At the end of June I visited Rollins College during a trip to central Florida. I had been peripherally aware of Rollins for years, but only in the sense that I knew it was well regarded for the beauty of its campus and that it often appeared on "best of the South" ratings lists. Having moved to Virginia a year ago, I am committed to visiting more Southern colleges and universities, and my wife's trip to the American Library Association annual meeting in Orlando seemed like a good opportunity to get some visits in. Despite 96º temperatures and unbelievable humidity, the tour was excellent and I came away with a strong sense that Rollins knows what kind of school they want to be and that they are justifiably proud of their institution. Having seen the college first-hand, I would definitely recommend Rollins to any student looking for a small liberal arts college with excellent academic and athletic opportunities in the South. I would also consider suggesting it to a student who wasn't necessarily considering a southern campus, because while central Florida has the weather of the South, it feels much more cosmopolitan.
Rollins College At A Glance
||A little over 1,900 undergraduates (approximately 59% men/ 41% women). Students
come from 50 states and 50 countries. Rollins accepted about 47% of
their 5400 applicants to fill a first year class of 550.
|Programs of Study:
||36 majors and 64 areas of study for undergraduates; 10 different graduate programs. Bachelor and Master degrees awarded. They also have a 3:2 accelerated B.A./M.B.A program.|
||NCAA Division II (with one exception); 23 varsity teams (12 women's, 11 men's); numerous intramural sports.The women's golf team won the NCAA National Champion in 2016. Waterskiing is the sole Division I sport on campus.
||Over 100 clubs and organizations on campus. 6 fraternities (four with housing) and 7 sororities (six with housing); about 45% of the campus participates in Greek life. On campus housing is required for all first and second year students (unless their family lives nearby); housing is only guaranteed for two years. Downtown Winter Park, a cute little town with a good mix of shops and restaurants, is a short walk away.|
|Costs & Aid:
||Tuition, room & board and fees total just about $57,000. Parents need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the average need-based aid package for first-year students is between $28,000-$38,000 before merit aid. 85% of students receive merit assistance. While the tuition is the same for students whether or not they hail from the Sunshine State, Florida residents can use a $3,000 annual "Florida Residents Access Grant" to defray costs.|
||Rollins has Early Decision I and II as well as Regular Decision options. ED I has a deadline of November 1, with ED II's deadline being December 15. The RD deadline is February 1. Note that the priority date for students seeking merit aid is November 1. Students use the Common App.|
||Test optional, or Rollins will accept the SAT or ACT. Mid 50% of the old SAT was 1120-1290 (CR+M) and 24-29 for the ACT. Rollins will encourage applicants with lower test scores but good high school grades to resubmit their applications as test optional.|
|Rollins has a shady, tree-lined campus|
Rollins College was founded in 1885 by Lucy Cross with an eye towards giving the South a New England style liberal arts college. The school is now non-denominational, but the campus chapel is still a destination wedding location for Rollins grads. The campus is on 70 acres of land along a lake, and is very pedestrian friendly.
At just under 2,000 students, Rollins is a small liberal arts college that has some very unique approaches to undergraduate education. First semester students choose from one of several "Rollins Conference Courses"--a seminar whose professor serves as their academic advisor, and whose classmates comprise their orientation group. The list of options available show the breadth of interests of Rollins professors and make it unlikely that a student wouldn't find something of interest. Incoming students list their top eight choices and 90% of students gain admission to one of their top three choices. In addition to the professor, the class also has two Peer Mentors (upperclass students) who serve to help first year students adjust to life at Rollins.
When students complete their first semester they still need to fulfill the distribution requirements and need to take classes in each discipline. Rollins has taken an approach to this that is (to my knowledge) unique: the Neighborhood Program. Named after Rollins graduate Fred Rogers' TV show, the Neighborhood Program consists of four divisions:
- Innovate, Create Elevate
- Identities: Mirrors and Windows
- Mysteries and Marvels
- When Cultures Collide
- Science: "Fiat Lux" (Rollins' motto): a study of light and optics
- Science: "Springs, Swamps and Sinkholes": Ecology of Florida
- Social Science: "Who Are You and Where Am I?: Spaniards and Amerindians Confront the Unknown in 1500's Florida"
- Arts: "The Mysteries of One Hit Wonders in Popular Music"
- Economics: "The Economics of Piracy": from the Caribbean piracy of the 1600's to modern intellectual property issues
|Many of the buildings feature covered arcades--necessary |
under the hot Florida sun!
