The University of Arizona
Our first stop was at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The U. of A. is a large flagship research institution with approximately 34,000 undergraduate students. Though Tucson is a large city, it has a college town feel. The university is a big part of Tucson’s economy, community, and spirit. Why would you consider the University of Arizona? It has strong academics while preparing students to be “real-world” ready. There are programs for student engagement, and because it is primarily an undergraduate school, undergrads are able to participate in research. There are over 300 majors here, in addition to the only medical school in the state.
The U of A has great opportunities for California students. The total cost of attendance is lower than many neighboring states’ big public universities. There are also scholarships available to out-of-state students. In addition, you can stack private scholarships on top of the institutional scholarships to help cut costs. College entrance exams, (SAT/ACT) are optional in limited form. So, if you want to go into engineering, architecture, or receive merit-based aid, you will need to test. However, if testing is not your strong suit, you will still be considered for admission without sending scores. 40% of “out-of-staters” are from California, New York, or Illinois.
The University of Arizona has an excellent honors college that is built into the initial application. The Honors College has a separate dorm, and has courses that are taught exclusively by professors. If you want to have more personal academic engagement, then the Honors College might be a great choice for you. With 15-25 students per class, you can explore the subject in depth and participate in discussion based courses that get you to think!
Another amazing feature is the SALT, (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques), Center. This program is a good fit for students who want the full college experience, but have some learning differences to overcome. Each student is assigned a learning specialist and has access to tutoring, time management tools, and organization strategies. There is an additional application and fee for this support, but it can really help students navigate though college and emerge skilled, confident, and ready for work.
The Wild Cat spirit is as vibrant as the desert sun and students are into athletics, clubs, Greek-life, as well as internships and studies. U of A students know how to “Bear Down” to get the job done—“Go Cats!”
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
This private university is located in picturesque Prescott. This is a school for students who know what they want to do and like to “get their hands dirty.” Flight is the big draw here. You can get your flight ratings for fixed wing single engine, multi-engine, helicopter, and flight instructor. The program is so good that ERAU grads get 500 qualifying hours waived before being hired as pilots at the regional airlines. The flight line has fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. There are flight simulators, wind simulators, and hands-on flight experience. Many ERUA grads continue on as flight instructors as they accrue the flight hours necessary to get hired at the “regionals.” Flying is not included in the cost of attendance, it is an extra investment, but ERUA graduates usually have no trouble finding jobs. Some students major in aeronautics or air traffic control with an eye on becoming a commercial pilot,while others pursue flight as a hobby.
Embry-Riddle is more than an aeronautical university. They have an excellent engineering school with hands-on experience in the “design-build-test” engineering process. The projects are team based and often interdisciplinary with funding from industries such as Honeywell and NASA. We saw wind tunnels and pressure vessels, machine shops and robots under construction. The CSI, College of Security and Intelligence, is the newest, with majors such as Global Security and Intelligence, and Cyber Intelligence and Security. Graduates of these majors often get jobs with the “three letter agencies.”
They have a large Air Force ROTC detachment as well as Army ROTC. Embry-Riddle is actively recruiting women and expanding their athletics programs for both men and women. As part of the NAIA they currently offer cross-country, soccer, golf, wrestling, women’s softball, and have just added basketball! The Golden Eagle Flight Team is a big deal here, they compete both regionally and nationally and have many championship titles to their name.
If you aren’t quite ready college, Embry-Riddle also has some wonderful summer camp programs for younger students, such as flight, robotics, and even a balloon camp, which has students building, launching, and analyzing the data collected. Check out this link to see all of the options. http://summercamps.erau.edu/camps/index.html
Northern Arizona University
“Northern” is located in Flagstaff up in the mountains. It is at 7,000 feet elevation, so the climate is a lot like Tahoe. Cold in the winter, warm in the summer with lots of sunshine makes this Arizona destination a great place to attend college. Skiing is only minutes away, and the quaint town has lots of fun and funky shops and restaurants that attract tourists as well as college students. Flagstaff has a true college town feel.
NAU is an affordable option for California students because it is part of the Western Undergraduate Exchange, WUE. This means that students from California can attend for 150% of in-state tuition, which when added to the cost of living makes it competitive with California public universities. However, there is no WUE for nursing or dental hygiene majors. NAU also has merit scholarships for out-of-state students—even just visiting before you apply can net you a small scholarship! NAU is a test optional school; however, if you want to be considered for any scholarships, you must submit test scores. There are a host of majors from business, to criminal justice, health professions, and many more. There is a small engineering department as well, and an honors college whose motto is “Work smarter, not harder.” There really is something for just about everybody.
The university started as a teacher’s college, but has expanded its’ horizons in the last 115 years. The school is divided into “North Campus” and “South Campus,” and a convenient shuttle bus will take you where you need to go, or you can ride your bike or skateboard. The school is a mix of some old and lots of new, with several projects under construction. The social scene on campus is vibrant with something for everyone. If you are interested in Greek life, they have a Greek dorm, instead of a Greek Row. If fraternities and sororities aren’t for you, there are plenty of clubs and outdoor activities to keep you busy in your “down time.” Beautiful Sedona and the Grand Canyon are both an easy day trip, and if you long for lights and the big city, Phoenix is 2 hours down the interstate. I can see why California kids like this school!
ASU Polytechnic Campus
The “800-pound gorilla” in Arizona has to be Arizona State University, ASU. It is now the largest university in the country. In fact, it has 4 campuses. The main campus in Tempe is the best known and has the Sun Devil Stadium and vibrant social scene. We visited the Polytechnic campus in Mesa, southeast of Phoenix. It is only a 20 minute shuttle ride between campuses, and the Polytechnic campus may be ASU’s “hidden gem.” It is housed on the former Williams Air Force Base, but there has been so much growth and refurbishment, you would hardly know this formerly belonged to the military. ASU Poly offers flight and air traffic control, as well as engineering, business, aerospace, education, sciences, and technology. ASU evaluates students based on 16 core competencies instead of comparing student to student, which means if you are qualified, you will be admitted. They have certain programs that are WUE eligible, but you must take your classes at the campus to which you are admitted. Poly is not a “back-door” into the Tempe campus! However, you can participate in all of the activities in Tempe, including football, Greek life, and clubs. Poly has a beautiful new recreation center that was designed with input from students. Poly also boasts state-of-the-art labs. Freshmen are required to live on campus and are housed in residential colleges with other students in the same major. Barrett, The Honors College, has a program at Poly that has separate dorms and allows students access to small class sizes, internships and the in-depth exploration of subject matter that typifies the honors experience. If you want a little quieter atmosphere, and hands-on learning, then ASU Polytechnic might fit the bill!
Each of these schools has so much more than I could absorb on my short visits. If you are interested in exploring these schools, I encourage you to take the tour, make appointments with the departments you are interested in and have a meal on campus. We ate at three of the four campuses we visited and found the food to be good! When you visit, try to talk to students, ask questions. The only way to get the flavor of a school is to visit!