Sampling "life of the mind" with University of Chicago students


University of Chicago is set right in the middle of Chicago City. The 200 acre campus is a around one of the largest and most vibrant city in world but the college is in no way a party school. It's made for true intellectuals. Just like the supplement essays on the application, academics is like no other university. Economics, sociology, and political science. The university boasts celebrity professors such as James Watson (nobel laureate and architect of the DNA Double Helix) and Steven Levitt (author of Freakonomics). The university has a burgeoning social life with 14 fraternities and sororities, Division III sports, intramural sports, and all of Chicago. However, even the people that thrive in the social scene are also all extremely success academically. U of C is the place to be if you want the best education in the nation with a great city life.

Read Ria Singh's brief review of her experiences at UChic. Ria graduate in 2017 with degrees in Economics and Visual Arts.

Here is the profile for the class of 2020

Photos from an earlier visit in April 2014.

Princeton University, NJ

A big name in education, Princeton is one of the smallest amongst the prestigious ivy leagues. With a 9% acceptance rate, students are not here to just learn but also share their knowledge- something the university prides itself with. Set in upscale New Jersey the school offers a variety of courses but its largely known for its arts and sciences courses with opportunities to study from the likes of people like Toni Morrison. Its an awe inspiring leaving even the smartest and brightest jaded. 

Here are the admissions profiles for the class of 2020

Cornell University, NY

Cornell is an Ivy League giant. It's known for its agriculture, architecture, and liberal arts programs producing great inventions and alum that they can be proud of. The school sets itself apart from other ivy league schools by focussing on becoming the best undergraduate research institution in the world. Professors are industry leaders, and classes are rigorous even for a genius. Ithaca is a beautiful college town that supports the needs of the school quite well. Along with this, the school boasts the Cornell Plantation, a 3,000 acre reserve of woodlands, apt for ecology research as well as hiking and picnics. Food and residential life is phenomenal. There are many dining options and the food is rated amongst the best in the country. Residential halls are community building with many taking part in the over 100 intramural teams that play each year. Cornell is a Division 1 school with strong teams in lacrosse, field hockey, and wrestling. If you want the best undergraduate research experience in the world, Cornell is the school for you! 

Here is the admissions profile for the Class of 2020

Vanderbilt University, Nashville TN

Vanderbilt is a mid size private institute in the heart of the American South. "Vandy" embodies the southern hospitality situated in a 330 acre campus in the center of Nashville, the land of country music. The university has amazing academic programs in Music & Arts, Education, Social Sciences, and Medicine. The academic rigor is intense, residential life is great, and the city provides all of the amenities needed by a student. This makes Vandy higly selective and expensive though most students think its worth the price tag. 

Here is the link to the enrollment statistics for the class of 2016

University of Texas- Austin, TX

Started as a small college in the middle of a tiny town, UT Austin is now one of the largest institutions in a quirky, artistic, and liberal in the conservative South. The school is research oriented, professors are busy, and classes are big but students believe that they are getting a great education. Political and religious opinions really don't trickle down into the academic atmosphere even though historically those have been issues. Social life is booming with the university situated in Austin- a hipster town that is slowly becoming amazingly popular. Austin has coffee shops, vintage book stores, tattoo parlors, amazing barbecue, and a buzzing nightlife. Being in Texas, sports is huge with an athletic department budget of over $100 million. According to the Fiske's Guide to Colleges "The University of Texas may seem overwhelming because of its imposing size,but students say the school spirit and sense of community found here make it feel smaller. UT prides itself in having one of the most reasonably priced tuitions in the country." 

Here is a link to UTs Freshman Profile


Case Western Reserve University, OH


The Midwest is not only known for corn fields and manufacturing plants, some of the best college towns are here too and Case is definitely one of them. Situated on the eastern side of Cleveland, Ohio the university boasts excellent engineering, biology, and management programs along with access to over 40 different hospitals, research institutions, and museums. The town while small is beautiful and well connected. An MTA pass allows a student to unlimited buses for $25 a month though most students find most things to be at walking distance from them. The Cleveland Museum of Art is one the largest museums in the country with one of the most extensive collection of South and South East Asian artifacts. While there is a booming greek life scene, it does not run the social atmosphere at college. Weekdays usually have lots of on-campus events ranging from barbecues to multicultural performances and dinners, intramural events, and concerts with cheap wings and beer. All in all, the school is big with strong science and management programs-- definitely built for someone who wants a city feel but still doesn't want to be overwhelmed by it as well. 

