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Ask and I'll answer

manwichmanwich 63 replies2 threads Junior Member
edited February 2012 in Union College - New York
I'm a junior at Union and I'm happy to answer any questions that potential applicants, future students or parents might have.

Me: I'm a 20 year old guy, I came to Union from a top new england boarding prep school (class of 2006). I applied to 11 schools, was accepted at my two top choices, Union and Hamilton, and chose Union. I've been involved in clubs and greek life, I'm a political science major and I'm on a study abroad term in France this fall. I'd say I'm a rather typical student.

I absolutely love Union, but I will try to answer your questions honestly and without bias...ask me anything about the social scene, academics, the city, the campus, whatever, I'm not affiliated with the admissions office.

Fire away!
edited February 2012
196 replies
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Replies to: Ask and I'll answer

  • katydid2010katydid2010 21 replies14 threads Junior Member
    I'm curious about the social atmosphere at Union. You said that you are from northeastern prep school. What percentage of students come from prep/private schools? How do students from middle class backgrounds fair at Union?
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  • manwichmanwich 63 replies2 threads Junior Member
    I'm curious about the social atmosphere at Union. You said that you are from northeastern prep school. What percentage of students come from prep/private schools? How do students from middle class backgrounds fair at Union?

    The Princeton Review says that 69% of kids at Union come from public school, 31% from private schools...I'm not sure how this compares to other colleges, but in my experience a good portion of the public school students come from top-tier public schools in well-to-do towns. The campus is definitely preppy even if not everyone went to prep school.

    The atmosphere at Union is decidedly upper-middle class...most people come from a background where money has not really been a problem or a question, or at least many try to put up that image. The school reports that 64% of students have financial aid money, but that's something that doesn't seem to be discussed much on campus. Students have their own cars, and nice ones—you see a good number of BMW, Audi, and Lexus cars in the lots, and there are also some Mercedes and Porsches around. People wear nice clothes and come from fancy suburbs of New York and Boston. Students have big TVs, iPods, nice computers, etc.

    Now, I'm making some generalizations here, but I feel that most Union students would agree with most of what I've said. I also feel while there is an atmosphere of wealth at Union, it's thoroughly possible for students from a less privileged background to fit in, though I'm sure it would depend greatly on the individual. Most people seem to fall in line, at least to some extent, with the northeastern preppy college lifestyle. I've noticed that fall-term freshmen tend to become 'Union-ized' between orientation and fall sophomore year....if that makes sense.

    As I said before, fitting in would depend a lot on the individual...someone from a not-quite-so-privileged background might have to deal with seeing a lot of conspicuous consumption, but wouldn't be actively excluded for not having the same background as the typical student. As I mentioned above, money isn't a big topic on campus.

    While I usually find college guides to generalize unfairly, I think that the Princeton Review put together a decently accurate portrait here:
    PReview wrote:
    "While “You can find a variety of people at Union,” students say there is definitely “a typical Union student,” who can be described as “preppy, Northeastern, [and] middle- to upper-class.” By all accounts, you’ll find “a lot of athletes, a lot of frat boys,” and a lot of students who “wear Polo and Abercrombie” here. Atypical students are those who “find their place on campus in the Minerva House activities and clubs such as Women’s Union, Black Student Union, performing arts groups, the college’s radio station—WRUC, Ultimate Frisbee, and others.” The “terribly cliquish nature of the social scene makes it difficult to provide a decent analysis of individual students.”"
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  • boston_man_2009boston_man_2009 233 replies82 threads Member
    How is the engineering school at Union compared to Trinty and Lafayette. Do they work hard with no play or what. What should I expect?
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  • skiier65skiier65 67 replies33 threads Junior Member
    Is there any significant inflation or deflation in the grading there. Is it achievable to get A's across the board?

    Many thanks
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  • manwichmanwich 63 replies2 threads Junior Member
    How is the engineering school at Union compared to Trinty and Lafayette. Do they work hard with no play or what. What should I expect?

    To be honest I can't make a fair comparison between the engineering programs at the three schools, as I don't know those kinds of specifics about other schools. Just from the engineering websites of the three schools you can see that all three are accredited, and that Trinity offers a BA/BS in Engineering with options for a 5th year masters (http://www.trincoll.edu/Academics/Study/Engineering/). Union appears to offer more diversity, with Computer, Electrical & Mechanical engineering programs (http://antipasto.union.edu/engineering/), while Lafayette offers Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical engineering programs (http://www.lafayette.edu/webdata/engineering/index.html).

