campus vibe & visit suggestions?

My son, a high school junior, is beginning his college search and Trinity University looks quite interesting. We are likely to visit this spring. Any insights into the campus vibe (preppy, sporty, quirky - all of the above?) Any must-do things for visitors to campus and first time visitors to San Antonio (and Texas!). Thanks

@hubtocali, Hi there, although my daughter does not attend TU we have been on the campus for a tour and my friend’s daughter currently attends. Try to go when they have one of their open house events. It’s very informative and they have a lot of professors there to actually talk to and answer any question you may have. They do mock classes, open the cafeteria for lunch (free) and do a financial/scholarship presentation. You are essentially there all day. The open houses are in different times of the year but I remember we went to one in June.

We are in Texas and know a lot of kids who ended up in Trinity. I would definitely describe the kids as very bright but not intellectual; definitely more on the side of preppy and not quirky; probably more on the moderate conservative than progressive liberal and more social than introspective introverted. My D would probably say that those attracted to Trinity are the kids who were in the popular crowd or those conscious of social status, academic hardworkers but liked to blow off steam and party hard.

The campus is very cozy and very pretty. It’s in a vibrant wonderfully cultural city. Definitely go into the cultural center of town. Take one of those hop on and off buses and you can easily see the sights. Try to do the Riverwalk, the market and the village and the art museum. If you have more time get in a mission or two.

If you have a car, come into Austin and get a feel for it too. If your student will have a car while at TU, they can come into Austin for fun. It’s a very youth oriented city wheresas SA has more of a family oriented feel to it.

The professors do seem to really care about building relationships with students. I loved how their scholarships were plainly clear about the requirements and spelled out on their website. I think you could get an excellent education there.

I have heard it gets claustrophobic after awhile. I think you have to live in the dorms for 3 years which seems excessive.

I think that a high caliber student coming from out of state would have a very good chance at TU. I got the impression that they are trying to attract out of state students to add to their diversity as most students come from Texas. They are definitely trying to move up the ranks. If your student is interested in STEM, they offer special opportunities and scholarships.

If you have any other questions, let me know. Good luck!!!

Thanks - really appreciate your insights!

I visited Trinity at a scholars event last spring with my D. I’d say goingnutsmom’s description sounds about right. We are not from Texas and don’t know kids that have attended there. We found the visit to be very informative. Lots of interaction with professors and students. We thought the current students were smart and interesting. I thought the campus was very pretty. We really liked San Antonio.


I’m a current Trinity student, so I might be able to answer some more specific questions if you have them.
As for suggestions of things to do: I highly encourage you to schedule a campus visit and take a tour. The open house days are great and extremely informative with regards to admissions, college searching, on campus opportunities, and much more. However, these open house days are typically on Saturdays, and thus the campus seems very quiet. If you want to see how Trinity runs on a day to day basis, a weekday campus visit is a great option. You can even attend a class on that day if you wish!

Once your son is a senior you’ll be able to schedule an overnight visit if that sounds interesting to you or him.
Regardless, any time a prospective student comes to the campus we try to have them interact with as many students and faculty as we can; we have a great community here and really want to show that off. So come to an open house or schedule a visit, just do something to get on campus because that becomes a huge factor in your college search and selection.

Thanks for the tip to visit during the week. Just curious, is the campus very quiet on Saturdays because students are sleeping in, or do lots of kids go home on the weekends or road-trip elsewhere?

A combination of sleeping in and the fact that there aren’t classes on Saturdays. You’d still see some students wandering around/studying in other locations, but not in the same quantities as you’d see going to and from classes on a weekday. A few kids may go home some weekends but I wouldn’t say that that contributes to the quietness of the campus much.

My S is currently a sophomore at TU, and I will throw in my 2 cents. I have been on campus about 15 times, and obviously get feedback from our S as well.

TU has a pretty good mix of students with some quite liberal and others conservative. Faculty tends to be liberal, but not surprising there.

It is not a suitcase campus. The kids stay there on the weekends.

Dorms are terrific. Much nicer than my first few apartments, and they get cleaned once a week. (Important if you have a S)

Food is pretty healthy, and there are a ton of food options with 10 minutes of campus.

The BEST part of TU, in my opinion, is the faculty. TU has a huge endowment, and they spend it on their Professors. If they like a Prof, they will not lose him or her due to salary. As a result, they attract and retain terrific teachers. Better yet, they like interacting with students and teach all the classes–no TA’s in sight. Classes tend to be small. My S has a Cybersecurity class this semester taught by the Head of the CS Dep’t with 7 students. 7! How can you beat that for your tuition dollar?

