Visit Report St. Mary's

<p>It was a gray cold day in March when we visited St. Mary's College of MD. That being the case, I think we saw the campus at its worst, so please take these comments with that in mind.</p>

<p>St. Mary's is located in remote, scenic area on the St. Mary's Peninsula. The Campus is right on the Potomac river and adjacent to Historic St. Mary's City, which is the site of the original English settlement from the 1600's and was the capital of Maryland in those days. However, the settlement lasted only about 60 years. It was later uncovered through excavations and restored and is now run as a living history exhibit. On the day we visited several busloads of children were there on a school field trip.</p>

<p>The closest "town" is Lexington Park which is aboutg a 15-20 min drive by car. There is a shopping center in Lexington Park. However, there is absolutely NOTHING in walking distance of St. Mary's College. Freshman are allowed to bring cars to campus though. If you dont have a car, our guide said it is easy to get a ride with someone.</p>

<p>The campus might have looked more inviting on a nicer day. However, on a cold gray day the brick buildings on campus had a feel somewhat of a fort or factory. For a small school, the campus is somewhat spread out (compared to Mary Washington, which we visited the day before). There are lots of walking paths and students ride their bikes around campus. There is a pond and there is also a small marina for sailboats and kayaks. Athletic facilities seemed relatively new.</p>

<p>Our tour guide said that when the weather is nice, everyone comes out and sits on the grass or lays on the docks by the river. However, she also complained about the weather being miserable a lot of the time. She was prepared for the weather in a rain proof Northface jacket and rain boots. </p>

<p>There is not much in the way of dining services. There is one main dining hall (the Great Room) but its hours are limited. For instance, lunch ends at 1:30 and it is closed until dinner which starts at 5 pm and ends at 9pm. If you miss dinner, you are in trouble apparently, because late night food options are limited. Because of this, they are adding a "pub" which will serve food later in the evening.</p>

<p>We were offered coupons for a discount at the dining hall but did not stay to try it. BTW the dining hall is also open to visitors to Historic St. Mary's City.</p>

<p>There was no "information session" however the director of admissions did come out and speak with the group waiting for the tour about what the college is about and how applications are considered. Apparently, grades and SAT scores are not as important as the essay, recommendations and student resume. Parents are encouraged to submit a recommendation for their child. One-on-one sessions with an admissions counselor are available.</p>

<p>The school has a small community feeling. For the right person it could be a match. However, my student felt is was too small, remote and isolated. She couldn't get away fast enough.</p>

<p>We visited this month on a similar day (gray, cold, and rainy), and my student came away with a very different impression (I got timed out when I tried to file a visit report, so it is easier to post here). D attended a class, and we also ate lunch there. We thought the campus felt sort of like summer camp, especially the area over toward the dining hall and river center (inside the dining hall feels kind of campy, too, in a modern way). It is remote, but my D does not care much for big cities, so this did not bother her. The food was pretty good. There were some very nice study areas -- one in the river center with a fireplace, and one in the library looking down over the water.</p>

<p>D liked the class she attended a lot. St. Mary's would be a safety for her, but she thought the lecture was very interesting. She said the questions students asked varied ("A couple of dumb ones from the back row..."), but that the rest of the discussion and questions were interesting. She actually took notes in the class... go figure. The students were friendly, and also told her that the 2nd prof who lectures to the class is better than this one (and she thought this one was good). Her major is a popular one there, and they have about a dozen professors in that department who are doing interesting research (we found a big poster listing what they are working on). The classroom was nice (good seating, a small tiered lecture hall). The class was not too large (a problem with this particular class at many colleges, it is often large).</p>

<p>The population seemed more varied than at a lot of similar size college, I think because it is a public university.</p>

<p>I do think they could tighten up the tour a bit, it ran to about an hour and a half. A lot of students dropped off before the end, and I think they missed some of the most interesting parts. We went back and walked around a few spots (library, for example) before we left, too. It sort of lacks closure, too, without a stop back at admissions.</p>

<p>All in all, we were pleasantly impressed. I am betting that D will keep it on her list and apply. Again, it would be a safety for her, but who knows? My older D ended up attending her safety (with good merit aid) and loves it. </p>

<p>A couple of other items from our visit. I read a couple of editions of the school paper. Two controversies on campus right now stood out:
1. A discussion of doing away with merit aid and going to strictly need based aid. This would probably remove this school from my D's list, as I see no point in her attending a school where her stats are high without getting a cost break for it (just my deal, others obviously might still choose it for other reasons). Didn't sound like it is about to happen, but there is some discussion, and we will be keeping track of it.
2. A controversy over Chick-Fil-A providing food on campus. They recently donated to a political cause that is anti-gay marriage. Many students on campus protested this, and would like to have C-F-A's one day a week visit replaced with something else. Apparently it has gotten kind of ugly; there was a letter to the editor about poor treatment of campus of a gay student who was involved in the protest.</p>

<p>I must say, the "coffee shop" in one of the classroom buildings isn't much... very small selection, not comfortable location. But that was pretty minor. All in all, we enjoyed our visit. We lingered a bit at the end, rather than rushing away...</p>

<p>I think St. Mary's is as far away from "big city" as you can get- there is no college town, not even a small one. We also thought it was like summer camp, but that was not something my D is looking for. While she doesn't care if she is in a big city, she would at least like some kind of college town to walk to. Given the very isolated location, and the limited dining options, St. Mary's just didn't offer much on the quality of life scale in my daughter's opinion. I realize that some people might not care about this, but it's good to know before you make a long trip out to St. Mary's.</p>

