Understanding the admission process

Ever wonder what happens behind closed doors? The International Counselor goes into the committee room of over a dozen highly selective colleges to show you. More »

Free Tools for self-discovery

Know thy self, so said The Bard. But which self ought you know? These tools allow you a way of learning about various parts of yourself. More »

Guide to essays and personal statements

One of the most comprehensive lists of college essay writing resources and insights anywhere. More »

Are you ready for the summer?

Want to do something different? Check out the omnibus of fun filled possibilities. More »

Acing the interview

Some college require an interview. Check out our resources and insights. More »

 

New approaches to reviewing applications

UPENN has been pioneering a different approach to file review:

In the traditional system, the first review was done solo by an admissions officer, typically taking 25-30 minutes, followed by another five minutes writing a brief report for colleagues to review the recommendation.

In committee-based admissions, the first review is done in teams of two, DaSilva explained. In a private room with computer screens, all of the materials are displayed. One admissions officer focuses on academic materials (transcripts, test scores, etc.) while the other focuses on non-academic factors. The two discuss the candidate as they do their reviews and are able to make a recommendation typically within 4-10 minutes. You could have two people reviewing five applications or more in committee-based admissions in the time it would take two people to review two applications if working solo.

It has garnered a fair bit of attention with Swarthmore, Bucknell, Emory and Case Western Reserve utalizing it. NYU used it for early. This is another aspect to go with our understanding the admission process. 

Starting your College Research: Career development

As discussed many times in this blog, your major may not matter as much as you think. That said, a growing number of people want a career outcome of going to college. If you look at historical trends as to why a student chooses a particular university you will see that what resonates with the students has grown:

  • This college’s graduates gain admission to top graduate/professional schools in 2005: 27.1% rated this as very important. In 2015: 33.7%
  • This college’s graduates get good jobs in 2005: 47.4% rated it as very important. In 2015: 57.9%

Contrary to what people think, Business may not be as prevelent as people think:

Interest in business as a probable field of study peaked in 1987 when more than one-quarter (25.7%) of students intended to major in a business-related field. By 1995, interest in majoring in business had fallen to 15.5% of incoming college students. After a slight recovery in the early years of the 21st century, students’ interest in business as a prob- able field of study fell to 13.5% in 2015, its lowest point since 1973 when 13.3% of students intended to major in a business-related field.

One of the more important aspects to pay attention to is how the college helps you onto your next steps. So when you research colleges, be sure to check out their career services. You could just google “Career Services”+ college name and read about what they offer. Let’s take two examples:

Elon Career pages include:

  • ELON JOB NETWORK
  • EVENTS
  • STUDENT EMPLOYMENT
  • FIRST DESTINATIONS
  • MEET THE SPDC STAFF
  • STUDENTS – ALUMNI

    CHOOSING A CAREER

    GRADUATE-PROF SCHOOL

    RESUMES-COVER LETTERS

    EJN JOBS-INTERNSHIPS

    INTERVIEWS

    TRANSITION FROM ELON

  • Sections for parents and employers

 

UC San Diego Career pages include: 

  • ·            Upcoming Events
  • o   Job Fairs, Employer events
  • o   Graduate and Professional School Fairs
  • o   Career Development and Job Preparation
  • ·            Career Advising
  • ·            Thinking about Grad School
  • ·            Career Exploration and Preparation
    • o   Explore careers and interest areas
    • o   Prepare for pre-med/health, pre-law, and graduate school
    • o   Prepare for jobs and internships
  • ·            Online Career Development Tools
  • ·            Sections for employers and parents.
  • Basically, both universities, vastly different, cover the information in basically the same way. They even use some of the same career development/job search tools. One area I was excited to see was the UCSD Alumni Destinations page which promised “This interactive graphic demonstrates the connection between areas of study at UC San Diego and the career paths of 73,500 alumni*. The left side of the circle is divided into 15 sections, each representing a major or grouping of majors available at UC San Diego. The right side of the circle is similarly broken into 15 sections, each representing a grouping of careers chosen by our alums.” Only this page no longer exists. It would have appeared very similar to Williams. Oh well. Elon’s page does work, but the information is superficial. One university that does an outstanding job at sharing this data is UC Berkeley. All universities track this data. Ask them for it. This is, in fact, a requirement in the UK and you can compare data by major between different universities at Unistats

    Good career services should be able to tell you:

    • Where their graduates are
    • studying grad school
    • working–both by company, title, industry and salary.
  • who recruits on campus
  • where the student intern
  • Entrepreneurial competitions
  • Career development activities
  • 1:1 advising
  • Princeton Review has provided a ranking of Career services every year, but the list is probably mostly useless. As Poet’s and Quants remarks:

    Of the 42 schools that have been listed in the last six years, only six of them were listed every year, indicating that exemplary career services are rare. However, it does seem like they’re more common at private schools, as only nine public schools were listed at all.

