Amanda Simpson is an Admissions Counselor at The College of New Jersey, TCNJ for short.
TCNJ is a liberal arts institution established in 1855 as a public university in New Jersey.
In addition to the rigorous academic programs and high retention and graduation rates, TCNJ is distinguishing itself as a place of Experiential Learning including internships, practical training and undergraduate research.
Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:
Episode Title: Amanda Simpson, Admissions Counselor at TCNJ: Welcoming Place, High Quality Programs, and Undergraduate Research.
The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is a liberal arts institution established in 1855 as a public university in New Jersey.
Amanda Simpson gives us an overview of TCNJ, their Flagship Programs, Undergraduate Research, How COVID has changed what they look for in their students, Financial Aid and advice for High School Students.
In particular, we discuss the following with her:
Topics discussed in this episode:
Memorable Quote: “...a significant percentage of TCNJ students engage in some form of experiential learning slash practical experiences. And in that umbrella research is a part of that.” Amanda Simpson.
Episode Transcript: Please visit this episode’s transcript.
Similar Episodes: Admissions Talk
Transcript of the episode’s audio.
TCNJ has a an incredibly high first year retention rate no more than 95% roughly 95% of our incoming students every year return for a second year. And that really speaks to how satisfied our income students feel with the institution and how much they believe that TCNJ is a right fit for them.
That was Amanda Simpson, Admissions Counselor at The College of New Jersey, TCNJ for short.
TCNJ is a liberal arts institution established in 1855 as a public university in New Jersey.
Amanda Simpson joins us on our podcast to talk about TCNJ.
Amanda has been in Higher Education for a decade, working with students in academic advising and student life.
Venkat Raman 1:14
In this podcast, Amanda gives us an overview of TCNJ, their flagship programs, Undergraduate Research, what they look for in their students, Financial Aid and advice for High School Students.
Venkat Raman 1:29
Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives, Five Highlights from the podcast:
You know, at 7000 undergraduate students TCNJ is able to quite impressively offer the kinds of personalized experiences often associated with much smaller schools.
One Program in particular that I'll share is our Mentored, Undergraduate Summer Experience or MUSE program. This is a competitive but special summer residential program that brings together a small student, faculty team.
[Typical TCNJ Students]
Average TCNJ student I would say is highly involved outside of the classroom in a number of different kinds of activities and projects. And so those might include, again, as I mentioned, you know, maybe some co curricular activities, be it an internship, a, let's say clinical experience.
TCNJ has a competitive Merit Scholarship Program for incoming first year students that demonstrate you know, high academic potential high academic achievement. And the scholarship award amounts vary based upon a part whether a student is you know, a domestic student from New Jersey, or an out of state or international.
[Advice to Applicants]
To really show genuine interest and enthusiasm from TCNJ, for TCNJ, by doing things like you know, providing substantive responses to TCNJ's quest, Quest form.
Venkat Raman 3:36
These were the Hi5s, brought to you by College Matters. Alma Matters.
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Venkat Raman 3:47
Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast on TCNJ with Amanda.
So without further ado, over to Amanda Simpson!
Venkat Raman 3:58
Cool. So I thought we could start with, you know, why don't you tell us a little bit about your background, introduce yourself, and we can sort of go from there.
So first, thank you for having me and for, you know, giving TCNJ a platform and a chance to really showcase itself to a probably a slightly different audience than we're used to connecting with right. I think this might be our first time doing a podcast. So I'm excited. I know we're excited about this. So just for our listeners, my name is Amanda Simpson. I currently work as an admissions counselor at the College of New Jersey. In my current role, I support both international recruitment and transfer recruitment efforts. I've been at TCNJ for nearly five years, and a couple of different positions, working most often though, with international students, but my background is really, is a bit more expansive. And it includes nearly 10 years of work in higher education and a variety of different areas. Most of those being very student facing, including roles like academic advising and student life. So I, I'm most passionate, as you may have guessed from what I've shared about my background, working with students pacifically in a college setting, and so I'm really happy about the work I do at TCNJ. And again, just glad to be here with you.
