Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Rhode Island
Being specific is difficult. Tulane is a complex organization with many tens of thousands of people (faculty, staff, administration and of course students) involved. And then add NOLA on top of that!
I could trot out the old "You are the one going to school, not them", and that does work for some people. For others, because the parents are paying for everything (less merit money which you earned) they feel they have a greater say than just normal parental opinion. Some parents even feel they can choose a child's major, which social activities they engage in, etc. Only you know where your parents fall on this scale.
There are many of us that are Tulane parents (including jym, above) whose children had choices of higher ranked schools, most of which are more academically recognizable to the general public. Even Ivy League schools in many cases. So why did our children pick Tulane? For exactly the reasons you state, in most cases, plus the overall vibe they felt when visiting the school. You read often on here how visitors notice how pumped up the current students are to be at Tulane, how they see more students wearing Tulane clothing than they see other kids wearing their school's stuff when they visit other campuses. How extremely helpful and friendly random students are while they (the visitors) are just walking around.
I guess I would wonder how they "know" the academics are "mediocre". Compared to who? Tulane professors are exceedingly qualified, and teach a far higher percentage of all classes offered than schools like Harvard, Michigan, etc. I know students at Harvard and UCLA that made to the second semester sophomore year in the former's case and junior (!) year in the latter's case before taking a class taught by a tenure track or adjunct professor. While I won't claim that extreme is normal, it is illustrative. That will never happen at Tulane, not even close. Only a handful of the more basic courses are taught by TA's, and even then when there was one class a couple years ago where the TA was not doing a good job, they pulled her from the course and replaced her with a prof. My point being that Tulane is very focused on undergrads and responds to their needs at a high level. Also, I would point out, my D will end up with a double major for sure, quite possibly a triple major, and would quadruple major if there were any way at all to pull it off (I don't think there is). The last one she would like to have as another major is something she never would have dreamed of before going to Tulane, but the prof really turned her on to what most would consider a fairly arcane subject and showed her how she could apply it to her other, more "dominant" majors. She also has had close relationships with profs from her China Studies department, the history department, the English department, and one from the sciences, as well as with one of her academic advisors who is helping guide her in her Honors Thesis prep work while she studies abroad. It is very satisfying to see.
I guess I would also point out that your classmates are pretty smart too. Tulane's average SAT/ACT scores place it around 28th in the country, and the percent that graduate in the top 10% of their high school class is quite high also.
If your parents are hung up on the USNWR rankings, Tulane's lower than expected ranking is almost entirely due to lingering effects from Hurricane Katrina 6 years ago. A huge percentage of the ranking formula is based on 6 year graduation rates (and not just for that one year but for an average of the previous 3-4 years, I think it was), and of course Tulane did lose a number of students from all 4 classes, although remarkably about 90% of the freshmen returned. Still, it really hurt the stats and USNWR refused to make any adjustments for Tulane, which I think is shameful on their part but then I think rankings are shameful anyway. But to stay on point, Tulane also refused to fudge the numbers, and so last year they in fact couldn't even report a meaningful 6 year graduation rate because it made no sense, given that the school had to close for a semester. However, let me point out that for the last few years Tulane has had around a 92% freshman retention rate and is striving for 95%+. That is very strong. Not as good as the Ivies and similar schools, but then Tulane also has more students from 500+ miles away than any other school in the country, so they have a greater chance of having students decide they just want to be a little closer to home. This is less of a problem with Northeast schools, as you can imagine.
Finally, as far as the party school image, they are totally kidding themselves if they think Tulane is any different than any other school. Just because it is in New Orleans does not mean more partying. In fact, many say that drinking and drugs are more of a problem at rural schools because there is less to do otherwise. That might or might not be true, but what is absolutely true is that there is tons of interesting stuff to do outside of drinking because it is in New Orleans. So don't let them fall for that trap.
Well, I went on longer than I planned, but I hope that helps. Certainly if you or your parents have questions, I am happy to get into more detail regarding my D's experience and what I know from others. We can do it here or you/they can PM me if you don't think it will be of interest to everyone but is more specific to you.
Last edited by fallenchemist; 02-03-2012 at 09:56 AM.