Name: St. Mary’s College of California
Location: Morago, CA
Size: 2,996 undergraduates
Top Programs: Business, Communications, Social Sciences
Why St. Mary’s College?
As one of the newest members of the “Colleges
That Change Lives,” St. Mary’s College of California has much more going for
it than its recently successful men’s basketball and perennial powerhouse
rugby teams. SMC is a place that cares about students and is committed
to the five core Lasallian Principles of the Christian Brothers: Catholic faith,
social justice, education, community, and respect. SMC talks the talk and
walks the walk of what it believes with the best of them, including its unique,
required Collegiate Seminar Series, its popular January Term, and its commitment
of ensuring that each first-year class is represented by a minimum
of 25 percent Pell Grant eligible students.
Campus & Student Life
Situated in the idyllic foothills of East Bay, minutes
from Oakland, and a 30-minute BART ride from San Francisco, the SMC campus
is located on 514 acres of lush, rolling hills and consists of traditional
Spanish architecture, with every building constructed of glistening white
stucco and red-tiled roofs.
The small town of Moraga will never be found on any ranking of Top College
Towns, but it provides necessities for all and student housing for most of the
upperclassmen who attend SMC.
With no fraternities or sororities, social life is a bit of a mixed bag. One can’t
be on campus long, however, without learning about the thousands of hours
this small college gives to others both locally and internationally, most of
which is completely voluntary and on an extensive scale. Because a majority
of the SMC students are from the greater East Bay area, the college can be a
little quiet on weekends, though certainly not for lack of administrative and
student leadership efforts.
The Gaels (the mascot and the school nickname) take great pride in supporting
their athletic teams, which butt heads with some of the bigger NCAA
programs in certain sports, with uncanny success from time to time.
Student complaints seem minimal, with closer parking, improved town/gown relations, and facilities in need of upgrading at the top of the list. To
that end, the leadership at SMC has broken ground on a new recreation
center and has a new library on the drawing board. Renovating current residence
halls and adding additional on-campus parking spaces are not in the
immediate plans, however, so students will have to continue to walk those
extra steps to get to their classes and dorms.
With some 45 possible majors, there is no shortage of academic
opportunities at SMC. That being said, the most popular area of concentration
by far is business, with more than 25 percent of the students choosing this
particular major in one form another—and with good reason. Internships
abound in both Oakland and San Francisco, and those internships are key to a student body that has its collective eye on procuring a job after graduation.
Another 13 percent or so study Communications, with Social Sciences, Psychology,
and Liberal Arts rounding out the top five majors.
Small, round-table seminar classes are the prevailing mode of instruction,
and students find it difficult, if not impossible, to fall through the cracks here.
Students report that the relationships they have with their professors are close,
caring, and personal. With a student body that hovers just shy of 3,000 undergraduates,
that’s a lot of personal attention.
SMC places a definite emphasis on cooperative learning, as students are
encouraged to solve problems and think critically rather than learn massive
amounts of information. At the freshman level the Collegiate Seminar Program
seeks to teach students how to approach a text, listen analytically, think critically,
write effectively, and speak persuasively—admirable goals for students who
have not been so instructed before setting off for college.
To offer something for everyone, SMC has a 3-2 program in engineering, a
Great Books program lifted from St. John’s, and a relatively new Honors Program,
which requires two in-depth contracts for deeper learning and a final thesis.
Honors students have their own freshman residence hall and additional
requirements for service and event attendance but take the same classes as
all other students.
Opportunities exist for freshmen to get involved in first-hand research along
side august faculty members who holster impressive PhDs from some of the finest
universities in the nation.
Like all of the “Colleges That Change Lives,” SMC is the perfect place
for the right student. It’s an especially good fit for those who are comfortable
with their faith and accepting of a administration that knows what’s best for
them and seems dedicated to keeping it that way. From the SMC Approved bulletin
boards and the sanitized student newspaper to the extensive core requirements
for graduation, it’s clear that freedom of thought begins in the seminar
classrooms, where the faculty are a bit more liberal in their thinking than the
students or the administration. And that is as it should be because the faculty
are what make this little slice of Heaven work for so many of the students who
For more information visit www.stmarys-ca.edu.
