The Inside Scoop – Cooper Union
Money Magazine ranked Cooper Union in the Top 10 Best Colleges for its quality of education, affordability, and alumni success. Known for its excellent programs in architecture, engineering, and the arts, Cooper Union accepts the best and prepares them to transform the world with their passions. Situated in New York City, Cooper Union stands for a legacy of equal rights since the days of the American Civil War, leading the nation in providing education for women, African Americans, and the poor. A sampling of its extensive list of notable alumni include: Thomas Edison (inventor, the light bulb), Bob Kane (artist, co-creator of the Batman comic book), Shigeru Ban (architect, invented reusable cardboard houses for disaster relief), Augusta Savage (sculptor), Eva Hesse (sculptor), Milton Glaser (artist), and Daniel Libeskind (architect).
1.What are the key feature(s) that you seek in an undergraduate candidate?
It’s first important to note that Cooper Union is unlike most colleges, which is reflected in our student body and admissions process. We have less than 1,000 undergraduates and enroll a class of approximately 225 students each year. The yearly breakdown among our three schools is typically 30 Architecture students, 65 Art students, and 130 Engineering students. With those numbers in mind, the best fit students are those who thrive in a small school atmosphere, but are interested in living in a large, urban environment. Because we only offer Architecture, Art, and Engineering programs, students need to have a concrete passion, seriousness of purpose, and invested interest in their program of study.
2. What would be the biggest or most common mistake that students make on their application?
Procrastination! As we know, deadlines are the last possible day to submit your application or supplemental materials, but colleges really want you to apply and complete the process before the deadline. We often hear that students have their application completed and ready to go, but are waiting for the deadline to officially press submit. Why wait?! Do it early and check it off your ‘to do’ list.
3. What advice do you have for high school students who plan to apply in the future?
Be true to yourself in your application! We always encourage students to show their personality throughout the process, but often see students who try to conform to what they think we want to see and hear. In reality, we truly want to capture real, authentic responses through our essays and visual projects. Always remember that you’re looking for the best fit school for you, and being genuine in your application is the best way to find that fit.
4. What is the most common misconception that people have about your admissions process?
We’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for potential. We strive to admit the best, most qualified students throughout our admissions process which includes finding students who have room for development and potential for growth. We admit students whom we believe can handle the rigorous curriculum and thrive in an intimate hands-on learning environment.
5. There is a trend of rebellion against standardized testing. Some say that standardized tests help make the process faster/easier, but adds bias and inaccuracy when assessing a student’s future potential. What are your thoughts on this subject?
After working at a selective engineering school, I understand the importance for students to prove their abilities via testing – not for all majors, but certainly for those related to STEM. Part of our job in admissions is to determine if a student can handle the coursework, be successful and find happiness while enrolled our institution. Without a few checkpoints in the admissions process to assess a student’s understanding and concrete abilities to do the work, we may inadvertently set students up for failure and unhappiness instead of empowering them to embrace a challenge and work hard. On the other hand, standardized testing is not always a useful measurement for all schools and programs. As an example, standardized test scores weigh very little in Cooper’s admissions review for architecture and art. More creative assessments are better indicators of student success for those programs at Cooper.
6. What are some of the more popular/selective majors at your college?
Since Cooper only offers three areas of study, admission to each of our programs is highly competitive and the admissions process for each school is different.
7. How does major selection impact your assessment of an applicant?
Significantly! At Cooper Union, our three schools have very different admissions requirements and applicants are reviewed in diverse ways. For example, while grades and SAT scores are considered for Architecture and Art applicants, the majority of the admissions decision is based on the talent, potential and ideas presented in our take-home tests and visual submissions. The importance of these supplemental materials far surpasses the quantitative assessments for these two schools at Cooper. On the other hand, admission to our Engineering school is more holistic and involves a deeper assessment of the typical quantitative measurements, in conjunction with a student’s submitted Writing Supplement and teacher recommendations.
8. How “transfer friendly” is your school?
It varies by program at Cooper. Architecture and Art are transfer friendly programs, however our Engineering school only admits a small number (if any) per year. For a small college like Cooper Union, many times our transfer numbers depend on the space available in a specific program.
9. Tell us a fun fact, unique story, or piece of insider information most people don’t know about your school.
Cooper Union has consistently been at the forefront of social and political justice, as proved by the revolutionary step of opening the school to men, women, and minorities alike since its founding in 1859. The Foundation Building, currently the home to our Schools of Architecture and Art, was one of the tallest buildings in lower Manhattan (standing 8 stories high) and has continuously been a place for free speech since its opening in the 1850s. The Great Hall, found on the lower level of the building, was the platform for some of the earliest workers’ rights campaigns and for the birth of the NAACP, the women’s suffrage movement and the American Red Cross. Additionally, before they were elected, Presidents Lincoln, Grant, Cleveland, Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Barack Obama all spoke there. The “I Heart NY” logo was created by Cooper Union alumnus Milton Glaser.
About The Author
Adrianne Greth is the Assistant Dean of Admissions at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. She is originally from a small town in eastern Pennsylvania and attended Temple University in Philadelphia for her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Adrianne’s passion for college admissions started during her time as a student tour guide, and truly developed over the past 12 years while working at her alma mater and currently at Cooper Union. She’s been part of the Cooper team for the past three years and still finds herself constantly inspired by the exceptional creativity and inventiveness that students at Cooper embody. In her spare time, you can find her traveling anywhere and everywhere, or taking advantage of cultural experiences such as visiting museums, exploring parks and enjoying the eclectic food choices found in New York City.
Editors: David H. Nguyen, Ph.D., Melody Mark, Ph.D. (ABD), Justin Wang, M.A., M.B.A.