Saturday, September 15, 2012

Summer College Visits: Part 4 of 5

Ack! The year has really gotten away from me already - school has started and I'm still blogging about summer! My apologies, but hopefully you'll enjoy this installment. This day of our trip was centered around Ithaca, New York. It was my first time to Ithaca and it I really enjoyed it! We visited Ithaca College and Cornell University - and made more than one trip to Collegetown Bagels -- ok, fine, it was four trips, but we only bought food three of those times. . .

On the larger side for a private school (with 6,000 students), Ithaca College offers a lot of different liberal arts and pre-professional options. Known for being strong in communications (check out the Parke Scholars program), Ithaca also has fantastic facilities for students in the arts and business. We past by a business lab that offers a live trading station-- not too shabby for upstate New York. Students are required to live on campus for the first three years (always adds to a sense of community and school spirit) and it is a nice example of a school that still gives out merit aid. For the first time this year, Ithaca is going testing-optional so that makes it an even better option for students that are not happy with their test scores. I was really impressed with the people that I met and offerings that I heard about at Ithaca. Admittedly, similar to schools like Hampshire, they are fighting an uphill battle as a school that moved to their current campus in the 60s and thus have no buildings that predate that era architecturally. If you want stained glass and gothic spires, you won't find it. But they have done a great job adding new green buildings to campus and really taking advantage of the amazing views and vistas that surround them. Plus, if you really need a break from the more post modern look, students can take up to 12 credits at Cornell so go down there to get your brick and ivy fix. Ithaca was one of my favorite visits this summer, thank you to our tour guide and the admission staff for taking the time to show us around!

Next up came Cornell University - a real enigma when it comes to colleges. What is its identity? Ivy League School? Land Grant University? Pre-professional behemoth? Stress factory? Chill large school in a small town? A little bit of all of those things? After walking around my conclusion is Cornell's identity depends on who you ask. Like many large schools, I get the sense that different people, with different experiences, would classify it as it uniquely applies to them. I would venture to say that the students learning about bovine farming have a drastically different perception of the school than the students in hotel management program and those different from the engineers and those different from the Political Science majors . . . . Thus, all the matters is if the niche you'd like to be a part of can exists there. An additional layer of mystery exists for New York state residents, who have the opportunity to pay in state SUNY tuition at some of Cornell's schools. While the university strongly tows the party line of 'choose the school that fits you best' - I would have to strongly encourage any student from a middle income family to explore if their major of interest exists in one of the SUNY tuition colleges. Fit is certainly important, but avoiding loans is too. (I say middle income because low income families should get financial aid packages to cover the cost and high income families may not have price as a major concern in the college process). Cornell is a place with a long and deep history. The admissions counselor we spoke with described it as a collaborative environment, but one where no one will hold your hand; independence is essential in order to thrive. Interestingly, she also made specific mention of Tompkins Cortland Community College as a feeder school for their transfer admissions. More to come on TC3 in the next post. Finally, I couldn't resist taking a picture in the student bookstore of one of the largest index card section (with its own sign) I've ever seen ;)