    As far as the life on campus goes...the engineers I know have a tough courseload, and work very hard, but most Union students have mastered the work-hard-play-hard strategy quite well. I would say that engineers have more work than other majors and have more of their time tied up in the lab, but that isn't to say they can't get out and have fun. I know two types of engineering majors: the work-hard-play-hard types and the rather geeky types who seem to spend absolutely all of their time working. I also know a few people who came to Union as engineering majors and changed when confronted with the workload.
    skiier65 wrote:
    Is there any significant inflation or deflation in the grading there. Is it achievable to get A's across the board?

    Many thanks

    As far as I can tell grading is pretty fair...if you do your work and go to class you can sit comfortably in the high B/B+ range, and with enough effort straight A's is feasible. The general atmosphere is that the great majority of professors want you to succeed, and while they're not handing A's out like candy they will reward good work. As with any school there are professors who are scared to give low grades or professors who grade very harshly, but they seem to be the exceptions.

    Also, since your username is skiier65, you might be interested in the fact that Union has a great ski club, sponsored by the school, that sets up saturday trips to mountains in Vermont for $20/trip all-included, and night skiing in the Berkshires 1 or 2 nights/week for free.
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  • skiier65skiier65 67 replies33 threads Junior Member
    1.) Is Union oriented more around the humanities or sciences; does it excell in any areas in particular?

    2.) How "open" is the curriculum?
    and
    3.) What are the typical students like (quircky intellectuals, jocks, etc)

    thanks so much!
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  • manwichmanwich 63 replies2 threads Junior Member
    skiier65 wrote:
    1.) Is Union oriented more around the humanities or sciences; does it excell in any areas in particular?

    2.) How "open" is the curriculum?
    and
    3.) What are the typical students like (quircky intellectuals, jocks, etc)

    thanks so much!

    1) Union is known for the engineering department and has strong science departments which attract a lot of students. The political science department is strong as well...it's one of the top majors. Being a liberal arts college at its core, Union is full of polisci, history, and similar majors, in addition to the engineers. A good portion of Union students plan on going to law, med or business school.

    2) The 'Core Components Curriculum' can be a little frustrating...it's written in some kind of ridiculous professor-speak and it took me quite a while to properly understand, but ultimately it's not very restrictive. You have distribution requirements, but you can get pretty creative with how you fill them...I hate math so I'm taking a Math & Politics course to fill my math requirement. Since you take 3 classes/term (only having class monday, wednesday and friday can be awesome), 3 terms/year you can get a pretty broad selection of courses in throughout the year. I haven't felt tied down by the distribution requirements and have actually been introduced to some cool stuff (sociology and geology) that I wouldn't have bothered with otherwise. You have plenty of room in the schedule to take random electives, courses for your major and fill the distribution requirements.

    3) Typical Union students are definitely not 'quirky intellectuals'...generally they're preppy, athletic and fratty, they come from comfortably well-to-do backgrounds. I'd say Union has a pretty good cross section of the popular and smart segment from high school. Students take their parties and greek life seriously, but at the same time discussion classes can get heated with intellectual debate. Most students hope to go on to big things, even if they don't have a plan at the moment. I'd say Union offers a really pretty classical northeast liberal arts college experience.
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  • skiier65skiier65 67 replies33 threads Junior Member
    perfect, Id likely major in poly sci and take necessary course to apply to med/dental school, so sounds good
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  • skiier65skiier65 67 replies33 threads Junior Member
    1 last things, whats the weather like?? URochester is in upstate NY and I hear the climate is pretty brutal- very cold, horrific winters, lots of gray (in fact it can seriously depress some kids). Would Union have this feel or would be more ike typical new england? (BTW, I live in NE)
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  • skiier65skiier65 67 replies33 threads Junior Member
    And not to bombard you with questions, but i might as well ask it. How politically active are the students there? And being in ny is everyone very liberal or is there a mix?
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  • manwichmanwich 63 replies2 threads Junior Member
    skiier65 wrote:
    1 last things, whats the weather like?? URochester is in upstate NY and I hear the climate is pretty brutal- very cold, horrific winters, lots of gray (in fact it can seriously depress some kids). Would Union have this feel or would be more ike typical new england? (BTW, I live in NE)

    Union has very well defined seasons...basically you get to Union at the beginning of September and it's still summer, it's super hot, the campus is nice and green, the dorms are hot and stuffy and people are outside a lot. Once you get to October it's pretty clearly fall, lots of crisp blue sky days, orange trees and crunchy leaves around campus. The nights towards the end of October start getting really cold, and once you get to November it's pretty much winter. Fall term ends around Nov 20th, and when we get back at the beginning of January it's totally winter...and damn cold. The past two years it has snowed and stuck around for a long time, though my freshman year it got really really cold and stayed below freezing for a few weeks without snowing. April is questionable and May is incredible, it's summer and everyone gets outside on the lawns, we have a big outdoor concert and enjoy the weather.

