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Campus Visit: Albright College

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I know this isn’t how to choose a college, but my favorite memory from my November trip to Albright College is walking across campus and seeing all the clusters of red Adirondack chairs.  Even though it was a little too cold to hang out, I could easily picture students gathering around campus.  The red chairs represent the friendly, comfortable school Albright is.

Overview:

Albright College is located in Reading, Pennsylvania, a good size town of 80,000 people.  It is 60 miles west of Philly in a suburban area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The college has 1600 students and 70% live on or around campus (as opposed to commuting).  Albright is a liberal arts college, so as you might expect classes are small; a majority are between 15-20 students.  You won’t find the huge lecture style classes here; there are only two places on campus to hold large groups—gym or chapel.

Interesting Campus Facts:

Campus Expansion

The Albright College campus has been expanding:

  • New $30 million dollar science building – labs, green technology, two new electron microscopes — latest and greatest.
  • $6 million dollar expansion and improvements to food services.  I did eat lunch in the regular cafeteria and found a nice selection with options that made it work for everyone in our group.
  • Plans for $5 million in additions to business and political science building and $10 mil library renovation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo the Albright campus keeps getting better.  Students will continue to enjoy high quality facilities.  I liked the balance of traditional looking buildings with new classroom and lab space.  I also liked the fact that Albright was investing heavily into the academic side of campus.  I visit a lot of colleges where all the improvements are going towards luxuries – rock walls, lazy rivers, dorms that look like country clubs.  I like seeing facility expansion that improves a school’s ability to educate.

100% Financial Need Met

Albright College has decided to increase the financial aid budget and they promise to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all accepted students applying for financial aid.  This means families won’t fall into the gap with aid packages that don’t cover the cost.

Other Highlights

As part of the tour, I got to hear from panels of professors from different departments.  Without going into depth for everything in business, science, etc., I’m going to outline some of the high points.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • Albright has a true emphasis on interdisciplinary learning.  Two-thirds of students double major.  Required seminar and foundations courses encourage students to explore different subjects and make connections.
  • Graduates are leaving with practical skills and real world experiences.  Some people think a liberal arts education isn’t practical, but Albright’s General Education Curriculum pushes all students to connect learning to real world applications.  I heard many examples of students who are involved in research, internships, or capstone projects, experiences that make them desirable new hires or graduate students.
  • For a small school in Pennsylvania, Albright is pretty diverse.  One in three students is either a minority or international student.
  • One in four students is involved in arts on campus and one in four is involved in athletics on campus.  This is a school where it is easy to be involved.

Popular Major(s):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABusiness is the largest major on campus.  Reading is a good city for internships.

The sciences are also popular with lots of graduates going on to medical or graduate school.  The professors from the science department that spoke to my group said they spend a lot of time and attention working with freshman because many come in weaker in biology or chemistry than they should.  Also many freshmen don’t understand the requirements and demands of a bio or chem program.  Albright professors work to coach students towards success and have good acceptance rates to medical schools as a result.

Great Place To Learn:

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No matter what department, all professors I spoke with were really interested in teaching undergraduates.  I got a very good feeling from Albright.  It seems like the type of school that will take a good student and over four years shape him or her into a great student.  This is the place for someone who has done well in high school, but isn’t Ivy League bound, to get top quality teaching in a supportive and encouraging environment.

Admissions:

Albright College is on a rolling admission schedule which means students can send applications throughout senior year, but should apply by March 1 for full scholarship and admissions consideration.  Albright is selective, but not impossible to get into.  About 50% of applicants are accepted.  The admissions office tries to get to know applicants and places emphasis on academic performance, writing ability, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, and interviews.    Sending test scores (SAT & ACT) is optional.If you are a numbers kind of person, here’s a look at who is accepted at Albright:

  • High school GPA middle 50%:  3.11 – 3.85
  • Average # of honors courses taken: 6OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Average # of AP classes taken:  3
  • SAT middle 50%:  990 – 1160

Conclusion:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI liked Albright College.  I think it has a great campus environment and is the ideal school for any student looking for a small to mid-size liberal arts college where he or she can stand out.  It is a great option for the applicants who are good students, but not competitive for highly selective schools and who want to have the chance to really shine in college.

 

What do you think? Have you visited Albright?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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College Visit: Elizabethtown College

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In my recent visit of liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania, Elizabethtown College (E-Town) was the first stop.  It is a campus with just under 2000 students, 85% of which live on campus.  Elizabethtown (the actual town) has about 12,000 residents and a nice college-town feel with shops, bookstores, restaurants, and coffee houses.  The campus is close to Harrisburg and Hershey and with an Amtrak station nearby students are just a few hours from New York or Washington DC.