Here are some of the factoids from the information session I attended this morning:

- roughly 185 international student received financial aid.  

- Roughly 25000 applied, 8500 were admitted and 1300 enrolled.  


CMU offers pre-professional training to driven students.


Carnegie Mellon University is a private institution that was founded in 1900. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,454, with a campus size of 149 acres in the middle of Pittsburgh. The university is best known for its amazing computer science and engineering programs. Even with over 6,000 students, most classes are small with about 30 students on average. Programs are rigorous not only in the sciences but also in the liberal arts. 

All the colleges, however, share the university’s commitment to what it calls a “liberal-professional” education, which shows the relevance of the liberal arts while stressing courses that develop technical skills and good job prospects. Humanities and social science types can major in applied history, professional writing, or information systems, for example, instead of traditional disciplinary concentrations. The Science and Humanities Scholars program allows talented undergrads to develop a course of study based on their interests in the humanities, natural sciences, math, or social sciences. In addition, the Fifth-Year Scholars program provides full tuition for outstanding students who want to remain at Carnegie Mellon for an additional year to pursue more studies that interest them.

Academic rigor makes social life difficult must most students love being here. The city provides a safe haven to get out when students aren't studying or doing group projects. Get ready to study hard and then some more! 

Here is the class profile for the class of 2021


Georgetown University

Situated in a historic hilltop residential neighborhood of Washington DC, Georgetown university is surrounded by cobblestone sidewalks, colonial houses and hundreds of restaurants and shops. Some of the residential blocks have amazing views of DC and the Potomac river.

Although Georgetown has more graduate students than undergraduates (11,000 versus 7,000) the faculty works very closely with the undergraduate students. When applying, undergrads can select the Georgetown College (for majors in the humanities and sciences) or the School of Foreign Service (for a rigorous education in one of 7 majors related to International Politics) or the School of Business (for a choice of 8 different majors from Finance to Marketing).

Georgetown is one of the most selective universities in the US and they have their own application form (they are not on the common app). While they do recommend 3 SAT subject tests they do make allowances for strong international candidates.

American University

Located in a residential neighborhood of Washington DC, AU is a 15 minute Metro ride away from the city center. A free campus shuttle runs every 10 minutes from the campus to the metro station, which is about a mile away.

A medium size university with 7000 undergraduates and 4000 graduate students, AU has a College of Arts and Sciences as well as separate Schools for Business, Communication and International Service. When applying you can come in undecided into the College of Arts and Sciences if you don’t know which of these Schools is right for you.  After trying different courses in your first two years you can shift schools if you declare a major outside the Arts and Sciences.

AU offers exciting opportunities such as a Center for Innovation which funds student led venture start-ups, support to undergraduates to get their research published and job and internship fairs every semester - where firms and non-profits from all over the world show up to scout for talent. To help fund students who have unpaid internships in the DC area, AU gives students a UPass – which offers unlimited free rides on the DC Metro and Buses.

AU guarantees housing only for the first two years. After that they follow a lottery system so most juniors and seniors live off campus.

Though AU has graduate students they don’t teach the undergrads as is common in large universities. The faculty has weekly office hours to support students and if students still need extra help they can go to the graduate teaching assistants.

AU has several honors and scholars programs, which you need to apply to separately if you are looking for merit scholarships. They also offer IB/AP credits for up to 1 year of courses so you could finish your degree in 3 years if you have strong scores. AU is SAT optional but they look for very good school marks, strong resumes and students who can show they are active learners, involved community members and engaged contributors. So if this fits your profile and you are looking for a city college with a campus feeling, AU is a great fit for you.

