Monday, September 28, 2020

Boston & Boston Area Colleges - visit reports

 In September 2017 I visited Suffolk University in the heart of Boston. What a cool location for someone looking for an urban experience! This is the view from one of the high-rise dorms.

In March 2009, I visited Boston area colleges with other Jesuit High School counselors from around the country. We visited Northeastern, Boston College, Tufts, Olin School of Engineering, Babson and Boston University (BU). In the fall of 2008 I visited Curry, Simmons and Wheelock. Wentworth is near the bottom of the page, along with Merrimack College in Andover, Mass and UMass Lowell. In 2015 I visited Wellesley College.

Located in Milton, a suburb of Boston, Curry is well known for helping students with learning disabilities succeed in college. Check out their student-made videos at Their football team won the conference championship 5 years in a row. (D3). Charlie G from Cheverus went here. Nursing is the most difficult major to get into.

Simmons College -  the women's college of the Fenway
The Colleges of the Fenway are small schools in the same neighborhood. Simmons is the women's only college. There are 4 T stops on campus, and Simmons is across the street from Emmanuel and Wheelock. I met a student double majoring in Chem and Art History who is restoring paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts. Catherine R from Cheverus goes here.

Wheelock College - Improving the lives of children & families
Wheelock offers degrees that involve working with others: social work, juvenile justice, education. It's a small school of 750, and 93% are female. Terrific location as one of the Colleges of the Fenway, across the street from Emmanuel, Simmons, Northeastern. D3 athletics as part of the North Atlantic Conference. Lauren B from Cheverus went here freshman year but found it too small. In 2018, Wheelock is merging with BU which is right around the corner.

The campus is about the size of a large city block, and contained in the same neighborhood. Students who want a campus feel (trees, grass, buildings in the same vicinity) in a city will like it here. There is a distinct urban feel, however, with the 4 T stops on campus. Five to seven story brick and concrete buildings with underground tunnels that connect classrooms.
I noticed "Bill Nye - The Science Guy" tickets were on sale when we were visiting.
There is housing across Huntington Avenue - 4 story brick townhouses. There is one high rise on campus, a 23-story residence hall. There are frats and sororities but no housing specifically for them. 5-10% of students are Greek.
Northeastern is well known for its coop programs. Some semesters you take classes just like a traditional college student, and other semesters you work. It's a paid internship in your major, and you can do coop twice if you are a 4-year degree candidate or 3 times if you are a 5 year degree candidate. 90% of students do at least one coop. You can live on campus during coop, and pay no tuition during coop.
Pharmacy and nursing majors are the most difficult to get into due to limited space.
Largest college is arts & sciences; smallest is college of criminal justice. Their first college was engineering.
Our tour guide responded to my question about class size. There were 500 students in her Intro to Bio class freshman year. The class breaks down into smaller lab groups with a teaching assistant (TA). She was in lecture halls freshman year for Chem also, with 100 in the class and 30 in the small group with a TA. Her English and math classes were smaller. She did a coop sophomore year at Proctor & Gamble.
The Huskies are D1.
They read and rate each application. Resiliency is important: how have you overcome a disadvantage or circumstance? You must apply directly to a college and major. There are 6 colleges and 70 majors. Their admit rate is low and their SAT scores are well above average: math 680-730.
CHEVERUS CONNECTIONS Meghan M, Stephen A, Erin B '11, Maeve B '13, Gillian C and Jessica S '14, Will P '17. 