E-town is just down the road from the Mars Chocolate manufacturing facility.  Many days the sweet smell of cocoa permeates campus.  Students call these “chocolate days.”  Unfortunately, the wind from the other direction can bring smells from area farms, so “chocolate days” can be alternated with “cow days”!

Our group of counselors was invited to a reception at the college president’s home.  He lives a block or two from campus and students are frequently invited to dinner at his home.  Lots of professors liveOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA in the town and as my student guide shared, it is common for professors to meet students outside of class or office hours to talk.

I spoke with a science professor who said he chose to come to Elizabethtown College because he gets to make an impact with his students.  He had previously worked at a more prestigious university, but felt there was more pressure to research and publish than to teach.  At Elizabethtown he found a better balance and feels the campus is really dedicated to learning and teaching.  Throughout my visit, I found students and faculty who said teaching, learning, and doing are actual priorities not just marketing ideas designed to draw students to campus.

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Elizabethtown College Campus Focus:

  • Personalized attention and relationship-centered learning.  The student to faculty ratio is 12:1 and the average class has 16 students.  Students feel their professors know them and their goals and really push them to succeed.  This is the type of school were a good student can become a great student.
  • Graduation.  The university is looking to enroll graduates not just first year students.  Admissions and financial aid seek to help enroll students who are prepared and able to finish four years.  Once students enroll, academic programs are in place to encourage success.
  • Real world learning.  86% of graduates had an internship, study abroad, or research experience at E-town.  This is not a campus where these things are talked about to impress potential applicants but not actually promoted among the student body.
  • Employment.  You may wonder if liberal arts graduates are competitive in the market.  Elizabethtown grads are doing well in this economy.  The survey of the last graduating class found 74% were employed full time and 26% were in graduate school.  They attribute a lot of their success to the real world experiences students have.

Elizabethtown College Academic Programs:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo matter what programs students enter at Elizabethtown College, they will learn how to think, communicate, write, and adapt to the demands of their field.  Freshmen all participate in a First-Year Seminar (FYS).  Each FYS has a specific theme and involves interactive activities such as field trips, guest lectures, plays, and films; students are exposed to opportunities in the area.  FYS professors serve as first-year advisors, so students receive regular guidance and help with their academic goals from a professor who knows them well.

Instead of fulfilling a long list of required “basics”, E-town students select course from 8 areas of understanding:

  • Power of Language – 2 classes
  • Mathematics – 1 class
  • Creative Expression – 1 class
  • Western Cultural Heritage – 1 class
  • Non-Western Cultural Heritage – 1 class
  • Natural and Physical Sciences – 2 classes
  • Social Sciences – 1 class
  • Humanities – 1 class

Students could fulfill these eight areas in one year and quickly get into advanced classes in their major.

Because all freshmen will take the seminar and courses in these eight areas, it is fine for students to enter E-town as “undecided”.  The reality is that many students change their majors multiple times from senior year of high school when they apply until they ultimately graduate.  The way Elizabethtown College structures its academic programs and advising makes it easy for students to experience different fields and receive informed guidance in selecting the major that is right for them.

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Elizabethtown College Admissions:

Admission to E-town is on a rolling basis.  Application review begins in mid-October and the goal is to send a decision three weeks after a student applies.  There are some competitive programs with a December 15 deadline, so check for your particular major.

In general, well-rounded students do well at Elizabethtown College.  The admissions office is looking for a good match in

  • Academics
  • Co-curricular activities
  • Social and personal style (integrity, work ethic, interest in school, persistence, etc.)

Ideal students will match E-town’s campus climate and will have the ability to think on their feet and effectively communicate with strong writing skills.

The numbers:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • In 2012– 3,732 students applied; 2,598 were accepted.
  • 32% of admitted students were in the top 10% of their high school class.  (This means that there is still room for you at E-town if you are a good student, but not in the top 10%!)
  • Average SAT scores are 1030 – 1230 (reading + math)
  • 88% of freshmen return for their sophomore year – a good retention rate!
  • 21 of the applicants were valedictorian or salutatorian
  • Over 50% of first year students are offered merit scholarships
  • The financial aid budget is $28 million
  • Students in the top 10% or with a 3.5/4.0 from a non-ranking school do NOT need to send SAT scores for admission (but they can help for merit scholarships)

Who would like E-Town:

Elizabethtown College is right for good students who are looking for a school where they will receive personalized attention and opportunities for real world learning.  Students who earned A’s and B’s in high school and want to be involved in college will find opportunities here.  (The largest student organization on campus is E-Motion a dance group, that performs all styles of dance and is open to all students, regardless of dance training or talent.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStudents looking for undergraduate programs in Occupational or Physical Therapy will like E-town’s strong programs and opportunities for early admission to graduate programs. It is one of the few schools where students take their first Occupational Therapy classes freshmen year. The 3-3 Physical Therapy Program allows students to study Biology for three years at Elizabethtown then continue for three years at Thomas Jefferson University and receive a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.

