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Dr. Kat’s List: Score! Five Colleges for a Game Day Experience

The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and for many collegiate athletics fans across the country, that usually means one thing: It’s football season again! For most alumni and current students, game day experiences and traditions are memorable events that many look back on with great pride and nostalgia.

In honor of football fanatics everywhere, the expert counselors at IvyWise have compiled a list of schools, including some you may not have thought of, for a great game day experience!

Baylor University, Waco, TX
Under the Friday-night lights, Texas is known as the football capital of the South. There’s a vested interest in high school, college, and professional football, and the program at Baylor University in Waco, TX is certainly no exception. This Big 12 team has one of the most energetic game days in the country.

One of the most exciting game day experiences at Baylor is reserved strictly for the freshmen. The Baylor Line is a spirit organization made up of first-year Bears who wear special gold jerseys, each with the student’s grad year and a unique nickname printed on the back. The Line is a critical part of the game day festivities, with the members running around the field prior to kick off, then forming a path to the players’ tunnel as the team runs out onto the field. The Line even has its own reserved seats, directly behind the opposing team’s bench.

A great football atmosphere isn’t all this private, Christian university has to offer. With a student body of just over 15,000, and over 260 student clubs and organizations, there’s plenty of fun to be had outside of the football stadium. Baylor’s 1,000-acre campus is located along the Brazos River, and offers a variety of outdoor adventure classes like Introduction to Rock Climbing and White Water Kayaking Skills clinics.

Baylor is also known for its service opportunities, with students donating over 100,000 hours of community service to several different university-sponsored programs. Through Baylor Buddies, students can serve as mentors to K-12 students in the Waco Independent School District, and in the Santa’s Workshop project, Baylor students have the opportunity to provide a joyful Christmas experience for area children in need.

Students at Baylor also celebrate the school’s own holiday, Diadeloso, or Day of the Bear, when classes are cancelled and students can participate in athletics tournaments, attend free concerts, and relax at a block party.

University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
For a school steeped in the pigskin tradition, look no further than the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Commonly referred to as “Ole Miss,” this 168-year old university is known for its spirited game day presence.

It’s a social event of epic proportions when Rebel Black Bear students and alumni gather on The Grove, the campus’s historic tailgating site, before and after games to tailgate and talk football. A unique setting on 10 acres of grass in the middle of campus, this gathering spot is filled with southern hospitality and traditions that have been passed down from season to season. From chandeliers and fine china, to barbecue sandwiches and finger food, you never know what you might find in the sea of red and blue tents.

The atmosphere in the stadium is no different. When the Rebels take the field, fans can be heard chanting school cheers and singing their fight song, “Forward Rebels.” The Rebel’s rivalry with Mississippi State University is also one of the most heated and exciting competitions in college football, with the teams meeting every season in the “Egg Bowl.”

Outside of its athletics, the University of Mississippi is a public university that boasts over 100 majors, 250 student organizations, and a student body of over 18,000. As a strong research institution, the programs at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the National Center for Physical Acoustics, the Mississippi Law Research Institute, and Croft Institute for International Studies are world-renowned.

In Oxford, MS itself, known as the hometown of William Faulkner, students can enjoy this small college town with a history of old-south charm by eating and shopping on The Square, which is just a stone’s throw from campus, during the weekends and after class. The city also hosts the Double Decker Arts Festival, a weekend of live music, food, and art exhibits, every year as a celebration of arts and culture within the town and university.

US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD
The US Naval Academy is an undergraduate institution with one of the most storied and long-standing football programs in the country.

More than 34,000 fans pack the stands at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD on game-day to watch the Navy Midshipmen battle their way to victory on the field. Game day at the stadium is energetic and loud, with the students rarely sitting during the contest. And after each home game, the team faces the fans and sings part of their alma mater, “Blue and Gold,” to the crowd with their hands on their hearts.

Navy also boasts one of the longest standing rivalries with Army, which dates back to 1890. The two teams face-off every December during the last weekend of the regular season, and the contest, the last in the triangular series among the Navy, Army, and Air Force teams, often decides who among the three wins the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy.

At the US Naval Academy, tradition, honor, and pride extend past the football field. As a four-year coeducational federal service academy, the Naval Academy offers majors and training focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in order to prepare the officers-in-training for their assignments post-graduation. Candidates need a nomination, usually from a member of Congress, in addition to their application to gain admission.

Apart from athletics and academics, the Naval Academy also boasts the Trident Scholar Program, which allows candidates the opportunity to conduct independent research, along with the Voluntary Graduate Education Program, which gives midshipman who finish their Academy course requirements early the option to begin master’s course work at nearby universities such as the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.