    Here are the schools with the best career services:

    The ‘Best Career Services’ Rankings From 2015 to 2010

     

    2015 Rank & School 2015 Rank 2014 Rank 2013 Rank 2012 Rank 2011 Rank 2010 Rank
     Northeastern University  1  2  1  2  1  4
     Pennsylvania State University – University Park  2  1  2  3  2  6
     Claremont McKenna College  3  4  3  6  7  7
     Bentley University  4  3  16  8  6  12
     Clemson University  5  11  5  9  NR  3
     University of Richmond  6  13  4  10  NR  NR
     Wabash College  7  6  NR  NR  11  NR
     Southwestern University  8  7  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Washington University in St. Louis  9  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR
     University of Florida  10  5  6  1  4  1
     Kansas State University  11  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Southern Methodist University  12  8  7  19  NR  NR
     Sweet Briar College  13  10  NR  NR  8  8
     Villanova University  14  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Stevens Institute of Technology  15  NR  13  NR  14  NR
     Lafayette College  16  17  8  15  17  NR
     Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering  17  15  NR  20  NR  20
     Barnard College  18  9  11  5  5  2
     Connecticut College  19  NR  NR  NR  NR  11
     Wake Forest University  20  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Webb Institute  NR  12  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Smith College  NR  14  NR  NR  13  13
     Grove City College  NR  16  12  NR  NR  NR
     Scripps College  NR  18  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute  NR  19  9  NR  NR  NR
     University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Campus  NR  20  19  NR  NR  NR
     American University  NR  NR  10  18  15  19
     Tulane University  NR  NR  14  NR  NR  NR
     University of Southern California  NR  NR  15  NR  NR  NR
     Missouri University of Science and Technology  NR  NR  17  11  NR  NR
     Virginia Tech  NR  NR  18  NR  NR  NR
     University of Texas at Austin  NR  NR  20  4  10  5
     Rochester Institute of Technology  NR  NR  NR  7  NR  18
     Spelman College  NR  NR  NR  12  NR  NR
     Yale University  NR  NR  NR  13  3  10
     Cornell University  NR  NR  NR  14  16  15
     University of Missouri – Columbia  NR  NR  NR  16  18  NR
     Worcester Polytechnic Institute  NR  NR  NR  17  20  NR
     Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology  NR  NR  NR  NR  9  9
     Middlebury College  NR  NR  NR  NR  12  14
     Stonehill College  NR  NR  NR  NR  19  17
     University of Notre Dame  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR  16

    Source: The Princeton Review

     

    Princeton Review wrote a book called Colleges that Create Futures focusing on how colleges help students with their future, profiling 50 colleges that are doing a great job. While this rather eclectic list shows breadth, they all share some common features: “hey have excellent career centers. They offer an array of internship opportunities, cooperative education, service learning, and experiential learning programs. They involve undergrads in collaborative research with faculty. They have strong cultures of civic engagement and support student participation in community service and study abroad programs. Their alumni associations are networking empires.

    Some of the schools and examples of their programs are:

    • Arizona State: At its “InnovationSpace” collaborative learning facility, students majoring in engineering, business, design, art, and sustainability work in teams that brainstorm and produce prototypes for real world products that “impact the daily lives of ordinary people.” 
    • Duke University: DukeEngage, a remarkable service-learning program, invites Duke students to identify an opportunity to provide a service anywhere in the world. Duke then helps the student act on that mission, assisting with the student’s travel, lodging, immunizations, and other expenses.  Nearly 3,000 Duke students have participated in this program and served communities in 78 countries.    
    • Northeastern University:  Participation in Northeastern’s cooperative education program –which operates in 114 countries and is one of the largest in the nation – is exemplary on all fronts: 95% of its students spend at least one semester working full time at a company in paid positions. By nine months after graduation, 90% of Northeastern students are employed or in grad school.
    • Washington University in St. Louis has one of the few undergrad entrepreneurship programs that enable students to launch their own on-campus businesses. Approved proposals are facilitated by a campus loan fund, faculty mentorship, access to school mailing lists, and other services. Among the success stories: a student-owned, on-campus bike rental and repair shop.      