George Washington University

Sitting in the heart of the capital city of the United States the academic buildings, resident halls and other facilities are all a maximum of 15 minutes walking distance from each other.

GWU is a medium size university with more than 11,000 undergraduates. What stands out at GWU is that they are SAT/ACT optional – even for international students. So whether you are interested in their Engineering School or their Business School or even their extremely selective International Affairs School you do not need to submit standardized test scores to be considered for admission. Besides the above mentioned 3 Schools you also have a choice of the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as an Arts and Design school and the selective Media and Public Affairs school.  GWU is therefore a great choice for those who are, at the time of applying, ready to select a major in journalism or international relations as the university has highly ranked dedicated schools in these areas. It’s also a great choice for those who want to major in the performing arts but are not ready to submit a portfolio at the time of applying – their school of the Arts and Design does not require these for their BA programs in Theatre, Music and Dance. And if you are unsure about selecting these specialized Schools you can select the College of Arts and Sciences as your first choice school and always minor or double major in any of the areas offered in any of the other Schools.

Being in the heart of DC students have plenty of options for internships in government, nonprofit, media, research, the arts and even in engineering as the Virginia Technology Corridor (labeled the next Silicon Valley) is just round the corner.

When applying for admission students are automatically considered for merit based scholarships and the university offers some very generous full tuition scholarships to several international students every year.

Another stand out feature at GWU is their dining system. Instead of eating their meals at a university run dining hall, students get to choose from a 100+ restaurants and cafes on and around their campus for any of their meals. Students also have guaranteed housing for all 4 years with a variety of options from singles, doubles and apartment style living.

So GWU is really a great fit for anyone looking for the excitement and convenience of city life with the academic and residential amenities of a premier university. With 75+ majors it offers everything you might be interested in exploring and eventually specializing in.

University of Richmond

The first thing you notice about University of Richmond is it’s beautiful wooded campus just 15 minutes outside the capital of Virginia state – Richmond city. With only 3000 undergraduates – including 385 international students from 74 countries – living on a 350 acre campus, there is definitely a lot of walking to be done to get to your classes.

What makes URichmond stand out is that it is a small Liberal Arts college but with 3 separate schools for undergraduates - School of Arts and Sciences, Robins School of Business and Jepson School of Leadership Studies. So while you enter the college as a freshman in the School of Arts and Sciences you have the option to explore courses in business and leadership studies too and eventually you can select you major from 100+ majors in any of the 3 schools. Popular majors at Robins School of Business are Business Administration and Economics with concentrations in finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, management, accounting and international business.

The good news for international students looking for financial aid is that while URichmond does consider a family’s financial situation when making admissions decisions they do meet 100 percent of demonstrated need for all admitted students. There are also merit scholarships available to international students through the Richmond Scholars Program and the Presidential Scholarships – if you apply by December 1st.

Another big attraction about URichmond is that every undergraduate student is guaranteed up to $4000 to fund a summer internship or research experience. So whether you want to work/research on campus, off campus or outside the US during the summer you have the opportunity to have it funded by the college.

So University of Richmond is definitely worth considering if you are looking for small classes but with the opportunities of a major university and a location near a big city.

Kenyon College is a classic LAC with a 1000 acre campus in Ohio

Kenyon is known as the college that cares. It has one of the most passionate students in the country. The oldest private college in Ohio, Kenyon’s 1,000-acre campus sits on a hillside overlooking a scenic view of river, woods, and fields in a secluded village of roughly 600 residents. The college’s oldest building, Old Kenyon, dates from 1826 and is said to be the first collegiate Gothic building in America, and the campus is on the National Register of Historic Places. The sleek, modern Kenyon Athletic Center offers 263,000 square feet of fitness and recreational space, including a basketball/volleyball arena, 22-lane swimming pool, 200-meter track, four racquetball courts, a 120-seat theater, and a sushi bar.

