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The Catholic University of America

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So far Catholic has been an amazing experienceQuite BrightNursing
So far Catholic has been an amazing experience for me. Being in Washington D.C. during your college years can't be beat, especially with the metro on campus making everything in the city super-accessible. But even if we weren't in D.C. there would be lots of great things about our school.

First of all, you really shouldn't take the advice of people who have only been to a school (any school, not just CUA) for a semester too seriously. They most likely didn't give the school a chance long enough to last the year, and many people I know who didn't wholly enjoy their first semester really got into the groove of things second semester.

But other than that bit of advice, CUA has got such a warm atmosphere that really values community, especially in terms of service.

I was surprised how great the free events and freebies that CUA Campus Activities planned/gave out were. I got to go to many events around the city for free/super cheap.

The atmosphere isn't super school spirited, at least not when it comes to athletics, but since we are a D3 school with a football team, we have a lot of students that are also athletes so they keep the rest of us informed on what's going on. Parties on campus aren't really a thing, but sports houses around campus throw some decent parties every once in a while. Bars are a common spot, too. But since you have DC at your fingertips (as well as the parties of about 4 other schools in DC) there's always something to do. The Catholic identity is a lot more apparent here than at other catholic schools, but if you're not religious it's definitely not a big deal.

Freshman housing is actually really great, especially compared to other schools I know about. The food is average at best, but there are options around the school/city if you've got the budget for it. Its nice to have a little green space away from the concrete hustle and bustle of the main city and it's definitely a homey place.

It's very easy to get involved in activities and to earn leadership positions if you work for them, which is really great for career development.

Study abroad program is awesome, even for majors that don't get many opportunities to go abroad (nursing, engineering)

People really are from everywhere, but the majority are from east coast between VA and Massachusetts, and Ohio/PA but also a good amount from Florida and California. It's really cool to meet people from all over the country.

A lot of the majors they have here are actually very good and reputable in the workforce, especially nursing, engineering, architecture, politics, business, music, theology/philosophy, psychology, education. I know that seems like a lot but it really is an underrated school and internships aren't that hard to get in D.C. I know a few freshmen that had internships at the Capitol.Overall, its an awesome school that's not too big or too competitive, but still has the resources that larger schools have. They do care a lot about you, as long as you put the care into yourself and the school. You make the experience your own.

1st Year Female -- Class 1920
Campus Aesthetics: A+, Faculty Accessibility: B+
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Like many schools in a similar price/rankings point,Quite BrightEducation
Like many schools in a similar price/rankings point, the student body is probably CUAs greatest weak point. As a returning student who was in the army for a while, I found that if you are not a student who has lived in the dorms from Freshman year onward, you will likely feel excluded. I was more or less fine with this but it could be hard for others. The student body is primarily made up of monied catholics from NY and NJ. This is not nessesarily a bad thing but does seem to come at the expense of meaningful student diversity. As a result, viewpoints and life experiences among students are often singular rather than plural, making debate in class difficult. Freshman and sophomore courses were plagued with unmotivated students filling desks, though by upper division most have either moved to media studies or dropped out. Plus sides: profs are fantastic and class sizes are small. If you are someone who wants to stand out and get to know your professors, only a little hard work will get you to the head of the class.
4th Year Male -- Class 2012
Faculty Accessibility: A+, Social Life: C
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I can certainly understand some of the negativeQuite BrightEducation
I can certainly understand some of the negative comments about CUA, though my mileage seems to have been quite different. First: my experience at CUA and speaking to other students and faculty seems to indicate that which major you choose will have a major impact on the quality of your education for your upper division coursework. Not to diminish the hard sciences and the work they are doing there, but outside of Nursing most of the biology/chemistry programs seemed chronically underfunded. Honestly, this should not be a surprise, as this is a liberal arts focused school. If you want top-flight science education, you go to a school that is on the cutting edge of research in that field.

Further, many of the negative comments about CUA seem to be authored by students in, and address, the first year experience. As someone who went to a large state college out of high school, joined the military and then transferred to CUA (where I largely restarted from the beginning) I can say that the 1st year experience at CUA is typical of colleges as a whole, assuming you replace rabid newfound liberalism with rabid conservatism. Both are a product of young adults trying to negotiate their identity in a world without parents. Both are annoying, and largely absent from the 3rd and 4th year experience.

My experience was as a Secondary Education/History Major and I was EXTREMELY satisfied with the program. A few caveats for anyone thinking about Secondary Ed. The program itself has a fairly low retention because it is functionally a double major in Education and your content area. If you are not 100% certain about what you want to do, it is not a great major because the heavy course-load between your content area and education classes eliminates most of your "exploratory" credits. That being said, there are few undergraduate programs out there that can ensure that you will receive a degree and teaching credential simultaneously. This alone is well worth the cost of entry, but it is a lot of work to knock it all out.

The education department is fantastic at CUA. Every faculty member is dedicated and cares deeply for their students and for their Department. They will work you hard. The lower division of education classes are usually pretty packed with students, but the high expectations for future educators (which is a good thing), coupled with the aforementioned lack of exploratory space for those students who are unsure of their career path, causes many to depart for "softer" programs. As a result few, if any, of my upper division education courses had over 10 students, and often half of those students were graduates. The end result was classes that really challenged me to become a better educator in a rigorous environment.

Similarly, I had a fantastic time working with the History Department. Upper division course offerings were always interesting, and forced me to move out of my comfort zone into exciting content area. The Senior research thesis pipeline of two junior research seminars and then a senior research seminar was a great way to prep for graduate level work (which I am currently taking at a California State University) and have a paper published as an undergraduate. I found the entire department to be caring and dedicated to providing a high quality education.

The high acceptance rate at CUA is somewhat deceptive. This does mean that there are many students who are simply there but not necessarily engaged in their education. Most departments at CUA ramp up their difficulty in their upper division classes and have GPA requirements to keep their majors to weed out unmotivated students from those programs. This means that some majors: Education, Nursing,Engineering and Architecture, to name a few, are extremely high caliber while some of the other majors become a sort of island of misfit toys (media studies comes most readily to mind). As with any school, you find the school itself is not what really matters, but the department you are going to major in that truly determines the quality of your educational experience. Your mileage may vary, but I had a fantastic experience at CUA, and would strongly recommend the education or history programs to anyone thinking about those job fields.

On an additional side note: I took a lot of summer classes at CUA, and in one of my math classes I was the only student enrolled. At many schools, this would have meant a cancelled class and I would have been off-track to graduate on-time. But my professor ran the class anyways, and we met in his office for essentially one-on-one tutoring for the duration of the class. I can attest that this type of experience will not happen at most schools. Go Cardinals!

1st Year Male -- Class 2012
Education Quality: A+, Perceived Campus Safety: B-
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