Lastly, I like TU’s policy on merit aid. They hand out a grid, and you simply look at your student’s grades and test scores, and that is what they will get for merit aid. No shenanigans or guess work. They use that huge endowment to offer very generous merit aid to attract good students.

This is a terrific school, a bit of a sleeper because of Rice, but the education is terrific.

Good luck!

Yes, I agree that TU is a sleeper because Rice gets all the attention from the really academic and more competitive kids who consider it the top private school in Texas. UT of course is considered the top public university and living in Austin is a huge positive consideration for students.

I actually found the TU campus prettier than the Rice campus.

One thing that I have heard is that the food gets monotonous at TU because there is essentially just one cafeteria for the whole campus. It’s located in lower campus. There is something in upper campus but not a full service cafeteria.

Transportation might be another factor if you don’t have a car to move around in. A student could rely on friends who have cars but I imagine that might get old. SA does not have the best public transportation system. It would be problematic to go into the city at night and come back late on public transportation. But again that will depend on the kind of student- one who is a homebody and likes to hang around campus vs one who wants to go to dinner then a play/cultural event or museum. It is not like living in a campus where you can easily go have fun off campus via public transit. Texas has very few places like that actually because we are so behind in this area.

It’s good to know the advantages and disadvantages of any school. It helps with set realistic expectations.

Any thoughts from those with experience at TU how an OOS student from the East Coast might feel on campus? Is there space for an open-minded but liberal East Coaster from an European immigrant family? We are drawn to the quality of the programs and my D has a good scholarship in hand, but my concern is in part with the ideological and geographic diversity of the campus. Thanks for any insights!

I’m a parent with a student considering Trinity U. We have been down to campus for one of the open house events. The Trinity Vibe is harder to pin down than many of the other colleges we visited. Perhaps that is a benefit in that there may not really be a dominant culture (or perhaps there is one, but we just missed seeing it?).

I can echo the “complaint” above about food monotony, as I also heard that from one or two students I spoke with.

@suburbancat If your OOS liberal student East Coaster from a European immigrant family were to attend TU they could contribute to the idealogical and geographic diversity of the campus! My sense is that they are likely to be able to find their “group” at Trinity which is a little bit larger than many LACs (and technically, Trinity has a Carnegie classification of “Master’s” College/University). While Texas may be a conservative state, and the majority of Trinity students do come from Texas, they are still college students (which tend to lean left), and many will be leaving college more open minded than when they arrived, hopefully.

There is some form of greek life there (which doesn’t appeal to us in particular), but I’m not quite sure how it works in practice. There are fraternities and sororities, but they don’t have independent houses. Everyone lives in various dorms like the other students. Perhaps someone with more experience can chime in on this topic.

Personally, there are a number of things I like about Trinity – great science center (CSI completed in 2014), nice campus (surprisingly hilly!), merit scholarship transparency. The faculty I spoke with were forthright and happy to share their enthusiasm for their subject area and Trinity as a whole.

Seems like a good value in education and they appear to be using their endowment for the benefit of all (students, faculty, facilities).

The CSI Center is amazing. It cost over $100M to complete, is totally state-of-the-art, and they paid cash for it out of donations. If your student is interested in anything STEM they are going to take a ton of classes in this facility and are going to love every minute of it.

I think TU has an nice blend of students. Our son came down from Minnesota and did not know a soul before he enrolled and he has acclimated very well with a great group of friends. There is no reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to find “their tribe” at TU.

Good luck to all!

@suburbancat, while I do not have a child at TU, I have known students who are there/been there as well as their parents. I will try to answer the best that I can regarding your questions.

As far as fit for your D, the best advice is to have her go for an overnight. If TU is a serious consideration then it may very well be worthwhile.

TU will have predominantly Texas students. Please do remember that Texas is a huge state and while it leans conservative, the students will be representative of varied backgrounds and perspectives. Keeping this in mind, TU is not a liberal bastion. You will see this more at a school like Rice. So if your D leans liberal, she will find like minded friends but may be challenged by conservative students. Not necessarily a bad thing. Keeps you sharp. I think that TU runs moderate liberal.

I don’t think there will be a lot of Northeasterners there. She is what TU is trying to attract. Try to see if they will give her merit or up the merit for her.

