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Environmental Studies/Policy - UVM v WWU v Ursinus

eandesmomeandesmom Registered User Posts: 2,636 Senior Member
My son has narrowed his schools down to University of Vermont, Western Washington University and Ursinus with plans to study Environmental Studies/Policy/Science with some sustainable energy, social justice, sustainability studies and possibly philosophy thrown in.

He is an ADHD B+/A- student who will definitely do best in a smaller environment but is not exactly sure how small is too small. I would love any feedback on the programs specifically and/or benefit of the LAC versus mid sized university for this particular students needs.

UVM
Definitely the strongest program, about 650 undergrad and 100 grad students with 80 total faculty/research/admin staff for the program. He is admitted to the Rubenstein School of Environment and would start in major related small classes immediately. Nice flexibility within the program for related majors/concentrations and non program minors, by far the best on paper curriculum wise. Appears to be the strongest for internships and research as well with a well established, run and publicized program. That said, if he changed out of the program entirely, none of us see the value for a different major.

Pro: Program. Appears to have better resources for ADHD if needed (not currently receiving accommodations). 2.8 freshman year to keep merit, 3.0 after that.
Con: Cost, most difficult to get to

Ursinus
Significantly smaller program and obviously a very different approach as it's an LAC. We all think he'd thrive at a LAC and the CTCL schools have resonated well. The EC opportunities here seem outstanding, which while not a primary deciding factor, he is a music and theater kid and the programs seemed an excellent fit on many levels with a ton of opportunity. We were very impressed by the internship and research opportunities presented despite the size of the school, the tremendous commitment to sustainability that was pervasive on campus, and the faculty itself, despite its small size. I have less issue with a major change here as this is choosing an educational approach as much as the program but it is still a concern.

Pro: LAC. Also seems to have signficant resources for ADHD if needed. Only needs a 2.0 to keep merit award.
Con: Cost, significantly lower state minimum wage if he gets a part time job

WWU
Would apply to the Huxley School of the Environment after meeting gen ed core req's and meeting min GPA, typically end of freshman year or sometime sophomore. Similar in student size (125 graduates per year approx) but half the staff of UVM (about 40 total). Gen ed core req's are not nearly as appealing as UVM's. Far less flexibility within the major for concentration areas but there is a minor available that might offset some of that. Large gen ed classes freshman year. Less support (very little really) for internships and research opportunities. We know kids struggling to find unpaid internships (required for graduation). Not a graduate school (in general, though there are some envs programs) so the research opportunities are limited at best. We have a program meeting in a couple of weeks that will hopefully with clarity.

Pro: Cost (in state)
Con: Curriculum is not as strong for areas of interest, large classes initially are a concern. Support for ADHD seems limited to non existent. It is also on a Sept-June quarterly schedule which could impact/limit summer job opportunities.

If he does choose to go out of state (UVM or Ursinus), WWU is always a backup plan if things didn't work out, though the credits from UVM are far more likely to transfer cleanly we think.

Costs aside (one is in state, the other 2 are virtually identical costs after merit offers) this is what we are looking at and are trying to weigh pro's and cons and then factor in the cost factor. All are doable though 2 would require he take the federal student loans which ultimately we will allow him to do, if we feel the program and environment are worth it. That is really what we are trying to determine. We do feel the pricier options are likely better fits for a variety of reasons, the question is whether they are worth the price difference (versus the question being to do loans or not if that makes sense). We would ideally be able to help him out with payments (or pay off) but can't commit to that. We expect him to contribute summer earnings regardless of the final selection.

I am not looking for a cost or loan debate. As I am sure some will go there regardless I will just state upfront that grad school is not in the plan and the student has demonstrated the ability to juggle work and school and to save/make payments already so I'm not terribly worried about his ability to manage up to the federal max (though would likely be less) if he had to.

Of course, he may decide he doesn't want to go that far away at all if it is moot but I'd love any program specific feedback if folks have it. Sorry to ramble so much!

Replies to: Environmental Studies/Policy - UVM v WWU v Ursinus

  • CoyoteMomCoyoteMom Registered User Posts: 114 Junior Member
    @eandesmom - I'm jumping in only to commiserate - I am expecting to post a similar thread in another week or two (still waiting on several decisions for my S17).

    I think it may be challenging to find people with experience with these 3 schools. Maybe post about 1 school at a time?

    I have one second-hand data point - a fellow Mom at my son's high school - she has 2 older sons - one went to UVA and the other to UVM for Environmental (not sure which particular major). Her Enviro son loved, loved his program, is very "crunchy" for Northern Virginia (he's the son who has long hair and an earring, and comes across as hipster, especially compared to his more buttoned up UVA brother!). Anyway, this young man could have gotten into any of the big 3 VA universities for much less $$, but chose UVM for its Enviro program.

    Hope others with experience at even just one of the schools can also chime in!
  • eandesmomeandesmom Registered User Posts: 2,636 Senior Member
    Lol @CoyoteMom CC isn't a hotbed for Enviro majors in general so I may get little response but at the mid tier program level (or lower I guess depending on your view) folks looking at those programs may have feedback on 2 out of the 3.

