Monday, April 14, 2014

CVC Tour Day 2 - More Vermont!

Today was filled with three more schools, each one still more unique and different from the one before.

Our day began at Norwich University. Norwich is a military college, but unlike the service academies (ie - Westpoint, Naval Academy, etc) where service is required for everyone, not every Norwich student will definitely pursue the military. About 65% of the student body is part of the cadet corps, meaning they are in ROTC and wear uniforms on campus aka - they are the military school students. There are also civilian students who have different rules and function just like any other college student at a non-military school. Of the students that are part of the military side though, there are still some of them that opt not to pursue the military. Some do actively look for (and find) military contracts and ROTC officer scholarships (which do come with a service commitment of usually four years). But others choose to either enlist after graduation, join the military reserves, or leave their military lifestyle behind and get a more traditional job after graduation (my sense is that last category is very rare. Few would choose the military side if they weren't interested in the military because it is such a rigid lifestyle (rules about how to fold your socks, make your rack (bed), no listening to music as a Rook, no cell phones, etc), but the difference is that there is a choice to try it on before making the commitment. Norwich was the first military college to admit African-Americans and the first to admit women. They are not a research institution, instead the faculty are there to teach. There is a focus on leadership and integrity. Admission to Norwich varies based on the program and files are read by academic interest. Popular majors include nursing, criminal justice, engineering and architecture. My tour guides were two of the most endearing students I've met so far this trip. I think Norwich is a really neat option for students who are thinking about military service but might not be ready for a service academy commitment or able to secure a nomination. Norwich students seemed proud of their decision to attend such a truly unique school.

Next, we saw Vermont Technical College. This school was the first place we have seen that offers both Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees. I really value that because it is refreshing to see a 2 year school with housing - especially with a campus located in such a gorgeous location (AMAZING mountains, must be out of control in the fall). As a college with a technical focus, many of the degree programs here are hands on (think mainstream stuff like nursing or veterinary tech and unique stuff like fire science). Many students do admittedly commute from home, but with about 450 beds on campus it isn't out of the question for a student looking to get out of New York state and go to a college with a true campus. The fact is that most SUNY 2 year schools, while I love them, really do have only two or three buildings. This felt much more like a traditional college (and there are plenty of students pursuing 4 year degrees here) and their results are particularly impressive when it comes to job placement. We met a civil engineering professor that literally said he could place three times the number of students with jobs, if only he had them. There is also a unique option for students to complete their senior year of high school on campus through VAST, a residential program that lets students enter college early.

The last stop of the day was Middlebury College. As the only small liberal arts college of the day, Middlebury is also the most selective college on the tour. They admitted about 14% of students that applied this year, but the rate for Early Decision jumps up to over 30% (not uncommon for schools with this profile). Because of recent over-enrollment, Middlebury is actually looking to scale back the size of their class in the next few cycles to return the school to its true capacity. Like many other schools in its peer group, Middlebury caps loans to a maximum of $4,000 per year. But they also only have 44% of their student body on financial aid. More on that later. For the past 40 years, Middlebury has also had the option for students to enroll in February instead of September, allowing for a mini-gap year (or really semester). Usually about 75 students per year opt to be 'Febs' and the admission office says they are usually students with an outgoing personality and a desire to travel, work, or see the world before enrolling in college. I chose to go on tour with a Jamaican-American young man who went to Millennium in New York City since they are a very similar school to ElRo. I asked him about the stereotypes of Middlebury and appreciated his candor. His answer: "Middlebury is stereotypically known for being preppy, white, and affluent. Middlebury is preppy, white, and affluent." Before the Admissions staff freaks out and reprimands this tour guide - let me say - don't reprimand him, promote him for being honest! And keep reading, because he said even though these generalizations are true, he also said Middlebury is open, accepting, and there isn't any other place he would rather be. How do they cap loans at $4,000 a year? Because the student body is affluent. Over half of them pay full price (though, I should note, they are need blind for domestic students). You can't change one without changing the other #realtalk. Unrelated, but important to some, this was also the first campus where I got cell phone service.

The schools we saw today would all be perfect fits for very different students. The beauty of this tour  is we are seeing a truly diverse mix of schools that really fit different niches. Tomorrow there are four schools on the docket. Pray for me.