Not sure what the European thing is about. Do you mean that she is cosmopolitan? If she gets bored of the monotony at TU, she can do some study abroad. Remember, TU is bigger than a usual LAC but it’s still not that big.

San Antonio is a very cool city but it’s no NYC, Boston or even Chicago. Is she looking for something really different or wanting to be in college in a city with all the amenities that this type of environment provides? SA will provide some of those things but it’s not anything like a city in the NE. It very much has its roots in the Hispanic culture and is very proud of this.

Both my kids wanted to experience something totally different during their college years. One ended up in Pittsburgh and the other in Chicago. I think it’s a good thing to stretch themselves but not at the cost where it will make them miserable. My husband’s niece ended up at a school chasing the money but ended up not being able to graduate because she was so unhappy. The school was a poor fit- too big, and too conservative for her.

I recommend looking at the Fiske guide- it has a good summary of the school’s envioronment.

Good luck!

@suburbancat I am a Chicago native, who moved to San Antonio as a kid, went to Trinity, and am a long time NYC resident who regularly visits SA. Trinity is a great place to spend four years. True, SA is not New York or Boston (which I don’t like), but it has a much more cosmopolitan vibe now, and is getting more so with an influx of outsiders. And frankly, it is an affordable place to be a college student in a big city.

When I was a student, I had good friends from CT, Long Island, and MA (and other places) who liked TU. Trinity is liberal artsy, so it seems to be a natural magnet for progressive students, even if they are not as vocal as someone at Wesleyan or Oberlin. Because it’s Texas though, it gets its conservatives.

Geographic diversity is a bit deceptive, b/c TX is so big. Most Northeast schools attract students from the DC-Philly-NYC-Boston corridor, not that different, distance wise, from the SA-Austin-Houston-Dallas corridor, except they’re all Texans. But, yes, a few more East Coast students are desirable.

Eventually, I went to two big-city, big-name Northeast research grad schools and loved them. But they made me appreciate my experience at Trinity much more in hindsight. A beautiful, self-contained campus with great professors, spacious dorms, (mostly) great weather, and easy access to Austin, the Hill Country, and the beach–amenities that appeal to many undergrads.

Thanks to everyone for their insights and suggestions. We are visiting this week to check out Trinity and explore San Antonio. Really looking forward to it!

@hubtocali – We visited for an admitted students day a couple of weeks ago. What a terrific campus, nice students, and amazing instructional program! We were very impressed.

Can’t wait to share these observations with my son - he’s been part of a somewhat socio-economically diverse but conservative-leaning private school in Florida. Trinity’s vibe through mailings and communications with admissions & friends with ties to TU have been very appealing to him. He skews moderate liberal to libertarian politically and wants to land in a strong academic environment that has room for quirk. He had expected to find himself drawn to smaller, mid-size midwestern LAC and research universities, but TU has held his interest more consistently. He is visiting campus even as I type this, and is really trying to zero in on the culture. I will share his observations once he’s back.

@scocat, please tell us what he thought of the school. Also, I’m not sure that I would describe the vibe as quirky. The students seem more main stream definitely. Let us know.

@goingnutsmom, he loved it, much to his surprise. He went in thinking that this would seal the deal on another school that ranks In the USNWR top twenty, a national research university, but he’s ready to pack his bags for TU now. His experience with all of the people and opportunities at Trinity swung him around completely. He said there’s a clear mix of people: it wasn’t AP Prep School, like he’d feared. He spent the night, met a range of students and found them studious, intellectually curious, and welcoming without being over-the-top. His admissions officer told him the campus skews a bit left - he stayed in a room with a Sanders banner and his host said people are interested in discussion about ideas and differences, not in being polarized. He was in an intro Econ class of 20, which he really enjoyed. He saw a lot of students working collaboratively in the library, dorms, and around campus. The students struck him as “do-ers” whom the school helps discover and channel energy and passions. Students are earnest without being intense, and he felt the environment was studious without being crushing. To his pleasure, Trinity’s environment lacked the somewhat more standoffish, pretentiousness that some of his LACs projected. TU didn’t project isolation in the same way: rather, it encouraged involvement. Re. quirk, it wasn’t that it is a quirky student body, it’s more that there is enough room for quirk that it doesn’t feel that it’s a major, potentially isolating, statement. I’m putting down a deposit this week and feel better about the match for him than I felt with absolutely any of his other options.

That’s great!!