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| Catholic University is a great school, especially for architecture. With it being in Washington, DC there is so many great building to study and learn from. The program is one of the ten best in the country. The atmosphere is friendly, the faculty knowledgeable, and the academic quality high. I would recommend this school to anyone. Come check it out, you will fall in love with it, as I did. |
|Apr 01 2001|| 4th Year Female --
Class 2000 |
| CUA is, in my view, one of the country's best-kept secrets. |
1. It is a small school with all of the attendant benefits--accessible faculty, friendly people, supportive and non-cutthroat environment, etc.--but the opportunities afforded by the surrounding city are second to none.
2. Despite its proximity to downtown DC (three Metro stops from Capitol Hill), the campus really is incredibly beautiful. I'm always discovering new spots.
3. The "specialty" departments for which the University is most well-known are Philosophy, Theology (obviously), Architecture, Nursing, and Engineering. Other departments tend to be very small. However, at least in my case (Economics), the small department size is more than made up for by the quality of the professors.
4. Join the Honors Program, if you can. The classes are much more challenging, and there are lots of neat activities that you can take part in. Best of all, though, you get to register for courses before everyone else, and you get to live in Regan Hall, both of which are HUGE.
5. Regarding the "Catholic" part: look, it's a Catholic school, and they take that identity seriously. If you don't know to expect that from the name, I'm not really sure you should be going to college. Most students are Catholic, there are crucifixes in every classroom, there's a huge Basilica on campus, etc. If you are Catholic, don't pass up the opportunity to grow in your faith--Campus Ministry is great, and of course you have ample access to the Sacraments and other devotions at the Basilica and the two campus chapels. If you're not Catholic, don't worry about it--no one will force anything down your throat. It's no different than going to Notre Dame.6. Regarding the "conservative" part: I think people tend to assume these days that "orthodox Catholic" is equivalent to "politically conservative." My experience is that this isn't necessarily true, either at CUA or in the universal Church (at least in the JPII generation). Most of the devout Catholics on campus are pro-life and pro-family, but on other issues we run the gamut just like any other school. The College Democrats are large and well-organized and won Chapter of the Year in 2008. As a whole, the University pretty much avoids either extreme.
|Nov 01 2009|| 1st Year Male --
Class 2009 |
| Disclaimer: the comments below are reflective of my own experiences at the Catholic University of America, and may not necessarily be reflective or predictive of others?. I bear no ill will towards the school, its administration, its faculty, or its students. I strive merely to be as honest as possible about what I, through my own personal experiences, have come to believe after two and a half semesters at CUA.|
There are many things to love about CUA. We have some excellent professors who truly care about teaching, not just about their research. Class sizes are relatively small. CUA is first and foremost a liberal arts school, which means that your distribution requirements will expose you to large doses of the humanities, the natural sciences, and (best of all) classical philosophy--topics that teach you now only how to regurgitate facts, but also how to think, speak, and write (though you lose out on some of the benefits if you cover your requirements with AP exams). The Honors Program is first-rate, and there are some excellent study abroad options (including a very unique partnership with Oxford University). The student body includes a large number of truly smart, idealistic, and overall well-put-together students. The Catholic identity is, on balance, a plus: students have unrivaled access to the sacraments, and Campus Ministry (led by three beloved Franciscan chaplains) runs highly popular community service activities and recreational events for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Finally (and this should go without saying), the location simply cannot be beat. DC offers a myriad of opportunities for college students, and the challenge is to figure out how to take advantage of as many of them as possible without completely overwhelming yourself.