Venkat Raman 5:36
How did you get into admissions and why, why this excitement for admissions?
Yes. So interesting and funny story. Very early on, I would say. I have always had an interest in, you know, working with and assisting people as they navigate through their problems and or work towards goals. But my first career interests actually when I was in high school was to become a physician. And I remember I was incredibly excited when I started my graduate career. But I realized very quickly, within my first year of college after taking some science classes that I'm much more enjoyed reading, about science in the medical field, much more than I actually wanted to be a practitioner. Okay, I realized, you know, I needed to discover, you know, how I could channel my passion and my energy. And it actually was my senior year in college where I just by chance happened to work. In the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, I got a chance to see what the lawyers did what their work involved, and I got a chance to actually shadow the vice president of admissions, who at that time, was the sole recruiter for the international recruitment arm. And I realized that the work that folks in admissions did, which really, for me as a professional feel was kind of an invisible industry right up until that point, was a great opportunity for me to fuse together my interest in working with people generally, my love for a college university setting, I am energized by all the great things that happen at a college and a university. And to be able to really bring together my passion for traveling and cross cultural learning. So ignitions has been, for me, the industry that allowed me to bring all of those interests together.
Venkat Raman 8:05
Cool, so tell us about The College of New Jersey. Tell us, tell the listeners what, what it is, and maybe a little history as well.
Sure. So The College of New Jersey or TCNJ, as most of us refer to it is a really great place a place that I am glad to be a part of. So TCNJ is considered a relatively small size, public liberal arts college. We are located in central New Jersey. And our location is actually pretty prime we are about maybe an hour by car from New York City, maybe about a half an hour by car, 45 minutes by car to Philadelphia. So we're kind of right in the middle of two major cities. But the college itself is located on a very green grassy, beautiful campus and what I would describe as a rural suburban area, so students who study at TCNJ really get access to the kind of beauty and comfort that's associated with the suburban environment, but also to the hustle and bustle and all the opportunities afforded to those who live in a city. TCNJ campus, as I mentioned, is it's home to approximately 7000 undergraduate students. So you know, at 7000 undergraduate students TCNJ is able to quite impressively offer the kinds of personalized experiences often associated with much smaller schools. So we're for small class sizes, the average class size is roughly around 24-25 Students, we have, you know, a 13 to one student to faculty ratio, so our faculty are incredibly accessible. And it's really get a chance to develop meaningful relationships with your peers, and faculty because of the small class sizes and personalization that's built into the experience. But at the same time, TCNJ offers its students the kinds of opportunities the kinds of support often associated with larger public universities. So for example, TCNJ has a very robust menu of student services, including, you know, career counseling, accessibility Resource Center for students who need accommodations, tutoring support a Center for Student Success for students who are learning how to do college, right. Messick or international research opportunities and internship experiences and so many more. TCNJ is campus itself residential, so most of our students live on campus, most of our incoming students live on campus. And I would say it's known for being a genuinely warm and welcoming place. But also TCNJ is known as an institution that offers high quality academic programs, again, personalized services, and is really committed to success.
And when I say success, I mean the success of our students. So a couple of indicators that I like to share with prospective students who are looking at colleges and in particular, TCNJ that speak to how our students find success include a couple of data points. The first TCNJ has a an incredibly high first year retention rate, no more than 95%, roughly 95% of our incoming students every year return for a second year. And that really speaks to how satisfied our incoming students feel with the institution and how much they believe that TCNJ is a right fit for them.
