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Overview of my visit to Syracuse

taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
edited November 2009 in Syracuse University
Part I.
Part II will follow in the next post below due to a 10,000 word limit.

We just had a tour of Syracuse University,where my daughter attended a pre-college program in art. After reading some mixed reviews in the Students Review web site, I wanted to evaluate the school myself. I should note that this review was based mostly on our looking at their visual arts program,but I will attempt to discuss other programs as well.

1. Academics: One of the unique selling propositions of Syracuse is its huge array of majors. Certainly, it has enough different types of majors to equal that of a large state university. You will find programs as diverse as Drama, Visual Arts, Engineering, Business, Linguistics, Judaic Studies even woman studies ( although when I was growing up, woman studies had a completely different connotation), just to name a few. In fact, you can even minor in logic; I didn't even know that such as minor existed! They also have a huge amount of interdisciplinary majors as well.The bottom line is that I do believe that if you are looking for a major, you will probably find it here.

Average SATs are 1210 according to Princeton Review, Math 620 and Verbal 590; however, if you check out the naviance site for my high school, you will see kids getting accepted with lower scores:

Overall, I think you can get into most schools there with about a weighted 3.5 and 1100-1200 SATs.

I should note that they have two very competitive and well known schools. The first is their school of communication, which had a number of top notch professionals graduate from there. (Think of Ted Koppel et al.) Their communication school is considered one of the top programs of its kind in the nation for aspiring broadcast journalists, TV camera work, magazine graphic design, and for journalism in general. Average SATs for that schools are about 1300.

The second top program is their visual arts program. This is a plethora of majors such as fiber, communication design, advertising design, computer art and much more. Again, Syracuse has a lot of choices. This is a very competitive, well- known program as well. Most art school deans that I interviewed, spoke highly of the art program at Syracuse. In fact, if you check out faculty at most top art schools, you will usually find Syracuse University grads among them.

However, it surprised me to know that their most popular majors are in business. Frankly, I didn't feel that their business program was that terrific to warrant the high tuition,which will be discussed.

Although Syracuse was rated in the top 50 national schools that offer PHDs, their "peer review" rating wasn't that high overall. Thus, most university deans and university presidents don't think of Syracuse as an academic powerhouse. If I remember, it had a rating of 3.6 out of a possible 5.0. This is certainly better than many other schools,but still not as good as many others.

I asked a number of kids about their feelings about Syracuse and got mixed reviews, just as the comments in students review web site noted. Many really liked the school and loved the school spirit. However, many also complained about the general academics and liberal arts. There were above average complaints about the number of TAs used in classes, and there were complaints about the large number of teachers with accents that were not understandable especially in the sciences. In addition, there were a lot of kids driving top notch cars, having Gucci bags and expensive looking jewelry. This school has a lot of "well to do" kids. This is not to say that everyone is from rich parents, but the majority of the kids seem to be that way.

The school seemed very well wired for computers with lots of computer labs and with fast Internet in all dorms that we saw.

We did see the art school, which was well equipped with lots of studios and computer labs. It obviously seemed quite good and contained some very good student work. Sadly, some of the artistic majors are moving to new facilities,which will be discussed.

My bottom line: If you are interested in Communications or Visual Arts then Syracuse might be a good choice. Also, if you are interested in having a huge array of choices for majors or looking for some of the more esoteric majors, Syracuse would also be a good choice. However, I felt the remaining programs were just mediocre at best and could be found elsewhere for cheaper tuition. I would give their visual arts and communication programs a B+ to an A- and the rest of their majors a "B" or even B-.

2. Campus: Syracuse is a very self contained campus. It does seem to be sort of a combination of a campus and city school in some ways because it is so open to the city of Syracuse. There is a LOT of construction going on. they do have a very nice endowment of about 770 million, which means that they had the 65th highest endowment in the nation.
I also found much of the campus to be very nice. They had some well designed buildings and nice grassy areas. However, this was offset with all the construction. In addition, the campus was very open and accessible to the public. The downside is that my daughter had a run in with some undesirable types during summer session. I do wonder about the crime rate there. My daughter didn't feel particularly safe. Moreover, if you wonder a few blocks away from the campus, the city does seem a bit seedy and run down.

I should note that Syracuse is a very self contained campus with a number of restaurants having the usual student fare such as pizza and shops, such as T shirt shops. Thus, students don't need to leave campus.
Overall I would rate the campus a C+ .

3. Parking: We had no problem finding parking; however, all parking either had meters, or we had to park in the nearby parking garage for a fee as a guest. Parking is readily available for all those nice BMWs in large student parking lots. I would give parking a sold "B" and maybe even a "B+."

