University of Rochester

College review by Lisa Bleich

The University of Rochester is a pretty brick campus with two main quads and a river that runs along side the main campus.  There are two other campuses; the renowned Eastman School of Music, which is located about a ten-minute drive in downtown Rochester, and the School of Medicine and Dentistry, which is right down the road.  The university also has a relationship with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and offers extensive American Sign Language classes.

We met up with a student from my daughter’s high school who invited us to lunch at Hillel (a Jewish organization) since we visited during Passover.  The kids were very nice, down-to-earth and welcoming.  I sat at a table away from my daughter and spoke with a pre-med freshman from Long Island, who was friendly and very focused as well as a young woman from the Philadelphia area, also pre-med.  The conversations varied from life at Rochester to comparing birthright trips to Israel; but my observation was that most of the kids were not religious.

Before lunch my daughter sat in an Organic Chemistry class (I toured RIT instead) and she found it interesting. She said the kids were engaged and asked questions. Nobody checked their Facebook pages during the class.  She also liked the high-tech, electric chalkboard.   Our tour guide was an enthusiastic, high-energy young woman  from Kentucky studying Chemistry and Arabic. The students had a techy, no-nonsense look to them, sporting jeans, t-shirts and wind breakers.  They seemed smart, low-key, and focused on learning.

Tour Guides at Rochester

Rochester encourages students to choose their own path; the Admissions Director, Patrick O’Neil, described Rochester students as academically rebellious because students like to study what interests them.  Rochester segments its classes into three types: Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences/Engineering.  Students take classes in their major and then take a cluster of three related classes in each of the two other areas outside of their major. Engineering students only need a cluster in one outside area.  For example if a student majored in Chemistry, he would have to take three related classes in Humanities and three in Social Sciences.

The campus had a mixed feel.  Some of the building (including the freshmen dorms) felt old and dingy, but others areas were updated and fresh.  85% of students live on campus; they require that students live on campus the first two years.  Rochester also welcomes students to “take five”, a program that allows students to stay a fifth year tuition free to learn more.

Music has a strong presence on campus; students can take music lessons for no additional cost at Eastman School of Music.  Rochester also prides itself on being Research University; it offers $3,000 research grants for students to pursue undergraduate research. Surprisingly the medical acceptance rate is only 66%.  While higher than the national average of 40%, it seems low given the strong science and research bent.

Rochester is a big city and there are a several areas for students to venture out and explore.  The river along side campus also provides an outlet for running and biking. (For the few times a year that it is not freezing!)


Admissions looks for students with sustained involvement in 1-2 activities. They like to see leadership and students with an edge (meaning they are really passionate about a certain academic area).  They value the high school transcript more than test scores; demonstrated interest also plays an important role and admissions encourages students to interview.  Rochester offers merit aid to most of their students ranging from $3,000 to full tuition.


Rochester is a great place for intellectually curious students who want to carve their own academic path, value individuality and want an enthusiastic, welcoming community. It is also great for a musician who wants a conservatory experience with a wide range of academic options.

University of Rochester

500 Joseph C. Wilson Blvd.

Rochester, NY 14627

Phone: 585-275-2121


University of Rochester
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