There are 56 Jesuits at BC. 1,000 people visit BC during April break. The drive out of Boston into Newton is beautiful. It's a suburb of Boston with winding tree-lined roads and huge Tudor mansions. BC's campus is large, hilly and beautiful.
They advise students to send all their scores, and let BC choose the highest numbers. Not a demonstrated interest school. They do not track how many times you've touched the campus (visited, emailed, interview, etc). They do not interview. The info session pointed out the unique aspects of Boston: 25% of the population are college students. There are 9,000 on the BC campus.
Senior boy from NY. German major, peer advisor.
Junior boy from NY, involved in campus ministry, published an article in the undergraduate research journal, is an accounting and history major.
Junior boy from NY, marketing and theology major who is involved in student government.
Freshman boy from MD, involved in Emerging Leaders program, is an English major and theatre minor.
Senior girl from IL, political science major with pre law emphasis, got into law school, wrote an Honors Thesis.
25 cents of each tuition dollar goes to financial aid.
CHEVERUS CONNECTIONS Pat J and Anya M '11, Margaret O, Andrew C, Emily R '13. 

Tufts is in Medford/Somerville, more of a blue-collar suburb of Boston than ritzy Newton. It looked a bit like Washington Avenue, with 3 story multi-family homes. There are 5,000 undergrads and 3500 grad students. The campus sports large brick buildings, a huge grassy quad. The Carnegie classification system assigns Tufts a "medium sized research university" label in the top 40 in the country. Interesting mascot: Jumbo the Elephant.
20% are from Mass, and 10% from California. 10% are international students. 20% are Catholic and 20% are Jewish. There is a distinct international focus in the student body and in the academic programs that focus on global issues. The Peace Corps and non-profits are where many graduates end up. Panel was made up of:
  1. freshman chem major from San Francisco, a dancer who notes the double major is popular at Tufts
  2. senior international relations / history major in the wind ensemble, a peer tutor in German, in a sorority
  3. a mechanical engineering major who wants to get into aerospace industry
25% are engineering majors. There are low walls between the liberal arts and engineering, so students can take a variety of courses not just in their college/major. They are in the business of preparing students for jobs that don't exist yet. Half of juniors study abroad, and a third speak another language. All professors do research. Undergrads in chemistry, for example, are working with Mars soil to see what will grow there. Not for business, marketing majors.
14% admit rate is very low. Their admissions site is filled with advice for any college applicant. They are looking for 700+ on each section of the SAT.
Your writing is very important in the application process. The "why Tufts" question is to be taken seriously, as is the "why engineering" (or other major) question.
They will not admit students who earned a C in an AP course. They will not be successful at Tufts. They will not admit you if you drop a core class senior year like AP Calc.
Tufts cross apps with Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Wesleyan, Brown, Georgetown, George Washington, Emory, Washington University, UVA.
They do attract stellar, globally experienced students. The student speaker at the G8 summit was admitted to Tufts.
Essay advice: be careful if writing the 'service' essay about your experiences in another country. Sometimes they come across as condescending, arrogant, and superficial. If it reinforces a pattern of volunteerism in your life, great. If it was a one-shot deal, don't make it the focus of your college essay.
Tufts awards need-based money only; no merit money.
Lots of older homes have been turned into themed housing.  Students must live on campus the first 2 years.
CHEVERUS CONNECTIONS Paige L, Will L, Gabe T '11, Leon T & Libby D '14. 

