Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Kirsten's College Blog: Bennington, Landmark, Bard, Sarah Lawrence

Kirsten’s College Blog: Bennington, Landmark, Bard, Sarah Lawrence

After leaving Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, I made my way into bucolic Vermont and landed at Bennington, a selective school known for its no majors/grades optional policies. Driving into campus feels a bit like entering a spiritual retreat because of the long winding road and beautiful lawns and gardens. I had a tour given by a student who explained to me that at the core of the education here is the off-campus “Field Work” term which is a 7-week period during winter—which means, another things, avoiding the coldest and snowiest part of the year. Students are required to engage in four such terms, and they could take place in Albany (less than an hour), NYC (a little over 4), Turkey (as my tour guide had done), or anywhere in between! Despite its pastoral surroundings and size (650 undergrads), Bennington is sophisticated and international (more than 20 % are from outside the U.S.). It struck me as a one-of-a-kind place. Below is a pic of a cool bulletin board on self-expression that seemed very "Bennington."

Next stop: Small but mighty Landmark College in Putney has the best reputation in the country for programs tailored to students with ADD, ADHD, and learning differences. This is another beautiful campus, on 125 acres, and I was particularly taken by the new Science, Technology, & Innovation Center. This $10 million building features state-of-the art instruction and laboratory facilities. My student tour guide here explained that while she’d been accepted at several other colleges, she chose Landmark because she felt it would lead to the greatest academic and personal success. A junior, she is double-majoring in Spanish and Business, and plans on attending grad school in  International Studies.

If you/your child is  interested in Landmark, and he/she will be in 8th-11th grade this year, you might consider the summer workshops offered for high school students every summer!

Onward to the Hudson River Valley: Founded in 1860, Bard College is a small (2,000) place where one has a sense of impressive history while touring the campus. Architectural styles range from Oxford-like stone buildings: 
to the shiny Frank Gehry Performing Arts Center:

(A mini-me of our own Disney Music Center!) 

A selective college, Bard is known for its “Language and Thinking” Program--required of all first-year students. But Bard could not be described as formal, as this is a place where students design their own majors, and clubs such as “The Surrealist Circus” exist as regular fare. For late June, Bard was hopping; there are several music and performing arts festivals during the summer.

90 minutes from Manhattan, Bard has myriad internship opportunities a bus ride away, and the surrounding Hudson River Valley is gorgeous, as well as rich in culture.

My last stop was Sarah Lawrence College, and while I expected it to feel a lot like Bard, Sarah Lawrence has a more laid-back and casual style. The tour guides cracked a lot of jokes and, other than at Skidmore, were the most informal. It’s a bit smaller than Bard as well (1,200), and there are no grades. 

Most students travel abroad and many get internships in NYC. Because it started as an all-women’s school, there are significantly more women than men (30% of the population.) Like Hofstra, Sarah Lawrence offers the calm and quiet of the country, but is close to Manhattan (25 minute drive.) 

There is an “artsy” feel to Sarah Lawrence, but at the same time, one of the tour guides is majoring in Physics, and the other is a hockey player! 
End of tour, back to the city, then home to L.A. Please call or email me with questions!

Kirsten’s College Blog: Ithaca, Cornell, Skidmore

Kirsten’s College Blog: Ithaca, Cornell, Skidmore

After a few days in “the city,” I headed upstate, familiar territory for me! It’s a four-hour drive to Ithaca College (where I taught Literature for over a decade), a small but not too small school: approximately 6,000 undergrads,  with particularly  notable reputations in Communication, Performing Arts, and Business/Marketing. I never met a faculty member there I didn’t like, and many students  have close relationships with their teachers. The campus environment is politically liberal, and the town has a lively cultural scene.

Ithaca is Gorges, the bumper sticker says, referring to the town’s natural beauty—big, beautiful Seneca Lake, rolling hills and,  of course, the dozen or so gorges in the area.

