First, let's address the perceived negatives:
- Commuter school
- Lack of social scene
- Students intensely focused on their future career
Hmmm...well, perhaps, so let's address each in turn:
Commuter school - Well, yes...there are many commuters...but there are also many residents. In fact, when the dorm that is currently under construction is complete, Mason will have approximately the same amount of residential space as JMU and UVA...and I think others are planned in the near-term. So yes, quite a few people live on campus. Do others live off campus? Sure. In many cases, just hundreds of yards off campus. Why? Because this isn't Roanoke, Ashland, or Williamsburg. There are a wealth of great and affordable places to live nearby...and like at many schools in VA, many upperclassmen tend to get apartments off campus. Do others live at home and commute to school? Sure. Does that ruin my life? Um, not so much. 6,000 people live on campus...and many more live in the immediate area around campus. Have you folks been to Mason in the last two decades?
Social scene - Guilty...if by social scene you mean drinking in a frat house. There is no frat row. Tears. There are frats and sororities, but they are assigned special housing. Frankly, when you are in a cosmopolitan area, the motivation for keg parties is low. DC, Arlington, and Alexandria are nearby. Yes, Longwood and JMU sure can put on a keg party...out of necessity. Keep your drunken riots JMU.
With regards to meeting people, no social scene? Are you kidding me? Are you even trying? The number of clubs and interests groups is obscene. We even have an ever-growing set of Living Learning Communities (LLCs) that allow you to live in a residence hall collocated with others who share your LLC interest. There are entire dorm floors dedicated to LLCs. You like camping, rock climbing, and outdoor adventure? Yep, there is an LLC community for that...and you just don't live together - it's a club that has a full program of activities. There are others for the arts, engineering, wellness/yoga and who knows what else. How about a social scene that includes some diversity of race, nationality, opinion, experience, etc? On my tour of JMU, I felt like I was an extra on some low budget white bread college B-movie. "Nerds! Get them!" Christopher Newport? Shiver.
To be frank, any college in a cosmopolitan area is going to have a significant fraction of the "social scene" off campus...and Mason is no different. The resources and social opportunities in metro DC are ridiculous...but if you want to meet people on campus and you can't, you aren't even trying. I won't deny that the campus isn't crawling with students on a Saturday...just like a cruise ship isn't crawling with passengers when it is in port. People are out and engaged in the metro area. Our bad. Sorry.
- Students focused on their career - 100% guilty. Unlike Radford, where folks party for 4 years and then wonder what to do with the piece of paper that they are then handed, Mason's programs are intensely focused on delivering an education that has an actual purpose...and the students have a similar sense of purpose. Whether you are in CS, Engineering, Nursing, Business, Poly Sci, or one of the other scores of majors, you will never doubt the relevance and applicability of what you are learning. Corporate and Government partnerships abound...as do the internship opportunities. Jesus, check out the notable alumni on the wikipedia page. Many of those folks came here for advanced degrees precisely because of the relevance. Folks here aren't competing against each other for GPAs, they are trying to ensure that they are getting an education that makes them compelling to a company or grad school.
I wanted to go elsewhere. Mason wasn't my last choice by any stretch, but it wasn't my first choice either. I can't imagine what would have happened had I gotten into my first choice. My guess is that I would have attended a lot of football games, learned how to paint my face, and been pretty cocky about my school. Instead, I am learning from an insane group of profs with direct and applied hands-on research. I feel like I am on the cutting edge of CS each day...and already have a pretty good idea of where I will be working next June. I love my classes...and while the work is hard, I don't feel like any of it is busy work or some sort of academic hazing. I do at times, however, wonder if I should be focusing a bit more on software engineering vs. pure CS. Too many options.
So yeah critics, you are probably right. College shouldn't be so focused on developing knowledge that is directly applicable to a career...or networking and interning with some of the thousands of private and public institutions in the area, many of whom are partnered with GMU. It should be about Saturday football games and kegs. Got it. Thanks. See you after graduation...and yes, I WILL have fries with that.
BTW, we are not in the city. A car helps. You can get to the metro other ways, but a car makes life much easier...and opens up many other possibilities in the region...and you will park it half a mile from your dorm. Grrr.