Campus Visit Notes: Scripps College

College: Scripps College

Location: Claremont, California

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college for women

Size: ~950 students total; 7,000+ including neighboring colleges in the Claremont consortium

Admissions Advice: As the Claremont Colleges become more popular, so does Scripps. The majority of successful applicants are at the top of their high school class and have strong test scores as well. (Scripps is one of a handful of women’s colleges that still require SAT or ACT). Because the entering class is very small, each application is read very carefully and holistically. Scripps is also one of the rare colleges that both meets 100% of a family’s financial need and awards some merit scholarships as well, even for students without financial need.

Most popular majors: Media studies, international relations, psychology, biology, English, studio art

Words to describe students I met: Independent, strong-willed, artistic, liberal, open-minded

Unique academic aspects: Scripps prides itself on its interdisciplinary core curriculum, a 3-semester series of classes that each woman must take to continue her education at the college. The focus of these classes center around “communities”, examining past and present problems with a variety of lenses. The Claremont Consortium is another unique aspect of academic life at Scripps. Students have the opportunity to seamlessly register for classes at any of the other nearby colleges and are even able to choose an off-campus major as well.

Unique social/cultural aspects: The social life at Scripps is fairly diverse, and isn’t necessarily in line with the “traditional” college experience. For example, while there are parties (occasionally hosted by Scripps), the majority of students will venture to the other Claremont Colleges for their party fix. Though many Scrippsies participate in DIII athletics on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps teams, there isn’t a ton of school spirit surrounding sports teams.

Instead, Scripps students can be found attending ballroom dance shows, a cappella performances, gallery nights, and open mics. The Motley Coffeehouse regularly hosts student speakers and performers and provides a creative outlet for Scripps women. The coffeehouse is run by students, and there’s even an opportunity for talented bakers and chefs to sell their pastries at the shop. I spent many nights studying, learning, and listening at this coffeehouse during my college years at neighboring Claremont McKenna. Scrippsies can also be found soaking up the sun at the pool year-round, or hanging out with suitemates in the beautiful dorms.

Colleges that seem similar:  Wellesley College, Mt. Holyoke College, Bryn Mawr College, Smith College

Concerns about this college: As the college becomes more competitive, I’ve found it difficult to figure out what Scripps is looking for in applicants each year. The college is trying to become more ethnically, socio-economically, and geographically diverse, which is great. However, as a result, it is very difficult for even the strongest students to gauge whether they will be admitted in a given year. Though the admission rate is currently hovering around 25%, significantly higher than the other neighboring Claremont Colleges, it is still very tough to be admitted. For this reason, Scripps is a “reach” school for anyone in my opinion.

Overall impressions:  The Spanish and Mediterranean architecture, the intimate study spaces, the rose garden, and the shimmering blue pool put this campus on the top of my list of most beautiful campuses in America. I thoroughly enjoyed the many classes I took at Scripps during my time at Claremont McKenna, and really felt a strong sense of community and collaboration. I would highly recommend this college to students looking for the best of both worlds: a small and supportive community of young women, but surrounded by the resources and opportunities of a medium-sized, co-ed university.



Application changes for this season

Happy application season to all of the anxious seniors out there! Below I am including some of the big application changes for popular colleges among Seattle high school students, as well as a few notes on this year’s Common App.

University of Washington – UW has moved away from its own in-house application to the Coalition Application. This is intended to be a rival to the Common App, though it hasn’t gotten much traction quite yet. The UW has also changed its application timeline, opening a week ago on September 1st, with a final deadline of November 15th. This isn’t an early action or early decision deadline, but rather the one and only final deadline for freshman applicants. No more scrambling to finish the application over Thanksgiving break!

Whitman College – This popular liberal arts college in Walla Walla has eliminated its supplemental essay requirement for applicants this year, making the application via Common App even more straightforward. Whitman also became a test-optional college last year, making it a great option for strong students whose test scores don’t accurately reflect their academic potential.

Common Application – I’ve noticed more and more colleges across the nation are providing students the option to upload a resume as part of their application. This allows students to elaborate on their involvement beyond the measly 150 character limit in the standard activity section.

Many Common Application colleges now also include a space for students to insert a URL. This could be a link to a student’s artwork, YouTube page, Vimeo, personal blog, or ZeeMee site. Some popular colleges with this option include: Pitzer, Occidental, Colorado College, Pepperdine, and Texas Christian. For students who have talents or interests that are hard to describe in writing, this is a great opportunity. I’d also encourage students to take advantage of this if they are strong communicators and more confident in representing themselves through speaking or visual art as opposed to through the writing section, transcripts, or other more traditional parts of the application.


