Student Login


First year files: an iconic research university

March 14th, 2023

College decisions are arriving for Regular Decision candidates, and our students at Shrop Ed have some exciting choices to make. May 1st is typically the deadline for students to confirm enrollment and send in a deposit to confirm their spot for the upcoming year. There is sometimes no clear or easy choice, so it is essential to break down the process and make sure no stone is left unturned. There are so many important factors to consider before making that final commitment, including campus culture, affordability and academics, to name a few.

The Rotunda is a UNESCO World Heritage site designed by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826).

Firsthand accounts from those already in college encourage students to think about aspects of college life that they might not have considered before. While every college experience is different for each individual, I’m hopeful that the first-year files our previous advisees offer are beneficial in helping you find your own best fit.

We’re grateful to today’s contributor, Aidan, for sharing his account and wish him continued happiness and success!

My name is Aidan, and I am a first year in the architecture program at the University of Virginia. My first semester at UVA was much more than I could have imagined. The school has a fantastic atmosphere for learning and leisure, and there is something for everyone here.

There is a strong sense of trust between the students and faculty under the Honor Code, which helps develop a strong community at the school. The school is a perfect size, not too big but not too small. It reaches an ideal in-between that allows people to see familiar faces around but always be able to meet new people. People are always willing to help others, and there is an openness on the campus that doesn’t close people off from the things they need. The community is my favorite part of the school. Following the unfortunate events that unfolded in November, the entire school gathered to honor our classmates and support each other through the terrible time. I had never felt such a strong sense of family from people I had never met before, and it really comes to show you how amazing the people that attend this school are.

In terms of classes, they were never a walk in the park, and they constantly challenged you to really think and apply yourself. The architecture classes always pushed for uniqueness and creativity while teaching the foundations one would need to progress throughout the school. My Lessons in Making course taught me the skills I need to advance in the program, which is already paying off in my second semester. The other first-year architecture courses are History of Architecture, Intro to Urban Planning, and an architecture seminar, all of which introduce you to the possible majors that fall under the School of Architecture. All the staff for these classes are great, and they ensure that the material you need to know is taught and understood.

Outside of the classroom, however, there are numerous extracurriculars for students to find a place where they belong. You can join a club or just spend time with the friends you make at UVA. We all have rigorous weeks, so we work hard during the week and then find time on the weekends to blow off some steam and relax. The atmosphere at the school really pushes you to fully apply yourself to your classes and then enjoy the free time you come across. The community at UVA is partly what drove me here, but it became why I fell in love with this place, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other school.

First-year files: life at a small liberal arts college

February 21st, 2023

When making college decisions, there’s a lot to consider. If you’re looking for a smaller school with a more personal relationship with your professors that also offers a broad curriculum, a liberal arts college might be right for you. A liberal arts education puts emphasis on exploratory learning and education, which promotes many in-demand soft skills such as critical thinking, team work, oral and written communication, and problem solving.

Image via Wikipedia

In this post a previous Shrop Ed advisee, Evan G., shares his experience as a first-year student at Bowdoin College in Maine. Evan not only compares his experience to that of his twin brother’s at Carleton College but also shares the ups and downs of moving far away from home. We appreciate Evan’s reflections, and I know this information will be especially helpful to current advisees as they build their own future plans.

Overall, so far I have loved my time at Bowdoin. One of my favorite parts about it is that I can’t point to only one thing and say “this is why I love this school;” there are multiple elements that have enhanced my experience. First of all, living in Maine has been amazing, as it is incredibly beautiful and could not be more different from Utah, in everything from its stunningly different natural beauty to its culture. I think this has been a very important change for me to experience, as it is shaping my desires for what my life after college might look like. And, I love being surrounded by greenery, and being a mere 20 minutes from the coast. Secondly, most of the people at Bowdoin are incredible; I have found the community to be extremely welcoming, and most, if not all, of the students share my desires to treat college as a space for learning and growth, not just as a place to party. Thirdly, the academics have been fantastic; it has been a huge relief to move from high school’s exhausting busywork to Bowdoin, where professors place an emphasis on teaching the content in engaging, interesting, and intellectually stimulating ways (although it is of course challenging as well).