This is such a unique place! Total students: 318, 40% women, and their 4th class graduated in May 2009. No varsity sports, and their Honor Code is very important and public demonstration of their academic integrity.
This is a new college, right next to Babson's campus in Wellesley Mass. Franklin W. Olin donated money for 78 engineering buildings on 68 campuses across the country. However, he thought that engineering education was too narrow and deep into one topic at all other schools so he built his own college. The emphasis is on "doing social good", being a hands-on school, and fostering entrepreneurs.
Half are national merit scholarships. I noticed lots of Asian girls and geeky boys, ones who are not only playing video games but building their own computers and having more than one quirky hobby. A student rode his uni cycle through a dorm we were touring. There are 8 international students admitted each year. Our tour guide admitted that the campus leans left politically but is not terribly active. They walk through the woods about 2 minutes to get to Babson's campus where they attend church and lots of events.
  • A junior girl from South Carolina majoring in materials science.
  • A sophomore girl from NY majoring in mechanical engineering.
  • A sophomore girl from Texas majoring in systems engineering.
  • A sophomore girl from Mass majoring in environmental engineering.
  • A sophomore girl from Iowa majoring in bioengineering.
  • A sophomore girl from Iowa majoring in electrical engineering and computer engineering.
  • A junior boy from Florida majoring in electrical engineering.
Students take Calc, Physics and Engineering their first year. Their first class is Design Nature, and they design a swimming animal toy that gets judged by 4th graders. Classes are graded Pass or Fail first semester. Students take Linear Algebra sophomore year. A couple projects they work on in vector calculus class: teaching physics to 8th graders, building a computer chip from scratch. Fellowships are a big part of education here. Students take part in one or more internship in the summer. Olin's curriculum is so unique, they don't waive any classes due to AP credits. A couple students each year take a leave to begin a start-up company. Our tour guide adds a course to her schedule each semester by taking one at Wellesley College.
Their numbers are super impressive: ACT 32-35, SATs 2120-2330. 66% are AP Scholars (earning a 3 or higher on 3 AP Exams). Their admission process is different, of course. You may be invited to a Candidates Weekend to see if Olin is a good fit. 195 are invited, and it's a good opportunity for the candidate to see if Olin is too small for them, a common complaint. 140 are eventually admitted, 25 are placed on a wait list, in hopes of getting a freshman class size of 84. Check out their admissions blog.
Students live on campus all 4 years. Mostly doubles with bathrooms. There are 2 dorms that were sunny, bright, with study rooms and lounges. One comment was that their personal life was on display in such a small campus: everyone knows you and your business. But it also can lead to a tremendous tight knit community. You can't walk to a T stop and would need a car to get off campus. One third of upperclassmen have cars on campus.
Google is their #1 employer. Microsoft hired 3 seniors.

BABSON COLLEGE (a business school with an emphasis on entrepreneurship)
"Innovation is our Tradition"
1850 student total, on a pretty, suburban campus with lots of trees, grass, 3 story buildings. 45% women, but the average is 30% in any other business college. "Social entrepreneurship can change the world." That would resonate with many of our Cheverus students. Babson's 97% retention rate is very high, indicating a great deal of happiness among students.
Ian A, and Peter F '09, Staci S '13.
D3. You won't sit on the bench; you'll actually play! They compete against MIT, Clark, Smith, Wellesley, Wheaton, WPI and Springfield.
  • Everyone earns a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and 50% of your courses are liberal arts.
  • largest class size is 60.
  • No teaching assistants; all classes are taught by professors.
  • Freshman year, you are 'given' $3,000 seed money along with two other partners as part of a year long course. The group starts a business or invents a product. One person is the CEO. The group writes a business plan, often a 60-page document. The group that I met made a credit card sized memory stick that could fit into your wallet. They would sell it to businesses or colleges with their logo or mascot imprinted on the card. The business or college could load the card with a video and give it away at trade shows or college fairs. They called it "Slick Stick". Alexa was from Hawaii, Juan was the sales person from Colombia. He also started 2 businesses while in high school. The CEO got a full ride to Babson.
  • Many classrooms are long U shaped tables with wheelie chairs and plugs for laptops. Syracuse's School of Business has the same set-up.
  • Sophomore year, our tour guide took an art class, ethics class, and rhetoric. Junior and senior year she will take mostly business courses.
  • 2 science labs are required but they sound like the most interesting science classes: natural disasters, animal behavior, meteorology.
  • Their Honor Code is signed by each student and hangs prominently in the student center.
  • Lots of Type A students who enjoy the heavy workload and lots of group work.
  • A beautiful chapel in the woods.
  • 12% are in a fraternity or sorority. There are 3 of each on campus and I noticed flags in some dorm windows. One frat just got kicked off campus.
  • I noticed many cars on campus, both in the parking lot and driving around campus. I asked the tour guide about this and she said "students can bring 3 cars to campus." Huh.
  • I can see where it gets its 'wealthy' label. Business schools just feel different. Students are more dressed up, and more conservative. Babson notes that 75% of students say they are Republican. Their international student pay the full bill, and often have lots of disposable income for clubs and bars (& cars).
a large research university in the heart of Boston
BU is an urban college, as is George Washington University in D.C. and NYU. By "urban" I mean you'd have to like the city, its hustle and bustle, and not be looking for a quad to play frisbee. The entire city is your campus! And what a city it is. BU's 'campus' is on both sides of Commonwealth Avenue, with the T in the middle of Comm Ave. BU takes up a 3 mile stretch of Comm Ave. I forgot how you take your life in your hands crossing Comm Ave. On the back side of Comm Ave toward Storrow Drive, 3 story brick townhomes back up to the Charles River. It's not exactly on the river, since Storrow Drive is between BU and the Charles river.Their high 91% retention rate indicates many happy students!