    You are absolutely right though, it's an apples and oranges question. Love the VA story, S isn't crunchy (by Seattle standards) but is most certainly artsy hipster. His "tribe" is definitely at all 3 schools so that's good and not a concern, it's really down to program and environment.

    Honestly I think my only rush is that if it's UVM he needs to register for orientation and buy flights before prices get worse. I do hate that they have a June orientation.

  • TTGTTG Registered User Posts: 141 Junior Member
    I think being in nature is great for people with ADD/ADHD (and everyone) and have looked at UVM with a student with ADD. Great environmental program and wonderful outdoors opportunities there, at least when it's not too cold. It seems like WWU has great outdoors opportunities as well, though I"m not at all as familiar with the school.

    You'll have to figure out how the financial part of the equation works for your family, but I feel like UVM is a terrific school for getting outside, which is something that would benefit everyone. Good luck to your son!
  • ECmotherx2ECmotherx2 Registered User Posts: 1,521 Senior Member
    Ursinus seems to be the best fit out of the option. I wouldn't worry or even encourage a part time job for the first year. If necessary, he may be eligible for on campus work study, but again, for a student with ADD, I would not want him working the first year during school. He has some great choices!
  • eandesmomeandesmom Registered User Posts: 2,636 Senior Member
    edited March 21
    @TTG I believe UVM has more field work, and it definitely does it earlier, starting out freshman year, in the first semester. From an EC standpoint, both WWU and UVM have wonderful access to outdoor activity, as does Ursinus. Being outside is good for everyone, but for someone with ADHD, moving is good and that's really where field work will be good.

    @ECmotherx2 he is not eligible for work study. He has worked for the past year, 2 jobs at times, with a very heavy EC load and decent rigor on the classwork and has managed it. In general he does better, busier. That said, it is my preference he not work, at least the first semester (or quarter in the case of WWU) and I'd personally prefer an on campus job when he does work (he will want to and likely do it anyway regardless of what I think lol) as they will be much more flexible around classwork than off campus I think. At least for the first 1-2 years wherever he ends up. There is a big program difference and he's going to have to evaluate what makes the most sense. Really, huge pro's to all and some cons to all as well.

    UVM: 650 kids in the program, about 80 combined faculty, research staff and admin

    WWU: Approx 125 per year graduate from the program but enter at varying points in their college years, so really about 375 in the program if you assume they start sophomore year.. About 45 combined faculty, research staff and admin.

    Ursinus. About 60 kids in the program (declare sophomore year) and 4 dedicated faculty +10 associated faculty staff.

  • citymama9citymama9 Registered User Posts: 1,176 Senior Member
    edited March 22
    Based on what you wrote, Ursinus sounds like the best school for him for a variety of reasons. Reread your origina post and you will see what I see. It was pretty evident. Good luck!
  • eandesmomeandesmom Registered User Posts: 2,636 Senior Member
    edited March 22
    I will say, and didn't in my original summary, that we were equally impressed by the sustainability aspect of not only UVM but the entire town of Burlington. The town itself took it to a new level, and we are from Seattle so that's saying something lol. Bellingham (WWU) is quite good in this regard, as is the campus as well. I don't think Ursinus is any better in this regard, it was just suprisingly strong to us as we weren't expecting that. and had taken it as a given at the other two.

    UVM from a faculty perspective was equally impressive, truly fabulous meeting with a professor.

    At the moment S is feeling Ursinus is too small ("like HS" were his word tonight, and to be fair everyone did know everybody but in a super nice way). He is scared about larger 1st year classes at WWU and internship challenges. We are getting some insight from a current WWU junior this week.

    He would have some larger gen ed classes at UVM I am sure that first and second year but it would be balanced with the small program classes that start on day 1.

    We did not have the opportunity to explore the theater and music options directly at UVM but are familiar with his options at WWU and they are very very good. I think the theater facilities at Ursinus were just so impressive and such a surprise that it really was enticing. As was/is so many things about the school.

    It's funny though. Net cost for both UVM and Ursinus is about equal.

    UVM gave him the bottom of their top award which frankly is surprising for his stats.

    Ursinus gave him lower than any published award. Which is also not surprising given his stats but the range between what they gave him and what the first published level is is pretty substantial and is also considerably less than their net price calculator predicted, which bugs me.

    In the financial regard, UVM seems to value him more, even though the Ursinus offer is closer to 48% tuition versus 36% at UVM. Top award at UVM is 44% versus 66% at Ursinus. So proportionally, that bugs me a bit. Tuition at Ursinus is quite a bit more hence both being equal at the end (and gee magically hitting our EFC lol).

    So today UVM leads in his mind, primarily based on program reasons, but all have had their time to go up and down and I don't think we are quite there yet, it could turn on a dime tomorrow.
  • citymama9citymama9 Registered User Posts: 1,176 Senior Member
    edited March 23
    Which school would be best for someone with ADHD in terms of supporting him to be the best student he can be and providing the kind of environment he needs to thrive? Which campus visit made him feel like he found "his place"? Right after each visit he had an immediate reaction before he overthought everything. What were those reactions? Which school would he feel bad about informing that he won't be attending? These are some questions to think about that may help with his decision. Best of luck!
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