A Virtual Look at Eckerd College (FL)
I recently had a senior accepted to Eckerd College. So I attended a virtual live information session and listened to several YouTubes to learn more about the school. One of the 40 Colleges That Change Lives, Eckerd College has a lot to sell itself. This college makes a nice viewbook, so I’ve put the link here. There’s no reason to recite pluses of this school when the school does it better. I’ve also found quite a few photos of this waterfront campus to share on Pinterest. April Miller, an independent college admissions counselor and friend in Florida, took a personal visit and shared several photos. I will share some here.
Like most of the Colleges That Change Lives, Eckerd is a liberal arts college solely focused on undergraduate education.
It has just over 1,600 students, fewer than many Florida high schools. One interesting point from the virtual information session: on average incoming students travel 1,000 miles to attend Eckerd. Over 80 percent of the student body comes from outside Florida. This makes complete sense. Undergraduate education at Florida’s public colleges is inexpensive for Floridians. New College of Florida, previously profiled on this site, shares several strengths and some academic overlap with Eckerd, but costs a lot less. It is also one of the Colleges That Change Lives.
There were a few things about Eckerd that stuck in my head, even though I took only a virtual look at the school.
Incoming freshmen have the campus to themselves for three weeks.
Eckerd College has a unique Autumn Term exclusively for incoming freshmen. The term runs three weeks. It includes a course much like a freshman seminar at other colleges, where students take a “fun class” taught by a professor. The professor who teaches your Autumn Term class will also be your first academic advisor, until you declare a major. If you like Eckerd and choose to enroll, be careful in choosing this class. You get to rank your preferences from one to six. But pick a course that is somewhat related to a possible major, so that you can also get an advisor for your possible major.
I like the idea of the Autumn Term. Unlike the traditional freshman orientation that runs less than a week, new students get enough time to find new friends and settle their roommate situations. The term not only includes the three-week class; it also offers many non-competitive social events to force you to mingle with as many of your classmates as possible before the sophomores, juniors and seniors settle in. Introverted people are more likely to come out of their shell in this setting. The downside: if you fail to make friends early, and you struggle with the academics, the more likely you will leave Eckerd after your freshman year. According to its most recent Common Data Set, Eckerd lost just over a fifth of the freshmen who arrived in 2020. That’s a lot for a small school to lose.
There are standout academic programs.
I cannot imagine a better school to study marine science or related subjects such as animal studies or environmental studies. No school offers more resources to get you on the water, either around campus or elsewhere. There’s also a first-year research program for students in psychology, communication, ancient studies, literature, religious studies, management, theatre, international business, biology and marine science. I must consider these to be signature departments, since they have opportunities for freshmen that other departments cannot offer. I was also impressed by the visual arts program in my virtual journey. The visual arts building is shown at the top of this post.
This is a very residential school.
Given that so many students come from outside Florida and that the St. Petersburg housing market is likely to be more expensive than many other college towns, this makes sense. However, you must have access to a car to take advantage of the surrounding community. You might not drive to a beach or fishing pier because they are on campus. Here’s a few photos of the waterfront resources you will find at Eckerd.
However, you must have access to a car to take advantage of the surrounding community.There’s no Greek life at Eckerd and the community does not have a “spirit and sports” feel. Interestingly, Eckerd is a D-2 school that awards athletic scholarships and competes in 14 varsity sports. These include women’s beach volleyball and coed sailing as well as more traditional ones like baseball and basketball.
From a virtual view, I thought that Eckerd was a place where you study then take breaks where you chill out with your friends. However, Eckerd is also a school that welcomes service and support animals. The college even hosts a separate graduation ceremony for them before their owners get their diplomas.
If you have access to a car, don’t underestimate the Tampa-St. Pete metro area as a job market.
The metro area is more than just a retirement-resort-tourism community. It is also home to seven Fortune 500 companies as well as a growing health care sector. Not to mention that it is home to major league baseball, football and hockey. But there will be competition in the metro area for internships and entry-level jobs. The University of South Florida has nearly 39,000 undergraduates, about 3,000 more than Rutgers’ main campus. The University of Tampa, a private school, has more than 8,000. These schools have several majors, including Marine Science, that overlap with Eckerd’s offerings. Over 5,000 Eckerd alumni registered in LinkedIn.com remained in the metro area. The second-largest group, with fewer than 900 alumni is based in or around New York City.
This experience can be quite expensive.
It took a little work to find an estimated total cost of attendance on the tuition and fees page. Based on my read of this information, Eckerd has an estimated total cost of attendance (tuition and fees, room and board, incidentals) of just under $66,000. However, the largest scholarship that significant numbers of students might qualify to receive is $22,000 per year. The best qualified students are invited to apply for an annual Academic Excellence award of $25,000 per year. According to the college’s most recent Common Data Set, the average athletic scholarship (just under $34,000) was almost twice the largest academic one (just over $17,000).
The average student loan debt for students who borrowed was just under $33,000. That’s $6,000 more than the maximum a student may borrow over four years through the Federal Student Loan program. Eckerd will not undercut Home State U for even its best students, though it might come close for some athletes. It can undercut Neighboring State U for its best students.
Eckerd College is a school that prospective students should visit before they apply, then again for an accepted students event.There are some great educational opportunities that make Eckerd one of the Colleges That Change Lives. It’s a slam-dunk for an outgoing person who loves the water, and has strong motivations that match up with the college’s academic strengths. But the costs have to work out.
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