Phi Kappa Phi


On Tuesday Erin was accepted into Phi Kappa Phi, an honor society that recognizes collegiate scholastic achievement. As a junior, Erin had to be in the top 7.5% of her class to be accepted into Phi Kappa Phi. After the presentation they had a mixer with cake and beverages. After we went to the Hibachi Japanese steakhouse for dinner.

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Today’s Photos

Here are a couple of photos from today’s commute. Both were taken in Head House Square.


Above is the ahead House and below a row of shops in the square. It’s all very colonial, don’t you think?


My Walk to Work

Just downloaded the WordPress app for iPhone and thought I’d post something. I took a couple of good pictures on the way to work and figured they’d be worth sharing. Walking through Society Hill area to work there are many photographable sites.

This is the view at Second and Delancey. And following are the Society Hill Towers.


Here’s another view on Second Street looking toward Head House Square.


For what it’s worth.

Appie Trail in PA

Appie Trail

Seth, Erin, and Brian at the Trailhead

Brian, Erin, Seth and I hit the Appalachian Trail yesterday. We hiked a stretch between Route 309 and Slatington, PA where the Lehigh River traverses the Lehigh Gap. It was supposed to be a three to four hour hike. As is usual with my time estimates, that proved to be a bit optimistic, about seven hours optimistic. The weather was great. We drove through a thunderstorm on the way up and the report said to expect rain in the afternoon. But while the hike lasted far longer than anticipated the forecasted rain never arrived. Erin and I made the mistake of wearing our Vibram Fivefingers for the trek, instead of boots. They were fine for the first four hours, which was all we had planned on walking, but after six hours our feet were sore and after ten hours every step was excruciating. The problem, more than the duration of the hike, was the trail was rocky the entire way. Piano-sized rocks, basketball-sized rocks, fist-sized rocks, round rocks, pointy rocks, mallet-shaped rocks, rocks, rocks, rocks, and more rocks. The rocks beat our feet into hamburger. We also ran out of water with about four hours remaining. Luckily it wasn’t excessively hot or we’d have been in real trouble instead of merely inconvenienced. When we finally got back to the car we made short shrift of the watermelon and honeydew melon that waited in the cooler. While I wouldn’t want to repeat this experience, the scenery was great with tremendous views and some interesting critters along the way: See our photos of one of the three copperhead snakes we saw along the way. Lessons learned: 1) Wear good boots even for a short hike … it may be longer than you think. 2) Bring twice as much water as you think you’ll need.

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University of Pittsburgh

Well this was a bust. Seth has decided he really does not want to go to a school that has been plunked smack dab in the middle of a large city University of Pittsburgh, like Virginia Commonwealth University, is hard to separate from the city that surrounds it. It is difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends, similar to Temple University also. Too much noise, too much bustle, too much city for Seth. We drove up to the school, found parking, walked to the building from which our tour was to start, and …

Turned right back around and headed back to the car. Seth had seen enough. This is not in any way to disparage University of Pittsburgh, just not Seth¹s cup of tea.

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Virginia Commonwealth University

Seth @ VCU

Virginia Commonwealth University is located in the heart of Richmond, Virginia and is very much part of the city. VCU school colors are black and gold and the school mascot is Rodney the Ram. The school 22K undergrads and 10K graduate students with about 1300 engineering students. Average class size is 28 though engineering classes are usually smaller.

The engineering program has different admission standards than the rest of the school. A high school GPA above 3.3 on a 4 point scale and an SAT score above 1120 or ACT score above 24 and a class rank above the

25th percentile. Also they are looking for a strong college preparatory program in high school.

Admissions deadline is Jan 15th with an Apr 1st decision. Apply by Dec 1st for automatic consideration for all scholarships. Over 15K applications are received for 3.6K freshman spaces. The freshman engineering class is typically about 290 students.

Housing: Freshman have guaranteed housing, in fact there are four freshman dorms. Honors college has its

own dorm There are traditional and suite-style dorms available. Out of state tuition is $27K including room and board.

