Spring College Tour Overview

Sunny. Packed. Fun. These few words describe the various aspects of the 2015 Spring College Tour hosted by SEEDS’ Guidance Department. With a full Coach bus, the Guidance team and 49 SEEDS scholars traveled from Newark, New Jersey in March to some of the U.S. best liberal arts colleges and universities in the New England region. The nine colleges and universities visited were Bates College, Boston College, Bowdoin College, Clark University, Connecticut College, Harvard University, Quinnipiac University, Tufts University, and Wheaton College.

Below, you can read a recap of some of the schools visited during the college tour.

Llarsania Galloza (Scholars ‘12, Asheville School ‘16)

Cold. Desolate. Quiet. No, I am not talking about Antarctica but Tufts University during Spring Break. The school is great but, unfortunately, we toured at an inconvenient time of the year, since the students were not on campus. Instead, the info session we attended was very useful painting a picture of what student life is like on campus. The University has 5,000 students with all 50 states represented, and students coming from 65 different countries. The University has a Liberal Arts school with an additional school in Engineering. It also offers additional programs in the arts and sciences and social science. Class sizes range from 20-25 students, but lectures can reach up to 400 students. The larger classes are broken down into smaller discussion groups that are no larger than 12 students. About half of the students study abroad during their time at Tufts; around 45% of juniors study abroad. Tufts even has a campus in France. There is an “early assurance” program to Tufts’ Graduate School and so during sophomore year, students can apply early to Tufts’ Medical, Dental or Veterinarian Schools. The University does not offer a pre-med program but students can still follow a pre-med track.

Tufts University offers specialty houses, such as a House where students can major in a specific language. The housing on campus is guaranteed for two years; freshmen generally live in doubles. The University has two dining halls and for the first two years, a Meal Plan is required. The cost for tuition, student fees, room and board is around $60,000 a year. No merit aid is given but there is need-based aid. The University promises to meet 100% of demonstrated need in the form of loans, scholarships, or work study. Students whose parents’ income is less than $60,000 are not granted any loans, but instead offered only scholarships and work study opportunities. The University has Division III sports and one-third of the students are on Varsity teams. There are also Club and Intramural sports offered. The sport facilities were renovated about two years ago. It is said to be a very active campus. The University is located five miles from Boston, where students can take the T around the city (which is the public transportation).

My first impression of Tufts University was that it is a nice campus. Its mascot – the elephant – was prominent on campus; my favorite spot on was where the large elephant head is proudly placed as the focal point of the front of the library.

Sayem Talukdar (Scholars ‘12, Concord Academy ‘16)

When I first heard that we were going to visit Boston College, I had mixed emotions. I was excited to visit a college near where I go to school currently, but simultaneously, I was worried that it would be a boring experience. I was wrong about the latter. As we stepped onto the campus, I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere and environment! I came on the college trip with the idea that I didn’t want to go to a big school, which wasn’t a good idea. It’s important to keep an open mind when on a college search because you don’t know what you want or what you don’t want until you actually see and experience it. The students of Boston College were all smiling. Everyone that I talked to seemed genuinely happy to be at there and was enjoying the experience. “BC is close enough to Boston for students to immerse themselves in city life and yet still be able to come back to campus and hunker down and get back to work,” one student told me.

The place I felt most at home to me was their library. As we walked into it, I recognized the familiar atmosphere of students quietly working hard. There is a section like this in my own school’s library which I spend many of my hours working in. So, you can only imagine how excited I was to see something so conventional yet important to my preference in colleges. Another conventional, yet impressive, characteristic of BC that I really liked was its Financial Aid program. In the info session, we were told that BC meets 100% of demonstrated need through grants, scholarships, loans, and of course, work study. As a student that is already receiving financial aid for high school, I was relieved to hear that BC did such a great job with Financial Aid for its students. So many aspects of BC attracted me to it and I know that I will definitely be keeping my eye on this school.

Samantha Uy (Scholars ‘12, Kent Place School ‘16)

When people think of Harvard University, some words that come to mind are competitive, stressful, and intimidating. However, when we visited Harvard, I realized that it is not all about competition. There is a balance between academics and fun activities. There are many clubs to join (not all academic) and there are also fun community events. The student who talked to us at the information center did a great job explaining that everyone there strives to support each other, not tear them down.

In addition to a great, supportive atmosphere, Harvard has an amazing academic curriculum (of course, it’s an Ivy League school). One aspect that kind of overwhelmed me was that there were over 3,500 courses available (WOAH!). However, I really liked that the students have a one-week “trial” period at the beginning of each semester, where they can go and sit in and observe classes before they sign up for it. This was a unique aspect of the University that no other school had or discussed. This really stood out for me because it shows that Harvard really cares that its students take classes that they are genuinely interested in, not just by what they see on paper, but by the atmosphere and teacher in the class.

Overall, I really did enjoyed the information session at Harvard and it really helped me see past the competitive reputation that everyone perceives Harvard to have.

Michelle Rowicki (Scholars ‘12, Dwight-Englewood School ‘16)

In the afternoon on Thursday, March 18, the NJ SEEDS College Tour visited Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. On such a chilly day, it was fitting that the college had a polar bear as its mascot. We were first ushered into the spacious, but cozy, Admissions building and offered hot chocolate. While waiting for our tour guides, we were able to watch the slideshow playing on the television in the front of the room, which showcased quick facts about Bowdoin, highlights of the academic program, various student endeavors, and pictures of the campus. After a short wait, we were split into three groups and began our tour. Almost all of us immediately noticed the sixteen story tall Coles Tower, which is one of the residential buildings. We moved on to see other buildings, such as the library, Museum of Art, and other academic buildings. Approaching a red brick building, our tour guide told us the history of Massachusetts Hall, which is the oldest college building in Maine, and was once used for faculty housing, student housing, and academics. Today the building is used by the English department. We finished our tour by seeing the Student Union which is a communal space for students to relax, study and eat.

Following our tour, we were given a thorough information session by an admissions representative and one of the tour guides. Bowdoin College prides itself for its commitment to the “common good” which describes an education that should benefit public and not private interests. This is evident in the Bowdoin student community, because the open campus is often visited by Brunswick residents, and many of the students volunteer in the neighboring towns. We were also able to learn more about academics at Bowdoin, such as the five distribution requirements, which are general education classes needed to fulfill the liberal arts curriculum. After hearing about the admissions process, several SEEDS students eagerly asked questions about academics, social life, and admissions. After our information session, we gratefully huddled onto our warm bus, while getting a few extra glimpses of the picturesque snow-covered campus.