4.Dorms: I only saw one dorm, which is the one that my daughter was in. Overall,it was clean, and well maintained. In fact, all buildings seemed well maintained. The dorm rooms consisted of doubles, separated by partially by a wall. Thus, you at least get semi- private quarters. Be advised that the rooms were small and had no air-conditioning. However, I would imagine that during the year, they don't need air-conditioning. Since I only saw one set of dorms, I won't give them a rating.

5. Food: We ate in the cafeteria. I liked the food. It was varied and tasty. They had soft ice cream dispensers, nice desserts, vegan dishes, nice salad bar and both chicken and hamburgers and the required student fare: pizza. However, I couldn't believe the prices. As a visiting parent during an open house, I was charged $14.95 per person for lunch and $16.95 per person for dinner. It seems that Syracuse uses an outside vendor to handle all of this; however, I felt that this was a tremendous rip off compared to that of other colleges that I have seen. One would think that during an open house, Syracuse would be more accomodating and even offer lunch for free. This was not the case.

6. Tuition:Interestingly, if you go on the Syracuse University web site, you will have a hard time figuring out what the tuition is. There seems to be no "button" for this. The reason is that their full time, undergraduate tuition and fees for 2005-2006 is a whopping $28,285 per year, plus an additional $10,710 for room and board ( for 19 meals per week). Although there are more expensive schools such as ivys and Carnegie Mellon et al., this isn't a cheap school.

I should note that one of the reasons for this high tuition is that Syracuse is big on scholarships for the needy and does give some merit awards. Most schools are liberal,but Syracuse takes the word liberal to a new high. For example, they have just instituted scholarships for one of the following six Haudenosaunee nations: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca or Tuscarora. Moreover, Syracuse is BIG on diversity in both faculty hiring, and student admissions. There are constant program dealing with diversity in their news. Interestingly however, Syracuse was ranked by Princeton Review as being in the bottom 8 schools when it comes to the races actually mixing well. I am not quite sure what this ranking means.
I guess in order to offset the fact that most kids come from wealthy parents, Syracuse tries to bring in many others who aren't as fortunate. Thus, if you are paying mostly full freight, you can have the pleasure of knowing that a fair amount of your tuition is benefiting those less fortunate.
I saw this at work during the summer pre-college program where a whopping 25% of the kids were on some form of need scholarship! I am not kidding about this percentage either.

Syracuse, however, did respond nicely to those unfortunate kids in New Orleans by offering free tuition for a semester and even free room and board for 15 kids. They are currently working with 300 kids from New Orleans, according to the web news at Syracuse. I do give them points for this.

End of Part I
Post edited by taxguy on

Replies to: Overview of my visit to Syracuse

  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    Part II of Overivew of our visit to Syracuse.

    7.Non academic facilities: Syracuse does have wonderful sports teams,which adds a lot of school spirit to the school, unlike that of nearby RIT. In addition, they have very nice gym and work out facilities. They also have a lot of computer labs all around campus. I did notice single ply toilet paper in the bathrooms, which indicated a bit of cheapness. Overall, I would give these facilities a "B" to "B+."

    8.Problems: Since Syracuse has some decent academics and good school spirit and good facilities, why are there so many negative comments about them. I can surmise several reasons:

    a. It is very cold in Syracuse. As one student noted, "imagine how cold you think it is there and subtract 25 degrees." This does make walking to campus, waiting for busses or even going anywhere a hassle. They were, however, given high marks on snow removal.

    b. Some of the guys I spoke with felt that many girls were "spoiled and rich" where only interested in spending "daddies money." Frankly, I didn't see this since our female guide was very polite, nice, and well spoken. However, my wife did comment on her nice clothes and jewelry.

    c. Lack of English speaking profs: There were a number of complaints about the professor's English in some majors. Some students didn't like the quality of the core required courses and of the programs in the school of arts and science. Obviously, this is not universally true as I am sure that most professors do speak English well. However, there must be a sizable enough minority to spark these comments.

    d. Liberalism: As I noted, Syracuse is liberal beyond belief almost to the detriment of the students. For example, If you are majoring in visual communication, advertising design or architecture, you will be taking upper level classes off campus at a warehouse in the center of the city. You will have to wait for bus ( which supposedly comes every 20 minutes), and take about 8 minutes to get to the facility. Syracuse instituted this for political correctness in order to be more "integrated with the city," according to their press release. Also, as I noted, Syracuse is big on giving scholarships especially for need and diversity reasons. Thus, think of them as a form of Robin Hood.

