College Decision Time: A visit to Tulane

Tulane was the first university to accept Jeff, so it’s somewhat ironic that it’s the last place we’re visiting. But it takes longer to get here, so we wanted to wait until he was on vacation, and this year, that meant waiting till nearly the end of April because of the leap month.

We flew in yesterday, arriving at the hotel a little after 9pm CDT. And we got a pleasant surprise — they gave us a significantly better rate than we’d expected, because our trip was Tulane-afflilated.

This morning, we had breakfast and queued up for the St. Charles streetcar just after 7:30am. We were not alone; there were at least three other families who were also bound for Destination Tulane. And the streetcar driver took care of us, announcing when we were at the right place (I thought we were going to go at least one other stop, so I’m glad he did that). There was plenty of signage on campus, and we were met by an admissions person and directed to the right place anyway.

Tulane had laid out a nice spread for us (though someone pointed out the absence of matzah), and had a well-organized program, starting with a short talk by one of the admissions staff, then a long tour of campus, a student panel, lunch at Bruff Commons (on the University), a talk by the Provost, and a tour of a “model” dorm room. Then we sat in on a class in International Relations, wandered through the student union, and eventually took the streetcar back to the hotel.

I’d have to say that this was the best and most informative visit we’ve had; it was also the smallest group (maybe 150 people, tops, versus 400 or so at Willamette, and thousands at UC Davis and UCSB). Well, the tour at UC Santa Cruz was smaller, but it was strictly a bus tour, with very little interaction (no dorm visits, no classes; we didn’t even go to the student union or any food service facility).

Some of the things which I noted here:

  • Students are assigned a faculty advisor (tenured) when they register, and they stay with that person until they declare a major (and many still work with their original advisor). Advising is manadatory freshman year; I think it’s optional after that, though the advisor has to sign certain paperwork (like changes of major).
  • Double (and even triple) majors are pretty common (around 40%), and minors are also common.
  • You’re required to live on campus for your first two year; about half of the juniors do, and maybe a quarter of the seniors. Tulane has on-campus apartments for upperclassmen, not just dorms. Most everyone lives within a mile of campus. There are shuttles to some off-campus destinations; if you want to go somewhere else, you’re on your own (you don’t get free use of the city transit system).
  • Bikes are not nearly as common as on the UCSB and UC Davis campuses.
  • Students are required to have two “service learning” experiences, which are normally tied to a class rather than being standalone “community service”. This is new since Katrina.
  • Professors teach classes and are accessible, both during official office hours and other times. TAs lead labs and grade, rather than teaching sections.
  • The core curriculum includes three semesters of foreign language, history, English, and a lab science, as well as the TIDES (Tulane InterDisciplinary Education Series, or something like that), which is taught by a professor your first year. All majors have a capstone requirement.
  • All undergraduates are members of the Newcomb-Tulane undergraduate college; when you declare a major, you also become a member of the relevant school and department. Each school has additional core requirements, and then each major has specifics.
  • Research opportunites exist for undergrads, even freshmen.
  • There are many study abroad programs (summer, semester, or full-year), some of which can also fulfill a service learning requirement.
  • They do a compatibility survey for roommates (like UCSB, and unlike Davis, which assigns randomly).
  • The food at Bruff Commons was pretty good (they even had matzah available). The meal plan is carte blanche, so students are not limited to a certain number of visits (unlike UCSB and UC Davis), so one can pop in for an apple (say) and not use up a full meal credit.

Some other things that students mentioned:

  • The career center is very good, and available as soon as Freshman year.
  • You can buy stuff at your local Bed, Bath, and Beyond and have it available for pickup in New Orleans (or, presumably, at other colleges if there’s a store there).
  • The optional pre-orientation “New Orleans Experience” is worthwhile.

We haven’t had much time to explore New Orleans; we took a quick walk after coming back from campus, but it was rather warm. So we retreated to the hotel for a bit, then went to dinner at La Crepe Nanou (recommended by the admissions office, and included in the Zagat Guide they gave us). The food was good (though we won’t order Coq au Vin there again — there’s bacon in it, which Diane found out just in time; they switched her order at no charge), though the music was a little loud. And the wines (by the glass) were very nice; I wish I’d written them down (their online wine list is downlevel).

After dinner, we took the streetcar and bus down to Canal Street, then walked over to Cafe du Monde, wandered through a bit more of the French Quarter, and then taxied back to the hotel. We hope to do a bit more touring tomorrow before flying home.

Work on Wednesday is going to be a shock, I’m afraid.