Archive | October, 2011

Views of Middlebury College

26 Oct

Here are some photos from our college tour of Middlebury College:

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Fordham University at Lincoln Center

22 Oct

Fordham University labels itself as “The Jesuit University of New York” to highlight its Catholic pedagogical tradition but the satellite campus at Lincoln Center on West 61st Street has a decidedly secular and ecumenical atmosphere.  The campus incorporates some graduate divisions, including the well-respected law school, as well as an undergraduate college.  With 1,700 undergraduates enrolled, Fordham College at Lincoln Center has approximately half as many students than the main Bronx-Rose Hill campus and is heavily focused on the performing arts.  It is a newer facility, built in 1968 on eight acres adjacent to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

All students must fulfill requirements in a broad-based liberal arts curriculum, and so there are course offerings in all the standard departments, albeit somewhat abridged.  Our tour guide, Sophie, had auditioned for the theater performance major, but was only accepted as a liberal arts B.A. candidate.  She is a classical civilizations major, and apparently loves Fordham’s humanities curriculum (classics and humanities are traditionally strong at Jesuit colleges).  The college has extensive opportunities for foreign travel and study for those who would like to branch out beyond Manhattan.

One of Fordham College-Lincoln Center’s greatest magnets is the dance conservatory program, offered in conjunction with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  This program not only attracts many dancers, but it contributes to the already highly diverse makeup of the student body.  We noticed many attractive young women at our open house and Monkey Mama chose to withdraw slightly after one spectacularly beautiful student initiated a conversation about various theater programs and Fordham College-Lincoln Center’s advantages among them.  She preferred the smaller class sizes at Fordham-Lincoln Center to those at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (more about which will be forthcoming).  Monkey Son listened attentively and nodded sagely at that.

The theater department stages a variety of performances annually and we were impressed with the facilities.  Potential majors must audition but they must also be accepted academically.  Fordham’s acceptance rate is approximately 50% but only 14% of accepted students actually enroll.  The admissions representative hinted that highly talented applicants might be forgiven some academic shortcomings but they still need to have achieved certain benchmarks and requirements.  Monkey Mama inferred that the theater department might be able to prevail over other skeptics on the admissions committee but are probably somewhat less influential than the head basketball coach (Fordham’s Division I team plays in the Atlantic 10 Conference).

Fordham-Lincoln Center’s vertical campus is expanding horizontally to include sorely needed student housing.  Like other Manhattan student accommodations, the dormitory facilities are comfortable but without frills.  Room and board can exceed $16K for a single, bringing the total cost of attendance to more than $55K.  Although the campus chapel includes worship spaces for Moslems and Jews (the main building is named for its prime benefactor, Mr. Leon Lowenstein), the dormitories do observe nominal parietal regulations, banning overnight guests of the opposite sex.  Despite that, Monkey Son declared Fordham College at Lincoln Center his favorite among those visited thus far.

More Views of Dartmouth College

18 Oct

 

Views of Dartmouth College

18 Oct

These were taken during our visit in August 2011:

Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts

8 Oct

It’s irresistible; imagine dropping Bard College, Hampshire College or Bennington College on lower Fifth Avenue and you might get something like Eugene Lang College of The New School.  The New School occupies a special place in New York history as the first college founded to teach adults, especially recent immigrants, who were underserved by traditional universities like Columbia (where the New School’s founders had previously taught).  The New School now comprises seven separate faculties, the largest and best known of which is the Parsons School for Design.

Philanthropist Eugene Lang provided the capital to create a liberal arts college for full-time, traditional-age students in 1985 and his namesake college emerged from the former New School for Social Research.  Its curriculum fosters social engagement and debate, with a strong focus on writing.  Students may design their own majors and curricula, with some core requirements.  The staff and student hosts were good-naturedly clear about the fact that Eugene Lang is not the college for anyone profoundly interested in science, technology or sports.

Although the college is small with approximately 1,500 students, it has a fairly encouraging acceptance rate of 69%.  Standardized test scores are optional, and the admissions representatives indicated that intellectual curiosity and writing ability are the most important criteria for consideration.  Eugene Lang was originally called “The Seminar School,” and classes are almost exclusively symposia requiring universal participation.  They believe that their applicants are somewhat self-selecting because the college will not appeal to everyone.

Eugene Lang students may enroll in electives at other New School faculties and some dual-major opportunities exist for the artistically or musically inclined, but most of the courses relate academic fields of study to the “outside world” and encourage students to apply their interests through civic engagement.  They also have access to library resources at other universities including New York University just down the street, as well as the New York Public Library network.