     

     

    Other useful tools include:

    Linked in University tool–unfortunately, Linkedin killed this.

     

     

    Starting your College Research: Career development

    As discussed many times in this blog, your major may not matter as much as you think. That said, a growing number of people want a career outcome of going to college. If you look at historical trends as to why a student chooses a particular university you will see that what resonates with the students has grown:

    • This college’s graduates gain admission to top graduate/professional schools in 2005: 27.1% rated this as very important. In 2015: 33.7%
    • This college’s graduates get good jobs in 2005: 47.4% rated it as very important. In 2015: 57.9%

    Contrary to what people think, Business may not be as prevelent as people think:

    Interest in business as a probable field of study peaked in 1987 when more than one-quarter (25.7%) of students intended to major in a business-related field. By 1995, interest in majoring in business had fallen to 15.5% of incoming college students. After a slight recovery in the early years of the 21st century, students’ interest in business as a prob- able field of study fell to 13.5% in 2015, its lowest point since 1973 when 13.3% of students intended to major in a business-related field.

    One of the more important aspects to pay attention to is how the college helps you onto your next steps. So when you research colleges, be sure to check out their career services. You could just google “Career Services”+ college name and read about what they offer. Let’s take two examples:

    Elon Career pages include:

    • ELON JOB NETWORK
    • EVENTS
    • STUDENT EMPLOYMENT
    • FIRST DESTINATIONS
    • MEET THE SPDC STAFF
    • STUDENTS – ALUMNI

      CHOOSING A CAREER

      GRADUATE-PROF SCHOOL

      RESUMES-COVER LETTERS

      EJN JOBS-INTERNSHIPS

      INTERVIEWS

      TRANSITION FROM ELON

    • Sections for parents and employers

     

    UC San Diego Career pages include: 

    • ·            Upcoming Events
    • o   Job Fairs, Employer events
    • o   Graduate and Professional School Fairs
    • o   Career Development and Job Preparation
  • ·            Career Advising
  • ·            Thinking about Grad School
  • ·            Career Exploration and Preparation
    • o   Explore careers and interest areas
    • o   Prepare for pre-med/health, pre-law, and graduate school
    • o   Prepare for jobs and internships
  • ·            Online Career Development Tools
  • ·            Sections for employers and parents.
  • Basically, both universities, vastly different, cover the information in basically the same way. They even use some of the same career development/job search tools. One area I was excited to see was the UCSD Alumni Destinations page which promised “This interactive graphic demonstrates the connection between areas of study at UC San Diego and the career paths of 73,500 alumni*. The left side of the circle is divided into 15 sections, each representing a major or grouping of majors available at UC San Diego. The right side of the circle is similarly broken into 15 sections, each representing a grouping of careers chosen by our alums.” Only this page no longer exists. It would have appeared very similar to Williams. Oh well. Elon’s page does work, but the information is superficial. One university that does an outstanding job at sharing this data is UC Berkeley. All universities track this data. Ask them for it. This is, in fact, a requirement in the UK and you can compare data by major between different universities at Unistats

    Good career services should be able to tell you:

    • Where their graduates are
    • studying grad school
    • working–both by company, title, industry and salary.
  • who recruits on campus
  • where the student intern
  • Entrepreneurial competitions
  • Career development activities
  • 1:1 advising
  • Princeton Review has provided a ranking of Career services every year, but the list is probably mostly useless. As Poet’s and Quants remarks:

    Of the 42 schools that have been listed in the last six years, only six of them were listed every year, indicating that exemplary career services are rare. However, it does seem like they’re more common at private schools, as only nine public schools were listed at all.