|This picture from Rollins' website shows |
a view of the 70 acre campus from Lake Virginia
|Ward Hall, the first-year student dorm shown on our tour|
The dining options are varied: students who are on the meal plan can buy food at one of four campus locations (including "Dave's Boathouse", a new pub by the pool that stays open until 2am) or they can use their meal plan money to get food from local pizza shops, smoothie stores and even the Cheesecake Factory! Perhaps it is this variety that accounts for Rollins' outstanding reputation for good food. Last year they were #26 nationally, and are perennially in the top 30 of campus dining.
|Oprah Winfrey, Frida Kahlo, Michelle Obama|
and Sara Palin all © 2013 by Julia Lanfersieck
Prominently featured in the library and in the academic buildings was Rollins' honor code. Rollins' honor board is run by students (with faculty support) and students affirm that they have neither given, nor received, nor witnessed any unauthorized aid on academic assignments. According to my tour guide, the students take this quite seriously and are proud of it. Compared to, say, the University of Virginia's honor code, this one seems a little less rigorously enforced, but it also seems more focused on providing teachable moments than on being a punitive body. That said, having worked at schools that required students to agree to similar honor codes, I think it is a valuable thing to make students affirm that their work is entirely their own.
Students applying to Rollins can use either the Common Application or Rollins College's own application. There is a $50 application fee, and students can opt to apply without sending ACT or SAT scores, though merit aid is much more likely to come to students who submit standardized test scores. Speaking of merit aid, the college awards a lot: 85% of students receive some kind of merit assistance. But if students want to be considered for this money, they need to be on their toes. The "priority" deadline for consideration for merit (non need-based) aid is the same as the Early Decision I deadline: November 1.
|Rollins' motto "Let There Be Light" is appropriate|
for the sun-dappled campus
individualized: regional admissions officers take great interest in their applicants and try to get to know the students very well during the process. Obviously this takes time, so students who want to go to Rollins and who are seeking merit aid should definitely start with an admissions tour before or during their junior year so that they are ready to submit a competitive application very early in their senior year.
I really enjoyed my tour experience at Rollins, I made my reservation by phone and was warmly welcomed when I arrived at the office. The admissions office had multiple TV displays welcoming the students their for the days' tour ("Rollins welcomes Jenna from Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Missouri", for example) which delighted the parents and embarrassed the kids. My 10AM Monday tour had students from Florida, Texas, Missouri, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia and Minnesota. My tour guide was candid, thorough and funny. She was not shy about expressing her opinions (such as the feeling that Rollins' men's sports teams lose more than the women's teams) and her love for Rollins was clear. After the hour and ten minute long tour we had an info session that attempted to model Rollins' discussion based classroom model. Instead of watching a video we were encouraged to ask questions of the admission counselor who gave detailed, complete answers.
According to the presentation, Rollins makes its decisions based on the following:
- the Common App or Rollins app.
- the transcript--Rollins recalculates GPA to an unweighted 4.0 scale, so students should know that letter grades are important no matter how "advanced" a class might be.
- that said, students will receive college credit for a 4 or 5 on an AP exam, a C+ or higher in a dual enrollment college class, and can transfer up to a year of IB credit.
- standardized test scores.
- extra-curricular activities. Rollins encourages students to submit a resume if their activities do not fit in the space provided by the Common App.
- recommendation letters; 1 counselor statement is required, and up to 2 supplemental letters from teachers or coaches are allowed.
- the personal statement.
Rollins College boasts a beautiful campus, a great location in central Florida, and very innovative approaches to liberal arts education. It combines the virtues of a small college with big college opportunities for research and faculty collaboration; small town location with proximity to a big city; and excellent weather. While it was very hot when I was there in the last week of June, average temperatures October through March are in the 70s and very comfortable. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Rollins to students looking for southern liberal arts colleges, but would also suggest it to more open minded students who are not explicitly searching for schools south of the Mason-Dixon line.