With all of that said, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the bad. CUA has an embarrassingly low freshman and sophomore retention rate, and to a certain extent the numbers, bad as they are, don?t fully convey the true extent of the problem: many of the strongest students in the junior and senior classes express regret that they did not transfer when they had the chance. Here are a few of the reasons:
-The size and liberal arts focus are both blessings and curses. A large majority of the departments in the School of Arts and Sciences (essentially, anything that?s not Philosophy, Theology/Religion, Architecture, Social Work, Nursing, or Engineering) are perennially underfunded and understaffed, meaning that many of the upper-level courses listed in the catalog have not been offered in years and probably never will be offered. This is not something that most high school students think to ask about when they make their college choice, but once you enter sophomore year you realize that it is a huge problem. The end result is that you end up filling your degree requirements with courses that don?t interest you, are irrelevant to what you want to do with your degree, and are very different from (and inferior to) courses being taken by students in similar programs at other universities. Such has been my experience with the Economics major: when I went to my advisor to express my concerns about the lack of upper-level Econ course offerings, he suggested that I fill my departmental electives with business courses (management, accounting, etc.) Business and economics are two very different fields, and getting a B.A. in Economics by taking business courses would be unheard of at other universities. Now, this issue may not be a problem for everyone. Some departments are better than others. But, for your own sake, DO YOUR RESEARCH, especially if you?re looking at a major that falls under the School of Arts and Sciences. Find out how many students are in the program, how many full-time professors work for the department, the course rotation, etc. It?s research I desperately wish I had done before choosing to major in Economics at CUA. One thing to keep in mind: the school will tell you that we are a member of the DC college consortium, which in theory should give students access to courses at other area universities. Unfortunately, this fact does not even come close to ameliorating the problem that I just outlined, because a) it is very inconvenient to travel to the other universities, and b) CUA erects hard-to-surmount bureaucratic obstacles that hinder students? efforts to take advantage of these opportunities. So, don?t assume that the consortium will ensure access to your desired courses.
-CUA seems to be abandoning its small-school identity, and the attendant benefits, in favor of growth at all costs. Gen-ed and introductory class sizes for freshmen and sophomores are swelling, and more and more courses (including some at the 200 level) are being taught by adjunct faculty. While I can see how, in certain limited situations, it might be beneficial to learn from teachers who are simultaneously working real-world jobs, and realize that without the part-time hires the course offerings would be even more constricted, the bottom line is that adjuncts are overworked, underpaid, and devilishly difficult to get in touch with. This is a problem that students at large state schools have been dealing with for years; it is not one that we should have to deal with at a school with a mere 3500 undergraduates. For serious students, the main attraction of a small university is the ability to form meaningful relationships with instructors. While these benefits do exist at CUA?I have had several excellent full-time professors with whom I was able to connect inside and outside of the classroom?the trends appear to be headed in the wrong direction, at least in certain departments. It?s one thing for a small university to have the problems of a small university; it?s another thing entirely for a small university to have the problems of a large university. CUA is in the unique position of having both.
-I?ll preface this final comment by stating that I find it utterly ridiculous to rank schools based on how few students they admit, which is why I think that Ivy League schools (and Ivy clones) are highly overrated. Elitism does not a quality education make, and where students are when they come out of a school is far more important than where they are when they come in. That being said, CUA?s 86% acceptance rate has a number of negative effects. Among the many colleges and universities in the DC area, we are the ultimate safety school and therefore the ultimate party school. There is a sizable contingent of rich suburban ?bros? and ?biddies? who scorn the slightest hints of intellectual curiosity or open-mindedness and seem determined to coast through four years of college on the least amount of effort possible. Of course, this culture exists in one form or another at most American universities, but because of our acceptance rate it is much more ubiquitous at CUA than at other small liberal arts colleges. This does not mean that there are no smart and hard-working students at CUA; there are many. And I would generally be willing to live and let live when it comes to how other people choose to spend their college careers. However, there is no question that this reality has badly hurt CUA?s academic reputation. It also hurts the quality of the education that all students, including the smart and hardworking ones, receive; because large failure rates make professors look bad, many (not all) non-Honors courses feature dumbed-down curricula, heavy grade inflation, and overly lenient academic policies to accommodate those who couldn?t care less about learning. To share a particularly flagrant example: in the second semester of my freshman year, I took an Intro to Microeconomics course in which the professor offered a total of THREE retakes on a midterm, and then gave a final exam that took me about twenty minutes to finish. I don?t think that?s typically associated with a top-notch and mind-expanding education.
Overall, then, as I reflect back on the time I have spent thus far at CUA, and look toward the next few years, I cannot escape the feeling that, by choosing to attend CUA, I passed up a great number of schools that would have met my needs far more effectively. I expected to receive an education that was both broad and deep, one that would expand my horizons and challenge me while preparing me for a successful career. It is true that I have experienced some truly standout courses taught by truly standout professors. On the aggregate level, however, I have thus far received what can only be described as a mediocre education; and, with the crushingly limited course options available for my chosen major, I do not anticipate that things will improve. I am currently trying to resign myself to the fact that transferring may be my only good option.
|Oct 16 2010|| 1st Year Male --
Class 2013 |