    Here are the schools with the best career services:

    The ‘Best Career Services’ Rankings From 2015 to 2010

     

    2015 Rank & School 2015 Rank 2014 Rank 2013 Rank 2012 Rank 2011 Rank 2010 Rank
     Northeastern University  1  2  1  2  1  4
     Pennsylvania State University – University Park  2  1  2  3  2  6
     Claremont McKenna College  3  4  3  6  7  7
     Bentley University  4  3  16  8  6  12
     Clemson University  5  11  5  9  NR  3
     University of Richmond  6  13  4  10  NR  NR
     Wabash College  7  6  NR  NR  11  NR
     Southwestern University  8  7  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Washington University in St. Louis  9  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR
     University of Florida  10  5  6  1  4  1
     Kansas State University  11  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Southern Methodist University  12  8  7  19  NR  NR
     Sweet Briar College  13  10  NR  NR  8  8
     Villanova University  14  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Stevens Institute of Technology  15  NR  13  NR  14  NR
     Lafayette College  16  17  8  15  17  NR
     Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering  17  15  NR  20  NR  20
     Barnard College  18  9  11  5  5  2
     Connecticut College  19  NR  NR  NR  NR  11
     Wake Forest University  20  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Webb Institute  NR  12  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Smith College  NR  14  NR  NR  13  13
     Grove City College  NR  16  12  NR  NR  NR
     Scripps College  NR  18  NR  NR  NR  NR
     Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute  NR  19  9  NR  NR  NR
     University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Campus  NR  20  19  NR  NR  NR
     American University  NR  NR  10  18  15  19
     Tulane University  NR  NR  14  NR  NR  NR
     University of Southern California  NR  NR  15  NR  NR  NR
     Missouri University of Science and Technology  NR  NR  17  11  NR  NR
     Virginia Tech  NR  NR  18  NR  NR  NR
     University of Texas at Austin  NR  NR  20  4  10  5
     Rochester Institute of Technology  NR  NR  NR  7  NR  18
     Spelman College  NR  NR  NR  12  NR  NR
     Yale University  NR  NR  NR  13  3  10
     Cornell University  NR  NR  NR  14  16  15
     University of Missouri – Columbia  NR  NR  NR  16  18  NR
     Worcester Polytechnic Institute  NR  NR  NR  17  20  NR
     Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology  NR  NR  NR  NR  9  9
     Middlebury College  NR  NR  NR  NR  12  14
     Stonehill College  NR  NR  NR  NR  19  17
     University of Notre Dame  NR  NR  NR  NR  NR  16

    Source: The Princeton Review

     

    Princeton Review wrote a book called Colleges that Create Futures focusing on how colleges help students with their future, profiling 50 colleges that are doing a great job. While this rather eclectic list shows breadth, they all share some common features: “hey have excellent career centers. They offer an array of internship opportunities, cooperative education, service learning, and experiential learning programs. They involve undergrads in collaborative research with faculty. They have strong cultures of civic engagement and support student participation in community service and study abroad programs. Their alumni associations are networking empires.

    Some of the schools and examples of their programs are:

    • Arizona State: At its “InnovationSpace” collaborative learning facility, students majoring in engineering, business, design, art, and sustainability work in teams that brainstorm and produce prototypes for real world products that “impact the daily lives of ordinary people.” 
    • Duke University: DukeEngage, a remarkable service-learning program, invites Duke students to identify an opportunity to provide a service anywhere in the world. Duke then helps the student act on that mission, assisting with the student’s travel, lodging, immunizations, and other expenses.  Nearly 3,000 Duke students have participated in this program and served communities in 78 countries.    
    • Northeastern University:  Participation in Northeastern’s cooperative education program –which operates in 114 countries and is one of the largest in the nation – is exemplary on all fronts: 95% of its students spend at least one semester working full time at a company in paid positions. By nine months after graduation, 90% of Northeastern students are employed or in grad school.
    • Washington University in St. Louis has one of the few undergrad entrepreneurship programs that enable students to launch their own on-campus businesses. Approved proposals are facilitated by a campus loan fund, faculty mentorship, access to school mailing lists, and other services. Among the success stories: a student-owned, on-campus bike rental and repair shop.      

