College Profile: Ohio Northern University (ONU)

ONUYour college mascot is something you’ll have to identify as for not only the next four years, but forty years from now when you run into your Freshman roommate at a wedding. With that in mind, you could be a Longhorn (University of Texas), but you’ll almost never be the only Longhorn in the room—there’s something to be said for being unique. You could be a Rainbow Warrior (University of Hawaii), but that sounds less than intimidating. You could even be a Trojan (University of Southern California), but, well…. However, if you really want to stand out, you could join the select few from Ohio Northern University who call themselves Polar Bears!

Hill Memorial (detail, front facade), Ohio Northern University
Hill Memorial houses the soft sciences at ONU.

Established in 1871 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1899, Ohio Northern University is a small private school in the corner of Northwest Ohio. Each Fall, 3,600 students descend upon the sleepy village of Ada, Ohio to create a unique, quaint, Midwestern college town.  Ranked as the number two baccalaureate school in the Midwest, ONU is most well-known for its extremely competitive, six-year pharmacy program. However, the Raabe College of Pharmacy as well as each of the school’s other three undergraduate colleges (the Getty College of Arts and Sciences, the T.J. Smull College of Engineering, the James F. Dicke College of Business) is committed to providing students with a quality, liberal-arts-style education.

Like many private schools, the sticker price of ONU used to be enough to send the parents of potential students into a catatonic state. However, in order to combat sticker shock syndrome, Northern recently implemented a four-point promise, the first point of which was to reduce tuition for the 2014-2015 school year by 20-25%. In addition to the significant price cut, Northern continues to offer merit, need, and talent-based scholarships to about 90% of its students to ensure that a quality education is affordable for all students.

Prospective students visiting ONU will notice the personal attention ONU is able to provide even during the admissions process. Rather than laying out statistical guidelines for admissions or guaranteeing admissions based on high school GPA and test scores, counselors at ONU are interested in getting to know each applicant as an individual. Students are assigned an admissions counselor (based on the region in which they attend high school) who will take a comprehensive view of each student’s application rather than just a glance at an applicant’s GPA and standardized test scores (the average composite ACT score among current students is a 26). Similarly, the program to which a student plans to apply may heavily impact that student’s chances of admission; while a composite ACT score of 26 may be enough for general admission, it would place an applicant to the college of pharmacy, where even students with ACT scores in the mid-thirties lose sleep over whether or not they will be admitted, at the bottom of the stack. However, in an effort to ensure that the university continues to bring in well-rounded students rather than students who just look good on paper, the pharmacy program conducts personal interviews of prospective students.

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James F. Dicke Hall, home of the College of Business, combines the traditional red brick of ONU’s older academic buildings with a modern glass atrium.

Freshman at ONU soon find that such personal attention extends beyond the admissions process. The average freshman class consists of only 18 students—and upper-level courses only get smaller. With a student-faculty ratio of 24:1, Northern is not a place for students who hope to fall asleep in the back of a large lecture hall and skate through classes with Cs. Professors take full advantage of their small class sizes by engaging their students in class discussions rather than canned lectures. Similarly, the size of the university makes it easy for students to join student groups, seek out opportunities, get information, and deal with the proverbial red tape that exists at every institution of higher learning but somehow seems less tedious at a small school.

Even if the idea of becoming a Polar Bear doesn’t sound exceptionally appealing (although, before you make a final decision, please note that ONU’s mascot is named “Klondike”!), small schools like Northern are certainly a better fit for some incoming college freshman than are big schools. The immediately friendly atmosphere of ONU as well as the individualized attention from faculty and staff makes the transition from home life to college life an easy one. There is no fear of becoming “just another number” at Ohio Northern, only the fear that your professors will notice if you try.

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