The Mid-Hudson Valley of New York is bursting with great options for college-bound students.  During November 2009, admissions1 toured SUNY New Paltz, Marist, Bard, and Vassar Colleges.  We were impressed by the academic rigor, professional preparation, the many on- and off-campus experiential opportunities, and the extraordinary beauty of the region.  These schools confirm our belief in the exceptional and rich educational experiences available in New York State.  Click on the links below for our impressions of these schools.

Marist College

Located adjacent to the majestic Hudson River, Marist offers 4,300 undergraduate students a varied curriculum with an array of experiential opportunities outside the classroom.  While many of Marist’s programs are professionally focused, all students will take at least 60 credits in the liberal arts.

Marist is composed of six undergraduate schools – the School of Communication and the Arts, the School of Computer Science and Mathematics, the School of Liberal Arts, the School of Management, the School of Science, and the School of Social and Behavioral Science.  Students in all programs are encouraged to study abroad and seek internships in their chosen field.  These experiential opportunities assist in the development of students’ academic interests and help students decide on the direction of their professional career.

Among the many interesting programs that Marist students have access is the Hansard Scholars Programme in London, England.  Student scholars live in London and study at the London School of Economics while interning at the British Parliament or another politically-based organization.  Marist students can also spend from one to all of their semesters at the college’s campus in Florence, Italy.  The college has additional study abroad programs on five continents around the world.

Professionally speaking, many of the departments and majors require students to experience a semester-long internship.  Marist students have interned at prominent companies such as: Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, IBM and MTV.  The variety of companies represent the breadth of major/department offerings — from fashion design and merchandising to computer gaming.

Marist prides itself on cutting-edge technology and requires all technology students to complete a paid internship during their undergraduate years. Marist has been named one of the top 25 most ‘connected’ schools—not only is Marist the only New York school on that list, but also the only college — all the rest are research universities.  Marist’s firm commitment to technology requires the school to upgrade their computer hardware every three years.  Additionally, the newly renovated James A. Cannavino Library is a digital library for the twenty-first century. The library is the focal point of the Marist Campus with unbelievable views of the Hudson River and an on site coffee shop to keep students fueled while they study.

Regardless of whether a student is interested in the liberal arts, business, communications and arts, science or social work they will enjoy a small student to faculty ratio of 15:1.  All courses are taught by faculty members—not teaching assistants. The depth and breadth of curriculum allows students the chance to “test the waters” before choosing a major and one pre-professional program boasts a 100% law school placement over the past two years. The college is also proud that their students pursuing a teaching certificate have a 99% pass rate on the certification exams.

The school is committed to attracting excellent students by way of academic merit based scholarships. The school publishes their guidelines for academic scholarships based on GPA and standardized test scores.  If science is your interest, Marist offers twelve National Science Foundation full-ride scholarships.  Click here to check out their web site for a complete listing of all academic merit money available to students.

The school is also home to 23 Division I athletic teams and Sports Illustrated magazine has listed Marist among the top 200 collegiate athletic programs. Home to 80 clubs and organizations, students have ample opportunities to get involved in the academic, co-curricular, professional, and social pursuits of their choice.

Marist College seems to be an institution where students can “take off” from the minute they get to campus!

SUNY New Paltz

Comprehensive, Selective, and Diverse– this is the way the  Admissions Officer at SUNY New Paltz described the cornerstone of a SUNY New Paltz education.  It also describes the opportunities for students and the type of students that this Admissions Office seeks.

The manageable campus, located steps away from the funky town of New Paltz, is home to the College of Liberal Arts, the School of Business, the School of Science and Engineering, the School of Education, and the School of Fine and Performing Arts.

As a Diverse community, New Paltz is committed to providing a quality education to students from all social and economic backgrounds. The campus and student body reflect diversity in both the architecture and the style of dress around campus. Creativity abounds at New Paltz with student’s art projects visible throughout the campus tour.   The university believes in providing students with a comprehensive education offering close to 100 programs of study. All students will have a firm grounding in the liberal arts, a necessity for a lifetime of learning as well a requirement of all SUNY schools. New Paltz offers students ample opportunity to discover and fine tune their individual talents!

New Paltz is a highly selective institution with 15,000 undergraduate applications for a freshman class of 1100. As part of the SUNY system, New Paltz offers a “great buy” for New York students and their families with the total cost of attendance just under $16,000. As with most schools, there is the typical freshman housing, but certainly not the only option for freshman. Brand new dorms are available for freshman, offering wireless capabilities, open community space and kitchens.  New Paltz is committed to improving its campus through capital improvements currently under construction.

New Paltz’s eclectic personality is reflected in the diverse mix of students and buildings which make up this campus community. This is certainly a place that embraces freedom of speech and allows students a comfortable and supportive environment to explore their interests, talents, and future. For students seeking an affordable, mid-size university in a diverse setting, a visit to New Paltz is a must see!!

