cleveland neighborhood (the 2nd most culturally dense square ½ mile in the US) and is not far from downtown. Students get discounted access to public transportation, some of the cultural attractions of downtown, and the nearby performance venues (including Severance Hall- home of the Cleveland Orchestra), as well as free admittance to most of the museums surrounding the campus. The academic core program was very interesting to me- it includes not only major focused classes and electives, but “breadth courses” and SAGES (seminar approach to general education and scholarship) which is a series of four small seminars (one each year) that emphasize discussion and critical thinking. I was impressed with the opportunities for and emphasis placed on undergraduate research, as well as the availability of coop and study abroad programs.
I was also impressed with the flexibility students have to take classes in and be involved with other departments and even other partner schools- there are plenty of joint programs with the Cleveland Institute of Music. The upperclassmen dorms are very nice and the freshman dorms were pretty nice as far as freshman dorms go. The school seems to be interested in providing students with plenty of services to improve campus life, such as wifi everywhere on campus (the 2nd fastest wifi in the nation next to NASA’s headquarters), student common areas, printing services, and more. The social aspect of the school was really my only concern. Greek life includes about 30% of students and is very community service geared. I just have to look into whether the social climate here is right for me, but otherwise I was very impressed with Case.
The first stop on my college road trip, Penn State was a great taste of a large, large state school. With just around 44,000 students at their University Park campus, one of 20 campuses statewide, I would defiantly have to be comfortable with plenty of peers and the occasional 700 person freshman year class (yes, they exist.) The gigantic student body makes up its own “town”, which is good seeing as State College isn’t much of a town itself and the campus buildings and grounds were beautiful. Obviously Penn State is king when it comes to sports and school spirit and there seems to be no shortage of student activities, clubs, and organizations, not to mention frats. Although there is obviously no absence of exciting student life, it seems that academics are still valued appropriately. The freshman dorms we got to walk through were… “basic” in every sense of the word but all of the classrooms and facilities were up to date.
Both the engineering and science programs were impressive, and they really emphasized the fact that flexibility was key; that taking courses and pursuing minors in other colleges was encouraged and that changing your major was perfectly fine. The study abroad options and co-op opportunities are plentiful and they had many partnerships with major companies. I’ll have to really think about whether I would like being a fish in a sea of 44,000, but I was impressed with the campus and surprisingly impressed with the academic rigor.
I have always been very familiar with Columbia and was obsessed with it when I was younger, partially because my cousin went there and it was the only college I really knew and partially because it was in the city. Despite the extremely overcrowded general information session and tour groups, I was still able to get a good feel of what life was like there. Obviously being situated in the heart of New York City is a big draw for me, especially since it maintains a contained campus with a central quad. The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and the strong science department in Columbia College, the latter of which I got an in depth look at during their department invitational open house, are both huge draws as well. I have yet to tour Fu (their tours are separate from the campus tours), but I have heard a lot about it.
The one thing that Columbia, especially the science department, supports that I think would be a definite interest to me is undergrad research opportunities. I have yet to make up my mind whether I like the classics-focused core curriculum, as I do think a diverse education is important but I’m not very interested in spending too much time on the classics. I still have some things to think about with Columbia but I will definitely be going back to see it again and I definitely foresee it making it far in my college selection process.
So here it is… my first post. I intend to post some important things from the past at some point… but I figured I would start here- with a trip I took to Toronto a few weeks ago. I was counting on seeing U Toronto and it was suggested by a local that I look at Ryerson as well.
I really was not struck by Ryerson in any way. First of all, the campus is truly an urban one with no central “campus” to speak of. Also, I could immediately tell that engineering and science were really not their focus or strength (which seemed to be “arts and sciences” and “communications”). Also, it seemed to lack any sort of student community and came across as a commuter college where students solely desired an education, not the “college experience.” I can safely say the Ryerson is not for me.
U Toronto, however, was great. I took a 2 hour general tour, spent some time speaking with members of their admissions staff, and then went to the engineering building, which has its own admissions department, and spoke with a representative there. I loved the fact that there is a central quad and multiple central student areas, despite the fact that the school itself winds its way through the middle of downtown Toronto. It took me a while to understand how the 7 colleges worked, as they are not tied to academics, but instead are tied to residence and are essentially 7 communities within the university. I liked “New College” the best as well as the “89 Chestnut” residence, which has both double-style and apartment-style rooms. The student culture center, athletic center, and multiple libraries all looked amazing.
The faculty of engineering is a totally separate entity within the university (they handle all their own scheduling and student guidance) and is well-renowned throughout the world. I was very much interested in their “PEY” (Personal Year Experience) program, which allows students to have a paying full-time job with a partnered company for their 4th year of school and return for a 5th year to finish their degrees. Their engineering science program also looked very intriguing as it is a different, more rigorous approach to engineering education. Overall, I was very impressed with U Toronto and will definitely be considering it in the coming year.