Kenyon is devoted to the traditional liberal arts. They don't have new majors coming up anytime soon because they believe in studying breadth of academia before divulging in. This means that unlike Denison, Kenyon doesn't have eye catching majors such as Global Commerce or Data Analytics. Kenyon is known for its English, Biology, and Theatre programs. A unique program is a farming independent study, which places stu- dents on nearby farms for field work each week. Preprofessional content opportunities include 3–2 engineering programs with several universities, and with high acceptance rates to graduate programs in law, business, and medicine. On-campus Summer Science research scholarships provide opportunities for collaborative research for aspiring scientists and doctors. While there is no core curriculum at Kenyon, all students must have proficiency in a second language. Students must also complete requirements in quantitative reasoning. About 20 percent of juniors are invited by their departments to read for honors, and about 15 percent graduate with departmental honors. The culmination of each student’s coursework at Kenyon is the senior exercise, which may take the form of a comprehensive examination, an integrative paper, a research project, a performance, or some combination of these.

The campus is secluded with even the closest grocery store a car ride away. One alum once mentioned that students didn't go to classes one day because a chipotle opened down the hill in Gambier. Students love their campus. The gothic style buildings and an open cafeteria where students sit on long tables is like something out of Harry Potter. Kenyon is very giving too. The school awards merit scholarships averaging $11,007 per annum. Thanks in part to a $10 million gift from Kenyon alumnus Paul Newman, the college also guarantees a loan-free education for 25 selected students with the greatest need who bring the qualities of creativity, community service, and leadership to Kenyon. 

Social life is run my greek life and because of how far it is from a major city, the college does struggle in keeping students engaged on the weekends. All in all, Kenyon is an amazing school to meet smart, like minded people who you know will be successful in the years to come. 

Here is the student profile for the class of 2020

College of Wooster was our next stop on the bus tour

Instead of teaching students what to think, the College of Wooster focuses on teaching students how to do so. From the first courses of the freshman year seminar to the final day when seniors hand in their theses, the college paves each student’s path to independence. The college isn't hard to get into, but to graduate takes some work. Set in rural Ohio this 2000 student private liberal arts school is set upon a hill littered with gothic style buildings. 

The required first-year seminar in critical inquiry, limited to 15 students per section, invites students to engage in issues, questions, or ideas around a variety of topics. Recent examples include The History of the Future, The Psychology and Persuasion of Advertising, and Oil, Terror and Political Islam in West Africa: Should We Be Very Afraid? Students enrolled in the First-Year Living and Learning Project not only take the seminar but live together in specially designated housing. Wooster’s curriculum is built around the required Independent Study, which lets students explore subjects they’re passionate about with one-on-one faculty guidance. Independent Study has become such a part of COW that each year seniors celebrate IS Monday—the day they turn in their projects—with a campus wide parade. The strongest programs at the college are biology, economics, and english. 

Wooster social life is campus-based, thanks in large part to the school’s isolated location. The college has no national Greek organizations, but local “sections” draw 8 percent of men and “clubs” attract 15 percent of women. One major weekend hangout is the Underground, a bar and dance club that hosts well-known bands, as well as the campus’s bowling alley, pool hall, and game room. The school’s Scottish heritage can be seen in its bagpipe band, which naturally performs in kilts, and in its Scottish dancers, who trot on stage during the fall’s Scot Spirit Day. The school play Division III sports with Denison and Kenyon as arch rivals. The Scot Center, a 123,000 square foot student recreation center, opened in early 2012 and features four indoor courts for basketball, volleyball, and tennis; a 200-meter track; a fitness center; and new locker rooms, meeting rooms, and athletic department offices. 

All in all, the college provides an amazing curriculum with a nationally recognized Independent study program. Its a great school for anyone who wants a small school feel and doesn't want a big American social scene. 

Here is a link to Wooster's admissions page.

An interesting institution with three distinct campus locations in suburban Columbus, Otterbein University is attracting students interested in tech, business and equine sciences


Otterbein University is a private institution that was founded in 1847. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,343, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 140 acres.  It's unique Point (Makerspace) Equine Sciences and Business programs stood out the most during my visit. 