     

     

     

     

    New: How UBC Makes decisions

    University of British Columbia’s system of evaluation was outed by the student newspaper recently. UBC has become increasing competitive, requiring students to have between 85 and 93% for entry in most programs. With over 25,000 applications the university looked for a more refined way to make offers of the 13, 688 students they deemed strong enough. Insiders say the essays basically count for 20% of the grade.

    You can find more information on how colleges make selections on the inside pages of How Colleges Make Decisions.

    Germany says no more free ride

    nternational students (Non-German, EU, etc) Will start paying tuition fees

     

    The State of Baden-Württemberg will introduce tuition fees for international students from the winter semester 2017/2018 onwards. The law stipulates that international students are required to pay 1,500 euros per semester. Additional revenue is necessary in order to further promote the internationalization of the institutions of higher education in Baden-Württemberg and to offer international students a more specific support during their studies.

    The fees are for international students who enter for the purpose of study. Students from the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA) and from the Erasmus member countries are excluded from these fees. Refugees are also not affected. Students who received their general qualification for university entrance in Germany without German citizenship are excluded.

     

    Starting your College Research: Student life

    The last two post focused on exploring the academic experience. Today’s focuses on what happens outside of class. Click on teh tab for student life. For example, let’s look at Lewis and Clark, with about 2200 undergraduates, it is a classic resdential Liberal arts and science college in Portalnd, Oregon. 70% live on campus. How about yours? Probably the percentage is much higher in freshman and sophomore year which will create a dynamic energy and provide instant access to friends. Feeling more independent after a couple of years, you could move off campus. You might want to keep close though beause Lewis and Clark has 100 registered clubs and oranizations. Scan through the list and see how many you might want to join–Cuba club? Rugby (Men and women), Mock trial, Slam poetry, psychology club, SCUBA, and oh so many more. How active are the clubs and organizations you want to join? How well organized are they? These will not only be your kindred spirits, but these organizations give you a chance to develop skills. Indeed Gallup has found that that you are more than 1.8 times likely to be engaged in work if you were extremely active in extra curricular activities during college. Moreover, you are 1.4 times likely to be thriving in all areas of wellbeing. 

    What a lot of people do not realise is just how much times you have when you are not in class. Sure, you should be studying some of that time (2-4 hours per hour you spend in class). This still leaves a significant amount of time to get invovled. Before you do, you should be brainstorming types of experiences you want to have in college. Certainly some of them might have to do with what you did in high school. ut college is about expanding your horizons. 

    Retrun to student review sites like Unigo and Niche

    Common App Essay prompts for 2017-18

    The essay of your choice returns for the 2017/18 school year as the common app unveils the pompts–now 7 choices. Does this make it luckier? (University of California has 8, making them auspicious in China. 

     

    1. Some students have a background, identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

    2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

    3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

    4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]

    5. Discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

    6. Describe a topic, idea or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

    7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]

    Utalizing the Gallup Purdue index for insight on your college research

    I have mentioned the Gallup Purdue Index before. I have argued that students should ask three simple question of colleges:

    1) Tell me about the Professors at your college–and listen for sentiments that describe that they teach with passion, look for evidence that they care about their students as people and watch if they describe these relationships going deeper as in a mentor type experience. 

    2) What opportunities are their for applying learning in real world contexts? List for them to go beyond “our students do internships”–of course they do, but how did the college help? Do they have coop? How active in undergraduate research are most students?

    3) What long term projects do students get involed in? Do they talk about senior thesis or Capstone experiences? These are the experiences you want. How hard are they to get involved in?

    While you could ask about extra curriculuar activities, I find that one is a given. 

    Purdue has a nice handout that goes deeper into questions you should be asking. Check it out here

    Starting your College Research: Student life

    The last two post focused on exploring the academic experience. Today’s focuses on what happens outside of class. Click on teh tab for student life. For example, let’s look at Lewis and Clark, with about 2200 undergraduates, it is a classic resdential Liberal arts and science college in Portalnd, Oregon. 70% live on campus. How about yours? Probably the percentage is much higher in freshman and sophomore year which will create a dynamic energy and provide instant access to friends. While most colleges offer dorms, look at what they do by way of the dorms. Mark B. Ryan in A Collegiate Way of Livingdescribes the difference: “A dormitory is organized to provide food and shelter; a college, to provide for the student’s intellectual, social, and personal development.” His webpage provides a fairly comprehensive list of universities who have embraced the Residential College system. Other places like the Colleges that Change Lives are also worth looking at–and Lewis and Clark is one of them. 

