Making a small college seem bigger

A number of small colleges are part of a consortium, allowing them to seem bigger because they can take advantage of shared resources like classes, clubs, libraries, dorms, cafeterias and cultural events at other schools in the consortium. Which resources are shared vary from school to school. Consortiums are most effective when the member colleges have calendars and class times that align and when the colleges are physically close.

For those of you who wouldn’t consider a small college, you might consider attending a small college in a consortium to get the feel of a medium or large college. Here are four consortiums to consider:

  1. Claremont McKenna colleges has 5 adjacent private undergraduate colleges in southern California
  2. Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges and to a lesser extent Swarthmore College (private colleges in Pennsylvania)
  3. Five College Consortium consisting of 4 small private colleges (Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, and Hampshire Colleges) and 1 large public university (UMass Amherst) in western Massachusetts.
  4. Olin, Babson and Wellesley Colleges (3 private colleges in Massachusetts).

What is your experience with making a small college seem bigger through these or other consortiums?

Selecting high school classes

This time of year, many students are selecting their high school classes for the Fall. Here are three things to consider when picking classes. 

(1) Be aware that the preferred high school curriculum for applicants of selective colleges include:

·        4 years English

·        3 or 4 years Math

·        3 or 4 years of a lab Science including Chemistry or Physics

·        3 or 4 years Social Studies

·        3 or 4 years Foreign Language. 

(2) Take the most challenging classes (e.g., honors, AP, IB) your high school offers that you can handle without harming your grades, extracurricular involvement or your health. I believe a “B” in an AP class is better than an “A” in a standard class. If you don’t think you can get more than a “C” in the more challenging class, I would advise against it. Look at the difficulty of your entire schedule and be sure to consider how many challenging classes you can handle at one time. 

(3) Different classes expose you to possible college majors and careers. Think about whether you enjoy the class material, whether you excel in the subject and whether you want to learn more about the subject in high school and beyond. If you have an idea of your future college major or career, let that impact the classes you choose.  For example, if you are planning to study math, science or engineering, I would recommend that you take at least four years of Math and Science, including Calculus if your school offers it.

University of Washington

While I was in Seattle visiting my son, I toured the University of Washington, more fondly known as UDub.  If you are looking for a large public university in a major city, with strong research funding and a beautiful campus, this might be the university for you.

Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ

Rider University focuses on five advantages: connected learning, leadership skills, global perspective, social responsibility, and being student-centered.

Some special items of note at the Lawrenceville campus are:

o Education – Education majors are in the field observing starting in their Sophomore year; Education majors can student teach in NJ and Pennsylvania; 100% passed PRAXIS

o Business – Separate business honors program, one of only 35 Global Supply Chain Management programs in the country, forty co-op positions with Johnson & Johnson

o Hands-on learning including research, internships, co-op assignments, field experience.

o About 88% of students live on campus. There are over 150 clubs.  12-15% of undergrads are involved in Greek life. There are 20 Division I teams with basketball being the biggest sport.  Students contribute about sixty thousand hours of community service per year.

Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT

The clock tower is playing a show tune.  The Division I Tennis Team is practicing.  You look out at the spacious quad and to the adjacent Sleeping Giant Mountain State Park.  You are in Quinnipiac’s 250-acre Mount Carmel campus, one of three campuses that make up the university.
The school is best known for health, including physical therapy and nursing; communications, with two radio stations, a TV station, and home to the famous Quinnipiac Polling institute; and business, with the facilities of the Lender School of Business.

Classes are small with an average size of 22. Students are involved in clubs, intramurals, and Division I sports. A small percent participate in Greek life. Students also take advantage of activities in Hamden and New Haven.  Juniors and seniors will need a car for travel between the York Hill and Mount Carmel campuses.

If you’ve been admitted to Quinnipiac, what do you think the pros and cons of the school are?