Large public school with an amazing support staff for international students, Ohio State University stands out as research powerhouse in the region


Ohio State (OSU) is the biggest college that I have been to this trip. With 35,000 undergraduates and about 60,000 total students, OSU is a mammoth institute. Located in the heart of the state’s capital, offering 19 colleges and more than 10,400 courses in 175 undergraduate majors; with the strongest programs in Business, Premed, and Engineering.  If those numbers aren’t staggering enough, consider the fact that OSU has 39 varsity teams, nearly 50 intramural sports, more than 50 sports clubs, and the third largest campus in the nation. This is the true definition of a big American school where opportunities and resources are endless/ Students take classes very seriously with some of the best professors in the country teaching them. While introductory classes are large with teaching assistants holding tutoring sessions, the classes do get more intimate once you choose a major and take higher level classes. 

Such a large student market has, of course, produced a strip of bars, fast-food joints, convenience stores, bookstores, vegetarian restaurants, and you-name-its along the edge of the campus on High Street, and downtown Columbus is just a few minutes away. “Columbus is a vibrant town,” says a junior. “There are concerts, plays, sporting events, as well as shopping throughout the city.” The fine public transportation system carries students not only throughout this capital city but also around the sprawling campus. In addition to the usual shopping centers, restau- rants, golf courses, and movie theaters, Columbus boasts a symphony orchestra and ballet; a budding broadway tour city, a soccer team with one of the best stadiums in the country; a hockey team; and OSUs very own football and basketball teams which are one of the best in the nation.

All in all, OSU boasts a breadth of academic programs and a vibrant social life. If someone is looking for a school that promises the "American College" experience, look no further. 

Here are some quick facts about the college


A special LAC less than 30 minutes from booming Columbus, Denison University is a special place indeed.


Denison is beautiful college on top of a hill in the quaint little village of Granville, Ohio. Only 25 minutes away from the state's capital, Columbus. The 2,400 student liberal arts school is one of the oldest small colleges in the state. Founded in 1831 by settlers from Massachusetts, this college has the architectural look and feel of the northeast but in the midwest. 


If you even happen to meet Denison's president, Adam Weinberg (something that isn't hard because he always interacting with people outside of his office), he will tell you about two things that he is the most proud of about Denison: 1. It's a dynamic space where students and professors are always changing, 2. The college runs on relationships. In the past three years, the college curriculum has seen constant improvements. The writing intensive seminars now span the first two years of college; the career exploration department has increased its footprint in the employment and internship markets through a $10 million donation; there are new majors: Data Analytics, Global Commerce, and Narrative nonfiction; a new arts building funded by Denison Alum and ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner; and finally a change co-curricular design that tries to incorporate design thinking into everyday teaching. 

The strongest academic programs are in Biology, Communication, Economics, and Psychology. Biology majors have their dedicated building with state of the art equipment, a greenhouse, and not to forget a 300 acre bioreserve for experiments. Some students also take advantage of the 3+2 engineering program with Columbia university or the 3+4 dental program with Case Western Reserve. Denison is also one of the only small schools to provide the Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics (PPE) program which runs like a triple major. This is also one of the only small schools that offer a BFA (Bachelors in Fine Arts) Research is big with a majority of students spending 10 weeks during the summer to research on campus through a extensive university grant or at partnering institutions.  

Social life is restricted to campus if you don't have a car on campus. However frequent shuttles can take you to get groceries in the nearby towns. The college is residential all four years which means that you have intimate conversations with students right from the start. Greek life is popular with almost 35% of the student body being a part of it. However, even with their strong presence, they don't run the social life. Students are smart, competitive, and open to have new experiences. 

With great administrative leadership, smart students, high quality academics, and with generous financial aid opportunities, Denison aims to offer an amazing four years. 

Here are some facts about Denison.

Sustainablity and leadership are mantras Chatham University students learn in this unique school with 3 very different campus locations in and around Pittsburgh


Chatham University, located in Pittsburgh, was once a women’s college, but is now fully coeducational. Both male and female students are eligible for admission into the school’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Some degree programs are offered through the university’s Falk School of Sustainability and its College for Continuing and Professional Studies, which also offers certificate and noncredit academic programs. The university offers about 40 undergraduate degree programs, and students can also design their own major or minor.

