SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE
It was a beautiful spring morning when I visited SLC, and the guard at the gate wished me a friendly hello as I walked up the small hill leading to the admissions office, housed in the mansion that was once the home of the college’s founders William and Sarah Lawrence. Workers were busy setting up a tent on the front lawn for an end of the year dance, and I couldn’t help but be amazed that this jewel of a campus existed just off the highway in Bronxville, only 15 miles north of New York City.
Though the campus may be wearing at the edges a little, it houses such a wonderful, creative academic environment that it all feels warm and cohesive. People are friendly here. The student body is hyper intelligent, but with a generous world-view, not the quiet hipster type but a “let’s change the world, put on a show” type. The academics reflect this attitude (or is it visa-versa?) with their small, seminar-style classes, and unique “conference work” based coursework, where most classes are half taught by the professors in discussion-based classes, and the rest of the work is done by the student, guided by the professor, as a research paper or creative project. A strong interdisciplinary culture exists on campus, as does a global outlook. There are no majors here – only concentrations – which allow students to tailor studies to their individual interests. A core curriculum does exist in order to give you that true liberal arts experience, and you’re assigned a faculty member advisor, called a “Don” who makes sure you stay on track. There is a strong emphasis on creative arts and humanities, though one of the newer buildings on campus houses the science department.
They also have a unique way of registering for classes which they jokingly refer to as “speed dating for classes,” where you talk to each professor for ten minutes before deciding which classes to choose. They recently joined the NCAA and have 15 varsity sports, though I think it may be a while before a sports culture catches on here.
With only 1400 undergraduates and 350 graduate students on campus, it makes sense that the two words that come up frequently when describing SLC are “personal” and “interdisciplinary,” and I think it describes this college perfectly.
Make no mistake, Fordham University is an institution, and the bucolic, Gothic-style Rose Hill campus is impressive, to say the very least. This is traditional education at its finest. Fordham is a Jesuit University first and foremost, characterized by “excellence in teaching, the care and development of each student and a commitment to the promotion of an ethical society.” What that also means is, from what I observed, they stick to traditional teaching methods here. The classrooms I saw were lecture-style in nature, but as their 91% retention rate implies, Fordham’s students are happy with this. It’s urban location gives rise to traffic noise and sirens, but also offers students unlimited access to New York City and all the excitement, culture, and internships that has to offer, as well as to Fordham’s Lincoln Center Campus, which offers a similar curriculum but with specialized programs in Communications, Fashion studies and New Media and Digital Design. Popular majors here include Business, highlighted by the fact that they have an entire building, the Gabelli School for Business, at their fingertips, Speech Communication, Finance, Psychology and Economics. They also offer an accelerated five year masters degree program in business, as well as pre-professional programs in pre-health and pre-law, and boast an 80% medical school acceptance rate.
There’s tons of school spirit for their Division I, Atlantic 10 Conference sports, offering 22 men’s and women’s varsity teams. And the students keep very busy with over 165 registered student clubs. Housing in guaranteed for all four years, though it sounds like freshman housing can be pretty cozy. Community Service and cultural immersion are stressed at Fordham, and according to their President, Father Joseph McShane, who I was encouraged to hear speak because “he is amazing,” “Fordham’s students are characterized by a need to want to change the world,” and “are bothered by injustice.” A wonderful way to send graduates into the world.
Manhattanville is a small, private college in Westchester, New York, just 40 minutes north of New York City. Its 1700 undergraduates are a close-knit community, and most students live on campus all four years. It is an eclectic student body, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on a type of student, but I guess that’s a good thing, as diversity is strong here. Students can choose from over 50 majors but most classes take place in their one major academic building that also has a music and performance wing. In addition, there is a new building housing an art gallery, fitness center and dance studio. The most popular majors here are Business administration and management, finance, psychology, the social sciences and education, and it also offers graduate programs in education, business and creative writing, as well as continuing and executive education programs.
Internships, both domestic and international, are stressed, and all are readily available because of their close proximity to New York City. Community service is also emphasized, and Manhattanville’s students contribute nearly thirty thousand hours each year through more than fifty programs. Athletics are played in Division III, and there is no Greek life on campus. It is also a test optional school.