Over on Ithaca’s other hill is IC’s  Ivy League Sister, Cornell University. (There is reciprocity between the two, so that students at one campus can take classes at the other.) Cornell’s undergrad population is more than twice the size (13,500), but still offering a good faculty to student ratio (9:1). That said, as an internationally renowned research institution, Cornell is a place where freshman and sophomores don’t get much personal contact with professors; teaching assistants meet with and grade student work. The range of majors—80, in all—is huge, including such highly specific ones such as Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

About three hours north of Ithaca is Skidmore College, in the beautiful town of Saratoga Springs--known for its summer season of horse-racing, as well as music and theatre festivals. I’d never been to Skidmore, and I was pretty wowed by its variety of programs and opportunities for a small (2,500) school. It struck me as a great fit for many of our students. The welcome I received there was remarkable; as you can see from the photo, several tour guides hung out with me, talking about their experience. 

Skidmore is less selective than Cornell, more selective than Ithaca, and diverse in terms of majors and student interests. The young men and women I spoke to stressed that they all felt they could “be themselves” without judgement. Skidmore is close to Albany, where there are myriad internship opportunities. The majority of students double major, and it was voted 7th most entrepreneurial school in the country.

So, SNOW. Yes, this is deserving of its own paragraph, albeit a small one. Upstate New York schools are knee-deep in the stuff from the middle of November to the end of February. Snow is fun, as are skiing and sledding! It’s also cold. For a student not used to it, some adjusting in necessary. For most people, the environment and weather of one’s college years do matter; so it’s worth visiting during winter months to see how you feel in the face of the white stuff.

On a final note, these schools are in relatively small towns, and getting to a metropolis is a significant drive/bus trip. Cons: For the student used to easy access to urban energy, there may be times where the environs feel “slow and steady,” rather than “fast and frenetic.” Pros: Community on-campus is strong and lively, and there are few distractions.  Next stops: Bennington, Bard, Landmark, and Sarah Lawrence.

East Coast College Trip: New York, NY!

College Blog: New York, New York!
Kirsten Wasson

Attending college in an urban environment offers  vigorous cultural life, excellent internship opportunities, and access to all kinds of communities (beyond other 18 to 22 year-old college students.) But it’s not for everyone; learning the ins and outs of public transportation, being “city-safe,” as well as finding peace and quiet can be challenging.  There are many ways to go to college in a city or, as they say on the East Coast, “THE city.”

My travels last week began in Manhattan where I visited the New School--specifically the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts. Full time undergrad enrollment is about 1,300; average class size is 16. This means that inside the expanse of NYC, students enjoy community and intimacy. Most of the campus—dorms, classrooms, studios, and administration--is located in one very cool and upscale Greenwich Village Block. The area is full of coffee shops, ethnic restaurants, and student-friendly haunts. When they are not studying, most students have part-time jobs or internships.

Next stop: Fordham University, another city-central college experience. The campus I visited is right next to Lincoln Center; the other—Rose Hill, 30 minutes away by train in the Bronx; students can take classes at both locations. My tour guide, Sammy, just happened to be from Orange County, and she told me that after New York and Massachusetts, California comes in third place as the home state of enrollees. Fordham has a beautiful green space, two levels above the street. Full-time undergrad enrollment is much larger than the New School: around 8,000.

Another way to have the undergrad New York City experience: Hofstra University—on Long Island, 30 minutes away by train. My meeting with Lisa, the Admission counselor for SOCAL, was great. As you will see from the photo, LA and environs is dear to her heart. Hofstra has an incredible array of majors. A student tour guide told me “What is great here is that you can have broad majors like Economics or more specific majors like Business Economics.” Under grad Enrollment is 8,500. Student faculty ratio: 14 to 1. At Hofstra you get Urban. With a little distance.

I loved all of these schools, and can see many MUSE students happy at each of them. Feel free to email me with questions! Looking forward to talking to students and parents when I return. The representatives from these schools will be visiting MUSE in fall 2018!
Next up: Cornell, Skidmore, Bennington, Landmark.