We were not granted a tour of any student residences, which rankled a bit.  The freshmen accommodations sound somewhat bleak, but the neighborhood is unbeatable for charm and convenience.  It is quieter than NYU’s environs several blocks away and has some beautiful side streets nearby.

Eugene Lang, like other private colleges in Manhattan, is not a cheap date.  Tuition for 2011-2012 will cost about $37,000 and double rooms cost more than $14,000.  It is highly unlikely that most students will find apartments near campus for a comparable price and so they (and their parents) must desire the prime location and be willing to trade off many other creature comforts for this luxury.

Monkey Mama and Monkey Son were both intrigued by Eugene Lang and agreed that it provides a very attractive alternative to the intensely competitive audition-based programs he is applying to elsewhere.  We are almost reluctant to publicize the school, since it still seems to be something of a secret, hidden in plain sight on Fifth Avenue.

Northern Exposure: Dartmouth, Middlebury and Hamilton Colleges

5 Oct

This summer we visited three colleges located north of the 38th parallel – Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Middlebury College in Vermont and Hamilton College in upstate New York.  They share many similarities – all offer a liberal arts education surrounded by mountains (Green, White, or Adirondacks) and have beautiful, traditional campuses with elegant brick or stone buildings.  Being so far north, winters can seem interminable.  When we visited in midsummer, the weather was so pleasant and mild that it was hard to imagine these campuses blanketed under thick snow and ice, assailed by bitter winds and frigid temperatures.  Tuition and board are expensive, costing more than $50,000; to soften the sticker shock, they all offer need-blind admissions and a commitment to meeting a student’s financial need.

Because of their remote locations, students going to any of these schools must love the great outdoors because there is little else around.  Sure, Hanover, New Hampshire is a charming historic town whose sole purpose seems to be supporting the college community with restaurants, stores, and hotels (I highly recommend staying at Six South Street) but it is a small town nevertheless.  The same can be said of Middlebury Vermont, and Clinton, New York.  Students who enjoy winter sports will find lots to do.

Some key differences stand out.  Dartmouth’s academic calendar is divided into 12-week quarters instead of semesters so there is little or no easing into the workload.  Most students take three courses per quarter.  All sophomores are required to spend their second summer on campus at Dartmouth.  Dartmouth also offers an engineering degree in addition to liberal arts.

The presence of sophomores, numbering about 1,100, on campus made the campus seem livelier and less deserted when we were there.  The students we saw were fit looking so it should be no surprise to learn that fifty percent of the student body is involved in varsity sports and another 25% plays intramural or club sports.  A friend who is a Dartmouth alumnus recalls being surrounded by athletes when he attended 30 years ago and that has not changed.  Sixty percent of Dartmouth students are also involved with fraternities or sororities.

An hour and half away on the other side of the Green Mountains, Middlebury College has no fraternities or sororities.  It is a smaller liberal arts college with only 2,450 students and is most known for its foreign languages, English, and environmental studies programs, among others.  It also offers 5-year dual-degree engineering programs with Dartmouth College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Columbia University.

For students contemplating time off before college, each year Middlebury offers deferred admission to 90 to 100 students who enroll in February.  In case anyone wonders whether admission standards are looser for February admits, the admission representative was quick to note that a disproportionate percentage of “Febs” take on leadership roles in campus life.

To our disappointment, none of the tour guides were studying any foreign languages, which is what my daughter was most interested in.  As we walked around campus, we could see that there is on-going construction and renovation of campus facilities.  The tour guide raved about the food, which is supposed to be quite good, with local farmers supplying the college with organic, fresh produce and raw ingredients.

Hamilton College is the smallest college on our visit, with only 1,850 undergraduates.  Its academic program features an open curriculum that allows students to take whatever courses they want without needing to fulfill any distributional requirements.  Depending on your perspective, this could be good or bad; if a student enters college with a well-developed and strong focus, an open curriculum could be liberating (e.g., no more pesky math or science courses, ever).  But, if students are undecided about what to study, requiring them to sample different discipline areas may help them to decide.  The college is not completely without requirements though; students have to take three writing intensive courses.  The college was quick to tout its strong alumni network with over 50% of alumni donating to the college.

Of the three colleges, Dartmouth College is the most selective, being in the Ivy League.  Last year its admission rate was 10%, Middlebury’s was 18% and Hamilton’s was 27%.  For students interested in going to college in rural areas, play sports, and enjoy nature and the outdoors, these three schools offer all that in descending order of selectivity.

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