Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Visit to Birmingham Southern College

Nestled outside of Birmingham, Alabama is a 197 acre, private, liberal arts college that hosts 1200 students (same number as NOHS).  Birmingham Southern College offers 26 majors, including Pre-Health, Pre-Law and various engineering programs that are offered in conjunction with other universities.  For example, students would attend BSC for the first three years and then finish up with two years at Auburn University, Columbia University, University of Alabama Birmingham, Vanderbilt University or Washington University to complete the engineering program at that university.  Only undergraduate (4 year degrees) are available at BSC, which means there is an absence of graduate assistants teaching courses to your college student. Class sizes are small with 99 PhDs serving the 1200 students. The largest classroom seats less than 40.

BSC is a Division 3 member of the NCAA and offers extensive opportunities for student involvement. Over 70% of students participate in intramural sports. Greek life and clubs are a prominent feature at BSC as well. In the admissions process, applicants' resumes are scrutinized to make sure that the student has been involved in high school activities so that they can be reasonably assured that this trend will continue once the student arrives on campus.  Students are the life-blood of this vibrant campus, and a great deal of energy goes in to their development, which is a huge bonus for private college experiences.  It became evident to me that students who have found the high school experience to be life-giving and have been completely into the experience OR the introverted student who needs just a bit of an invitation to be more involved are going to find their needs met best at a school like BSC. 

BSC does some interesting things with their schedule that involve taking four classes in the fall, one in January and then four in the spring.  The January class is an exploration course taken in a high interest area totally on campus or can involve travel.  The classes that involve travel include a study of turtles on the Gal├ípagos Islands or sailing as a crew on huge sail boat from Virginia to the Carribean for a physics class.  These classes are one of the stories that they will share with your grand children when they tell them what college is like and add texture to your student's life education. 

As for the facilities at BSC, it is wonderful. They more than meet or exceed the facilities of colleges that have more students.  Dormitories are offered in the traditional format to freshmen, and suite style for upperclassmen.  90% of students live on campus all four years.  BSC offers students a state of the art recreation center as well. All of this is offered inside a gated, security-staffed perimeter.  There is one way in campus and one way out.  With all this security, a student might otherwise think this sounds like a prison, but this is very much a college experience with all of the typical "accoutrements" that are found at other schools.  The level of security has earned BSC the ranking of the 4th safest campus in the South.  The security staff go the extra mile to help students if stranded off campus, or even by checking the oil in students' cars as they left for Thanksgiving journeys home.  That is indeed a personal touch.

BSC has a strict honor code where students agree to not lie, cheat or steal.  This code is upheld by a student tribunal system and creates an environment where students can go about their business without fear that their things will be taken.  It demands that the student live under the ideals that will ultimately take them much further in life.

There is a lot to like about this school.  Of course the sticker price of this private school can be shocking, but they are very generous with their financial aid structures. Here is a breakdown: This school surprised all members of my tour group and gave us each a great feeling as we walked the campus.  If you are looking for a private, liberal arts education that is not too far from home, Birmingham Southern College is "must visit."