Amanda S 12:12
As important as it is, so the college to create a home for students and a great experience. While they're here. We also know that college as exciting as it should be as a chapter right in a student report. And so it's really important to us to help students get to the end of that chapter in a timely fashion. So to that end, TCNJ really had ranked in the top five for four year graduation rates among all colleges in the US. And that's pretty impressive, because a lot of institutions that publish and talk about their graduation rates often talk six year rate. So we really encourage students to inquire more about whether schools are sharing the four year or six year rate, but TCNJ is really committed to helping students, you know, get to graduation in a timely fashion. And then last, but certainly not least, it's important that our graduates are prepared beyond TCNJ prepared to jump to kind of a variety of career, that's graduate school, the workforce or a combination of the two. And so to that end, TCNJ has a roughly 97% job slash graduate school placement rate. And so of our graduates that our survey every year, we find that an overwhelming majority, you know, nearly all of them are either employed, and or in graduate school shortly after leaving TCNJ. And so, again, as I talked about, you know, TCNJ is commitment to success and how our students find success. There are a number of different programs and signature experiences, as we call them, that I believe really contribute to the success students find at the College of New Jersey, including things like collaboration, both between students, but also between students and faculty members. There is a heavy emphasis on real world or practical experiences. So that speaks to TCNJ's interest and investment undergraduate research, but also in helping students jump into their field experiences sooner than later. And a couple of other areas including leadership, civic engagement, community engagement, and then certainly we want our students to, you know, be prepared to engage in the world right, regardless of where they actually land. And so, you know, we're really a great institution for the student who was interested in competitive programs interested in balancing a rigorous academic low With a social and extra curricular schedule, and who really wants to be involved and contribute to the community?
Venkat Raman 15:13
What would you call out as some flagship or popular academic programs at TCNJ?
Great question. So TCNJ offers a plethora programs, we have more than 50 majors and I think more than 70, minors spread out among seven different academic school. So students are able to study and you know, the Arts and Communication, business education, STEM fields, the humanities, and then nursing Health and Exercise Science. And so in terms of, you know, going back to our records, what we're known for, we are a liberal arts institution. So it's really important to us that regardless of a student's focus their academic major, they are exposed to a variety of different disciplines and have a pretty broad and solid foundation. But I would say we're well known for all of our programs, and specifically known for the rigor of our programs throughout all of our majors. I talked a little bit about TCNJ's interest in and commitment to undergraduate research. Yeah, and that's something that I like to emphasize a lot when I'm talking to prospective college students, as what I think is most important to note is that at most colleges and universities, at least in the US, that offer opportunities to engage in research, and there are many, those kinds of opportunities are most often reserved for graduate students, right? Master's program, a doctoral program, and sometimes undergraduates who are at other institutions feel like they have to compete with graduate students for the attention of faculty to engage in research. But what is unique about TCNJ, and one of the things that we're known for, is our commitment to the undergraduate experience generally, and our investment and commitment to undergraduate research. And so we highly encourage our students across all majors. To engage in research, there are obviously some majors particularly in let's say, the sciences, that formerly integrate research into the curriculum. But we also have programs that just really try to motivate, encourage and make research accessible to all one program in particular that I'll share is our afford undergraduate summer experience or Muse program. This is a competitive but special summer residential program that brings together a small student faculty team. And much like students doing research at the graduate level TCNJ's MUSE, students work with faculty to kind of propose a research or creative collaborative project, they apply for funding for that project or for the research work. And if approved, as they are, you know, engaging in the work over the summer, the students are paid for their work much like students doing research at the graduate level. And oftentimes, you know, students have an opportunity to co publish with faculty members, or to co present at professional and academic conferences. So really a place for students, again, who are interested in rigorous academic programs, who are interested in working closely with faculty, and who have an interest in research, either because they know they want to go on to graduate school, you know, perhaps their career trajectory requires graduate level work, are they interested in diving into and contributing to the existing body of knowledge.
Venkat Raman 19:13
What fraction of the students do engage in undergraduate research? Now, you did mention that some of the courses actually integrate that into the coursework. But if you, you know, is it, you know, majority of the students end up doing some form of undergraduate research?