    Feeling more independent after a couple of years, you could move off campus. You might want to keep close though beause Lewis and Clark has 100 registered clubs and oranizations. Scan through the list and see how many you might want to join–Cuba club? Rugby (Men and women), Mock trial, Slam poetry, psychology club, SCUBA, and oh so many more. How active are the clubs and organizations you want to join? How well organized are they? These will not only be your kindred spirits, but these organizations give you a chance to develop skills. Indeed Gallup has found that that you are more than 1.8 times likely to be engaged in work if you were extremely active in extra curricular activities during college. Moreover, you are 1.4 times likely to be thriving in all areas of wellbeing. 

    What a lot of people do not realise is just how much times you have when you are not in class. Sure, you should be studying some of that time (2-4 hours per hour you spend in class). This still leaves a significant amount of time to get invovled. Before you do, you should be brainstorming types of experiences you want to have in college. Certainly some of them might have to do with what you did in high school. ut college is about expanding your horizons. 

    Retrun to student review sites like Unigo and Niche. What do students say about their experiences? While the obvious tabs at Ungo to click are What are the most popular activities on campus and Describe students at your campusI really like the Describe the stereo type at your school and the follow up how true is it. Tory, for example, describes students as: 

    The big stereotype my friends & I hear is that LC is the standard hippy/pot-head liberal arts college, off in its own little bubble, occupied by a small population of well-to-do students, whose parents have way too much money. There is also a stereotype that LC academics is not very rigorous. And of course, everyone is ultra-liberal/ultra left-wing.

    and then goes onto put it in context:

    Sort of. It isn’t a homogenous student body. There are more people wearing birkenstocks and fewer wearing flip-flops here than you would find at the University of Texas, for example. And its less cloves than just regular old cigarettes that people smoke. The majority of students are some form of liberal, though libertarianism is not completely unheard of. Our school’s chapel is used more for concerts or speeches than actual church, so I would agree that religion isn’t widespread. I think the stereotype used to be more true five years ago than it is now.

    Given that these are the people you will be living and learning with, it is essential to probe deeper. Now reach out to some current students or alumni. Perhaps older friends from your own high school or you can ask admission to connect you or simply facebook stalk them. Most students really like their colleges. 

    Starting your College Research: Exploring the academics part 2

    Continuing a deeper dive into a college’s academic, it is time to take a look at other parts of the academic experience. Your major, in US colleges, account for about 33% of your actually classes. In other countries it is up to 100%. What happens in the US? What do you do with the rest of the time? Cterainly you have room for electives–in some colleges, a lot f electives. You can trade some of your electives in for a minor or even another major. 

    Many US colleges require you to take certain classes to meet graduation requirements. Called things like the core curriculum (thank you Columbia) or General Education Requirements, you need to look at what specifically you must take to graduate. Let us look at three examples:

    Columbia University. 

    Regardless of your major, all students will complete the core curriculum, known affectionally The Core, which inlcudes the Great Books:

     

    • Literature Humanities
    • Contemporary Civilization
    • University Writing
    • Art Humanities
    • Music Humanities
    • Frontiers of Science

    You also have to fufill some other requirements:

     

    • Science Requirement–Three courses bearing at least 3 points each (for a total of at least 10 points) must be completed to meet this portion of the Core Curriculum. 
    • Global Core Requirement–Students must complete two courses from the approved list of Global Core courses for a letter grade.
    • Foreign Language Requirement
    • Physical Education Requirement

    Duke University

    To graduate students must successfully complete two courses in each of five areas of knowledge:

     

    1. Arts, Literatures, and Performance (ALP) Courses focus on the analysis and interpretation of the creative products of the human intellect, and/or engage students in creative performance requiring intellectual understanding and interpretive skills.
    2. Civilizations (CZ) Courses focus on the analysis and evaluation of ideas and events that shape civilizations past and present.
    3. Natural Sciences (NS) Courses focus on the interpretation or interpretation of scientific theories or models of the natural world.
    4. Quantitative Studies (QS) Courses provide instruction in a quantitative skill to achieve proficiency in math, statistics, or computer science, or engage in the application of explicitly quantitative methodology to analyze problems.? NOTE: one of the two required courses must be taken in Math, Statistics, or Computer Science.
    5. Social Sciences (SS) Courses focus on the causes of human behavior and the origins and functions of the social structures in which we operate.

