Background info about myself:
I grew up in the upstate of South Carolina. I chose FMU because of the small price tag, small campus atmosphere and small classes (even a freshman intro course of 40-50 students is still much smaller than several hundred students in an auditorium at most large universities). I graduated from FMU in 2006 with a double major. I have since gone on to graduate school and have spent time at 3 larger universities including a state land grant school of around 20,000 students. I currently spend about half the year in South America working on my thesis research, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. This has been possible due to my undergraduate educational experience at Francis Marion University.
Francis Marion is a regional school located just outside of the medium size town of Florence, SC. Florence is not a great town but does have most of the services one would need. There are decent restaurants and bars in town. Columbia, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston are all within a couple of hours drive and provide more of the big city entertainment. These are nice places to go on the weekends when the majority of students leave the FMU campus. As with most towns in the south, the public transportation is virtually nonexistent. Students without a vehicle will have difficulty getting to and from town as well as leaving Florence on the weekends.
The campus is very nice and features plenty of open space. The student center has plenty of activities available. Greek life is popular at FMU if thatâ€™s your fancy. Parking is not an issue like I have seen at larger schools. You can easily walk anywhere on campus and thereâ€™s no problem getting between classes within 10 mins. Thereâ€™s no through traffic and pedestrians have the right away. Thereâ€™s plenty of lighting at night and campus police will provide personal escorts although the campus is pretty safe. There are also call boxes located throughout campus should one need immediate attention. The only campus crimes I recall involved petty crime such as an occasional car break-in or under aged drinking in the dorms, things that occur on every college campus.
Iâ€™ve noticed several comments about the administration at FMU. I served on several student committees that interacted with the administration as well as worked in the administration building as a student worker. In my opinion, the administration does a very good job. They sincerely listen to student propositions when well organized and presented appropriately. They donâ€™t pay particular attention to students complaining about a traffic ticket or griping about their grades.
Francis Marion is a liberal arts school that focuses on educating their students rather than training them. The curriculum at FMU is designed to provide a broad and intensive education in the arts and sciences as well as business and education. FMU graduates are successful in going on to graduate and professional schools as well as obtaining jobs. If you want to learn a particular trade go to a tech school. If you want a very narrowly defined major go to a large state school. For example, FMU offers a degree in general biology as opposed to biotechnology or biosystems engineering. The classrooms are small and professors have personal relationships with the students. There are no graduate student teaching assistantships so you have professors or qualified instructors providing the learning material - a major difference between FMU and the larger universities I have experienced. Professors are not pressured to write big grants and conduct high impact research, but are expected to devote their time to working with undergraduates and teaching undergraduate courses â€“ another major difference between FMU and larger universities. I had a few professors that I felt were incompetent but the majority presented the course material clearly, thoroughly, and organized. There are plenty of opportunities for out of the classroom learning including undergraduate research, study abroad programs, and internships. These are great opportunities for students interested in going on to graduate or professional schools as well as resume builders.
Like I said, I have spent time at 3 larger universities, and in my opinion, the quality of undergraduate education at FMU is second to none.