That's a great question. I do know a sig... I can say a significant percentage of TCNJ students engage in some form of experiential learning slash practical experiences. And within that umbrella research is a part of that. But that also includes internships and let's say practical experiences for like our nursing students and our future educators. I don't know the exact percentage of students that engage in research at TCNJ. I do know that many of our STEM majors require, at some point a research project often in like the senior year. And then our MUSE program, again, as I mentioned, which is a competitive program, but it should open and available to students regardless of their major. So I, I'm confident that a lot of our students are engaging in research throughout their time at TCNJ.
Venkat Raman 20:36
You mentioned briefly a little bit about the students that TCNJ is trying to attract. So what would you say are some of the characteristics of the TCNJ Students?
So a great, great question. So I would say TCNJ students are typically students who are interested in high academic achievement. And I say that not just as, you know, a member of the admissions team, but I also teach as an adjunct faculty member at the College of New Jersey at our writing program, first year students. And so students are really interested in doing well academically and challenging themselves academically. But our students didn't balancing their academics with social and extracurricular involvement. The average TCNJ student I would say, is highly involved outside of the classroom, and a number of different kinds of activities and projects. And so those might include, again, as I mentioned, you know, maybe some co curricular activities, be it an internship, a, let's say, clinical experience for our nursing students, or student teaching experience for our education majors. A research project, or, you know, engaging and one or more of our student clubs and organizations, we have a very active student life, in part because it's such a strong community spirit that kind of exists throughout the campus. We're residential campus, so many of our students live and learn here. And then also, there's just an interest in, you know, being engaged beyond the classroom, we have more than 250 student clubs and organizations. So there's a lot to do, or a little bit of something for everyone. So our students are really involved. I think also, the average TCNJ student is, you know, really committed and invested in the community action before TCNJ is campus culture is characterized by a strong sense of community, a strong sense of community spirit. And so students are very active on campus, but also they engage in, let's say, the local community. TCNJ has a chapter of the Bonner program, which as you may know, is a national program for service and civic leadership. So there's a strong emphasis on service there. But also, in terms of leadership as well. TCNJ really emphasizes leadership qualities and abilities. We want our students to, you know, graduate seeing themselves as leaders, and we try to encourage them to demonstrate their leadership skills while they're at the College of New Jersey. And again, that manifests in a number of ways whether that's holding, you know, a formal, let's say, leadership position as an executive board member in a student club or organization or in another capacity.
Venkat Raman 24:02
So, where do all the students come from? Roughly how, how far and wide do they come from?
Yeah, so TCNJ student body comes from or is made up, I should say, of students from a variety of different backgrounds. We are a state institution. So we do have, not surprisingly, a number of students from various parts of New Jersey Shore. In addition to that, we also have students from a variety of states outside of New Jersey within the US, you know, shooting some nearby states in the East Coast or on the East Coast, and then places you know, stretching as far as to where you are in California. And then even beyond the US, you know, our international students really come from all over probably more than 30 countries. So a pretty diverse group of students, which really contribute to a rich or rich community in a rich environment.
Venkat Raman 25:12
Let me ask you a question, which is more a sign of the times. So how has COVID-19 impacted TCNJ? And how is, how's it been doing?