    Overall impressions: This is one of those schools that is hard to define since they have so many varied programs They have very strong visual arts programs and a very well-known School of Communication. I am sure that their business and drama programs are quite good too,but I do question whether these latter programs are worth the money. Probably the rest of the their programs are decent too,but again I think you can get better value elsewhere. For programs other than Art, Design and Communication, I can't see Syracuse being a first choice for most people. This was somewhat verified by the students that I spoke with; most of them didn't get into their first choice.

    Obviously, these are my impressions from one visit. They may differ from yours. You should check out the school for yourself.
  • northeastmomnortheastmom Registered User Posts: 12,379 Senior Member
    Thank you so much for this report Taxguy. We have not had the chance to visit yet. I must say that despite the student complaints this school is doing something right (a lot right). If you look at their graduation rate the 4 year is 69.2%, 5year is 79.5%,6 year is 81% (my kid better not be in the 6 year group). So after all of the core, TA and lack of English complaints, these kids are graduating from a very good school! Where do they employ TAs, and which classes had professors with poor English (heavy accents) ? Taxguy, I read somewhere that they have a lot of safety nets (which explains the wonderful graduation rates). What I read is that if a kid is not doing well academically there is a lot of assistance.
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    Yes, I forgot to mention this. Thank you for pointing this out Northeastmom. They do have a lot of safety nets in the form of tutoring, writing centers etc. I did get the feeling that there was a lot of nurturing going on. They also do have a good graduation rate probably, in part, because of this nurturing.

    However, I asked a lot of kids about the school.Most of them raved about the school spirit, the sports, the workout facilites ,the fun with other kids and frats,but very few people raved about the academics. Of course, this was not a random sample.

    As to where they employ the TAs and lack of English speaking professors, I don't know. I wish that I asked that question. I would bet,however,that at least the profs who speak with problematic English were those found in engineering or science.

    I also omitted that fact that there are kids from many states and even some from foreign countries. However, most of the kids are from the northeast.

    Also, I should note that Syracuse has a strong program in exercise science and Kinisthesiology.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,915 Senior Member
    Taxguy, you refer to two well known schools. There are more. Perhaps the best known nationally is the Maxwell School, which is a graduate school of public policy and political science. http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    Yes, Mackinaw, you are right here too. However, I was focused on Visual Arts and on UNDERGRADUATE programs. They also have very decent law, and medical school,both of which I have not discussed.
  • northeastmomnortheastmom Registered User Posts: 12,379 Senior Member
    Taxguy, It is not fair of me to generalize and lump everyone in the same group, but did you find that the reason nobody raves about academics is bcs these students tend to focus on sports, the rahrah factor and fun over academics? I think I got a taste of that flavor when I visited UCONN, and I felt my son getting quickly swept into that school spririt within minutes. Also, doesn't Syracuse have small classes for such a large school (similar to Towson), as opposed to UCONN, with its large intro lecture halls?
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    Northeasternmom, their student faculty ration is 12:1, which isn't bad but not equal to that of a LAC.

    Intro classes can be big; at least that was the complaint of some students. You won't find that at Towson. I do understand that the upper levels classes are not generally big at Syracuse; however, this is usually the case at most schools. I don't know exactly how small the upper level classes are without my daughter going there and experiencing this for herself.

    As to why students didn't rave about the academics (other than about the programs that I noted above), I can't give you a reason. Maybe the sports thing overshadows everything, as you have suggested. Syracuse also has a lot of frats that are strong. Maybe this overshadows the social scene. It's hard to tell from one visit. If my daughter gets in there, depending on what other schools accept her, we may have to look at Syracuse with a "finer brush." Again, even for my daughter, it isn't her first choice.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,915 Senior Member
    Taxguy, it makes a difference at Syracuse as well as other universities if they have strong and well regarded graduate school programs. This is because such programs draw top-flight faculty, and those faculty also teach undergraduates and service undergraduate majors (in this case in public policy, public administration, and political science). I know several faculty in the Maxwell School and can vouch for their high caliber and commitment.
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    Yup, you are right about the Maxwell program. I don't know, however, how many of the faculty there teach undergraduates and how many courses each Maxwell faculty teaches.

    However, the main thrust of my visit was to evaluate the undergraduate programs as a whole and specifically the visual arts program. I did meet some political science and history students, and they didn't rave about their programs. Again, this could be based on that one visit.

    However, thanks for your clarifications. You always have some great, well-thought-out comments.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,915 Senior Member
    Thanks, Taxguy. Your school by school reviews are enormously helpful, and we're just trying to add what we can when we can.

