NY colleges (Rochester, NY)

In October 2011 I visited 3 of Rochester NY's colleges: Alfred, RIT and U of Rochester. Here are my impressions.

Alfred University

quick summary: 2,000 undergrads studying liberal arts, business & health sciences in a beautiful rural NY setting 1.5 hours south of Rochester. An open & accepting campus culture.

I had breakfast with an engineering professor who used to be a rocket scientist. No joke! He was pretty jazzed up about the hands-on work his students are doing, discovering that glass & ceramic make up so much of the material we take for granted.

  • they specialize in a lot more majors than I thought, from PT, Athletic Training, art, dance, theatre, to the standard business and liberal arts majors like English, history, math and science. Their studio space was impressive, with 36 kilns and lots of spacious studio space for each student. One unusual major is ceramic engineering.
  • A top 10 BFA college in the U.S.
  • Engineering? Must have precalc and physics.

  • Character matters, and they can see it in your essay, leadership activities, and interviews which are strongly encouraged. 
  • Cheverus students who were C+ and had 1000 on CR + Math were successful at Alfred. 
  • Get ready for a “challenging but supportive faculty”.

in the past, Cheverus swimmers did well at Alfred. Alfred's in the D3 Empire league.

Equine Facility
off campus, but you can board your horse there or ride their horses. Related minors are equine business and equine science (pre vet).

Foster Lake
nearby, this lake is used for environmental science study and fishing for fun.

set into a hillside, it is residential, pretty, with apartment style dorms in a wooded setting up on a hill for upperclassmen. New turf field for football. On the ride down from Rochester, we saw dairy farms, salt mines, lots of farm land, rolling hills and valleys. 
Cheverus connections: Edlira P Cheverus '09. 

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)

quick summary: 17,000 undergrads studying every technical major & ones you've never heard of on a large residential campus

Interesting majors
My tour guide was a Packaging Design major and RIT is one of only 4 colleges to offer the major. Coop is required. She explained that students do a lot of testing for companies to figure out if they have the right packaging for their products to be shipped and stored. They had to destroy huge plasma screens to determine if the packaging it was shipped in was adequate. Godiva asked students to redesign some of their packaging, and SJ Johnson hired our tour guide for the summer in Miami. She could not talk about her designs since they are undergoing patent right now. Her major has a 100% job placement rate. Wow!

No portfolio needed for photography or film majors. Film is a very small program and hard to get into, requiring high scores and great grades in addition to film experience outside of high school. They don't take more than 50 because the jobs aren't there. Photography is not as competitive a major.

RIT is the 3rd largest producer of undergrads of majors in science, math, tech and engineering.

I noticed that so many of the majors were tied in with government, business and indistry that turn to undergrads to perform product testing and experiments because the company does not have the labs available but RIT does.

Coop is big, as it is at Drexel, Northeastern, U of Cinncinati and Wentworth Institute of Technology.

The Center for Innovation is a terrific and collegial space where students can experiment with commercializing their discoveries.

D1 hockey & D3 everything else. Hockey games are very popular and sell out quickly. Nice rink on campus where we saw the girls team practicing.

a huge campus that is self-contained and residential, with lots of forested and open space areas on the perimeter. Walking from one end of campus to another would take 30 minutes. There were some students on bikes & skateboards but mostly on foot. Walkways & stairways are heated so snow melts in the winter time. Dorms are clustered together and so are academic buildings.

This is a diverse place, with lots of countries represented. Geeks of all types can find friends here: there were signs for group gaming, hotrod racing, enviro causes, sustainability groups, just about any interest you can think of, chances are on a campus of 17,000 students, there are others similarly interested.

The panel was made up of 5 students who were all in a 5-year coop program and 3 of the 5 were in a Greek organization.
  1. Boy from Syracuse NY who is an info security major and criminal justice minor, had 3 coops so far, one in Boston, one at the Dept of Justice. He stated his major is endorsed by DOJ and National Security Admin, a rare endorsement. He turned down Northeastern, Columbia and Clarkson for RIT.
  2. Girl from VA who is an arts & new media design major. Her major has a 99% job placement rate and while coop is not required it is very easy to get.You pay no tuition while on coop, a full time paid job. She turned down Savannah College of Art, NC State, James Madison and Penn state.
  3. A NY girl who started as a bioinformatics major but after a coop she changed her mind, not liking it as much as she expected. She is now a biotechnology major and is glad she did coop to figure out her major. She looked at Bucknell & Duquesne but decided on RIT even though with her brother here she did not think that was smart but it's a big school.
  4. Boy from Rochester who is an electrical engineering major in his 2nd year and chose it over Cornell due to the active and encouraging environment. He wanted a life outside the classroom.
Cheverus connections: Brian L '09, Adrian I '11, Nick D '13, Walker C '14.

Summary: 4,000 intelligent students at a highly selective research university bordered by the Genessee River. Does not feel like an urban campus, because of their expansive quads of grassy areas and tree lined walkways.

Faculty are hired to do research, discover new knowledge, look into new ways of doing things. They also teach, but at a research university, they are primarily there to research & publish their results. By contrast, liberal arts colleges exist primarily to teach undergrads and perform research on the side.

What You'll Study
an open curriculum means there are no required courses (except English 101) and you can choose to never take a math course again, for example. You major in one subject, and take 3 courses in social sciences and 3 in natural sciences and the rest are up to you. That's a tremendous amount of freedom. There are 1,000 courses per semester to choose from.