Campus Visit Notes: Villanova University


College: Villanova University

Location: Villanova, PA (about 15 minutes from Philadelphia)

Type of Institution: Private Catholic research university

Size: 6,500 undergraduates; over 10,000 including graduate programs

Admissions Advice: Villanova has become incredibly popular and competitive in recent years. I was shocked to learn that the average admitted student GPA is now a 3.7+ unweighted, and average test scores are around 1400 SAT / 32 ACT. Wow! It is even more competitive for prospective business & direct entry nursing majors. Additionally, while Villanova does award merit scholarships up to $15,000 per year, these awards are mostly based on scores and GPA and the cut-offs are incredibly high.

Most popular majors: Business, nursing, communications, engineering

Words to describe students I met: spirited, outgoing, jocks/athletic, active in community service, preppy

Unique academic aspects: Villanova’s undergraduate business program was recently named the #1 program in the country, a fact that the university administration and student guides were not shy about during the presentation and tour. The campus was filled with signs and posters about this distinction, and you could really feel the pride the school has for this particular area of study. Internships and Co-ops are popular, and, unlike at many universities, students who participate are still able to graduate in four years. I was impressed to learn about the networking and recruiting events for students looking for full-time employment as well.

Unique social/cultural aspects: This medium-sized university holds the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world each fall. Becoming a member of the Villanova Special Olympics committee is a competitive process and a big deal, as they are charged with organizing the event which brings thousands of athletes, coaches, volunteers, and media outlets to the campus. It is also very popular for students to participate in community service trips over breaks, often with small groups of fellow students. Villanova is tied in closely with Habitat for Humanity in particular, and sends dozens of students on programs throughout the United States each year.  

Colleges that seem similar: Boston College, Notre Dame University, Cornell University, Lehigh University, Marquette University

Concerns about this college: I was a bit concerned about the way some of the students I interacted with spoke about women and issues of diversity on the campus. My guide even remarked that women attend Villanova to get their “Mrs.” degree while our group stood under the Corr Hall arch. Perhaps I am just particularly sensitive to this coming from super liberal Seattle, or perhaps it was just the particular students I spoke to during my tour, but I left the tour wondering if some young women would feel out-of-place here.

Additionally, Villanova isn’t able to meet a student’s full financial need, or at least not yet. This university may not be the best match for students with significant financial need, as the school only meets an average of 80% of a family’s financial need through loans, grants, and scholarships.

Overall impressions:  I enjoyed my visit to Villanova and see how it could be a great match for the right kind of student. The university was incredibly proud of their 2016 NCAA DI Men’s basketball victory; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many signs and posters displaying school spirit and pride on any college campus. They are also on a remarkable rise in the rankings and in popularity, even outside of the east coast. Villanova is a particularly great match for students interested in direct entry nursing programs, business, and engineering, students interested in a “work hard, play hard” social life, and those seeking a more conservative political culture and campus dialogue.

College Acceptances: Class of 2017

I’m excited to share the final admission and scholarship results for this year’s group of 23 seniors! In total, my students received over $4.6 million dollars in scholarship funding. In red are the colleges where at least one student will be matriculating in the fall.

Harvey Mudd College Middlebury College Tulane University
Gonzaga University McGill University (Canada) Colorado State University
Willamette University Lehigh University Macalester College
Occidental College Worcester Polytechnic Institute Butler University
University of Washington Muhlenberg College Kent State University
University of British Columbia (Canada) Eugene Lang – The New School Beloit College
Quest University (Canada) Fashion Institute of Technology College of Wooster
University of Puget Sound Stevens Institute of Technology Trinity University (Texas)
Reed College Syracuse University Coe College
Whitworth University Penn State – Erie campus University of Cincinnati
Washington State University Boston University Purdue University Polytechnic
Arizona State Trinity College Westminster College
Western Washington Parsons – The New School St Olaf College
Alaska Southeast Drexel University Savannah College of Art & Design
Linfield College Fordham University University of Denver
Oregon State Hobart & William Smith Michigan State University
Santa Clara University George Washington University Univ Wisconsin – Madison
College of Idaho Queen’s University (Canada) Miami University (OH)
Loyola Marymount Misericordia University Indiana University
University of Redlands Lafayette College Clemson University
Lewis and Clark College Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Marquette University
University of San Francisco Rochester Institute of Technology CU Boulder
Seattle University University of Rochester Regis University
Chapman University Goucher College Carroll College
San Diego State University Montana State University
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Boise State University
University of San Diego
University of Oregon
UC Santa Barbara
Pitzer College
Whitman College
Seattle Pacific University
UC Santa Cruz
University of Portland
Sierra Nevada College
Pacific Lutheran University
Univ. of Arizona

Very proud of their hard work over the past year… now on to the class of 2018!