    I might add that we visited Syracuse, too, when my daughter was making her tour with a friend who was interested in theater (and who ended up at Indiana). We were perhaps impressed least by the dorms that they themselves highlighted, and we concur with your speculation about the overall sense of priorities.
  • carolyncarolyn Registered User Posts: 7,435 Senior Member
    Interesting article on Syracuse in my local paper today:

    By the way, I'm a Syracuse alumnus and have a close friend (also an alumnus) who sits on SU's board of directors. I can tell you this -- SU has made a concerted effort to focus attention on undergraduate education programs in recent years. However, even in my day, I found that there were some truly exceptional programs for undergraduates. Aside from Newhouse, I was, and have continued to be, impressed with the Maxwell school (I was a history minor) English is also very strong. Art/Performing arts are another. One of the things I particularly liked about Syracuse was that I was able to take undergraduate classes that were small AND that were taught by some of the more famous faculty. I also found faculty members to be very approachable. Of course, this is going back a while, but based on my observations and first hand feedback from my friend on the board, I would say SU has only increased its dedication to undergraduate programs. SU did not feel like a research university back then, and I think it remains very focused on undergraduate education still.

    While there may be some groups of students who are not intellectually focused - and there certainly were in my day as well -SU is big enough so that it is indeed very possible to find fellow students who are. I received an excellent education at SU, remain eternally grateful for the school's willingness to help a low income student be financially able to attend, and have seen only improvement since then. Dorms and student life have never been a priority for the administration, in my opinion. But they do really care about improving undergraduate academics when and where possible.
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    Yes, achieving diversity is Syracuse's holy grail. They will do almost anything and spend almost any sum to achieve this at the expense of other goals. The question is whether this is worth that supreme effort over other academic goals? The second question is whether I as a parent am willing to pay for that goal,which I would be doing by paying full freight? This is a question that each parent has to address. I, for one, would prefer more effort on academics, and quality of life, and dorms than on achieving this huge amount of diversity at any cost. I guess if you are the recipient of all this effort, it is a good deal. Many, of course, wouldn't agree, which makes the world so interesting.

    I also agree that Syracuse has a strong undergraduate focus. This is why there is so much nurturing and possibly the reason for such a high graduation and retention rate,which I personally applaud.
  • carolyncarolyn Registered User Posts: 7,435 Senior Member
    It's been that way since I was a student back in the 1970's. Then, it was not so much racial diversity as it was economic diversity. As I said, I for one, remain eternally grateful for the opportunities that Syracuse gave me that no other school did. I am sure there are many minority students today who will feel the same way in years to come. I do not see that as a drawback of the university but rather a plus.
  • northeastmomnortheastmom Registered User Posts: 12,379 Senior Member
    Taxguy, I if your D does not receive merit or financial aid the statistics will mean nothing, but in 2004 70% of students received grants with the average being about 13,300.
  • jerzgrlmomjerzgrlmom Registered User Posts: 1,245 Senior Member
    My d was accepted to SU last yr and SU was quite generous (her grants were higher than the average given above). She was offered financial aid grants in addition to a merit award worth $8000/yr. SU offered her more FA than any of her other choices. but then again the cost was over $40,000/yr.

    We heard similar things about big classes (really big, I think they said over 300) and hard to understand accents. We heard this from numerous students during Open House for Accepted Students. I will say I encountered the same situation as an undergrad at U of Delaware. Hard to learn Bio & Chem from a TA you can't understand but that's how these kids (TAs) get their masters. Try learning calc with hundreds of students. I was just grateful I had taken calc in HS.

    The Open House we attended seemed a bit scrambled. The Dean of the School seemed friendly but scattered and vague. There was no one there to represent the graphic design/communication design program even though we attended on the day we were told to attend for communications design (graphic design)/ advertising design students. We later found out that the GD/AD depts were moving off campus and the admin wasn't ready to give that info out (even though college acceptances had to be made within 2 weeks). I guess they preferred to spring it on the students AFTER they arrived for their freshman yr.

    My d also noticed the expensive clothing, purses and sunglasses. I admit that I'm oblivious to such things but I did notice current students walking around wearing high heels with jeans (sort of reminded me of FIT). Not the baggy sweatpants look at some schools.

    One of the things my d liked about Syracuse was their policy on diversity (but groups really need to mix and not just co-exist).

    One of my d's HS classmates is about to enter SU because of its welcoming attitude toward Tulane students. Our state U is willing to take Tulane students but is charging them full tuition. I'm glad SU is helping out. I can't even imagine how difficult it must be for these kids to have to start all over considering schools (and having to make a decision within days). Not sure how housing will work. I had heard awhile ago that SU had more students than it could handle so I'm not sure where they're putting these kids.
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