NAME: University of Notre Dame
LOCATION: South Bend, IN
This month’s college needs no
introduction. And if your son or daughter is not applying to Notre Dame, you
once again need to read no further. However, if ND is on the long list, there
are some specific things that you need to know about how they read applications
and what they consider important in the Admissions Office under the shadow of
the Golden Dome. Having witnessed over a hundred ND admission decisions
first-hand for more than 25 years, Dennis Eller, Canterbury college counselor, has advice on what the
ND admission’s committee looks for. None
of the following information is “secret” but it is how applications are
viewed at this one particular institution.
of the high school, has your child successfully taken the most challenging
courses available? Obviously, A’s are nice, but ND looks well beyond the grades
to the courses and any kind of
standardized testing (e.g. SAT Subject
Tests and AP Exams) that can quantify just how much was learned in
Before going to the Common Application, ND used to ask
counselors to rank the courses each applicant had taken in each of the five
major core fields (English, math, science, social studies and foreign
language). For example, if AP American History was the highest level course at
a student's high school, that course would get a ranking of 1 for that
discipline for taking that course. If government/economics was the highest
social studies class, that class would be ranked 2. (there was no 3; just 1 or
2) Nowhere was this more important than in mathematics where ND expected
students to complete pre-calculus as a minimum to be competitive in the
application pool. Since changing to the Common Application, ND no longer can
ask this, but they still look to determine the difficulty level of each
and work are important; more important, however, is leadership. Demonstrated
leadership is highly desirable; I cannot overstate this. Team captain, club
officer, class officer, student council representative, winter dance committee
– all of these are valued. Not everybody can get elected to everything, but
everybody can get elected (or volunteer to chair) something. There is no substitute
service and/or church participation are strong indicators to the committee of
character and heart. Once again, the type of service is not that important and
the student doesn’t have to discover a cure for a deadly disease. However, giving of oneself to
others in a meaningful way is very important, not only for ND admissions but
also for life.
scores cannot be overlooked. Your child should take both the PLAN (pre-ACT) and
the PSAT sophomore year. What kind of numbers are you working with? About 1/3
of all students do about the same on both tests. However, 1/3 do significantly
better on the ACT and 1/3 do significantly better on the SAT. It is imperative
to find out if your child is better suited for one test or the other. If she or he
is better suited for the ACT, then focus strictly on prepping for that test,
and let the other one go. On the old SAT 1, which ND is still actually using
since they have elected to ignore the Writing section, and well they should,
non-athletes and non-legacies need more than 1420 on the SAT Critical Reading and
Math to be competitive or a 31 or better on the ACT.
know of no summer program, whether it is ND’s or Harvard’s or anybody else’s,
that has any direct bearing on admission to the undergraduate program. However,
this doesn’t mean that ND doesn’t value what your child does in the summer.
Volunteering, working a part-time job, providing childcare, helping out at church, serving
as a camp counselor, participating in a mission trip – they must do something!
And ideally, it should relate to their passion.
NOT send more than the one required letter of recommendation. ND is very
clear about this. Sending more than one will have a negative effect. Also,
the admission office is not positively influenced by letters from prominent people
who really do not know your child.
your child to explore some of the non-mainstream athletic opportunities such as
archery, rowing and fencing. ND, like all universities and colleges, truly
cannot fill their quota of athletes they need in these sports. So, having a
demonstrated interest and experience in any of them will add some uniqueness to
your child’s application. Also, if you have a daughter, encourage her to pick
up golf. This is still the easiest athletic scholarship to earn in all of
the time to write good essays. The choice of topic, the language, and solid
English mechanics are all important. Trying to fit an essay that was written
for another college into one of the ND essay topics is usually not a good idea.
They truly want your child to use one of their essay questions and give it some
does ND know your school well? Does your child’s counselor know somebody in the
ND admission office that she or he can call or email and get an immediate reply?
Does ND visit your child’s school? Your area? Has your child officially
visited and toured the campus? Does she or he really want to go there? ND is
pretty good about figuring out who really wants to come and who is just
applying because Dad wants him or her to. Does your child’s school routinely send
kids to ND? Do they stay four years? Graduate? These are all very secondary
things, most of which your child as no control over, but can make a difference
So, I would say planning your
child’s academic schedule wisely, seeking leadership opportunities, getting
involved with some kind of sustainable service program and working to maximize
standardized testing all need to be priorities. Depending on where your child
stands with all of these in the fall of the senior year, your child can then
decide if she or he is “ready” to apply Early Action or whether more time
is needed to build his or her application case and apply Regular Decision.
That’s my two cents worth. I hope
this was helpful. Good luck to you and your aspiring ND applicant. And “Go
NAME: Fort Lewis College
LOCATION: Durango, CO
TOP PROGRAMS: Art, Biology, Business, Engineering, English,
Environmental Studies, Exercise Science, Psychology, Sociology, Teaching
Why Fort Lewis?