<p>I have been on two tours of St Mary's and my husband on yet another tour. None of our tours were conducted like yours. We have liked the college more than any other Maryland State college. If your kid likes being in the middle of everything, St Mary's will never fit the bill. </p>

<p>I and my dd would much rather look out our window and see a beautiful water view than being located closer to the city. We like that it is remote so yes it can be a good fit for some. We like that it has small classes and bright kids. </p>

<p>Don't let the director of admissions confuse you. Grades and SAT scores do matter. The mid 50% SAT scores of Saint Mary's is one of the best in the state. Only John Hopkins and St Johns out performs St Mary's SAT scores. Both John Hopkins and St Johns will also cost you more than twice as much at St Mary's. Yeah you can say UMCP has higher Math scores but it is only because UMCP has very good engineering programs
(17.5% of total freshman class from what I can find) and those students need 700 plus math SAT to even get into engineering programs and St Mary's doesn't even have engineering. I am pretty sure if UMCP posted their writing SAT score it would not be better than St Mary's. St Mary's does put more emphasis on the essay because it is a college where you need to write a lot. Also, because it is such a small community they want to make sure you will bring something special to the campus. </p>

<p>See this link and compare.
SAT</a> Scores for Top Maryland Colleges - Compare SAT Scores for 15 Top Maryland Colleges and Universities</p>

<p>My dd applied and was admitted to UMCP Scholars, Towson Honors, UMBC and St Mary's. We are deep into the decision making now since we have all the information we need including scholarship information. But we are pretty sure now and are leaning towards St Marys. </p>

<p>Intparent you should still apply unless they unfront say no more merit scholarships. If this college is a safety than I would think you would get merit. DD got a merit scholarship and it is guaranteed for the four years provided she keeps her GPA high enough.</p>

<p>yeah I thought it was strange that the dean of admissions made light of grades and SAT scores weight in the admission process, especially when it is called an "honors" college..but I'm just repeating what he said.</p>

<p>Another small but important point is that the classes are all 4 hours rather than 3 hours and a typical courseload is only 4 courses per term.</p>

<p>Study abroad is also encouraged, and also fulfills one of the requirements for a degree (you can choose study abroad, internship or community service). They have several dedicated locations abroad. Our tour guide mentioned she was trying to study abroad in Sweden but wasn't sure she would be able to because the credits might not count towards her degree.</p>

<p>also as might be obvious you don't have to worry about finding off campus housing at this school, pretty much all students live on campus. Our tour guide showed us her dorm room which was so small that she and her roommate had to bunk their beds; however, she said she just got "unlucky" in her room assignment and most dorms were larger.</p>

<p>We happen to have visited Johns Hopkins on the same trip. These were D's first 2 college visits, and they couldn't be more different (so were a very good starting place!). Although she will have scores to make her competitive in the admissions pool at JHU (above the 50% mark on all test scores), she was put off by the intensity. She also thought that 5 classes (at a place that intense) would make her crazy... she thought 4 like at St. Mary's would be a lot more managable. So that was a plus in her mind that she could focus more on a smaller number of classes. She is a kid who likes to "drill deep" on her subjects.</p>

<p>One more point about the 4 courses vs. 5 courses. This is an important question to ask while on college visits (and it was only brought up on the two tours we went on that week at the very end, when someone asked about it). Four courses is a full load at many colleges; for example, Dickinson, which is a common "cross-application" school with this one. My D is also thinking about Carleton, which is on trimesters, and students take only 3 courses per term. She also wants to look at Colorado College, where you take courses one at a time for a solid three weeks. The number of courses in a term could be considered a pro or a con, it depends on your perspective. But pamom59 is right, it is something to be aware of.</p>

<p>momof3greatgirls, just curious, what is the GPA requirement for your D to keep her merit scholarship?</p>

<p>DD must maintain a 3.0 gpa and take a minimum of 12 credits. The scholarship is only available for 8 consecutive semesters. It can be applied to the semesters she studies abroad too. No requirement to keep a certain major or anything.</p>

<p>The weather does make a difference and the isolation is definitely different. However, the campus is its own little world and it can be one of the most beautiful places ever. I will be transferring there this fall as a junior :)</p>

<p>kmarc0009 you're transferring from another school to St. Mary's or from St. Mary's to another school?</p>

<p>From another school to St. Mary's :)</p>

<p>kmarc09 will you be a junior next year?</p>

<p>Yes :) I am a bit of a non-traditional student. I'm 22.</p>

<p>I'm a current student who loves going to St. Mary's. My mom made me visit when I was in high school, despite my protestations, and during my tour I decided this was where I wanted to go. I haven't looked back since. Everything I've seen mentioned here is true for the most part. Just two points I'd like to make. First, the weather here is no better or worse than elsewhere in Maryland, and is fairly average out of all the places I've lived (North Carolina, New Mexico, and Montgomery County MD). When it's nice out, the whole campus is out enjoying the weather.</p>

<p>Also, the Rich Edgar, the Director of Admissions, is being truthful when he says GPA and SATs don't matter that much. That's not to say they can be bad, but rather that they're simply expected to be good. As he likes to say, none of his staffers have ever come running to him with a 4.0 2400 student. They come to him when someone has a compelling story. Numbers don't tell stories.</p>

<p>If anyone has questions, I'm more than happy to answer them to the best of my ability. Good luck to everyone on their (or their child's) college search and welcome to kmarc009.</p>

<p>^Thank you! I believe we met yesterday :)</p>