     

    While there are robust offerings in each area. But it goes beyond just the areas of knowledge. To graduate students must successfully complete two courses (or 1-3 in a foreign language and 3 in writing) in each of six modes of inquiry.

    The first three Modes of Inquiry address important cross-cutting themes that transcend individual disciplines and may be approached from various disciplinary perspectives. Students need to be prepared to grapple with issues pertaining to these themes throughout their lives and careers.

    • Cross-Cultural Inquiry (CCI). ?This Mode of Inquiry provides an academic engagement with the dynamics and interactions of culture(s) in a comparative or analytic perspective. It involves a scholarly, comparative, and integrative study of political, economic, aesthetic, social and cultural differences. It seeks to provide students with the tools to identify culture and cultural difference across time or place, between or within national boundaries. This includes but is not limited to the interplay between and among material circumstances, political economies, scientific understandings, social and aesthetic representations, and the relations between difference/diversity and power and privilege within and across societies. In fulfilling this requirement, students are encouraged to undertake comparisons that extend beyond national boundaries and their own national cultures and to explore the impact of increasing globalization.
    • Ethical Inquiry (EI). ?Undergraduate education is a formative period for engaging in critical analysis of ethical questions arising in human life. Students need to be able to assess critically the consequences of actions, both individual and social, and to sharpen their understanding of the ethical and political implications of public and personal decision-making. Thus, they need to develop and apply skills in ethical reasoning and to gain an understanding of a variety of ways in which, across time and place, ethical issues and values frame and shape human conduct and ways of life.
    • Science, Technology, and Society (STS). ?Advances in science and technology have wrought profound changes in the structure of society in the modern era. They have fundamentally changed the world, both its philosophical foundations, as in the Copernican or Darwinian revolutions, and in its practical everyday experience, as in the rise of the automobile and television. In the second half of the last century, the pace of such change accelerated dramatically; science and technology will play an even greater role in shaping the society of the future. If students are to be prepared to analyze and evaluate the scientific and technological issues that will confront them and to understand the world around them, they need exposure to basic scientific concepts and to the processes by which scientific and technological advances are made and incorporated into society. They need to understand the interplay between science, technology, and society-that is, not only how science and technology have influenced the direction and development of society, but also how the needs of society have influenced the direction of science and technology.
    • Foreign Language (FL). ?Duke has set internationalization as an institutional priority in order to prepare students to live in an increasingly diverse and interdependent world. By developing proficiency in a foreign language, students can develop cross-cultural competency and become more successful members of their increasingly complex local, national, and international communities. Foreign language study substantially broadens students’ own experiences and helps them develop their intellect and gain respect for other peoples. Students need an awareness of how language frames and structures understanding and effective communication, and a study of foreign language improves students’ native language skills.
    • Writing (W). ?Effective writing is central to both learning and communication. To function successfully in the world, students need to be able to write clearly and effectively. To accomplish this, they need to have a sustained engagement with writing throughout their undergraduate career. Thus, students must take at least three writing courses at Duke: a) Writing 101 in their first year and b) two writing-intensive courses (W) in the disciplines, at least one of which must be taken after their first year. Through the latter type of courses students become familiar with the various modes and genres of writing used within an academic discipline and learn how the conventions and expectations for writing differ among the disciplines.
    • Research (R). ?As a research university, Duke seeks to connect undergraduate education to the broad continuum of scholarship reflected in its faculty. Such a rich setting provides students with opportunities to become involved in a community of learning and to engage in the process of discovery and move beyond being the passive recipients of knowledge that is transmitted to being an active participant in the discovery, critical evaluation, and application of knowledge and understanding. Engagement in research develops in students an understanding of the process by which new knowledge is created, organized, accessed, and synthesized. It also fosters a capacity for the critical evaluation of knowledge and the methods of discovery. This is important not only for undergraduates who wish to pursue further study at the graduate level, but also for those who seek employment in a rapidly changing and competitive marketplace.