    If you don't like cold and snow I'd say Union really wouldn't be a great match, though really it's not as gray and super depressing as central New York. There are plenty of great freezing-cold blue sky days in the winter, with snow on the ground and a nice bite to the air.
    skiier65 wrote:
    And not to bombard you with questions, but i might as well ask it. How politically active are the students there? And being in ny is everyone very liberal or is there a mix?

    In general people aren't too politically interested or active, though that has changed some in the two years I've been at the U. Like most colleges the campus is very liberal in general, but there are enough people from Fairfield County old-money republican backgrounds to get some interesting class debates going. Since I'm on a term abroad I haven't been on campus this fall to see how politically active things have gotten leading up to the election, but I'd imagine people are getting into it.
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  • hudsonvalley51hudsonvalley51 2386 replies96 threads Senior Member
    skiier65 -- Having lived in both the Syracuse area and the Capital District I would say that while it gets cold in both Rochester and Schenectady, the winters that Union students get is more analogous to that in inland New England than central and western New York. Lake Ontario dramatically effects winter in Rochester and, even more so, in Syracuse. Lots more snow and many more cloudy days. When I was 22 and an avid skier I don't recall the Syracuse winters as being too bad, but several decades later I'm glad I don't live out that way anymore.
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  • ExplicitInnuendoExplicitInnuendo 46 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Does Union provide generous financial aid to international applicants??
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  • manwichmanwich 63 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Does Union provide generous financial aid to international applicants??

    This is more of a question you should ask the admissions department or the financial aid office....I don't know much about Union's financial aid system and especially not how it works with international students.
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  • woodywoody 3795 replies66 threads Senior Member
    How do you like the trimester system?
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  • manwichmanwich 63 replies2 threads Junior Member
    woody wrote:
    How do you like the trimester system?

    I love it. At first I wasn't so sure, but I've really grown to like it a lot. Having trimesters means a few things:

    - We don't start until the second week in September.
    - We have Christmas break from a week before Thanksgiving until the second week of January (6 weeks!).
    - We take 3 courses at a time, each of which meets only 2 or 3 times a week.
    - We get out in the middle of June, 4-6 weeks after most other schools.

    The long Christmas break, which is around half as long as the summer break, is great because you don't have the stupid thanksgiving-break problem that a lot of schools face. That is, kids come home (or at least have a week off) for Thanksgiving, right after which they go back to school for exams. Every vacation we have is right after final exams...so you get home, crash and rewind for a few days and don't have to think about anything until you get to new classes next term. You can even get a holiday-season temporary job around Christmas if you want to.

    As much as it sounds like an admissions office canned response, I really do think that having 10 weeks uninterrupted by vacations with only three courses at a time gives you a really focused experience. With only about 9-12 hours of class per week there is a good amount of homework...but nothing to be done over holidays and I think it's a lot easier to balance homework from three courses than 5 or more. In some way the classes become something I really study for 10 weeks, rather than a little piece of a packed schedule. You can still get the variety of courses you would with a larger schedule, since the year calendar is set up so you ultimately can take the same spread of courses, but instead of a little bit of everything all at once, you focus more tightly one term at a time.

    I definitely prefer Union's schedule to my high school which had pretty much an exact replica of a standard (2-term) college schedule. The only thing I don't like that much is that since there are exams at the end of every term, no term closes out with a bang and good parties...it just kind of fizzles away as kids leave campus too tired to think.


    Also, I'm going to Scotland for 9 days, so I probably won't be able to answer right away, but post any questions you have and I'll get to them right before the election!
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  • manwichmanwich 63 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Hey everyone I'm back from Scotland and ready again to answer any questions you have about Union...fire away!
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  • boston_man_2009boston_man_2009 233 replies82 threads Member
    Can you describe how admissions works at Union? What do they value the most and how can someone "stand" out?
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  • RachachaRachacha 1199 replies67 threads Senior Member
    BUMP on that - how can you show enough interest to Admissions when you cannot make it to campus to visit until after (hopefully) acceptance because of geographic limitations/ financial limitations for travel/ athletic commitments, etc.??
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  • boston_man_2009boston_man_2009 233 replies82 threads Member
    First of all where did you come from?
    Secondly, I will be visiting in January!!!
    Anyways, manwhich can you answer my question please?
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