The director was unusually honest. He thinks it's strange that students fly around the world to perfom service but won't help out weekly in their own neighborhood like at a soup kitchen or shelter. Sustained service at the local level is something they really like to see as it is a sincere effort on your part, not just a “one week vacation”.

They need full payers. (He claims that every college that says they are “need blind” can tell from your postcode and parent's occupation whether you can pay or not, and sometimes it makes a difference in admission.)

What is interesting about you? How have you been creative even in our high school that does not ask you to be very creative)?

Are you unconventional? Questioning how things are done & why? Like to combine unusual subjects? Those students are interesting to U of R. They don't always want followers who are regimented & rule followers (to a fault).

Student Panel
  1. junior girl from Mass, Jewish, political science major. She loves the open curriculum that allowed her to take upper level courses as early as freshman year. She chose U of R after meeting with a professor after a great tour. She plans to do study abroad, as do 30% of Rochester students. She never thought she was a 'sorority type' but joined sophomore year. Sororities do not have houses (frats do) but there's a floor in her dorm dedicated to her sorority. About 20% of students are in a Greek organization.
  2. Junior girl from Albany NY, Hispanic, who is a dance, creative writing major. She encourages other students to find the less populated departments on any campus as she did, ignoring Rochester's typical engineering & science departments, their largest. She loves her small classes and lots of attention from faculty. She has taken classes in screenwriting, publishing and editing, and loves that she does not have take 1 math class while at U of R! The open curriculum is very appealing to her.
  3. A boy from NYC who is a junior majoring in chemical engineering and alternative energy. He likes the required clusters where he has to take 3 courses in other realms besides engineering because that's where he discovered environmental politics and added an alternative energy emphasis to his major. He's a triplet and indicated U of R was generous with merit money to make it possible for him and his 2 siblings to attend college. He is considering taking advantage of the Take Five program, where students can earn a masters or just take a 5th year of courses tuition free.
  4. An African American boy from Rochester who is a public health and bio major and is taking a bunch of American Sign Language classes. He said weekends start Thursday night but he studies Thursday and Saturday nights, having fun Friday nights.
  5. An “Early Medical School Scholar” who was admitted to U of R and their medical school, getting to skip the MCAS (med school entrance exam). She is a Spanish major and premed, a junior from St. Louis.
  6. A boy from Cape Elizabeth Maine who is a physics major and RA on a freshman floor. He thought he wanted to go to school in Boston but when he visited U of R he really liked it.
  7. A habitat for humanity volunteer from CT, a senior dance and chemistry major.
I also visited U or R in May 2009. What follows are my impressions from that visit.

Quick facts:
  • 5,300 undergrads, most of whom live on campus.
  • 100% of freshmen live on campus
  • high student satisfaction: 95% of freshmen return sophomore year
  • a top tier research university with popular majors in engineering, sciences, humanities, bio (for pre-med)
  • points of pride: http://www.rochester.edu/aboutus/rankings.html
  • Rochester is about an 8 hour drive from Portland, Maine. Visit RIT while you're here, or some colleges on the way: RPI, Union, Syracuse, LeMoyne.
Bothered by 'core' requirements at other colleges? Instead, Rochester has clusters. From collegeboard.com: "The Rochester Curriculum commitment means there are no required subjects; instead, students design their education. As they structure their choices, students will eventually choose to major in one of 65 degree programs in science and engineering, humanities, or social sciences, and complete a cluster of at least three related course in each of the other two areas."

Lovely campus on the Genesse river. Map here: http://www.rochester.edu/maps/
If you visit, consider staying right across the river at Staybridge Suites. Friendly staff, oversized rooms, and great view of the river and U of R. A pedestrian bridge connects the hotel to U of R.

The tour was great. What a gorgeous campus with an academic quad, a residence quad and fraternity quad.

The campus has a spacious feel with lots of flowering trees and grassy areas. It is bordered by the Genessee River so it is isolated / protected from the city. Some of the city is run down, with boarded up homes. Our tour guide chose it over Duke and loves the academic focus. It was finals week, so the library was a busy place. There's a group study area with whiteboards and lots of students were studying together. There are quiet study areas too. Very quiet. So quiet we did not even enter lest we get dirty looks! Most buildings were 3-4 story brick buildings, some covered in ivy. There are some underground tunnels due to the harsh winters.  The science and engineering buildings are clustered together on one side of campus. We walked from one side of campus to the other in about 15 minutes. Students who are serious about their studies would find this a great fit. Students do have a life, too, and aren't just studying all the time. Many are involved in music and sports (D3).

Our tour guide said there were 240 students in her Chem class and 400 in her Bio class.

Research is different from learning from books or lectures. It involves taking a risk by asking a question and not knowing the answer. It's not for everyone. It is active learning, not passive listening.You may end up submitting your paper to a journal or magazine for publication.
  • video gaming and task switching for gamers and non-gamers
  • stories & history from gravestones
  • NSF grant in Italy to work on a new lense for lasers that detect gravity waves
  • infecting mice with prostate cancer
  • World War II through letters
  • newspaper coverage of elections and how tech changes that
  • smallpox eradication
  • seniority and African Americans in Congress
Downtown campus. Must audition. No SAT. 20 instruments and vocal performance majors.

Steven Chu heads up the U.S. Department of Energy.

78% admit rate to med school for their pre med students. Our tour guide wants to go into the Peace Corps.

Becca S, Shane K and Haven F. Reid D '11.

links verified 4/2016