Yale University, New Haven, CT
When you think of an Ivy League school, it’s rare that football is one of the defining factors of the institution. But at Yale University in New Haven, CT, football is one of the most sacred programs at the school. As one of the oldest collegiate football teams in the country, the Yale Bulldogs have distinguished themselves with 27 national championships, two of the first three Heisman Trophy winners, and the first professional football player.

With a program that dates back to 1872, it’s no wonder that the game day experience is heavily grounded in school spirit and tradition. On game day, the sound of Yale’s fight song, “Down the Field,” fills the stadium, and present at every game is Handsome Dan, the official bulldog of Yale University. Said to be the first live mascot in college athletics, Handsome Dan is one of the most iconic symbols in college football history.

While the legacy of Handsome Dan is certainly a source of school pride for the Yale Bulldogs, few things come close to the attention paid to the rivalry with Harvard. Known as “The Game,” the competition between Yale and Harvard is one of the most storied in the history of collegiate football. Nearly 60,000 fans pack the stands at the Yale Bowl when the game is held in Hartford.

Yale University’s history, while filled with achievements on the field, is rooted in academic excellence. As one of the top private universities in the country, Yale has a diverse student population, with its 11,000 students coming from all 50 states and 108 countries.

The central campus covers 310 acres with 260 buildings, including the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Peabody Museum of Natural History.

As for student life, the university offers over 400 student organizations for undergraduate and graduate students looking to make an impact in the Yale or greater New Haven community. Students interested in sustainable living studies can participate in the Yale Sustainable Food Project, where students and faculty collaborate to grow hundreds of varieties of organic produce on the Yale Farm, just a 15-minute walk from campus. Yale also boasts a strong research emphasis with over one million square feet of laboratory space for those interested in science research.

Boise State University, Boise, ID
There are few game days that stand out as much as Boise State‘s, but maybe that’s just because it looks nothing like any other college’s game day. Called “The Blue” by the Bronco fans, the field at Bronco Stadium is 100-yards of deep blue wonder. As the only non-green playing surface in Division 1 college football, it’s so iconic that the school even has a trademark on the “Smurf Turf,” ensuring that no other team imitates their unique field.

A typical game day attendance at Bronco Stadium is well over 30,000, with fans and students packing the stands and cheering on their team with the fight song, “Orange and Blue,” and egging on the silly antics of their mascot, Buster Bronco.

Boise State’s nearly 20,000 students may bleed and play blue, but they also show their pride off the field and in the classroom. This public research university offers over 200 degree programs, including the nation’s only master’s degree program in raptor biology. 15% of Boise State undergraduates participate in research programs that include biomolecular science, health and public policy, and nanoelectronics.

Boise State students can also enrich their experience by participating in one of the university’s revered Living-Learning Communities. Students and faculty in these different communities are broken into smaller groups based on major and programs, and these small community participants are able to live and work with their peers in reserved, group housing. Living-Learning Communities residents also have access to special resources, programs, and activities, such as special seminars, lectures, study groups, and mentoring programs.

If a grand collegiate game day experience is what you’re looking for in your college search, these five schools have it all and more. Other colleges that show great school pride on and off the field include Notre Dame, University of Oregon, University of South Carolina, Stanford University, and Auburn University. From the first play to the final score, we wish you all the best in your football-friendly college search!

Copyright IvyWise, LLC ©2012

Hopefully, you’ve been busy the past few months, researching colleges, creating and finalizing a balanced college list. Now that you’ve narrowed down the list of schools to which you will apply, it’s time to create your application strategy – deciding when and how you will apply.

Throughout your research, you’ve likely come across terms such as Early Decision, Early Action, and Rolling Admission, among others. These are application options that differ based on the application deadline, response date, and your commitment to attend the school, if accepted. It is important for students to understand the different application plans, the potential outcomes, and the choices that are available. Feeling overwhelmed? The expert counselors at IvyWise have compiled a quick list of the different application options:

Early Options
Does the early bird really get the worm? Usually, but it depends. While there can be an advantage to applying early, you should only apply early if you’re ready. Being ready means you have visited and researched your school(s) extensively, your grades through junior year are indicative of who you are as a student, you have taken all necessary standardized tests (and do not plan to retake them), and you have completed all application components, including essays. The following early options may be offered:

Early Decision (ED)

Application due: The application and all supporting documents must be submitted early in November, usually between November 1 and 15 of your senior year.

Notification: Applicants usually find out about ED decisions in December.

