Sure, Schenectady isn’t what you would call an “ideal college town,” but that doesn’t seem to affect the students’ overall experience here at Union. Sure, the food gets old after awhile, but that seems to happen at every school. And students party hard at Union, too. So, what makes Union different? Three things: 1) Incredible academics. There are very small class sizes and incredibly devoted professors with long office hours. Furthermore, it’s easy to have an interdisciplinary major or to design your own major. 2) Funding. Although students are into doing their “own thing,” funding is available for just about anything. Want to start a club? Get 10 people and write a budget. Want to organize a protest in DC? Get an IEG (Intellectual Enrichment Grant) and/or a SEG (Social Enrichment Grant) or find funding from a particular department. 3) The Minerva System. No one knows where exactly the house system will take Union (the fraternities aren’t quite in love with the fact that they’ve lost their housing), but it has the potential to add a lot to the campus.
First-year students at Union seem to be split into two groups: those who hate it and those that love it. One can make a reasonable argument for both cases. Those who hate it see a homogenous student body with a lot of money to spend and little motivation. There’s a lot of drinking on campus for someone who never drank in high school, and the fraternities are not the kind of places that draw the shy, hippie, or particularly mature student. Those first-year students who love Union have either fallen in love with the party scene or have fallen in love with the fact that the school is at their finger tips academically. Socially, it takes a bit to adjust to Union if you’re not the outgoing type and not willing to jump on the academic bandwagon. But eventually, people really do find their niche at Union and seem generally happy.
Lastly, students at Union “do their own thing.” They are motivated, career-oriented, and looking to have a good time. It is difficult to categorize the ideal student for Union, as students work hard to find a place for themselves here. In general, freshmen who arrive from small urban towns away from New York City or Boston grow a tough skin after a few terms. They learn how to deal with a small environment where people seem to have a culture of high socio-economic means. What is amazing about Union is that even the students who really don’t feel like they fit in find their niche and grow to love the place. Stereotypes are made the first week of school and shattered by the end of the year. Warning: if you’re overly sensitive, absolutely hate the cold, or have a tendency to overindulge in alcohol, don’t come to Union. Otherwise, this is a great college that will toughen your skin, focus you academically, and ship you off into the professional world.