Campus Visit Notes: Seattle Pacific University

SPUCollege:  Seattle Pacific University

Location: Seattle, WA

Type of Institution: Private Christian university

Size: 3,200 undergraduates (+ 900 graduate students)

Admissions Advice: SPU is all about relationships. It is a small and supportive community, so the admissions office likes to get to know applicants before they even apply. The average admitted student has a A/B average in high school classes and 1130 on the SAT. They are also generous with merit scholarships for a high percentage of admitted students, often in the $15,000+ per year range. Awards are based primarily on scores and GPA.

Most popular majors: Business administration, psychology, nursing, communication, political science

Words to describe students I met: Friendly, conservative, welcoming, West Coasters (70%+ from WA & CA), religious

Unique academic aspects:  As a Christian university, SPU has a number of majors and minors related to religion, theology, and counseling. For example, the Reconciliation Studies major is a great match for students hoping to work for non-profit organizations, ministries, churches, or as social workers. Additionally, they offer a Global Development Studies major for students interested in working as missionaries, aid workers, or for non-governmental organizations both here and abroad.

SPU has also grown its Engineering and Computer Science programs in recent years because, well, Seattle is a good place to be for jobs in those fields. Students in these programs must complete an internship to graduate.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Dorm life is a big part of the student experience at SPU. My tour guide raved about all of the social activities and traditions that take place in the dorms, and how common it is for students to make lifelong friends in those first few weeks of freshman year. Each dorm has Resident Assistants, Student Ministry Coordinators (per floor), and an elected hall council charged with promoting community, planning events, and otherwise helping students to connect to one another.  As a result, my guide and other students I’ve met commented that SPU students don’t often get off campus to take advantage of the social and cultural experiences in Seattle. For some students, the tight-knit on-campus community is a plus, while for others it may be a negative.

Colleges that seem similar: Azusa Pacific University, Whitworth University, Warner Pacific University, Calvin College

Concerns about this college:  As with any religiously-affiliated college, the experience isn’t for everyone. SPU is on the more liberal end of the Christian university spectrum, and they do not require students to profess their faith to gain admission to the college. They also do not require chapel attendance. However, students are required to take three fairly intense classes on Christianity, and more than 75% of their fellow students are part of the Christian faith. As a result, SPU is a best match for students who are Christian or those who are very open to exploring faith and spirituality during their college years.

Overall impressions: SPU is a great option for students seeking a religious education in the heart of a large, progressive city. The school is small and administrators are very supportive of their students, from the admission process until graduation. I’ve been continually impressed with SPU’s support of transfer students who often face many more barriers as they continue their higher education.

Campus Visit Notes: Lafayette College

College: Lafayette College

Location: Easton, PA

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts

Size: 2,500 students

Admissions Advice: Lafayette is growing and expanding beyond its traditional reach in the upper-middle class communities on the east coast. They are seeking to diversify the college in terms of geography and ethnicity, and have many great programs aimed at attracting these students. Like most colleges, it is becoming increasingly competitive each year. Currently, the acceptance rate is around 28% and the average admitted student has a 3.5+ unweighted GPA.

Most popular majors: Engineering, Psychology, Biology, Economics, Visual & Performing Arts

Words to describe students I met: well-rounded, social, researchers, active, hard-working, friendly

Unique academic aspects:  Lafayette is truly a unique college. It is one of only a few small liberal arts colleges in the nation to offer a range of Engineering majors, including chemical, electrical and computer, civil, mechanical, and a more general engineering studies degree. They also have a computer science program. Research opportunities for students in STEM fields are much easier to come by than at larger universities, and I was thoroughly impressed with the facilities and professor access my guides talked about during the tour.

On the seemingly opposite end of the spectrum, Lafayette also excels in the social sciences and sends a huge number of students to study abroad programs each year. They offer interim programs in both January and May, giving students the chance to do shorter study abroad programs as well as the more traditional full semester programs. Recent interim offerings include the study of healthcare in Cuba, geology in Iceland, and evolution in the Galapagos Islands, among other courses of study.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Lafayette College is one of the smallest schools with full-fledged men’s and women’s Division I athletics programs. Soccer and lacrosse have been particularly strong in recent years. The football rivalry with nearby Lehigh University is one of the most intense rivalries in the nation. This college strikes a good balance between academics and athletics, and gives students the chance to root on DI teams where they are likely to know at least 1-2 members of each team.