10% are international. Huge student body: 16,000 undergrads. The students struck me as sophisticated, assertive, not afraid to take initiative.

Arts & Sciences is the largest college. General Studies is for students who are not strong enough to get right into BU, so they take 2 years of classes in the GS college and then get into the 4 year program. Other colleges: management, health & rehab services (like Physical therapy), communications, fine arts, hospitality management, science and engineering, education.

There is a deliberate emphasis on jobs after graduation. Alumni are involved, career fairs are big.

29 ACT, 1850-2080 and an A- average is preferred. Demonstrated interest counts, especially if you are waitlisted. Early Decision, they are need aware. (If you need lots of financial aid, you may get denied).  They compete with other large comprehensive research universities like George Washington, Syracuse, BC, Northeastern and NYU. Be careful with the essay: if you write about your grandparents and how great they are, what is BU learning about you? Not much. Be careful with any community service essay: focus on how much you've grown and matured (if you have) as a result of helping others.
Accelerated med school program: in seven years, get your M.D.; need 35 ACT, top 1% class rank, and 3.9 GPA. BU admits 60 and enrolls 25.

Cheverus connections: Annie C '11, Tracey W '13, Brittany B & Sophia S '14. 

Wentworth Institute of Technology

I visited Wentworth Inst of Technology in May 2007. If you'd like to study engineering, computers, architecture, even business, and would like to be in the heart of Boston, consider Wentworth! My brother graduated from WIT in the 90s, and earned an engineering degree. Matt R, Cheverus '06 goes there for architecture, and Elizabeth S is enrolled as an engineering major and plays soccer. Raphael T and Mike V Cheverus '11 attend.

WIT is one of the six Colleges of the Fenway, along with Emmanuel, Mass College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Simmons, Mass College of Art, Wheelock. WIT is right across the street from Northeastern. WIT is small, with 4,000 students. They would like SATs in the 550-650 range. Read student blogs to see what they like about WIT. Co-op is huge at Wentworth.

I spent the afternoon in the architecture building and enjoyed seeing student work on display. Lots of drawings of interior spaces, buildings, products; 3D models and foamcore representations.

Cheverus students would like the Service Learning aspect at Wentworth. Moving beyond the typical community service requirement, service learning is not one episode but experiences that tie in with your classes. For example, a computer science major built a database for a local non-profit. Alternative spring break sends architects and engineers to New Orleans, where students apply their skills to help the community. Worth exploring further is this site that explains which colleges conduct service learning.