A sign of the times? Indeed, right? In year two, so, yeah, TCNJ, I would say COVID-19 has impacted TCNJ, I think in some ways that you might expect, and perhaps in some ways that it's impacted probably just about every other college or university. And that, you know, TCNJ, as, as committed as it is to the health and safety of the campus has responded in such a way that it's put in a number of safety measures directly in response to COVID-19. And those include, you know, vaccination requirements for students, faculty, and staff, access to vaccines. So, you know, hosting vaccine vaccination clinics, is making tech vaccine COVID-19 testing available and accessible, you know, masking, social distancing, making sure that there are hand sanitizing stations throughout campus, etc. So some of the kind of typical things, check to see at many places now, but I think one of the more significant ways in which has impacted TCNJ specifically is that since the pandemic started, and certainly in response to the pandemic TCNJ, as an institution has engaged technology much more, it has used ology much more. And I would say this has been felt, you know, throughout the entire campus. So in the Office of Admissions, for example, you know, it was in response to the pandemic, that we started to host virtual admissions presentations and webinars, thereby making TCNJ accessible to folks beyond New Jersey and our region. I know that TCNJ hosted in still makes available virtual advising and virtual tutoring sessions for students who want in need, you know, academic, and a course selection support, of course, online learning and hybrid teaching, etc. And I would say that, as we have engaged with technology more which marks has marked a transition for TCNJ. It For Me really has kind of affirmed our ability to pivot to it's certainly been an opportunity to exercise our resiliency muscles, if I could call it that. And it really showed out the strength of our community spirit. Because, you know, again, TCNJ is a place where people really enjoy being here, one of the things I forgot to mention about, you know, who our students are, in addition to academics, and what they do is that they really are nice people, they really are students who are concerned and care about each other and about the campus and the community. And that's also true of faculty and staff, and so that we have been able to maintain the strength of our our community spirit throughout this transition, in this time, I think just really speaks to our resiliency.
Venkat Raman 28:49
Now, how has that, How has COVID, I mean and the, all the experiences that went with it, How has that changed, if any, in terms of college applications, applications to TCNJ? In your own internal processes? Has there been any impact or change to that? Other than of course, you mentioned virtual, I understand the process, but I'm just saying, Are you looking for anything different than you did before?
Great, great question. So TCNJ is now test optional. So SAT and ACT test are no longer a requirement for most of our major most of our programs. And although the College of New Jersey, had been strongly considering going test optional, you know, well in advance of the pandemic, the pandemic just kind of catapulted us into that space. And so we are right now test optional through fall of 2023. And what I would say that means For prospective students, students who are interested in applying to TCNJ, and really for our office, you know, as we process and review applications is that, you know, while we have always taken a holistic approach to reviewing missions, looking not just at a student's, you know, academic potential via their record, but other aspects of the application, you know, one of the things that has become increasingly important to TCNJ is a student's demonstration of their interest and enthusiasm for the college. And so, if there's a piece of advice that I could give to students who are interested in TCNJ, who are considering applying to TCNJ, especially now, especially while we're in this test, optional phase is that in addition to, you know, putting your best self forward, and you know, your personal essay, doing well, in your studies, trying to obtain, you know, strong letters of recommendation to really show genuine interest and enthusiasm from TCNJ for TCNJ. By doing things like, you know, providing substantive responses to TCNJ's quest Quest form, that's an optional part of the application process, providing thoughtful, detailed and research responses to the why TCNJ application question, we really take those responses into consideration, we actually review the information shared, you know, by our applicants, and that helps us get a sense of how interested as student as in TCNJ. And that means a lot to us, because as I showed earlier, you know, TCNJ, is known for, you know, bringing students on board welcoming students into the college who realize that, that this is the right place for them, this is there, this is a good fit, right. And that's part by the retention rate. And so really getting a chance to see throughout the application process, the interest that a student might illustrate for the college, by maybe doing a virtual presentation, maybe by connecting with one of our counselor, through a you can book me appointment, and certainly by, you know, taking time to provide meaningful and thoughtful responses on the quest and why TCNJ really gauge a student's interest in the college.
Venkat Raman 32:42
So you've gotten a whole bunch of high schoolers excited now. What, what would you what would your advice to them be? And also, do you have, you know, financial assistance and aid programs that you can talk about?