Lafayette also has a vibrant Greek life on campus, with approximately 30% of students participating in fraternity or sorority life. Again, this is more typical of a larger university, but is available and quite popular on this small campus. My tour guide wasn’t a member of Greek life and didn’t feel pressured into it in order to have a social life; however, it can be a big part of a student’s college experience if he/she desires it.

Colleges that seem similar:  Davidson College, Bucknell University, Lehigh University, Union College, Colgate University

Concerns about this college: I spoke to several students during my tour who noted the lack of ethnic diversity was a concern about the campus. However, as I mentioned above, this is something the college is actively working on as they expand their recruitment and seek to grow in the coming years. Additionally, Lafayette has a strong reputation for Engineering and Economics programs in particular, but is less-known for other majors in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. One student I spoke with (majoring in Government and Law) was concerned about her job prospects as compared to her peers majoring in the more popular fields of study, noting that there haven’t been as many internships and recruiting events for students majoring in more traditional liberal arts realms. I’d say this isn’t unique to Lafayette, but is something for students to take into consideration.

Overall impressions:  My experience at Lafayette really surprised me. I expected the college to be much more focused on engineering and computer science, and much less social. However, the students I met were all interested in a range of different academic majors and were engaged in clubs I wouldn’t have expected to exist on this campus (feminist club, LGBTQ club, social justice groups, etc.). The social life includes so many elements of a larger university experience for students seeking DI athletics and Greek life, but within a small, supportive, and highly collaborative liberal arts setting. This is a college that has flown under the radar, but, because of its truly unique blend of opportunities, I can see it becoming a much more popular choice (and one I would highly recommend) for students in the coming years.


Best Apps to Use on Your College Tours

All too often, families leave a college tour no more informed than before their visit. Below are a few suggestions for smartphone apps that will help you dive deeper than the typical campus tour and get the most out of your college visits.

1) Use AirBnB for your lodging to experience where real students live and play off-campus.

If you are hoping to attend a larger university in an urban area, you likely will not live in on-campus housing for your entire four-year experience. In some cases, you may not even be required to live in dorms during your freshman year. If this is the case for the colleges you are considering, why not experience the college town or city like a college student? Tour guides will showcase a dorm (or two), but rarely if ever will they show you off-campus housing.

Some of the benefits of trying AirBnB:

  • You’ll save money. AirBnB has a variety of choices to fit your budget and, chances are, the majority of these options in the young and hip part of town will be cheaper than the 3-star hotel in the middle of the tourist zone.
  • You’ll have more opportunities to meet students and hear unfiltered opinions of the campus and area.
  • You’ll get to experience the restaurants and nightlife that real students experience at that college.

2) Use Yik Yak to find out what students are talking about on that campus.

This social media app shows anonymous postings from people within a ten mile radius only. It is primarily used by college students to gripe about professors, talk about the previous night’s festivities, or poke fun at a common occurrence on that campus. Often the feed reads like a comedy show full of one-liners. Occasionally students will comment on the culture and social scene of the school. However, people tend to post either really funny or really negative experiences or comments, so take everything you read with a grain of salt. I certainly wouldn’t add or eliminate a college from your list based on what students are saying on Yik Yak, but it can provide some interesting insights into life on that campus while you are there.

Some perspectives you might glean from checking out Yik Yak during your visit:

  • How dominant is Greek life for the school’s social culture?
  • Are students stressed out about certain majors or classes?
  • Is the campus cliquey or do students interact across their majors, racial identities, or socioeconomic backgrounds?
  • What is the dynamic between the student body and the administration?
  • What is happening on campus tonight (or this weekend)? This will likely yield very different results from a college website which lists school-sanctioned events only.

3) Download the college’s visit app (if they have one).

More and more colleges are entering the application age and are developing their own campus tour apps for Android and iOS. Some apps are fairly simple and include maps and directions for prospective students, while others include a consolidated list of special events and presentations open to the public. Other apps are intended more for students and parents who are unable to visit the campus and feature self-guided tours including interactive photos and videos.

A few of the benefits of utilizing a college’s visit app:

  • You won’t get lost (as easily) and you won’t have to try to zoom in on one tiny building on an impossibly small campus map on your phone.
  • It can demonstrate how tech-savvy (or not) a college is. At many schools, students and faculty were involved with the app’s development.

If you’re not quite ready to embrace these apps during your next college tour, try to at least supplement your visit with researching that school on social media and through student review sites like Unigo, College Confidential or Niche. The standard campus tour is still essential part of the college research process, but it can be even more effective if combined with the use of social media and apps.