I heard from professors in environmental science, architecture, construction management, industrial design, interior design, facilities planning & management, & learned the difference between engineering and engineering degrees. Here's a summary:

environmental science. Jack Duggan described this program as the study of man and its interaction with built and natural environments. You could be a chemist & not just be in a lab coat, but conduct sales, marketing, become a CEO. WIT would like to see students enter with an interest & aptitude in chem, physics, or bio and they should have math through trig. Huge growth industry that is now helping global companies focus on reducing consumption and realize sustainability helps the bottom line.Avg starting salary is $50,000. Students could go on to law school, become a policy maker, enter the public safety field, or take a job in the pollution or waste reduction business. I was surprised by the wide variety of opportunities for students interested in science, and for those who want to develop creative solutions to improve the quality of life. ES majors also focus on working as a team, as they will likely being doing just that in the real world, working with a geologist, lawyer, CEO as a team.

architecture. This degree is all about the art and practice of the built environment. There are 860 students in the program, and some transfer to similar degrees at Wentworth like industrial design. There are no portfolio requirements for entrance into the program. Harvard & Northeastern also have an architecture program. Wentworth's is an NAAB accredited 4/3 or 5-year program due to co-op. Most of the faculty are practicing architects who also teach. First year: studio drawing where students learn scale, line weight, proportion and other aspects of technical drawing. Second year: abstract or analytical drawing, models. Third year: how things work together, studio techtonics, advanced digital modeling. 5th year studio: final projects, cladding, building skins, structure. Each semester, some students travel to Tulane University in New Orleans to redesign and rebuild the city. Study abroad programs send students to Berlin and China. What type of student would become an architect? Intelligent, curious, patient. This degree is unlike math, which is quick and factual. It requires diligence but not necessarily advanced math upon entering Wentworth (no calculus).

Civil Engineering & construction management. Students learn to plan and manage construction projects, starting with a concept, then building it and running the facility. Must be deadline-sensitive and cost effective. Students learn to juggle the many overlapping projects. There is a shortage right now, and students typically get a job offer during their last semester of college. CE and CM are not residential (housing) but commercial buildings. East coast is mostly rebuilding and renovating while the southwest and west are still experiencing a building boom. For the most part, these firms are small; less than 10 employees. Earning the degree has benefits, such as moving up the management ladder, choosing to work inside in an office or outside on the job site. A well-rounded student is needed, since you would be preparing proposals (English), surveying and estimating (math & economics), looking at structural design (physics). Calculus is not needed to enter this degree program. Visit this site for information on the construction industry. Here are some common job titles: project manager, site supervisor, estimator, health & safety officer, business developer. You'll become a good communicator, team player, risk taker, problem solver and hard worker.

industrial design, interior design, facilities planning & management. First and foremost: this is not interior DECORATING! No portfolio requirement for admission into the program, but a portfolio could help an average (C) student.
Interior Design=art + building; not residential but commercial careers. AutoCadd & 3D modeling software are used extensively but drawing is still the primary means of creation. Students experience 2 co-ops. We saw slides of projects: a new restaurant's interior, models of a museum, a boutique hotel sketched in pencil, an office space with furniture arrangements.

Industrial Design=art + manufacturing; students take conceptual physics at Wentworth. This program appeals to the artistic, alternative student who has ideas about how new products should be made. Any product (car, shoes) has been touched by an industrial designer. We saw slides of new furniture, bookcases, how to package oddly-sized items, unique salad serving spoons, a lax glove that won a national competition and is now in production.

Facilities Planning & Management=building + people who work there. Managing consumption, planning for future building needs, space management, furniture integration.

Computer Science-Department has courses and degrees in Information Systems, Information Technology, Software Engineering, Computer Engineering, Bioinformatics, Gaming, Medical Informatics. Huge growth industry for graduates! Sure, outsourcing hurts programmers and help desk people but we still have a shortage of professional computer science graduates. High school students should enter WIT with strong math (through Calculus) and science (up to physics) as math success is the biggest predictor of success in this major. Internships at a variety of firms like IBM, Fidelity Investments, State Street Bank, hospitals and labs, Oracle.

