|By Sjparent (Sjparent) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 11:04 am: Edit|
My D is deciding between Swarthmore which is rated as a top LAC, UCLA and USC(last two with scholarship) . What makes a college an LAC? Swarthmore boasts as one the top feeder schools for med-schools. Can someone explains the prod an cons of picking an LAC?
|By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 01:06 pm: Edit|
You might want to post this question on the parent's forum. There is a lot of relevant discussion and interest on this topic. A number of us are LAC alums and a number of our kids are accepted at LACs -- my D will be a freshman at Swarthmore next year.
A liberal arts college is an undergraduate school with no (or very limited) graduate degree offerings. The entire purpose of the school is undergraduate teaching.
A university contains an undergraduate program plus graduate and professional degrees (PhD, MD, Law, etc.). Most universities are "research institutions", meaning that they contract with government agencies and corporations to do research for hire. The graduate degree students in the school a) study for their degree, b) do the hired research, c) help teach undergraduates as Teaching Assistants (TAs).
The goal of any college professor is to get tenure - meaing job security with a full-time permanent job at the school. Thus, it is important to understand the criteria by which "tenure" decisions are made. As a general rule, the quality of teaching undergraduates will be the most important part of that criteria at an LAC. At a university, the undergraduate teaching skill usually falls well behind publishing in your field and attracting research dollars in the tenure decisions. Obviously, professors will do the things that will get them tenure and not focus on the things that will not help them get tenure. Ideally, if you are an undergraduate, you would like your professors to be focused on teaching YOU.
The advantages of LAC education is the nearly complete focus on undergrads. Classes are taught by the professors, professors grade the papers, professors interact with students. In many (but not all cases), Universities offer less opportunity for personal interaction among undergrads and professors. The professor might, for example, give the lectures in an undergrad class, but the grad student TAs will lead the smaller discussion groups and grade the papers.
The advantage of a university is that there is typically much more variety (in classes, friends, activities, social scenes) due to the larger size and increase student population. Think of the comparison between living in a small town where you know everyone and living in a large city, where anything and everything is available, but it's up to you to find your own "community".
An LAC typically has 1500 to 2500 undergrads. A university typically has 4000 to 20,000 undergrads. Some of the smaller universities (4000 to 5000 undergrads) attempt to provide a "middle ground", to varying degrees of success. Large universities pay lip service to an intimate undergrad learning environment, but it is not really possible to provide that on such a large scale.
The reason that top LACs do extraordinarily well in grad school and professional school placements is that the academic community understands how good the undergrad education at these schools can be.
The big "con" of an LAC is the small size and (often) remote locations. Too long in the ivory tower seeing the same people, eating in the same place will inevitably lead to times during four years where the walls start to close in.
Swarthmore is attractive because it has its own train station on campus for a 15 minute ride into downtown Philadelphia. An afternoon at an ethnic festival, art museum, or shopping on South Street can provide a breath of the "real world" this is just the ticket when claustrophia starts to set it.
|By Sjparent (Sjparent) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 03:04 pm: Edit|
Thanks for that very detailed response to my posting. I now feel my D will definitely find Swarthmore campus more closer to home( though we live in the west coast) going from a smaller private high school atmosphere. Congratulations to your D for getting into Swarthmore. It is a great school and more than anything we both liked everyone we met there during campus visits(one or an overnight Discovery program and another time during a campus visit last summer).Was Swarthmore your D's first choice?
|By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 03:10 pm: Edit|
Yes. She applied early decision and withdrew or never mailed her other applications. She had also visited twice, once the summer before her junior year and again, for an overnight, fall of her senior year.
|By Sjparent (Sjparent) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 03:22 pm: Edit|
Hm..May be my D will end up sahring a dorm room with her:-); may be they have even met each other if they were in the same overnight event. MY D went last October
|By Bukakkekid (Bukakkekid) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 03:23 pm: Edit|
I know this kid who went to an LAC over a UC and BOOM...28 years later...dead.
|By Dumbgirl (Dumbgirl) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 09:20 pm: Edit|
HEY AP GUY!
you are still the xiggi of pr. i love you.
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