The daughter of Clemson University alumni, Cate Tedford at first resisted following in her parents’ footsteps to South Carolina’s large public school. Rather, it targeted a handful of small private universities and liberal arts programs.
But once she compared aid programs, the Fort Mill, SC native changed her mind: Boston College and Georgetown University’s top picks in Washington, DC, her would have cost about $ 50,000 per year. Clemson? Between tuition and scholarships, his annual tally was less than $ 4,000.
The deciding factor was that as a student at Clemson’s Honors College, she felt she would have the kind of access to faculty, special courses, and similar advice to schools she had had to deal with. heart.
“In the end, the value for how much I would pay and all the resources – I couldn’t pass up,” she says.
As the competition for an increasingly small pool of college-aged students intensifies, many applicants are surprised and intrigued to see more and more overlap in the types of on-campus experiences available to them. talented students in large public universities and small private institutions. Like Tedford, those seeking academic rigor, cohesive communities, and the intimate classroom settings characteristic of small schools find more of these options in honors and other programs at public universities for a fraction of the cost.
At the same time, even liberal arts colleges have stepped up the kind of hands-on offerings more traditionally found at large universities, including undergraduate research, entrepreneurial opportunities, and career preparation. And while the tuition and fees at public schools in the state are considerably lower than at private colleges, the latter can often significantly outweigh the sticker price, especially for the students they really want.
The bottom line: If you fancy the culture and social life of a football powerhouse, for example, you might not have to sacrifice small school facilities after all. And the reverse is also true: if an intimate, seminar-packed liberal arts community is where you think you feel most comfortable, you don’t necessarily have to forgo practical experiences that can facilitate the path to employment after graduation. .
Advantage of honors
Now a graduate in philosophy and Spanish with a career prospect in immigration law, Tedford could not be more pleased with her choice. As a specialized student, she must take at least one specialized course per semester and maintain a cumulative average of 3.4.
While Clemson does not offer scholarships specific to the Honors program, college students do enjoy perks such as priority status for course registration, free tickets to cultural events, and dinners with the faculty.
The university also supports undergraduate research, internships, and conference travel through grants, which Tedford used to attend a women’s conference in Washington, DC, in his first year. This experience alone was life changing, she says. “I felt very empowered. It pushed me to pursue the things that interest me.”
Often there is also help with tuition fees. The University of Arkansas Honors College offers many freshman scholarships spanning four years, as well as study abroad and research scholarships, for example. First-year students have access to dedicated accolades. There is a “Futures Hub” to guide the academic trajectory of honored students, as well as seminars and courses on cutting-edge topics such as blockchain.
When evaluating offers from the University of Arkansas and other schools, Mary Jia of Stuttgart was won over by the honorary university’s promise of free tuition and a stipend. . The biomedical engineering junior is researching gene editing solutions for rare genetic diseases.
And as a person who aspires to an academic life, Jia particularly appreciates having access to the best teachers. When his plans to study abroad in China hit a brick wall – the university is not affiliated with any programs there – a dean of engineering worked with his contacts in Hong Kong to organize his studies there.
“It’s very easy to access and communicate with higher level people,” Jia explains.
Passion for STEM
It’s not just the awards programs that roll out the red carpet for top performers. The Meyerhoff Fellowship Program at the University of Maryland – Baltimore County recruits a diverse population of applicants who plan to pursue a doctorate. in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM – especially black students and other under-represented students – and offers them financial, academic and community support.
Students participate in a summer program prior to first year and are expected to conduct undergraduate research.
“We often say that we are looking for students who have a fire in their stomachs and a passion for STEM,” says Keith Harmon, program director.
The key to the Meyerhoff program’s mission is collaboration rather than competition and the creation of close bonds between students and faculty. It struck a chord with Talmesha Richards-Smith, who chose the program over full trips to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and Princeton University in New Jersey.
“Science and engineering are tough, and I knew I was going to have the support. It was important to me that there were people on campus who cared about me, ”she says.
For example, students are strongly encouraged to form study groups, which Richards-Smith says has made her a better scientist. “It definitely set me up for success,” she says.
After earning two degrees, one in chemical engineering and one in mathematics, she went on to earn a doctorate. in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, while traveling the world as an NFL cheerleader.
Meyerhoff also encourages student activities beyond academia, she says. “I was supported not only from a financial point of view, but also from a global point of view.”
Meanwhile, small liberal arts colleges, anxious to dispel the idea that a broad education does not prepare students for the world of work, are emphasizing more practical experiences like research and entrepreneurship.
“People assume that if I go to a small school I won’t have research opportunities, but in some cases you will have more because there is no graduate student layer,” says Hannah Serota, founder and CEO of Creative College Connections in Leesburg, Virginia. “And the students don’t just help, they make presentations at conferences.”
Help with costs
Increasingly, many such schools are also subscribing to these experiential learning opportunities. At Furman University, a liberal arts school in South Carolina, 8 out of 10 students participate in off-campus internships, study “off-campus” programs, and conduct undergraduate research made possible by grants in Canada. cash through the Furman Advantage program.
Colgate University of New York also funds undergraduate research and unpaid or low-paid internships. As a freshman at Colgate, recent graduate Jacob Watts was surprised at the extent to which research opportunities were available to students. An informal conversation with a professor about Watts’ interest in plants led him to serve as a research assistant for most of his academic career and eventually to publish an article on plant physiology with the faculty.
His research has earned him a number of grants and scholarships as an undergraduate student and will launch his academic career. Watts is studying for his Masters at the University of Cambridge in the UK as a recipient of the Churchill Scholarship, after which he heads to the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities for his PhD. This will be fully funded by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship program.
“My ultimate goal is to be a teacher at a liberal arts school like Colgate,” he says. “All of this wouldn’t be possible without my undergraduate experience.”
At Macalester College in Minnesota, students can choose from a plethora of ways to tackle real-world issues inside and outside the classroom, including taking advantage of a collaborative workspace called the Idea Lab and allowances for students. students to realize their entrepreneurial ideas.
In 2015, the school appointed Kate Ryan Reiling as its first Entrepreneur in Residence. Until her recent departure, she was responsible for helping set the strategic direction for entrepreneurship programs.
In his Introductory Entrepreneurship class, Reiling asked students to present solutions to tricky problems like St. Paul’s struggle to plow the city streets satisfactorily in winter. It’s the kind of problem that at first glance looks like it should be straightforward, she says, but has been complicated by factors like wetter storms that have more sleet in the mix, privileges – those that have driveways against those parking in city streets – a lack of real-time communication and the fact that some residents do not speak English.
There’s also the new Innovation Partners after-school program – a model developed with the Mayo Clinic – in which multidisciplinary teams of students work with MBA students from other colleges in Minnesota on the development of early stage medical companies. Think of the business school entrepreneurship course, but with a broader focus.
The issues explored “include cultural background, competition, the nature of technology and things like bioethics,” says Liz Jansen, academic program director for Innovation Partners and faculty mentor for the teams.
“You bring fresh and – frankly – naive eyes to harness the power of the liberal arts.” This is, she says, how ideas are generated.
This story is taken from the US News guide “Best Colleges 2022”, which includes in-depth articles, rankings and data.