I got a good feeling from the campus.  Students I met were happy.  They felt there was a good balance between academics, activities, and social life.  I said this before, but Elizabethtown is one of those colleges that will take a good student and turn him or her into a GREAT student.  I only wish it were closer to me, so I could get more students to visit.

 

College Visit: Messiah College

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On my tour of Pennsylvania liberal arts colleges last week, Messiah College was our last stop.  It is a Christian college located in central Pennsylvania about 10 minutes from Harrisburg and two hours OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfrom Washington DC or Philadelphia.  The campus sits on a hill and the Yellow Breeches Creek flows along one side, providing a very scenic location for a covered bridge and, according to one admissions counselor, great fishing.

A Christian Campus:

Of all the liberal arts colleges I visited on this trip, Messiah may be more limited in appeal because it is so strongly tied to Christian ideals. Messiah is home to 2800 students from a variety of Christian faiths.  Many students come from non-denominational Christian backgrounds, but all students share the belief that we are all created for service.  The school’s mission statement guides most of their practices:

Messiah College Chapel

Messiah College Chapel

“Our mission is to educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society.”

I’ve visited many colleges with religious affiliations, but sometimes the association is in name only.  Messiah is NOT one of these schools.  Messiah is not affiliated with one denomination, but the tone of the campus is overwhelmingly Christian.  While I believe students of other backgrounds would be respected and welcomed at Messiah, I don’t think they would feel very comfortable.

In accordance with its strongly Christian mission, Messiah structures the campus to reflect these values:

  • Professors and staff sign a statement of faith affirming commitment to the mission of the college.
  • Students are required to attend weekly chapel.  Chapel combines varying worship styles with guest speakers on an array of topics.
  • Students are encouraged to keep their minds and bodies pure.  Messiah is an alcohol-free campus and students are strongly encouraged to abstain from sexual activity.

Messiah students like the campus environment and many said they have learned as much about themselves and their own faith as they have about their particular fields of study.

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Campus Recognition:

Yes, Messiah College is more of a regional school, but it is well recognized as a regional liberal arts college.  Here are some facts you may not know:

  • Messiah is ranked as #4 in U. S. News for Best Regional College in the northeast.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • According to the Institute of International Education, Messiah ranks 14th in the nation among undergraduate institutions that send students to study abroad.
  • Messiah students volunteer more than 124,000 hours to community service each year.
  • Men’s and women’s soccer won the NCAA Division III championships in 2005, 2008, and 2009.
  • Messiah is recognized as an active campus offering an excellent education for Christian Colleges of Distinction.
  • Messiah is ranked in the top 100 for best undergraduate engineering programs by U. S. News. (A new major in civil engineering will be offered fall 2013.)

Messiah Highlights:

Messiah College Library

Messiah College Library

Clearly, Messiah appeals to students seeking a strong Christian environment, but there are other factors that make it an attractive school.  Like most small liberal arts schools, Messiah provides an atmosphere in which students are encouraged to work closely with professors.  Undergraduates who were good students in high school are pushed to be great students at Messiah.

Messiah is recognized for its study abroad and internship programs.  When students opt to study abroad, Messiah pays their airfare and most students can spend a semester or year abroad for no additional cost.

I was able to see the exterior of the new Center for Worship and Performing Arts.  It is impressive and will house programs such as a recording studio and a choir loft seating 160.  Messiah offers a new major in musical theater and all students are encouraged to participate in theater performances or any of the choirs (including a gospel choir.)

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The campus is home to the Oakes Museum of Natural History that provides students and members of the community with learning opportunities.  Messiah students in the education department help work with visiting students from area schools to develop curriculum related to a museum visit and students in the natural sciences can learn more with hands on opportunities to study the exhibits.

Oaks Museum of Natural History

Oaks Museum of Natural History

Statistics:

  • 74% of students graduate in 4 years.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • 39% of students are male; 61% female.
  • 87% of students live on campus.
  • Average test scores are 1135 SAT and 25 ACT.
  • 86% of students return to Messiah for their sophomore year.  (This is a good rate of retention.  Compare it with other schools on your list.)
  • 41% of students are from out-of-state—primarily from Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.
  • 13% of students are either non-white or international.
  • 75% of admitted students were in the top 30% of their high school class.
  • Admission is rolling, but students should apply by Jan 15 to be considered for scholarships or the honors program.
  • 64% of students who applied were admitted.

Who Would Like Messiah College?:

Messiah is a beautiful and unapologetically Christian campus.  I would recommend it for the student seeking a Christian environment with recognized academic programs. Student looking for a school specific to their denomination (Catholic school, Baptist school, etc.) may not fit here.  For students who live in or around Pennsylvania, I think it is a great option.  Students from other parts of the country may want to consider Messiah if it fits their other college search criteria.

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