Time to Plan February College Visits

If you are a high school student with time off from school on President’s weekend, plan a college visit.  On a week day during your break, visit a college that is in session.  Sign up, if needed, for a tour, information session, and to sit in on a class.  Take notes and photos to capture your college visit.

  • For Seniors, visit or re-visit schools you have been accepted to (or are waiting to hear from).  Include an overnight stay if possible.
  • For Juniors, who have a list of colleges they are considering, pick a school that is on your list. 
  • For students who don’t yet know what schools they are considering, use a visit to a nearby college to help you understand college characteristics better (e.g., whether you like big or small schools, whether you like city schools or schools in the suburbs, to see how you feel about a large lecture).

Share what schools you visited and what you learned.

Columbia University

What makes Columbia University unique? Its location in Manhattan, combined with a rigorous and extensive core curriculum distinguish it. You might be surprised to find that Columbia has a beautiful, enclosed campus spread over six square blocks with green grass and trees, as well as a subway stop, making it easy for students to access the arts and internships in New York City.

Unlike many other colleges, the core curriculum is a set of specific courses, not just distribution requirements. The core curriculum consists of a third of the courses and ensures that all the students have a strong foundation in literature, the humanities, contemporary civilization, foreign language, and science.

Other than foreign language classes, there are few classes on Fridays, enabling students to take advantage of internships, community service opportunities, political activities, and museums. For those interested in sports, there is a gym with an indoor pool. Fields and most games are played in the Bronx, with free shuttle bus transportation provided.

While the cost of attendance is $56K per year, the school meets 100% of need, is need-blind, and excludes loans from its financial aid packages.

University of Miami


In January 2010, I left the cold of New Jersey and visited the University of Miami, which by the way is not in Miami. It’s in Coral Gables. I was greeted by warm weather and students in bathing suits sunning themselves out on the lawn. The 260 acre campus was filled with lush green lawns, palm trees and a lake.

This private college of about 9500 boasts small classes (three quarters of classes have 25 or fewer students) and excellent programs in Business, Pre-Med, Communications, Theatre, Marine Science, Biology, Film and Jazz.

The student body was diverse in terms of states and countries represented, as well as ethnicity.

The college has an outstanding career center with resume/cover letter feedback, mock interviews, many internships, and many prospective employers. With today’s slow economy this is a big plus. My husband interviewed students there for a Fortune 500 company and they were well-polished. They also have many merit scholarships!

Popular student activities included:
· Cheering on Division 1 Football, Basketball and Baseball teams
· Club sports
· Going to Coconut Grove and Miami
· Sunbathing
· Greek Life social events
· Attending movies which are screened 2x a week
· Hanging out at the Ratskeller on the outdoor gliders
· Free live music outside on the patio on Thursdays
· Using the $14 million fitness center which has exercise classes, a juice bar, personal trainers, and indoor and outdoor pools

The school provides free buses to take students around campus, Coconut Grove, Miami, and the Key Biscayne campus (for Marine Science). I think students really enjoy the stores and restaurants in Coconut Grove. The bus service is especially helpful to freshmen who can’t keep cars on campus and for those who don’t want to deal with the heavy traffic to Miami.

If you are wondering if you can get in, know that the Middle 50% SAT scores were 1250 – 1390 (Critical Reading and Math); ACT scores 28 – 31. Their Honors program is open to those in the top tenth of their high school class with an SAT score greater than 1360. There is also a 7-year medical program open to those with an SAT score of 1400 or an ACT score of 32.

Freshmen housing is in air-conditioned doubles in high-rise dorms, with shared bathrooms in the halls. While the building is co-ed, the floors are not. One plus is that a professor and his family live in each dorm and serve as the Resident Faculty Master.

If you are a pre-professional student or student concerned with job placement after graduation who wants a diverse school of about 10,000 students with small classes in a warm climate, near a big city, the University of Miami might be your dream school.

If you visited or attended the University of Miami recently, does this jive with your impressions? Do you have something to add?