Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Vermont Colleges Trip Part I

Recently, our Student Services Coordinator, Laura, had the opportunity to go on a college bus tour of 18 colleges across the state of Vermont.  New England has such a rich variety of higher educational opportunities and Vermont is clearly no exception.  Below she’ll outline her experience and give you an idea about each school and what it has to offer.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Champlain College, Burlington, VT

Our first stop on the tour was Champlain College in BurlingtonChamplain College is a small school with about 2000 students.  In terms of majors and programs, Champlain has 4 different divisions: Business, Communication & Creative Media, Education & Human Studies, Information Technology & Sciences.  The most popular major this past year was Psychology and the most popular cluster was “Digital Games” – which includes majors and specializations among the different divisions - Game Production Management, Game Media, Game Art & Animation, Game Design, Game Design & Digital Media, Game Writing, Game Programming.  Their Digital Forensic Science program is also becoming more and more popular.

Unique to Champlain, they have instituted an “upside down educational program” where students engage in classes associated with their major as soon as they enroll.  This way, they can feel that all of their classes connect and relate with one another.  They can explore their major, take on internships earlier, and determine areas of particular interest for specialization and then have four full years to develop the necessary skills that are vital for their professional success.  Champlain provides numerous internship opportunities for students beginning very early on in their college career and are available to students every year they are in college.  Because Champlain is a small school, the professors are able to provide personal attention and support to their students.  The student to faculty ratio is 15:1 and the average class size is about 18 students. 

A very important statistic is that 90% of Champlain graduates are employed in their field of study within 6 months of graduation.  Not only are most Champlain grads getting jobs, but 90% are getting jobs within their direct field of study right out of graduation.  Impressive!  A unique program at Champlain was their LEAD (Life Experience and Action Dimension) program, which is a four-year program for all students designed to help students develop practical life skills that are meaningful and useful and will serve them throughout their entire life. 

Burlington is a vibrant college town and is also the home of the University of Vermont, Champlain College, St Michael's College.
City of Burlington
Champlain is one of the three colleges we visited in Burlington, VT.  For a student that wants their higher educational experience to be located in Vermont but also wants to be close to a city-like atmosphere, Burlington is perfect.  Burlington was close enough for students to walk into town to find entertainment, shopping, restaurants, the Lake Champlain water front, etc.  Burlington has the look, feel, charm and friendliness of a small town but the lifestyle, music, food, and arts of a larger city.

Burlington College, Burlington, VT

The second school we saw, also in Burlington, was Burlington CollegeBurlington College is a very unique, non-traditional, 40 year old progressive liberal arts school.  With only 200 students (50% being from Vermont), Burlington College is a very small school where students can create their own major and program of study and have a lot of input on their learning goals within the curriculum.  Burlington College attracts somewhat of an older student (average student age is 23), as many of their students are transfer students who go to large colleges and then transfer to Burlington to find the comfort and support of a very small college with intense academic advising and support from professors.  Currently, the entire college is housed in one large brick building, almost like a high school, so definitely make sure you want that intimate feel.  When asked where the library was, they said they had some books in the gym… this was probably due to the fact that they are currently renovating a large part of the building which used to be an old orphanage, where they will house their new library.  Housing is also a little different at Burlington – there are only 45 spots on campus and are for first year students only.  It is not, however, your traditional dorm style living.  There is also no dining hall or meal plan on campus.  Students need to go grocery shopping and cook for themselves, so make sure that you are aware and ready for that kind of non-traditional first year (and beyond) experience.

In terms of programs, the most popular program is their Cinema Studies and Film Production program that houses about ¼ of the students.  An individualized major that the student creates themselves is also very popular along with Photography, Writing & Literature, Human Services, Psychology, and Wood Working.  Internships are a requirement for graduation from all programs.  The grading system at Burlington is also less traditional.  60% of students don’t receive letter grades for their work in class.  They will either receive credit, receive low-credit, or a low-pass.  Burlington College does see the functional need of traditional grades and a more traditional GPA system for financial aid, admissions to graduate school, and other regulations that are based on GPA, so they are moving towards a more traditional system.