I think it is also very interesting to compare my experience to what I have heard from Seth (twin brother). It seems that we both have come to the conclusion that we likely would have been happy at most liberal arts schools, given the similar ideals and values that they strive to represent; there are just a few key differences that make our respective schools more appealing to us, i.e. specific programs, location, etc. With that said, it seems that the main difference (no pun intended) between Bowdoin and Carleton has been living on the East coast versus in the Midwest. I have found people on the East coast to be less warm and less initially welcoming than what I am used to in Utah, and certainly less warm than Seth seems to have experienced at Carleton. However, I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing, as like I said earlier I have loved Bowdoin’s community, and it is simply different than what I am used to. 

I think one of the things that has gone well is adjusting to the academics; I feel that my experiences in the IB program and with AP classes helped to prepare me for college level writing, even if these high school classes were grueling at times. I also think that it has been exciting to find the people I feel comfortable with; Bowdoin creates an atmosphere in which I feel excited about trying new things, whether that is joining a new extracurricular or starting a pickup basketball game with strangers. That is not to say this is not nerve racking but doing these new things has pushed me to find communities that I enjoy spending time in, and has helped me learn more about myself. 

In terms of things that were difficult, I think that the initial adjustment period was the hardest part. I feel that I idealized college before I went, in the sense that I thought much more about the exciting opportunities than the difficulty of moving across the country, completely changing my lifestyle, and making new friends. While it is certainly true that college is a time of exciting opportunities and growth, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to be away from my family and alone in a new place without any initial support from my peers, since I wasn’t close friends with anyone yet. However, this has gotten much easier over time, and I imagine this would be true at any college, as there will always be an adjustment period. 

The most surprising part about Bowdoin so far has been the social scene. I was expecting a very relaxed party culture, but the partying has been more hardcore and common than I thought it would be. It still doesn’t compare at all to the partying scene at a big school, but the prevalence of the party culture was more than I was expecting for a small school in Maine. Luckily, however, there is no pressure to go to parties; it just seems as though most people do party on a fairly consistent basis (although only on the weekends). I was also slightly surprised at the relative lack of diversity compared to my high school; Bowdoin frequently highlights its attempts to create a diverse environment, but I still have made very few friends of color, and they certainly seem much more in the minority than Bowdoin’s demographic statistics might suggest. However, I could also chalk this up to not having met much of the first year class yet; these are just my initial thoughts about Bowdoin’s diversity. 

Finally, I think that younger students considering Bowdoin should understand it is not easy to get to; it is rather remote, and flights into Portland are expensive. However, once you are on campus, it does not feel remote; there are a variety of social and extracurricular opportunities, and Brunswick, its neighboring town, is much busier and more interesting than one might think. I don’t think I will get tired of being on campus over the next three and a half years, as the college does an excellent job of planning exciting events. So, essentially, concerns about the size of the college are so far a non-issue.

I hope this offers a comprehensive look into my experience thus far; overall, I am having a great time and am extremely happy with my decision, along with being incredibly grateful for your assistance in getting to this point.

First-year files: you get what you put in!

February 8th, 2023

Going away to college is a big adjustment, especially for students who choose a college far from home. There will be many changes on the horizon: new landscapes, different accents, maybe even the weather. Chances are you will be meeting all new people, a chance to start fresh, with a clean slate to re-invent yourself. This will certainly require you to get out of your comfort zone if you want to make the most of this new life.

Image via US News

In today’s blog post, we return to our First-Year Files tradition with a Shrop Ed advisee who graduated from high school in central Kentucky and is now spreading her wings in New England. Ana Maria attends Boston College, a medium size Jesuit university with a beautiful and lively campus in a metropolitan area. Ana Maria’s reflections are helpful for students headed to colleges of all sizes, particularly medium and large colleges where taking initiative is more important. We’re grateful to her for sharing thoughts about academics and social life, difficulties as well as successes, and wish her a wonderful undergraduate career at BC.