Yes, absolutely. And great questions. So to be clear, you know, college is a major investment. And it's an excellent investment, right, because you are investing in yourself. And really, in your your future in your career. And so one of the things that is important, and this is a part of the advice that I would give to students is to really, you know, sit down and talk with their families and have a conversation about their financial resources, and what kind of investment they are able and willing to make. And so certainly a part of their research includes finding out information about what scholarship opportunities are available at various schools. And so at the College of New Jersey, we are very happy and fortunate that we can offer, you know, a variety of different kinds of institutional aid. So TCNJ has a competitive Merit Scholarship Program for incoming first year students that demonstrate you know, high academic potential high academic achievement, and the scholarship award amounts vary based upon apart whether a student is you know, a domestic student from New Jersey, or an out of state or international student, but generally award amounts range from anywhere from $2,000 up to about $12,000 per year off of tuition. So a pretty, you know, nice buy new for from the college. And the nice thing I would say about TCNJ's Merit Scholarship Award Program is that all first year applicants who apply to the College of New Jersey are automatically considered For those awards simply by completing an application, so there's no you know, separate scholarship, essay questions they have to submit. There's no interview, which is sometimes the case at other schools, there's an automatic consideration. But then I would also say for students to explore other resources right beyond what the institution can offer. So if you are, you know, a US citizen or permanent resident, certainly exploring federal and or state financial aid opportunities, regardless of whether you are a domestic or international student, certainly exploring external or private scholarship opportunities, and our Office of Financial Aid, maintains a web pages to kind of recommend some of those opportunities for students to explore. So that's my advice, kind of on the financial piece.
I know we know my colleagues in admissions, we understand that the college search and college application process typically can feel perhaps overwhelming. Maybe even a bit nerve racking, you know, there are, I believe nearly 5000 colleges and universities to choose from in the US alone, let alone the world, right, if you're thinking broadly, so there's a lot of options, there's a lot to consider, and it's a big investment. So my advice really is to in addition to just doing research, generally, to remember, I would say that college admissions professionals and officers, we are human people, and I can I can attest to that firsthand at The College of New Jersey, you know, we enjoy engaging with students, we enjoy helping students navigate this process. And so just really leaning into all of the resources and opportunities that let's say an Admissions Office specifically makes available, or a college has available broadly for students to learn more about, which might include, you know, connecting with one of our faculty members to learn about a particular academic program, or learn out one or more, you know, student support services, realizing that we are people on the other side of the process, right, the college admissions counselors, the faculty that you will eventually be working with in the classroom where people were human, we are here to assist you, and specifically for admissions professionals, you know, this is our job, and this is what we enjoy doing. And so to not feel hesitant about reaching out to us and just trying to engage as much as possible so that, you know, ultimately, as a student, you make a confident decision, when you decide to call x University, your home, whether that's TCNJ or somewhere else.
Venkat Raman 38:16
You know, as we wind down here, any closing thoughts, anything else you want to tell High school students all over?
I would probably in closing, I would just say, try as much as possible to enjoy this time in your life, to enjoy your high school years and try to find some joy and excitement in the college search process. You know, there will never be a time like this again. I'm sure you know, I'm preaching to the choir, I'm sure that that kind of device, you know, students have heard that are hearing that from their parents, guardians, family members, teachers everywhere, but to really just be fully present, you know, in in their in the moment and where they are in their lives and to hopefully carry that forward into their college career then the next step in their journey.
Venkat Raman 39:25
Fantastic. So Amanda, I thank you so much for coming on and talking about TCNJ and as delightful conversation and great thoughts. So I hope the high schoolers out there pay heed to that and you know, take the next step. And I'm sure I want to talk to you more but for right now, take care be safe. I'll talk to you soon.
Amanda S 39:51
Likewise, thank you so much for having me again, take care.
Venkat Raman 39:54
Hope you enjoyed this podcast with Amanda Simpson, Admissions Counselor at TCNJ.
Amanda gave us a great overview of TCNJ, their flagship programs, support for undergraduate research, COVID Impact, Merit Scholarships and what they look for in their students.
Hope you explore TCNJ as a place to pursue your college study.
For questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [email@example.com].
Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.
Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].
Till we meet again, take care and be safe.
University of Wisconsin Madison, Admissions, SAT, International Students, Pandemic, COVID-19, Wisconsin Idea