It should be noted that for first generation college students (and other college students) who find the entire college admissions and application process completely overwhelming, Burlington College feels as though they work very well with these types of students, giving them a lot of support during the admissions process.  While Burlington College is so very small, they do have plans to grow to about 300 students as soon as possible and then eventually grow to about 500-750 students, although they are committed to being a small school on a small campus that caters to the needs of its students.

If you are interested in Burlington College, I highly suggest that you go visit it.  It is a very small, non-traditional school like many we saw on our trip.  You can only get a good idea of what it will be like being a student there if you actual step foot on the campus (although this applies to any school).

Saint Michael’s College, Colchester, VT

Saint Michael’s College, or “St. Mike’s”, is a small (or large compared to what we saw all week!) Catholic college of about 2000 students only about 7 miles (less than 10 minutes) from Burlington.  It is unique in that it is a fully residential college, meaning 100% of students live on campus.  This makes for a very tight community and a close-knit feel across campus.  The college is very service-oriented, which a lot of Catholic schools are.  More than 70% of students at St. Mike’s participate in some kind of service project through their MOVE program (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts). 

A selling feature for St. Mikes is that it provides research opportunities to its undergrads.  Students can choose from course-based research for academic credit, independent research with faculty, summer research, or summer research through the Center for Social Science Research.  Internships are also available to all students.

Another cool part of St. Mike’s is the online blogs that students follow.  They post quite often and prospective students can get a feel for what the community life is really like there.  This is the blog from our tour guide, Marci -

The majority of students come from somewhere in New England (80%) with the largest percent coming from Massachusetts (27%), which I thought was interesting.  So if you are from outside of New England, you have even more reason to go see what it’s like and make sure that you will feel at home there.  In terms of academic programs, students have the ability to choose from 30 different liberal arts and science majors as well as Pre-Law, Pre-Med, or Pre-Pharmacy. 

From what I got from our tour guide and other students, the student population is very active on campus.  There are about 40 different student organizations and 25 intramural teams (in addition to 21 Div II Varsity sports).  Our tour guide and other students we spoke with were involved in many different clubs, sports, and organizations on campus.  While we only saw the main campus, there is another campus called North campus that is less than a mile away and houses student residences and studio arts facilities as well as a dining hall.

An interesting thing that they did on our visit was that they didn’t show us any dorm room or housing option – instead they played a video for us that showed us all of the different kinds of housing available to students, since all 4 years are guaranteed and expected that students will live on campus.  This should link you to the video we saw of all of their housing options, cleverly called “SMC Kribs”: Click here to view

Stay tuned for the next leg of the trip!!

Coming up next... Johnson State College, Sterling College, Lyndon State College, New England Culinary Institute...

About Smart Track™ Toolkit: The toolkit is a web based service that assists families with everything from admissions and test prep, to student athletics and financial aid. Our intuitive software and on-demand workshops are key components to making sure students find their top choice colleges, and families can afford to send them there.

About the author: Laura Guarino is the Student Services Coordinator with the College Resource Center, LLC. Laura has her BA in Human Development from Boston College and MS in School Counseling from Fitchburg State University.  She is also enrolled in a certificate program in College Admissions Counseling.  Laura is at the forefront of the college admissions process for the families of The Smart Track™ Toolkit.

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  2. Laura, this is great! Thanks for sharing.

  3. let's see... my sister went to Johnson (Part II of your blog), my brother went to Champlain College, and my SIL went to St. Michaels.

    Not looking at Norwich U.? alma mater ;)

    happy hunting!

  4. Thanks for such a nice write-up and for doing this blog Laura! Keep up the great work!

  5. Great job Laura, can't wait to see the rest!

  6. Yay! Thank you for doing this, Laura!

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