This is my third time critiquing the school, and looking back at my other posts, it's obvious that my increasing maturity over the years has affected my perception of Stevens as a whole.
Since this might run long, I'll summarize my opinion about this school here: it's academics and (local) reputation are strong (but weaker compared to previous years), housing and dining is okay, but attaining a social life is what one makes of it.
Stevens is, first and foremost, an institute for the sciences and engineering. These programs are very well-established, and there are many outlets for research opportunities if that is desired. Additionally, many Stevens graduates are favored in the workplace and have helped Stevens establish a very strong corporate presence.
Furthermore, the first two years are usually the "deciding" years for most engineering and science students. While the load has been trimmed significantly since I entered, it is still enough coursework to bring about pain and suffering for many. Business and arts students follow different curricula, which I hear is pretty tough.
Students begin to enter their discipline by the third-year, and it is usually by then that deficiencies start to show themselves. While the ECE department at Stevens has a sizable amount of talented and accomplished professors and lecturers, almost ALL of them are involved in incredible amounts of research and side work. This usually means that courses are taken much less seriously than expected, and are much easier than they ought to be. Fortunately, the variety of topics taught in ECE is pretty acceptable, and one can choose to follow a hardware- or software-specific path without having to enter the disciplines dedicated to each (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, respectively).
COOPERATIVE EDUCATION AND INTERNSHIPS:
Stevens is one of eleven schools in the nation that provides a well-established cooperative education plan. Students involved in "co-op" work full-time jobs approximately every other semester, and have the option to graduate in five years instead of four to work an extended two-term period.
As a participant of this program, I have found Co-op to be an invaluable component of my academic and undergraduate career at Stevens. Having worked at several different large companies not only helped me build a foundation of experience, but have also "forced" me to mature as an individual and as a professional. Additionally, many indispensable skills not taught in college can be learned during co-op, such as networking and adapting to corporate culture. If anything, co-op helps students build impressive resumes and substantially improve their chances at landing equally exceptional jobs post-graduation or during their senior year.
I highly encourage any prospective engineering student to seriously consider joining this program. It adds an incredible amount of value to the degree. Unfortunately, there are much fewer co-op opportunities for science majors, but they are there. If co-op is not an option, Stevens has many wonderful programs to help students land great internships or similar arrangements.
STUDENT BODY AND CAMPUS LIFE:
The student body here is very diverse; significantly more so since I entered. The founding of the Business and Technology and the expansion of the Art/Music majors helped diversify the student pool, as well as contribute nicely to life on campus (though not by much). I no longer live on campus, but during the two years that I did, most students were friendly and easy-going. There is very little competitive tension here, as most people help each other get by.
There are quite a few small extracurricular groups on campus, which bond very closely and usually have very nice activities to participate in. The Entertainment Council does a great job at hosting off-campus activities, such as Broadway plays, basketball games and comedy shows (which run the gamut, but have been pretty good lately).
Additionally, there are a few fraternities and sororities that host several parties and school-related groups. Most of them are very accepting of different personalities, and none of them practice hazing (that I know of). Being involved in a fraternity can do wonders to spicing up on-campus life, and help people make life-long friends and/or business partners. There is also the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, which has a very strong national network and an even stronger influence in Stevens, but may not be for everyone. Habitat for Humanity engages in very similar service activities, but at a lower and more specific scale.
Finally, there are many social opportunities to be had in Hoboken and New York City. While most of the venues in the home city cater those 21 years and older, there are many places in New York that are suitable for wider audiences. Many free park concerts and attractions happen during the summer months, and there are TONS of small cafes in the City, if that might be an interest to anyone (not including Starbucks et al.).
Most students go back home on the weekends, but these should keep most people busy when free from study. :)
ON-CAMPUS HOUSING AND MEAL PLAN:
Stevens housing has expanded dramatically since I entered. Several years ago, I disapproved of the options available, as many of the dormitories were running on the older side. Some bathrooms (particularly in Hayden Hall) were often left uncleaned in the weekends, which made for interesting visits on Saturday mornings. Rooms were also small, just like many college campus halls.
However, major improvements were made in the last two years to address this. Most of the new dormitories acquired are actually old apartments and suites, which brought much bigger rooms, increased privacy, great kitchens and higher pricetags. Some of the newer facilities are quite distant from the school, with one requiring a shuttle to commute between points. In addition, a new LEED-Silver certified dormitory is being built right on-campus and might be ready soon.
Another unfortunate consequence of these changes is that all but one of the meal plans available to students has been cut to control costs. All students living on-campus must have an "Ultimate Access" meal plan, which provides (nearly) unlimited meals and $100 "Duckbills" (currency provided by Stevens which can be used in supported businesses around Hoboken). When I lived on campus two years ago, there were several options for meal plans that not only provided more Duckbills, but were also much less expensive across the board.
The dining facilities are well-kept, and the selection in Pierce is usually satisfying and is cheaper than most restaurants in Hoboken (during dinnertime). Colonel John's Restaurant (which is "supposed" to be a Sports "Bar," but fails badly at identifying itself as one) makes great sandwiches, but the pre-packaged salads are a bit tart.
America's Cup, the on-campus cafe, offers the usual coffee drinks found at most Starbucks locations with the same quality. There is also a coffee bar in the Burchard building on 6th Street, which makes the same drinks on the spot. The snacks are a bit unappealing (at least to me), and the fruits have sometimes been a few hours old, but nothing too serious.
I know very little about athletics at Stevens, but from having seen some games, it's almost exactly what you'd expect from a Divison III school. If you've got pro talent, the pros aren't here. We have a very successful cycling team, though!
Many alumni advise prospective students that college is what one makes of it. I didn't fully understand this adage, and most first-year students will not have had enough experience to appreciate it. However, most people that take advantage of what's made available and remember to work hard (and play harder) will come to really like and appreciate Stevens. Most that don't either transfer or land up hating it. It's a great school, and I mostly enjoyed my time here, but it's up to YOU as the reader to make it great.Thanks for reading.