    And still more:

     

    • First-year writing. Students must successfully complete Writing 101 in fall or spring of your first year. If they do not, they must enroll again during the summer (if offered) or the fall of sophomore year. Failure to do so can result in academic withdrawal for two semesters.
    • First-year seminar. During their first year, students must successfully complete a seminar (usually designated with an “S” after the course number). Participation in the Focus Program, the 89S seminar series (open to first-year students only), the 80S seminar series, or any seminar for which students qualify fulfills this requirement. If students do not take a seminar in their first two semesters, they must do so during summer session I or II. Failure to do so can result in academic withdrawal for two semesters.
    • Small Group Learning Experiences (SGLE). Students must complete two SGLEs – seminars, tutorials, thesis courses, and independent study courses – after their first year.

    Brown University

    Unlike the other Two, Brown subscribes to an Open Curriculum:

    Brown’s Open Curriculum is based on three principles. The first is that students ought to take an active role in their education by assuming responsibility for the direction of their learning. Secondly, an undergraduate education is seen as a process of individual and intellectual development, rather than simply a way to transmit a set body of information. Finally, the curriculum should encourage individuality, experimentation, and the integration and synthesis of different disciplines.

    While you will have requirements in your major, the only other thing you have to do is demonstrate “excellent skill in written English before they graduate.”

     

    Each approach can have its advantages. Some will prefer a more freedom, others will want more direction. Some want choice. As you explore your options on your major possibilities, dig into what the university requires of you while you are there. As you explore this aspect, check on student’s experiecnes themselves through websites like Unigo and Niche

    Brown, according to Niche:

     

    What Students Say About Professors

    POLL
    88%
    of students say professors are passionate about the topics they teach.52 responses
    POLL
    90%
    of students say professors care about their students’ success.52 responses
    POLL
    87%
    of students say professors are engaging and easy to understand.52 responses
    POLL
    92%
    of students agree professors are approachable and helpful when needed.52 responses

     

    Duke

     

    What Students Say About Professors

    POLL
    92%
    of students say professors are passionate about the topics they teach.65 responses
    POLL
    85%
    of students say professors care about their students’ success.65 responses
    POLL
    86%
    of students say professors are engaging and easy to understand.65 responses
    POLL
    88%
    of students agree professors are approachable and helpful when needed.65 responses
    Columbia

    What Students Say About Professors

    POLL
    91%
    of students say professors are passionate about the topics they teach.92 responses
    POLL
    77%
    of students say professors care about their students’ success.91 responses
    POLL
    77%
    of students say professors are engaging and easy to understand.91 responses
    POLL
    76%
    of students agree professors are approachable and helpful when needed.91 responses

     

    Be sure to read the reviews, both at Niche and Unigo:

    Duke, for example, is called her experience awesome: “I have taken three large lecture classes: Econ 51, Psych 11 and Compsci 82. Otherwise, almost every other class I have taken has had 16 or fewer students. I am an English major with a concentration in history, documentary and visual and media studies. My professors not only know my name by the end of the semester, but they know my goals and interests. From a practical perspective, this makes networking easy. Yet it makes for a much more meaningful classroom experience, as well. Class participation is expected and often encourages discussion outside of class.”

    Brown also receives rave reviews for its academics: “Do professors know your name? In most classes yes · Tell us about your favorite class. I’ve had many! One is “Hispanics in the US”, where other than the readings and class discussions we each volunteer every week at a local public school and tutor, usually in Spanish. During spring break some of us also participated in a Brown community service project that takes volunteers to a clinic in the Dominican Republic · How often do students study? Depends on the student. But you can find a lot of people in the library on a Sat night. Kinda scary · Is class participation common? Yes, everyone loves to hear themselves speak · Do Brown students have intellectual conversations outside of class? Yes · Are students competitive? I don’t think so. Everyone just has high standards for themselves · Do you spend time with professors outside of class? I was invited to two holiday dinners with professors, and one professor in a class I took last semester, took 5 students to dinner at a restaurant after class every week.”

    As does Columbia, although some do take exception of the workload:  ”As I said before, the courseload is beyond ridiculous. The amount of reading is mindblowing and I am sure most of the professors could not even do it. Ya they could probably finish the readings for their individual class. But if they took an entire semester worth of classes and tried to keep up on the readings in every class simultaneously they would realize they are completely out of line with what they assign.”