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College visit report-James Madison University.

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We visited James Madison University in Harrisonburg VA for two reasons. The first is that my parents live there, and I grew up there, so while it is an expensive school for out of state, DD would have the option to live off campus, or a place to go for breaks, weekends, to do laundry, and have local support if she wanted it. The second is that JMU has had multiple herpetology presentations and posters at JMIH, and the young women who have attended speak highly of the program-in a field where young women are sometimes warned to stay away from specific PI’s and labs. 

JMU is a huge campus. Part of this is that it has expanded based on land and building availability, so, for example, the junior/senior high school I attended is now an extreme edge of campus, but a large part of it is also across the highway in what used to be farm land. Some of the “new” buildings are new to the university, but actually had been around quite awhile. You could easily have a several mile trip between extreme buildings, and many campus services are mirrored on both the central campus, which is more liberal arts, and the East campus, which is STEM focused.  It feels quite a bit bigger than Arkansas State or MTSU, despite having a similar sized student body, and a big part of it is that it is much less self-contained. Students are required to live on campus unless they are local freshman year and can live on campus until graduation. There are also many off campus options. 

Harrisonburg is in the mountains, and the campus is anything but flat. Parking is largely around the edges of campus and is expensive. There is quite a bit of walkable commerce near campus, including the downtown area, which is very artsy and has a lot of small businesses, restaurants, etc. Public transit is available to major shopping areas. There are also shuttles on campus. Because of the location, hiking, skiing, tubing and rafting, and similar activities are nearby, and DC is a few hours away (there is a megabus to DC). The nearest major airports are in DC.

JMU is predominantly an undergraduate school and prides itself on a liberal arts core and being a teaching college first and focus and on experiential learning and research. They house multiple REU programs every summer, and have a lot of connections for internships and hands on projects and research. While the honors program does offer additional classes and housing options, research and experiential opportunities are not limited to the honors program. 

The cafeteria was Ok, but not exciting. Part of that was probably the summer session. Dorms were also OK, but not exciting. Rooms are usually doubles with a shared bathroom, either for a hall or for 2-4 rooms. Some are not air conditioned, which really isn’t a big deal for most of the year. 


We didn’t get to meet with departments officially, although we have talked to biology and herpetology at conferences in the past. Psychology has animal behavior research and classes available, co-coded with biology. 


The school is very sports focused, especially football. DD felt that there really wasn’t a “nerd culture” like she had seen and felt present on other schools-that it was probably there, but she didn’t have the inmedjate feelings of finding her people that she had at UAH or University of Toronto.

JMU is a big music school, and Harrisonburg is a music city, including lots of opportunities for amateur music making and local concerts. 


Out of state “rack rate” for on campus students is about 40k/yr. There are some scholarships available, but no automatic aid. It should be a safety or near safety for DD on admissions, and she should have a good chance of competitive scholarships. 

DD is thinking that it is one for the list, but probably somewhere in the middle.  



Edited by dmmetler
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Thanks for posting this! As someone with multiple teens in the house and a not-huge budget for travel / college visits, I personally find the longer written-out reviews VERY helpful! 

Best of luck to your DD wherever she lands!

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