Canterbury's college counselors have been recommending Fort Lewis College to hard working, great outdoors students with modest GPAs for years now. As an institution of relatively small size, FLC offers the benefit of a low cost public institution coupled with the feel and attention of a private college. Add to this a setting that is to die for, especially for those students who love the great outdoors, and FLC becomes a very desirable matriculation option and a “must add” to your long list of schools you are considering.
Fort Lewis College is a medium-sized public liberal arts college that launches careers and changes lives through a compelling educational experience that features national recognized academic programs, extraordinary personal attention from faculty, the freedom of intellectual exploration, and once-in-a-lifetime experiential learning opportunities. FLC is a physically active and athletic campus that takes full advantage of its breathtaking beautiful mountain setting in Durango, Colorado.
The John F. Reed Honors Program is a selective curriculum for students seeking interdisciplinary intellectual exploration through forums, interaction with writers and scholars, and cultural events and field trips. I’m also struck by the kind of instruction students receive at FLC which tends to be much more “hands on” in nature with lots of collaborative learning and less “lecture and test” in its approach to educating minds.
Learn more about Fort Lewis
NAME: Winthrop University
LOCATION: Rock Hill, SC
TOP PROGRAMS: Education, Business, Performing Arts, Psychology, Social Sciences
Winthrop University, nationally recognized for its quality and value, is a comprehensive institution of higher education that embodies the characteristics essential to being one of the best universities of its kind. Winthrop is for you if you’re looking for a state school price with private college attention. Winthrop’s dedicated faculty maintains a 14:1 teacher/student ratio (43% of all classes have fewer than 20 students, unheard of for most state universities) which helps maintain a lofty 70% sophomore retention rate. Located just a half hour from Charlotte, NC, the Rock Hill campus combines great weather, Southern hospitality, and country club grounds, making Winthrop unique and outstanding at the same time.
Winthrop University has a total undergraduate enrollment of 4,859, with a gender distribution of 32.8 percent male students and 67.2 percent female students. At this school, 45.0 percent of the students live in college-owned, -operated, or -affiliated housing and 55.0 percent of students live off campus. Winthrop University is part of the NCAA I athletic conference.
With the implementation of its Global Learning Initiative, Winthrop is committed to becoming a school of distinction for preparing its students to be educated and involved global citizens, to understand their place in global society and their responsibilities to human society at large, and to celebrate the very rich cultures of their communities, states, regions, nations, and world. The Winthrop Experience prepares students to live, learn, and lead for a lifetime.
Where can I learn more about WU?
Learn more at www.winthrop.edu.
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Top Programs: English,
Psychology, Geology, Political Science
Why Colorado College?
Do you hate, loath, despise, and detest multi-tasking? Guess what? So does
Colorado College, that’s CC for short. Because of this, CC only let’s you take
one class at a time. That’s right; just one.
How does this work?
You take this class and only this class for 3.5 weeks. Your class meets from
9 a.m. until noon, unless you’re taking Astronomy which meets from 9 p.m. until
midnight. Seriously. After these 3.5 weeks, you are given 4.5 days for R&R,
that’s Rest and Recuperate for you civilian types. Then you take another class...and then another...and then, well you get the picture. You take eight
of these BLOCK classes one after another, ending up with the same number of
classes you would have taken during a traditional college year.
What do I do all
Whatever you want. If you’re taking a science class, you might
schedule your lab a couple of days a week. If you’re taking a foreign language,
you might make use of the Adjunct Class program to keep your r’s rolled and
your schwa’s perfected. You might use this time to spend the $1,000 CC just
gave you to work on your Venture Grant (think Independent Project that they are
paying you to complete). One thing is for sure - you’ll be doing a lot of
homework to get a semester’s worth of learning compressed into those 3.5 weeks.
Where can I learn
more about CC?
NAME: Union College
LOCATION: Barbourville, KY
SIZE: Very Small
TOP PROGRAMS: Business, Education, Psychology, Sciences
Union’s low tuition, one-to-one commitment to learning & advising, and outstanding athletic teams make it a serious option for students looking to continue to grow both academically and athletically in a caring, supportive environment.
Snuggled among the rolling hills of southeastern Kentucky on the land that lays claim to Daniel Boone lies Union College, a very small college with a very big commitment to serving the needs of its students through the one-to-one attention of the most dedicated faculty an undergraduate would ever hope to find. For just a little more than you would pay to attend State U, you can have the benefits of a first-class liberal arts college that absolutely refuses to allow you to fall through the cracks. And if you’re not quite ready to hang up your cleats or gym shoes, then Union will make that cost even less because it’s a Division II college with scholarship dollars to spend.
Visit www.union.edu to learn more.