The largest lecture hall holds 300 students. You can bring your own car but it is not recommended as parking is problematic and mass transit is readily available. The school has its own shuttle service and city buses are everywhere. In fact, city bus passes area free for students or offered cheaply. It varies year by year.

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

VA Tech

Or Virginia Tech as most people know it, is located in Blacksburg, VA in the middle of farm country in the foothills of the Appalachians. The campus is very nice and quite a good size. It nestles right up to the town of Blacksburg and, during the school year, constitutes half the town’s
population. The school colors are orange and maroon and the school mascot is the HokieBird.

The school was founded in 1872 as a military academy with 132 students. Today it has 23,300 undergrads and 6000 graduate students. It is ranked in the top 3% of engineering schools. All freshmen engineering students are enrolled in a general engineering curriculum and choose one of 13 engineering specialties at the end of the freshman year.

The school has a 16:1 Student/Teacher ration with class sizes averaging 25 per class. Nine percent of classes have over 100 students. To manage that number of students these classes will typically have lectures twice a week taught by a professor. The remaining three days will be smaller groups of 25 or fewer students lead by Teachers Assistants. All professors hold office hours at least once a week though normally much more often. This is typical at all of the schools we visited. Also typical are free tutoring, internship and coop assistance, resume and job interviewing assistance, and study abroad. Also becoming common is themed housing or housing communities or similar terminology for housing students with common traits together, for instance honors housing, engineering student housing, or housing for those interested in community service There are many variations. It was also pointed out those who took advantage of themed housing had a higher retention rate within the engineering school, probably because of the increased opportunities for peer mentoring inherent in this arrangement.

Early decision submission is required by Nov 1st and you learn if you are accepted by Dec 15th and this is a binding decision. You can be accepted, deferred to regular enrollment, or denied. They accept about 25% of their students via early decision. Regular decision submission date is Jan 15th with decisions announced by Apr 1st and acceptance decision due from the student by the first of May.

What are they looking for? They have 21,000 applicants. They evaluate the applicants total package and place value as follows:
1) High school curriculum choice: did you take the most challenging classes offered?
2) What was your performance in those classes? Average GPA of accepted students is a 3.96 on a 5 point scale.
3) SAT/ACT results. They don¹t look at the written portion (and from what I can see neither do any other colleges.) only at the comprehensive reading and mathematics sections. They take the best result from either source. Average SAT score is 1250 with avg 50 percentile between 1150 – 1340. Average ACT score is 26 with avg 50 percentile between 24 – 28.

The application package offers seven essays, they are not required, but you should do at least one. Letters of Recommendation are not required If you are submitting them they should come with the transcript and no more than 2 or 3 should be submitted.
Include information on any other noteworthy activities like sports, clubs, volunteering, etc. you were involved in.

Engineering is a restricted major, meaning it has different entrance requirements from most other majors. Specifically, you must have at least a 620 math score on the SAT or a 27 math score on the ACT. You must also have taken chemistry and physics in high school. Also, in addition to applying to the university you must specifically apply to the school of engineering. Seth was interested in chemical engineering. The chemical engineering students go abroad between their sophomore and junior years for a required lab project, which currently takes place in Copenhagen.

Out of stated tuition, room and board runs about $30,000. There is a general scholarship application online, which is separate from the admission application. However, the one application will put the student in for every applicable scholarship offered at the school. This application is available in Mid-Dec and is due NLT March 1st with the FAFSA. Like the FAFSA, it must be submitted every year. Also, you should check with each department and each major for other scholarship opportunities.

Our tour guide at VA Tech was Michael from Danville, VA, who is a sophomore math and statistics major. The school has 9 libraries, campus and city buses. Housing is guaranteed for freshman and freshman are required to stay on campus. There are 4 types of housing: traditional, suite, hotel, and greek. As mentioned themed housing is an option. VA Tech boasts the No. 2 rated dining experience in the country (or so they say). Every dorm has an LED panel for campus wide notices and is hooked into the VT alert system. Also students can sign up for cell phone text message alerts and pop up alerts on their computer desktops. The drill field separates the campus in two with work on one side and play on the other. The campus has one of the largest ROTC programs in the country with ROTC for Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines; and they were visible every place we went.

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