Early Decision is ideal for students who have identified a college as a definite first choice.We encourage students to apply Early Decision only if they are ready and if they will definitely enroll if accepted. You may only apply to one school ED and the application is binding; if a student is accepted under ED, he or she must withdraw all applications to other schools and he or she is committed to attending that school. Dr. Kat says that by applying ED, the student is “essentially telling the college that it is your first choice; and you may be rewarded by a higher admit rate during this period.”

Because of the ED application deadlines, junior year grades are extremely important for ED applicants. However, first semester senior grades are often submitted later on as well. Watch out; don’t start slacking off second semester senior year, as schools can rescind their offers! [AW ONLY: If you are looking for the best financial aid offer, ED may not be the plan for you. You do not have the flexibility to compare financial aid packages and must accept the financial aid offered by the ED school.]

Early Decision II (ED II)

Application due: Usually between January 1 and February 1 of your senior year.

Notification: Applicants usually find out about ED II decisions in March.

Some universities provide two ED dates; the second date is for students who are sure about the school being their first choice, but aren’t ready to apply by the November deadline, or for students who were denied from an ED school. This is often called ED II and these deadlines are usually closer to the RD deadline. Like ED, ED II applications are binding, and students may have an advantage by submitting an ED II application. Because students are committed to attend if accepted, the college can more easily determine their yield. Bowdoin College, Tufts University, and Pomona College are some example of schools that offer the ED II option.

Early Action (EA)

Application due: The application and all supporting documents must be submitted early in November, usually between November 1 and 15 of your senior year.

Notification: Applicants usually find out about EA decisions in December.

EA is similar to ED but you are not required to attend the school if accepted. This option is great for students who have decided their EA school is one of their top choice schools (if not their number one), and they are ready to apply, but do not want to be obligated to attend the school if accepted. Like ED applicants, EA applicants receive acceptance decisions in December, though have until May 1 to decide if they will enroll. You can apply to more than one EA school, even if you are also applying ED to another university. Some schools with EA plans include University of Chicago, Notre Dame, Georgetown, and MIT.

Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) or Restricted Early Action

Application due: The application and all supporting documents must be submitted early in November, usually between November 1 and 15 of your senior year.

Notification: Applicants usually find out about SCEA decisions in December.

SCEA is similar to EA in that you are not bound to attend if accepted. However, with the SCEA restriction, you cannot apply early to any other school, be it EA or ED, until you have heard back from your SCEA school. After you receive the school’s decision of acceptance, deferral, or denial, you may apply to other schools [AW ONLY: and compare financial aid offers] before deciding where to enroll by May 1. This is a good option for a student who is ready to apply to a school they really like but don’t necessarily want to be bound by the decision of the school. However, be sure you do not want to apply early elsewhere, as you will not be able to do so. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale have SCEA or plans, while Boston College and Stanford University have Restrictive Early Action plans. Note: Boston College’s Restrictive Early Action Program permits candidates to apply to other Early Action programs, but not Early Decision programs.

Other Options

Regular Decision

Application due: Regular Decision applications and supporting documents must be submitted to the school by a set date in your senior year, which varies from November 30 to March 15. Applications to most selective schools are due January 1, 15, or February 15.

Notification: Applicants usually find out about Regular decisions by April 1.

Looking for some regularity? Regular Decision is one of the most common application options, as you can apply to as many schools as you want under this option. Once the college has received all applications, they are reviewed and all applicants are notified at the same time, during the spring of senior year. If accepted, you must notify the college by May 1 of your intent to accept or decline their office of admission. Applicants who are deferred in the early round will be reconsidered during the Regular Decision round. Regular Decision acceptances are non-binding, which means you can choose to enroll in that school or another school that has accepted you.

Rolling Admission (RA)

Application due: Usually anytime between September 1 and May 1, though it is best to send in your application as early as possible – in September or October of senior year – as RA schools continue to accept students until they reach their enrollment capacity.

Notification: Applicants are notified of admission decisions as soon as the file is complete (usually within weeks of receiving the application).

Looking forward to acceptance letters rolling in? Once the RA school receives your completed file, they immediately review and act on your application. The college generally notifies the applicant with an admissions decision within several weeks of receiving the application. Schools such as Rutgers University, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Tampa use rolling admissions.

IvyWise counselors help students craft a strategy to determine which application options they will use for each of the schools on their list. You should prioritize completing your standardized tests and finishing your essays based on those deadlines. You can find out your schools’ deadlines and policies by visiting the schools’ websites and reviewing the admissions page.

Best of luck from all of us at IvyWise!

Copyright IvyWise, LLC ©2012