Pennsylvania Tours: U of Arts, UPenn, Drexel, Franklin and Marshall, Dickinson,Bucknell and Susquehanna
I spent a week last month touring a variety of colleges in Pennsylvania, starting with Philadelphia schools such as University of Pennsylvania, University of the Arts and Drexel, making my way to Lancaster to see Franklin and Marshall and Dickinson and ending up in Central PA at Susquehanna and Bucknell. Each college represented a different educational experience and I discovered some pleasant surprises along the way. Below is an account of each school.
UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS
Located in Center City Philadelphia, University of the Arts is a bustling performing and visual arts mecca for students. The visual arts program is highly rated and everywhere on campus you see art being created. From the studio classes where students cluster around a professor or fellow artist to examine each other’s work or create their own to a glass blowing center, to an industrial design floor with cutting saws and furniture design. They also have a very competitive musical theater conservatory and drama program. (Only 24 students, 12 male and 12 female, are accepted for each respective program). Their music program is focused on jazz studies and their vocal also has a strong classical component to it.
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
Bustling with energy, bands playing, student club tables, and swarms of people aptly describes University of Pennsylvania during my visit. I arrived on admitted students day, so it was no surprise that Penn was charged. The campus itself is beautiful and compact. It is one of the few universities where all of the undergraduate and graduate programs are on the same campus. I wandered through Wharton and I felt like I was on an active trading floor. The building had student groups in every square inch with informal clusters of chairs, conference rooms, computer centers, and classrooms. Students were actively engaged in discussion about how best to present their data and how to develop a cohesive marketing strategy. Students were equally passionate about the humanities and other pre-professional subject.
Students at Drexel are no-nonsense, down-to-earth and thrive in a hands-on learning environment. They come for the coop education and Drexel has been good at providing them work opportunities throughout their tenure. The campus is undergoing a building expansion, but overall it feels like Newark in the shadow of Manhattan. There is a small field that has a very urban feel to it. There is not real central campus feel, but rather a city like feel, however a large percentage of students do live on campus. It is about one mile away from University of Pennsylvania, but worlds away from a cultural standpoint. Drexel does offer some excellent programs such as their business school, nursing, and its core of engineering. They also give generous merit based scholarships.
FRANKLIN AND MARSHALL
Set in the lovely town of Lancaster, Franklin and Marshal is a beautiful, brick campus. Downtown Lancaster is about a 15 minute walk from campus with lots of cute shops, restaurants, galleries, and cafes. The city of Lancaster is more than just Amish country, which provides a plethora of activities for students in terms of internships and the like. The student population is preppy, clean-cut and able to balance academics, extracurricular, and athletic activities. F & M values leadership very highly in its applicant pool as there are numerous opportunities to get involved from House governments, to athletic teams, to the writer’s house, to performing arts. Students have the opportunity to participate in numerous and unrelated outside activities and F & M expects its students to take full advantage of this. President Frye came from the University of Pennsylvania and has initiated a number of programs that were successful at Penn, such as the house system and the shared activity housing, such as the Writer’s house modeled after the Kelly Writer’s House at Penn.
This 230 plus year old college, located in the small, but quaint town of Carlisle is a lovely, limestone campus with a large green quad and a mix of old and new buildings. The new science center was built with how students learn and how professors teach in mind. There is only one lecture hall in the science center with the rest of the building made up of hands on labs and spaces. This is illustrative of the Dickinson philosophy: everything has an intention and must fit with the overall strategy of the college.
Preppy, work hard-play hard mentality describes the Bucknell student body. We were there on a cold, rainy day, but it did not take away from the beauty of the campus with brick buildings and plenty of green open space. Bucknell has a fairly large Greek system which dominates the social life, but there are also a lot of concerts and events planned by the student body. Sports are big in Bucknell and many students participate.
The shoe of choice for girls was “wellies”, brightly colored rainboots and boys looked like the stepped out of a J. Crew catalog. Students were homogeneous but seemed happy. The academics are difficult and the selectivty is high.
Susquehanna is a very pretty campus, all brick and lots of green, set against a farm background. The school is very laid-back as is the student body. The Director of Admissions described it as “One big Happy Family”. The student body is fairly homogeneous, but I did see a number of African American students and some other students who seemed artsy. There is a real sense of community service on a local level within the school. The students have gone on a number of hurricane relief rebuilding trips. The mission of the school is to build a global awareness and are requiring some form of experience abroad for all students. They are doing a lot of building on campus and have new dorms and a very nice athletic center and library. The overall environment is quiet, but there is are many activities on campus and you are 20 minutes from Lewisburg where Bucknell is located. There is also a graphic art major that is about 5 years old.