California Institute of Technology

I recently visited The California Institute of Technology in the Pasadena area of Los Angeles, where I toured the campus and spoke with the admissions office about the latest trends in admissions. Here are some takeaways from my visit:

· Caltech provides an exceedingly rigorous STEM education for the most academically and intellectually inclined. 95% of students complete research as undergrads, and many go on to earn Ph.D.s. The fast-paced quarter system adds to curriculum’s intensity, and students take 4-5 classes (sometimes more) each quarter.

· With just under 1,000 undergrads, Caltech has a small, liberal arts college feel, despite being a leading STEM research university with Nobel Prize-winning faculty. Access to faculty and research opportunities abound.

· There is a more even balance between the sexes than in prior years: 55% of students are male, 45% female.

· Caltech students “surf” at various locations during the summer – that is, they propose and execute their own research projects with funding through the Summer Program Research Fellowship.

· The curriculum focuses on collaboration: students spend each week working on challenging problem sets that were designed to be tackled be a team.

· Students typically take one humanities or social science course each term to satisfy gen ed requirements.

· Students coming to Caltech without the requisite math – say with only AP Calc AB or not having taken AP Calc BC since 10th grade – are invited to a remedial math summer program before starting freshman year.

· Most students live on campus all four years. A unique feature of Caltech is its eight residential “houses,” which serve as social and academic hubs for students throughout their four years.

· Students declare a major at the end of their first year. There are no caps on majors.

· Many students are involved in the nearby Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), which Caltech operates jointly with NASA.

The Beckman Auditorium, with its signature p orbitals.

Pepperdine University

I recently visited Pepperdine University in the Malibu area of Los Angeles, where I toured the campus and spoke with the admissions office about the latest trends in admissions. Here are some takeaways from my visit:

· Pepperdine is affiliated with the Churches of Christ and has a pronounced Christian focus: students must attend chapel multiple times each semester, complete three religion courses (Old Testament, New Testament, Christian Culture) and abstain from overnight dorm visits. The campus is dry, and Bible study is a popular social activity. 70% of students are Christian. Mental and emotional support is provided in part by a spiritual life advisor.

· Engagement with a church community in high school is a plus, so highlight this on your application if applicable. If a student is a member of the Churches of Christ, their minister can submit a letter of recommendation and they may be eligible for a special scholarship.

· The average class size is 19 and there are no TAs. 35% of faculty live on campus, often inviting students into their homes for Bible study. Students participate in research as early as freshman year.

· Business is the most popular and well-known program. Students can complete a joint 5-year BA-MBA, all at Pepperdine.

· The communications major is also popular, and there is a student broadcasting network on campus.

· On-campus housing is required the first two years and optional (but not difficult to secure) the final two years.

Pepperdine’s Malibu location – set in the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean – counts among its greatest assets.

College Visits

You can read about some of my campus visits by scrolling down or using the following links:

California Institute of Technology
Connecticut College
Fordham University (Rose Hill)
Hunter College (CUNY)
Loyola Marymount University
Macaulay Honors College (CUNY)
The New School
NYU (Gallatin School)
Occidental College
Pace University
Pepperdine University
Princeton University
Sarah Lawrence College
University of California San Diego
University of Southern California
Yale University

University of Southern California

I recently visited The University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where I toured the campus and spoke with the admissions office about the latest trends in admissions. Here are some takeaways from my visit:

· USC is the second-largest private undergraduate college in the US, after NYU. Over 21,000 students study on its large, self-contained campus in South Central LA. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end of campus to the other.

· Once known as a campus for the super wealthy, the university has diversified in recent years.

· USC’s film school, funded by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, is perhaps the most famous school on the campus. Six of the university colleges focus on visual and performing arts.

· The strong USC marching band competes internationally and any student can audition to join.

· 85% of undergrads live on campus or within walking distance – USC is not a commuter school. On-campus is guaranteed the first two years, but difficult to secure thereafter.

· Two new programs include AI in Business (a joint business-engineering program) and a new legal studies major offered by the law school.

· USC has satellite campuses on the Catalina Island (for marine biology), DC (where students can spend a semester) and Sacramento.

· The business school is known for its global focus.

· Admitted students can apply to the “thematic option” honors program, which boasts smaller-than-usual general education courses of 30 students or less.

A Trojan – the USC mascot – stands guard over the center of campus.

Occidental College

I recently visited Occidental College in Los Angeles, where I toured the campus and spoke with the admissions office about the latest trends in admissions. Here are some takeaways from my visit:

· Programs at Occidental frequently feature an experiential, hands-on requirement. A popular music production industry practicum through Warner Music, for instance, counts toward the Occidental degree, and even philosophy majors must satisfy an experiential requirement.

· The most popular major is Economics, followed by Diplomacy. Unique degree programs include Urban and Environmental Policy and Music Production.

· Two signature programs are Oxy’s residential UN program, where students spend one semester working at the UN, and the Campaign Semester, where students spend a semester working on a campaign somewhere in the United States.

· The average class size is 18, and faculty are highly accessible and supportive.

· Despite being in a major city, Oxy is located in a suburban area of LA and most students live on the scenic campus all four years. On a typical Saturday night, around 70% of students stay on campus and 30% go out into LA. As with most colleges in Los Angeles, students either have their own car or explore Los Angeles by getting a ride with a friend.

· There is a large focus on community service and social justice at Oxy.

· Seniors are required to complete a comprehensive project (often a senior thesis).