Choosing a college or university

Choosing a college can feel like a daunting task. And it is a really important decision. Not only will it be the place you choose to learn for the next four years, it is also where you will be spending your life, outside of academics, for the next four years.
While it is important to pick a college that will satisfy your intellectual desires, it is also important to think about your hobbies and what kind of opportunities the college offers. Take the advice of some of the people we have interviewed in this issue, work hard AND have fun, because if you’re having fun, it doesn’t even feel like work.
To give you an idea of the kind of things we are talking about, we got in touch with colleges throughout Vermont and asked them what types of programs they offer as a supplement to academics. Of course this is a small overview. This is to give you a little glimpse into some things colleges offer so you know what to look for when choosing a school. Each college will have more than we covered and there are still more colleges than even we could mention here. For a complete list of Vermont colleges and Universities, see p.
Tri-College Consortium
Burlington College, Champlain College, and Saint Michael’s College have agreed to become a tri-college consortium, which means students attending each institution will have the opportunity to take classes at any of the other institutions for no extra cost.
This new agreement began in January, but since most students had already signed up for classes, it will really take off in fall 2010. The college presidents also believe the consortium agreement will help colleges keep their tuitions lower because they will be sharing more resources and avoiding unnecessary duplicate costs.
This means that if you are a full-time or 3/4 time undergraduate student enrolled in any of those three colleges, you will be able to take classes that any of the institutions offer.
Keep your eyes out though; colleges all over Vermont have been working with the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges trying to find opportunities for creating consortiums. This may become more common in the next couple of years.
 
Norwich University and the Corps of Cadets
Norwich University is the oldest private military college in the country. They offer nine different exchange programs in Australia, Germany, France, Taiwan, Thailand, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Students choose a lifestyle either in the Corps of Cadets or as a civilian student. We interviewed BG Michael Kelley, commander of cadets, to get a better idea of what the program is like.
Adventure Opportunities
Green Mountain College and Saint Michael’s College both have great outdoor programs. Green Mountain College’s program, GreenMAP (Green Mountain Adventure Programming) gives students an opportunity to go on day trips or extended trips hiking, rock climbing, ice climbing, white water paddling, and back country skiing. Derek Gavelis, a student leader for the program, said, “We went to Maine for a back country skiing trip this past Spring break and we are planning to start going on surfing trips to the Eastern Seaboard in New Hampshire and Maine.”
Gavelis is from Massachusetts, but his family visited Vermont every summer when he was growing up. He loves the outdoors and Vermont introduced him to hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and all of the other outdoor activities he now enjoys in GreenMAP. Gavelis decided to move here because he “found a college with a major in Adventure Education” and he “loves the state.” When asked if he thought Vermont would become his permanent home he said, “I could see myself staying in Burlington. There are a lot of opportunities for outdoor recreation in Vermont. The Champlain Valley, between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, is a beautiful place to be.” Green Mountain College also offers students a discounted ski pass to Killington/Pico for $329.
Saint Michael’s College’s outdoor program, called the Wilderness Program, is comparable to Green Mountain College’s GreenMAP. Students have the opportunity to go on day hikes, go snow shoeing, learn to ski, teli ski, go rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, kayaking, and they also offer extended trips. Through the wilderness program, you can get a Smuggler’s Notch ski pass for an activation fee of $40. Saint Michael’s also offers discounts for renting skis for a season.
Study Abroad
Many colleges have study abroad opportunities and the different programs offered are diverse. Here are some examples of colleges with different types of study abroad programs.
Burlington College has a unique exchange program with Cuba. They are only one of eight institutions in the United States with permission to exchange there. Every spring semester a group of 12 students study at the University of Havana. They live in Modern Havana and eat fresh food daily from local co-op farmers while they study and live in Spanish.
Green Mountain College is part of the Eco-league, which means they partner with four other environmentally focused, like-minded schools across the US. Through this Consortium, students can study up to two semesters at Prescott College in Arizona, Northland College in Wisconsin, Alaska Pacific University, and College of the Atlantic in Maine. Green Mountain has several international exchange programs in Wales, South Korea, and Japan. Students can also participate in a language intensive program in France or Argentina.
Vermont Technical College has something that would be considered a “work abroad” experience. Students are typically placed in either Earthwatch, a summer internship program, or CDS international, a year abroad project. Earthwatch is a global-wide program that works to better the environment and CDS international sends students to a German University to participate in various apprenticeships.
Student Gardens
Student gardens are becoming ever more popular in Vermont. Some of the colleges that have gardens include Middlebury College, Saint Michael’s College, Vermont Technical College, Sterling College, Green Mountain College, Marlboro College, and the University of Vermont. We talked to two student gardeners; Erin Riordan at Marlboro College, and Tyler Wilkinson-Ray at the University of Vermont.
What do you grow on the farm?
Tyler: We grow just about everything we can. We run a CSA and people like variety.
Erin: We grow all kinds of annuals and herb, including lettuce, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, beets, kale, chard, dill, basil, leeks, melons, amaranth, squashes, potatoes, onions, chives, parsley, garlic, and much more.
What have you learned by getting involved with the college farm?
Tyler: The farm is entirely student run. Students pick each summer's crew, place the seed order, and grow the food. It's a great set-up because as a farm worker you really have to learn the whole process. There is no one to tell you what to do; you have to figure it out. The downside, of course, is that things don't always turn out perfectly, but it makes for a great learning experience.
Erin: Almost everything I know about gardening I learned through working with the Marlboro College farm. When I started as the farm manager at the college, I was a neophyte to gardening and was handed over the garden's responsibilities with minimal oversight, structure, or instruction. But, at every stage of the process, the community (especially the farm committee) rallied to help, providing all kinds of support. And as a result, I feel very confident in my ability to grow an organic garden on a small-scale for a community. Farming at Marlboro is a trial by fire experiment that is frustrating, exhilarating, and rewarding.
Why is farming important to you?
Tyler: Food and a local economy is what binds a community together and makes it resilient. As the dangers of an industrial food system becomes more obvious, so will the importance of local farmers.
Erin: Farming is important to me because it tells me over and over again that when I put a seed into the soil, it will grow and eventually sustain me. Every part of gardening, from planning, to planting, to weeding to harvesting is for me an affirmation of the mysterious and wondrous earth through demonstrating my connection to the plants and critters around me. It is a life skill that is important to economical, political, and societal future. Organic and small-scale gardening and farming nurtures and supports human communities through connecting people to their food source and their land. It helps me to live closer to my source, cutting back on fossil fuels.
Complete interviews with both Tyler and Erin can be found at nextupvt.com.
Culture
Vermont has much to offer in the way of art and music. Saint Michael’s College and Burlington College are two examples of schools that give students an opportunity to enjoy the arts.
For $30, students at Saint Michael’s receive a culture pass which gives them an opportunity to see a selection of culture events at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts and FlynnSpace.
Students at Burlington College are provided with YMCA memberships, have monthly coffee houses on campus where student work is displayed, and they partner with Flynn Center for the Performing Arts providing students with access to performances on the Flynn MainStage and FlynnSpace.