In terms of my experience as a first year student, it’s definitely had its ups and downs. It was a bit hard at first to make friends, get adjusted to classes, and feel comfortable in a new environment. One thing I think went well was I was not afraid to reach out to everyone that I could. Even though I got some rejections, it proved a good way to make new friends. Whether it was for dinner at a dining hall, a brief trip into a city, or a simple walk around campus, I made it a point to reach out to anyone that I thought seemed like a good potential friend. Slowly, I started to figure out who I clicked well with and could spend extended amounts of time with. It was trial and error but I ended up settling into a great group of friends. Additionally, I organized my schedule very well and recorded every assignment and exam in my planner. That helped me not be overwhelmed as well as keep on top of all my work. Also, I found that professors were very understanding and offered lots of review sessions, extra help, and were useful resources for succeeding in their class. Finally, I found that the clubs I joined helped me find my place a bit faster on campus. Getting involved in service and creative clubs allowed me to meet like-minded people and gave me new outlets and tasks besides just academics. 

There were definitely some struggles too. I, like many others, was overwhelmed with the new found freedom of not living at home and the endless events happening on campus. The first couple of weeks I felt like I needed to go to every event and ultimately I had a hard time balancing work and social life. Planning became really crucial. I eventually figured out to be as productive as I could during the day so that my nights and weekends were free for friends and club activities. I also struggled with living in a new place in a new routine. Sharing a space with someone, dealing with communal bathrooms, and discovering the northeast coming from the south was a hard experience at times. Over time this new routine became more normal and I overcame the regional culture shock by not shying away from opportunities to explore the city and the community. Additionally, I found it comforting to make one or two good friends who came from outside the northeast and understood what it was like to feel homesick and could relate to my background a bit better than my local friends. 

What I found surprising, although it seems obvious, is how college is truly a “you get what you put in” type of environment. Coming into a new place with new people and exciting opportunities, you seem to feel a little bit like they might come to you. With so much going on it seems impossible that you won’t just walk into the perfect friend group or an interesting club. And while that’s true to an extent, it really is what you make of it. It’s up to you to reach out to new friends, to introduce yourself to your professors and reach out when you need help, and to advocate for yourself. It can be easier sometimes to just coast through classes and keep to yourself in the dining hall, but the more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the more you gain from the environment around you. 

Finally, when it comes to Boston College younger students should consider that while this is an academic institution, the culture of this campus is to build you up as a person and to build up a community, rather than just produce high achieving students. A big part of being a BC student is putting on spirit wear and going to football and hockey games. It’s getting to know your classmates and professors. It’s not really an isolationist institution. There’s almost a (positive I think) pressure to be an active member of the community. There are many school traditions such as the Wells Crowther Charity 5k and Christmas Tree Lighting that bring the whole student body together and help you feel connected to BC as a home and not just a school. 

I hope some of that is helpful. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time at BC and can’t wait to see what is coming down the pipeline for me here.

— Ana Maria C.

How will you measure success this year?

January 17th, 2023

2023 is here, and with the new year comes the promise of a fresh start and a new beginning. Most people begin the year with resolutions in hopes to bring about success, health and happiness. Take a moment to ponder these questions for self-reflection.

Image via College LIfe Made Easy

How do you measure success? Is it by the grades you receive in your coursework? This is often the most straightforward way to look at your level of achievement, but is it meaningful?

What if you challenged yourself with a simple willingness to learn? Author Jonathon Malesic believes this is the key to success in college and I believe in all parts of our lives: career, relationships, high school, college, etc. If we can be open to the possibility of truly learning in all aspects of life, we will see success across the board. Set your sights higher in 2023; focus on increasing your curiosity and coming away with more knowledge to make the most out every day.

Article referenced below from The New York Times, written by Jonathon Malesic, published on January 3, 2023

The Key to Success in College Is So Simple, It’s Almost Never Mentioned

For Emily Zurek Small, college did what it’s supposed to do. Growing up in a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania, she had career and intellectual ambitions for which college is the clearest pathway. “I just kind of always wanted to learn,” she told me recently. “I wanted to be able to have intelligent conversations with people and know about the world.”

She enrolled at a small nearby Catholic college, majored in neuroscience and in 2016 became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree — and later, a master’s. She now works as a school psychologist in Virginia.

Read more at The New York Times>>