Bard College

Bard College, in Annandale- on- Hudson, is a rural campus located less than two hours south of Albany. This beautiful part of the state is home to a 500 acre liberal arts college offering a chance for students to exercise their intellectual muscles. The campus is a melding of old and new – a recently completed state of the art science and math center and a 19th century church sharing the grounds. Initially the campus felt more like a cozy and cloistered summer camp or retreat with walking trails through the woods leading from one area of campus to another than a college campus.  Do not let this campy atmosphere fool you—the students are motivated intellectuals who enjoy learning in and out of the classroom.

Graduating from Bard requires a student to complete four distinct requirements. First year students must take a workshop in Language and Thinking. Students in this course are required to read extensively in many different genres and work on a multitude of writing assignments. They must also enroll in the First Year Seminar, introducing students to intellectual, philosophical and cultural traditions from around the world. Toward the end of sophomore year students are required to complete Bard’s Moderation process (a structured major declaration process).  This includes writing a retrospective paper on the first two academic years at Bard and a prospective paper discussing academic goals for the last two years and how the desired major will meet those goals. Students present their papers before a three-member academic moderation panel who will decide if the student is ready to take on the challenges of the chosen major. Students will also be required to produce a Senior Project which is a reflection on their four year experience and the capstone of a students’ academic life at Bard.  Every senior has their project bound and a copy is catalogued for posterity in the campus library.  The sheer number of projects and variety of topics was an impressive stop on the campus tour.

Bard’s undergraduate population of approximately 1400 students have an opportunity to select from more than 40 majors and concentrations in four divisions: Arts; Language and Literature; Science and Mathematics, and Computing; and Social Studies. Bard College is also the home to the Bard College Conservatory of Music. The students at Bard College are intellectually curious while using what they have learned and applying it to “hands-on-learning”.

When we visited campus, our tour guide, who was originally from Korea but came to the mid-Hudson Valley after spending most of her life living in India, shared a lot of information about her experience on campus.  An Asian studies major, she offered that her close relationships with her professors not only enhanced her campus learning experience, but also added greatly to her off-campus experiential learning.  Her Chinese language professor helped her to apply for and receive a grant to live and research in Tibet during the summer before her senior year. Bard’s setting allows a student to immerse themselves full in their area of academic interest while opening their minds to new areas of thought. This rural campus setting offers a sense of peace and solitude that is sometimes missing from larger urban campuses.

While the small size of the student population and program requirements might not be for every student, Bard offers exciting and engaging opportunities for self-motivated students to study and learn.

Vassar College

Vassar College, located in three miles from the city center of Poughkeepsie, NY, is home to 2400 undergraduates. This former all women’s college (the school opened its doors for men in 1969), is housed on a 1000 acre campus with the vast majority of the buildings retaining their gothic collegiate facades.  Do not be fooled by all the old brick and stone – all the dorms are getting an interior face lift. The library is possibly the most stunning building on campus –and possibly of college libraries we have seen thus far. Although it is one of the oldest buildings on campus it is certainly current in terms of technology.

At Vassar not only do most students live on-campus all four years, but also they often live in the same dorm during all their years at school.  Additionally, seventy percent of professors live in Vassar housing, creating a true experience in residential living. Every dorm is required to host a party during the year which is open to all students campus giving the campus an community feeling.  Coupled with the fact that there is no Greek life on campus, Vassar has a cohesive and inclusive campus life.

Although Vassar is a highly selective liberal arts college it has a very accessible feel with students participating in one of the 25 varsity teams or over 100+ student-run groups. Campus life also includes over 1600 plays, parties, performances, athletic events, concerts, symposia, art openings and other events to keep students busy while not in class or studying! Our tour guide who was majoring in film, spends her free time writing and acting for a campus-based comedy improvisation group.  She was an informative and entertaining guide to the campus.

Many Vassar students are interested in Study Away programs either outside of the United States or as participants in the Twelve College Exchange Program. The participants are: Amherst; Bowdoin, Connecticut College, Dartmouth, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, Trinity, Vassar, Wellesley, Wesleyan, and Wheaton. Students may also apply to Connecticut College’s National Theater Institute, the Dual Degree Program at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, and The Maritime Studies Program at Williams College & Mystic Seaport. The Dual Degree Program at Dartmouth University is a five year program where a Vassar student spends his or her entire junior year at the Thayer School of Engineering. The student returns to Vassar for the senior year and graduates.  The student then continues for a fifth year at Thayer and earns both a Bachelor of Arts degree at Vassar and a Bachelor of Engineering at Dartmouth in five years.  If this seems like something a prospective student may be interested in pursuing they should consult the Dartmouth-Thayer Dual Degree web site for the program as well as areas of specialization within the engineering field.

Vassar seems to be a place of enormous opportunity and a welcoming community.