Go to WIT for a business degree? Sure! The difference is you earn a B.S. and not a B.A. You have the benefit of small classes, hand-on labs, experiential learning and co-op. Your major could focus on (1) management of technology, (2) project management, or (3) communications management (journalism, public relations, media). A third of the students come from family owned businesses. Their senior project is to produce a marketing plan to get funding. One year, the students opened up a second-hand store in the neighborhood to employ locals. Another year, students patented a product. Co-op of course is a component. Service learning also is a component in this degree.

The difference between engineering and engineering technology degrees. Want to major in engineering but don't exactly have the grades or courses required? Choose engineering technology. Less math is required upon admission, and less calculus is required to earn the degree. Engineering is more theory, research & development, and requires calculus, while Engineering Technology is more practical and hands-on, focusing on real world problem-solving. Here's some information about engineering in general at WIT: The programs are all ABET accredited, and the newest major is biomedical engineering. 16% of all engineers are civil, 15% are mechanical, 12% are industrial, and 11% are electrical. Starting salary is $45,000. Worth exploring further: the Women's Tech Program at MIT, summer engineering exploration for high school girls.

Merrimack College

I graduated from Merrimack College in 1987 with a degree in Political Science. I love to visit, and found the campus transformed from the 1980s, with more dorms and renovated classrooms. The campus is walkable, residential, and across the street from fast food, banks and shopping. You can take the train into Boston from Andover, if you can get a ride to the train station.

I visited in the summer of 2009. Merrimack is a Catholic liberal arts college with business and engineering.


Grades are the #1 factor in admissions, and Merrimack usually attracts B to B+ Cheverus students with average SAT scores (1100 on CR + M). Have higher grades than that? There is an honors program and lots of scholarships!

They are SAT optional. However, if you are an athlete you need to send your scores to NCAA Clearinghouse so you can be cleared for college play in Division 1 & 2.

Financial Aid
Aid is mixed, with some aid for merit (grades) and need (as demonstrated on the FAFSA). Save money by earning college credit in high school by scoring 3-4-5 on AP exams.

70% are from Mass, and 75% are from New England. 2,200 students. 80% live on campus in dorms, apartments and suites. 87% of freshmen students come back sophomore year. (That's high!) Students who like Merrimack are looking for a small Catholic college, may like to watch sports (D1 hockey is big), work hard in school but don't want that to rule their lives in college, live a couple hours away from home while at college. If you want to live in Boston, Merrimack's location in Andover Mass, a suburb of Boston, is not for you. Want a big school with huge lecture halls? Look elsewhere!


Merrimack changed the way students take courses. In the past, students took 5 three-credit courses per semester for 2 semesters a year. Now, you take 4 four-credit courses per semester. You can earn a Masters in one year. Here's a breakdown of what students major in:
  1. 41% are in the college of liberal arts (history, math, English, education)
  2. 29% are in the business college
  3. 29% are in engineering & science (you'll need 4 years of math & science in high school)
10-12% go to grad school after Merrimack. (I did)

The newest major is Sports Medicine.

Merrimack & Villanova are the only Augustinian colleges in the U.S.

Cheverus connections: 
James B & Brad C '14, Christian V '13, Erin S '11, Sean H '11, Molly M '09, Geno D '07 .

I visited UMass Lowell, and in particular their music program, in June 2012. They have 12 music majors; among them music business, music studies, performance, and sound recording technology. An audition is required, and a theory exam helps them place you into the correct theory class. There are 13 studios and your lab time is spent there. Performance majors make up 30-40% of music majors.

Famous alum: Gillian Welch, 2 guys from Aerosmith, Melissa Etheridge, Natalie Maines of Dixie Chicks.

Wellesley is a women-only college in a suburb of Boston. The college has a great calculator to help you (quickly) figure out what Wellesley will cost your family. Admissions applications are read by a committee of 40 faculty, students and admissions staff. Each application is ranked by this board. They are looking for engaged learners, high achievers. Don't shy away from taking a risk in your admissions essay, especially if it sets you apart and reflects your own voice. 

Links verified 10/2014

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