We thought we knew Syracuse University before our visit.  After all, we were aware that many of the Orangemen’s (and women’s) athletic teams are nationally ranked Division I programs, the Carrier Dome hosts exciting college basketball and lacrosse games plus concerts and events, and the campus spends much of the academic year under a blanket of snow and ice.  What we found out from our recent visit to SU was that our knowledge only scratched the surface.  Our trip opened our eyes to the diverse academic, social and extracurricular opportunities that abound on campus and within the Syracuse’s city limits. All of the above combine to make Syracuse University a college worth considering for many high school students in the college admissions process.

Syracuse’s numbers tell about its large size and many academic opportunities.  The university has close to 12,000 undergraduates, studying 200 different majors at nine undergraduate schools.  Despite these numbers, the campus is compact giving the school a small college environment.   Students find their academic home to be more manageably sized (e.g., the school of Architecture has only 400 students and the School of Education has just 350.)  Many prospective students will graduate from a high school class that is larger! Even within the College of Arts and Sciences, the largest of the colleges, the major departments offer a cozier academic home. 

Academically the university offers a vast array of majors. The many and varied professional programs allows all students to begin thinking about their career goals and aspirations at the start of their undergraduate career.  Most students will have internships in their chosen field before graduation in addition to taking courses which are hands-on technical preparation for the many careers to which SU students aspire.   The most well known undergraduate professional program on the campus is the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Many of its alumni are well-known broadcasters such as Steve Croft of CBS’ 60 minutes and Bob Costas of NBC and HBO.

Another large part of Syracuse is the financial commitment students and families must make to attend.  The full cost of attendance for one year is nearly $48,000.  The university, however, has also made a financial commitment to the students and (according to the Admissions Officer leading our Information Session) will meet the full financial need of all incoming students for class entering in the Fall 2009.  Families must complete the FAFSA, the CSS Profile, and meet all deadlines for eligibility.

Another interesting option for SU first-year students are the Learning Communities.  These are thirty-three different living communities where students gather on a theme.  Whether it’s ARMY ROTC or Creative Nonfiction, the different living centers assist students to identify and define their interests.  These small knit mini-communities assist students to transition from high school to college. It’s also a great way to spend time with other students and faculty who share similar interests and passions.

Our information session and tour were on a cold, crisp, and beautiful March day. There was no snow in sight on campus!  Our student ambassador was from Puerto Rico.  The Marketing and Advertising major in her junior year answered questions from the group during our Information Session.  She told us that she purposely planned her pre-application visit to SU in February to make sure she had a clear understanding of an upstate New York winter before applying.  Our tour guide was from a small town in Hew Hampshire. She was a senior pursuing a dual degree in the Newhouse School and College of Arts and Sciences.  Her love of SU was infectious. She weaved a fantastic undergraduate experience where she combined her rigorous academic program with her work as a tour guide, the SU program abroad in Madrid, and her part-time off-campus job.  She is also a huge sports fanatic who loves the social aspect the SU’s outstanding Division I athletics provide. We were lucky enough to be on campus the day the Men’s Basketball team played in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  The entire campus community was psyched for the game.

Syracuse’s physical space is both traditional and cutting edge, with many of its stately quad buildings listed on the historic register while also boasting a state of the art communications building and new science center.  After a long and snowy winter most places would look a bit weary but SU campus was well kept and showed a few signs that Spring was just around the corner. 

For lunch we ate at the Varsity a diner/pizza joint catering to students, faculty and staff. The NCAA tournament was in full-swing and the crowd was a sea of orange and blue.  We shared our meal with a graduating senior with a double major in English and History.  Upon gradation he hopes to begin working in the Teach New Orleans program.  His undergraduate experience was also quite positive and his Syracuse friendships seem to be long-lasting as he and his roommates have been together from freshman year. Resident Life determines roommates randomly and both the university and the students we spoke with find it to be a system that works.  In addition to great athletics, the social scene is also vibrant with nationally recognized comedians, bands,  and guest speakers visiting campus.

If your interests are varied and passions still undiscovered, Syracuse University’s breadth and depth in both its curriculum and co-curricular pursuits appear to have what it takes to unlock some of those mysteries. As you journey out to visit colleges in New York don’t pass up the opportunity to visit a place where the excitement and possibilities seem endless.