Spring Break College Trip: Notes and Photos

I’m exhausted. Over the past five days I visited eight colleges, spent time in four time zones, and logged upwards of 500 miles in a rental car. This post summarizes my visits to NYU, Sarah Lawrence, Cornell, University of Rochester, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Carlton, and Macalaster. Photos from the trip are here – if you click through each one there is a descriptive title.

After losing four hours to daylight savings and time zone change on Sunday, Monday morning was rise and shine for New York University. Overall, the best part about NYU is its intense urban feel which I like. NYU has tens of thousands of undergrads and various special colleges and you have to apply to ONE of them. In particular, the Stern School of Business and the Gallatin School of Individualized Study (create your own major by picking classes from any of the colleges) appeal to me.

Next was Sarah Lawrence College. Sarah Lawrence is very unique in that they are all about individualized attention. Super small classes, one on one conferences with professors, and the like. Unfortunately, its artsy, alternative culture didn’t jibe with me, and it’s off my list.

The next morning (after a long drive) it was a tour and meetings at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. It was splendidly beautiful (an anomaly given the time of the year). Impressive tour and impressive campus reps. They also have a cool entrepreneurship program. Cornell seems like an amazing place – I want to explore it more in the coming months.

The University of Rochester in Rochester, NY was next and this made a positive impression on me. Beautiful campus, laid back, smart kids, and wide latitude in academic choices. Unfortunately the timing didn’t work out for a tour it’s a place that interests me. Plus only 5 minutes from an airport!

After flying to Chicago that night, the next morning the University of Chicago was the focus of attention. It was one of the most academic places I’ve been to. Everyone is brilliant and incredibly focused on their studies. Do the kids have life balance and a social life? That’s a question for me – but other than that, a strong school for sure.

Northwestern University (in Evanston, IL) has a different feel. It too is an amazingly rigorous academic school but the kids seem more mainstream. This tour was the most crowded, a testament to its popularity. Northwestern has the famous journalism college which is highly selective. Nice school.

After a 7 hour drive, I was in Minnesota for the first time in my life to check out Carlton College. Carlton is a nationally-renowned liberal arts college with a secluded, beautiful campus. It’s definitely the type of place where you could settle in and study for four years without distractions.

After Carlton I had lunch with my friend Steve Clift a public speaker, researcher, and online strategist focused on e-democracy and e-government.

Macalaster College is right in the heart of St. Paul, MN and had a little more alternative feel. Another great academic school with a Jamba Juice and Wells Fargo right across the street! Seth Levine from Mobius VC had prepped me on what a Macalaster education is all about and it fit that billing. I left with a positive impression of a collegial, smart community.

This trip was largely prospective – that is, one to evaluate schools that I could likely get in to and those that would be a stretch, big schools and small schools, rural and urban, etc. All schools except Sarah Lawrence stay on my list. There still are Boston area, Pacific Northwest, and LA schools to check out.

My main takeaway from this trip is that all these schools have amazing campuses, thick course catalogs, and a bright student population. It’s all about the personal fit.

5 Responses to Spring Break College Trip: Notes and Photos

  1. Chris Yeh says:

    You should go back and visit the schools in the winter time to make sure that you still have the same impression. Chicago and Cornell are supposed to be exceptionally depressing during the depths of winter, and Rochester probably isn’t far behind.

    Next time you’re at Rochester, you should look up an old professor and friend of mine, Mike Jensen, the creator of agency theory (basically, that hired management tends to waste shareholder money because they are agents, not owners). He’s a cool cat that is incredibly smart. Not politically correct in any way, but not an ideologue either.

  2. Kristen Merlone says:

    word on the upstate new york comments. the univeristies bring in psychologists during the winter months because the kids suffer from weather onset depression.
    on another note- while U of Chicago is an excellent school, one of the most well known slogans describing it is “where the fun goes to die”.

  3. Ben Casnocha says:

    Both good comments.

    I am familiar with the comment on Chicago, but after talking with some current students I believe that there is sufficient social life – you just have to work a little harder.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Keep NYU at the top of your list. I had an amazing experience as a student there. If it’s small classes you’re after, check out NYU’s GSP (General Studies) program. Most classes have under 25 students–by design. It’s a two-year, intensive liberal arts program that lasts for your first two years before transferring into a program to concentrate on your major. It’s similar to the mandatory freshman and sophomore course of study at Columbia U. It really is one of the best programs at any school in the country, AND you get to live in NYC.

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