The University of Utah (U of U) is a university. If you were hoping for one of those “wow” moments when you walk onto a campus and suddenly life, love, and the world makes sense, you’ll likely be disappointed. Like any university, it has buildings, sidewalks, classrooms, professors, a home city, and so on and so forth. Like any school, they advertise all of their “special” programs including (but never limited to) the arts, the sciences, the humanities, and business.
So what makes it different?
For one thing, the U of U is in a fairly nice location. It is one of Utah’s most prestigious universities and rests in Salt Lake City, Utah. As can be imagined, its location offers big city conveniences, but being in Utah, it also provides an amazing natural environment. In fact, the perfect mountain snow and cold weather brought the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City, Utah, the home of the University of Utah. Just being there provides amazing outdoor opportunities, including famous nature reservations like Bryce Canyon National Park and Arches National Park. That’s not even including the Great Salt lake, which is the biggest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere. Though not all of these things are nearby, none are more than a few hours away.
The U of U is also a school of science. One of its major accomplishments was the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology. The distinguished professor Mario R. Capecchi was the winner, whose research further extended the bounds of mammalian biology. And he’s not alone. Former U of U biochemist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan recognized that his experience at the university was key in his antibiotic research that won him the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. There are also a number of Utah companies in mining and technology that have benefitted from the professors and students of the Utah of University. Paleontology is also influenced by the U of U, whose paleontologists (along with the Utah Museum of Natural History) have unearthed over 15,000 specimens from the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Utah—the thickest concentration of Jurassic dinosaur bones found in the world.
On the outside, the campus isn’t all that different from the city around it. There are nice grassy spots, trees, large glassy buildings, and a cool performance hall (Kingsbury Hall). On the inside, however, you’ll find rich natural history and stunning astronomy research. The University of Utah’s Astronomy Department has weekly star parties and some of the best telescopes in Utah, including the new Willard L. Eccles Observatory which houses an $860,000 research telescope. Now that’s what I call a view!
Of course, the U of U is not limited solely to science. They offer a number of course that cover a plethora of subjects—anything from language to mathematics, engineering to the fine arts. The football team is also rather prestigious, their 2008-2009 season being another one of their undefeated years.
As far as housing goes, you’ll find large variations depending on where you go and how big your wallet is. There are, however, a number of scholarships to help students in this area. You’ve got the Crocker Science House that provides residential student housing for twelve outstanding students each year. There’s also the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which covers eligible expenses for a number of things, including room and board. I could name bunches of other scholarships offered that provide battalions of financial aid, but you can check these out for yourself at www.utah.edu.
Admissions for any university are subject to change, but the average tuition cost for one semester at the U of U is about $4,846.40 (for in state) and $10,960.20 (for out of state). That’s not accounting for living costs, which turn ugly rather fast. To be accepted, you’ll need a GPA of at least 3.6 and have an ACT score of 16 (860 on the SAT) or higher. If you don’t meet these requirements, you’ll have to have an index score of at least 98 to even be considered (or so the statistics from www.utahmentor.org say).
The U of U also has a number of fantastic undergraduate research opportunities. These provide academic awards that give wages, even up to $1,200 for a first-timer who works with a faculty member on a project. And what kind of projects are these? They can be anything from dance education research to inorganic photonic crystals, philosophy of strategy to artery remodeling. And the limitations? A project can be in any region of research or inventive activity that happens at the university. You don’t even have to do it alone. There’s a whole program to support students in research, and all the information you could hope for can be found at www.urop.utah.edu.
Weighing all of the pros and cons of a university isn’t easy, but as a whole, the U of U has convinced me of its great value. It offers wonderful programs, fabulous location, and a number of scholarships and financial aid to help students get in. It may very well be a school you’ll want to consider in the future if you haven’t already.