Through the Integrated Degree Program, students can earn both a bachelor's and a master's degree in five years. For their graduate studies, students can pursue degrees in the arts, science, business and health at Chatham, or they can earn a degree through Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College, which partners with Chatham for the program. 

Here are some facts about the class of 2020

Location, location, location. It's hard to beat University of Pittsburgh when it comes to offering a large public university experience in the largest city in W Pennsylvania.


What once was a small private college in a city known for its steel mills, University of Pittsburgh is now a large public institution in one of the best cities Pitt’s extensive research programs are among its finest assets. According to the Fiske's Guide, 'The University of Pittsburgh is one of the top 10 institutions in the nation in terms of the annual research support awarded by the National Institutes of Health, and for good reason. Pitt astronomers have made “out of this world” discoveries in recent years, and its physicians were the first to utilize gene therapy on a person with rheumatoid arthritis.' While the school is big on professional programs, its liberal arts school is strong as well. In fact, it has the best philosophy in country.

The city provides a great social life. Only about 10% of the students are in greek life while others enjoy the city and the adjacent Schenley Park offers ice skating, golfing, a pool, jogging trails, and tennis courts. Ski slopes and mountain trails are not far away, and road trips to Penn State and Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City are popular. If research is something you want to pursue, Pitt is the school for you. 

Here is the class profile for the Class of 2020

Located in a charming small town Washington & Jefferson University, PA offers fantastic support to students looking at taking advantage of the thriving job scene in W Pennsylvania


Washington & Jefferson embodies the work hard, play hard attitude. The 1,400 student liberal arts college in small town Pennsylvania is best know for its preprofessional programs in medicine and law. The 60 acre campus has many impressive buildings one of which being the Swanson Science Center which houses the physics, chemistry, and biochemistry departments. Classes are challenging and competitive with most students ranking in the top quarter of their high school. The school has standard general education requirements like many other liberal arts school however, rare among liberal arts colleges are the 3–4 programs with the Pennsylvania Colleges of Optometry and Podiatry that students have the opportunity to enroll into. More technically minded students can take advantage of the 3–2 engineering programs with Case Western Reserve and Washington University in St. Louis. 

Diversity is something W&J is working on. Currently, only 14.7% of the student population are minorities; only 22% of the students come from out of state; and just 5% of the population is international. However enticing scholarships and financial aid packages are changing that trend. In 2016, the average financial aid package for incoming first year was $35,900 per year. Social life takes place on campus for the majority where greek life is highly prominent. A nonalcoholic pub called George & Tom’s has become quite a popular diversion with comedy, musical, and novelty/variety acts.  

With strong academic programs, state of the art facilities, and ever increasing impetus on diversity; W&J is becoming a big name in the liberal arts circuit. 

The class profile for the enrollment in 2016-17 can be found here

Allegheny College, PA produces driven kids who are doing pathbreaking research.


Allegheny College is an Ohio-eqsue liberal arts school with a New England-esque architecture in Pennsylvania. The 79 acre college is known for its impressive science programs with a 283-acre research reserve, and an 80-acre protected forest that are extensively used for science based research. The school’s strongest programs are in environmental studies, the sciences, and international studies. A major in biochemistry, a chemistry curriculum, and a track for students interested in entrepreneurial and managerial economics. Co-op programs include a 3–2, 3–3, 3–4 option leading to degrees in engineering, public policy and management, nursing, and allied health. The college has a fascinating experiential learning program where students spend 2-3 weeks in a country abroad learning along with an instructor. In 2017, the courses offered were in countries such as Germany, Cuba, Greece, and Italy. 

Meadeville, the town in which the college sits in is welcoming and supports the institute. Social life is traditional and run by greek life. Nearby state parks, Conneaut Lake and Lake Erie offer waterskiing and boating in warm weather and cross-country skiing in the winter. Twenty-five percent of Allegheny students participate in varsity athletics, while fiffty percent of students participate in club, recreational, and intramural sports, with basketball, soccer, and volleyball drawing the most interest. Allegheny offers a great small school education with a fun social life that extends outside of the dorm rooms. It's worth the money! 

On the bus tour in July 2017