After the great response I got from my previous post on my Neumont Educational History (http://www.paulrohde.com/my-neumont-educational-history/) Several e-mail, comments, and questions later, I’ve decided it’s time for a batch of Q & A to answer additional questions. I recently received an e-mail from a student that had found my website through the Neumont website, I feel it sums up many of the questions I have been asked since my previous post:
First, many thanks for the awesome comments about the site, its one of those ongoing projects that is continually evolving and changing, so its appreciated when someone does enjoy it.
Neumont is not round.
Ok. Sentimental comments aside, let me do the best I can to answer your questions. Since I am a Neumont Alumni, do keep in mind that the school has been evolving over the past several years and that there have been many alterations to the main program since I started (Cohort 15, July 2007). So take what I say with a grain of salt. Get in touch with one of the Neumont Reps if you haven’t already since they *should* be able to answer more direct questions about the current state of the school and the primary CS degree program.
From my experience, Neumont is a very technical school, it has one degree (There was previously a business masters degree program at the school, but that has been put on hold and may or may not re-emerge), and it is very geared towards graduating high quality and hopefully well rounded CS students. Because the program is so tightly geared toward CS there are some areas and classes that I personally felt were lacking. For instance, I really wish that the mathematics program went further, by the time I started at Neumont I had already completed Calculus II at WSU (Winona State University) and was beyond the current mathematics courses offered at Neumont. In addition, they do lack some of the general classes that form the basis for other fields of study: Chemistry, higher level Mathmatics, Physics, History, Literature, Art(To be fair, they did have an introduction photography class, and the last two quarters when I was leaving they were adding in a digital media concentration with courses that are more artistically bent). Part of my own draw away from Neumont was the fact that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to grow in some of these other areas, I love photography, art, the more classical sciences, and there’s a part of me that really does miss not having more time to explore those other subjects for my own personal interest.
The question about well rounded-ness really boils down to this: Why are you going to school? If your goal is to get a degree, get a full time job in business software development, I honestly cannot recommend a better school. However, if your not sure you want to do business software, if your not sure you want to even DO software, or if your not passionate enough to pursue and devote yourself to it for the two and a half years it’ll take to get through the program, Neumont is probably not the place for you.
Hearing about Neumont
I first heard about Neumont sometime after taking my ACT a year early and getting piles of junk mail from colleges talking about the ‘college decision’ I would be making over the next year.
After two years of highschool at a private school I returned to being officially ‘home schooled’ after my sophomore year, enrolled in WSU via the PSEO Program (Post Secondary Education Option, basically, if your a good enough student and would like to take classes at the local college the state will pay for the tuition and books), and then spent the following year and a half taking a full load of college classes (plus two side classes at an online school the year I started). Sometime within that college span I began receiving mail from Neumont, glanced and discarded most of it into the large bin of college spam. After receiving several more mailings I did some research, ended up being contacted by a Neumont rep, and was invited to attend their ‘Geek Weekend’ where they flew out potential new students that were interested in the school along with a parent or guardian to visit, meet some of the students, etc… That trip was the turning point in my decision making process. During my time at WSU I was actively taking some CS classes, most of them in Java, most little console algorithm type problems and one cool little robotics project near the end in one of my classes. After a year and a half of WSU, and having had several years of my own personal experience doing web, C++, Visual Basic, Dark Basic, building several of my own small games, and working as a student programmer at WSU doing C#, ASP.NET, and Sharepoint development, I was completely outmatched by students in their second quarter at Neumont (6 months into the program) that I met that weekend. That was cool.
Yes, it was a hard decision, I had a good job for where I was, I could have continued at WSU, graduated with a lot of current job experience (Read: ~4 years if I had graduated from WSU), but it wouldn’t have challenged me as much or pushed me as far as I am today.
First of all, Neumont is not a normal school. They are located in an office building that’s been converted into the University as it is today. In fact, there are other companies that have offices in the same building, at least when I was there. Since I’ve been there they’ve made some additions and changes to the building, there’s now a new computer lab complete with iMacs, the common area has a pool table and a large screen TV that students will bring in and hook up their 360, Wii, or PS3 to and play games. The school does have a reasonable catering service during lunch on school days, but nothing like a normal cafeteria. When I was leaving they were experimented with having another place come in on Fridays, so I’m not entirely sure as to the state of the school provided food. From what I’ve experienced however, most students will eventually move away from the catered food and get something nearby (which is what I eventually did), there is a Zupas across the the street and a coffee shop within walking distance, and there’s quite a few additional places a short drive away.
The campus “Housing” is two sets of apartments, one set is at The Falls at Hunters Pointe, the other is Sterling Village in South Jordan, both are about a 20 minute walk from the school (although most people tend take the shuttle or carpool). I was only in student housing for a year, when I first moved in, one of my roommates was also just moving in and the other was close to graduating. During second quarter after the senior in our house moved out we got a new freshman, who ended up moving out without telling any of us before the end of the quarter… Anyhow, after that first ~10 months a friend of mine and two other guy’s rented a 4 bedroom 3 story house for about what we were paying in student housing, so, I ditched Neumont housing and moved. As far as rules and regulations go for student housing (Yes, they are regulated) they aren’t too bad, you do need to keep the apartment clean and they do have inspections. You also can’t bring weapons into the apartment (no paintball guns, swords, non-kitchen-knives, etc…).
As far as ‘life on campus’ goes you have lots and lots of geeked out guys (And about a 50:1 guy to girl ratio) that live life on Mountain Dew, Guitar Hero, WoW, and DotA. They are the stereotype, and you will find them on almost every non Neumont campus you visit, but you’ll find a much higher concentration than you would elsewhere. However, there are many people there that really do take what they’re doing seriously, and are already well rounded individuals. I was never that ‘involved’ in the geek culture. It’s cool, I like parts of it, I’ve rocked my share of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and played my hours of Counter Strike. Still, I spent a lot of my time outside of Neumont towards the end of my time there. Most of who I considered my ‘good’ friends were up at the University of Utah and were not CompSci majors. I was involved in the photographic community, I did several photowalks, met lots of photographers and models, made some good friends there. I was involved in a church (Gateway Community Church), and had several friends through that. The community is out there, but you have to go to it, it’s not going to drop into your lap as much as it would at a “normal” University.
If you make good friends, keep in touch, work hard, help and teach others (not just giving answers), and really strive to be a personable, well rounded individual, you will be fine. The homework can be hard, and there are ALWAYS group projects that you’re in and will be working on. It’ll force you to deal with and work with other people and figure out how to make things work. From personal experience, it’s exactly what you’ll be doing in the real world.
Administration and Cost
I’m probably not the best person to answer a lot of these questions, but I’ll do what I can. Administration from my experience hasn’t been that difficult to get in touch with, I was always able to go to people and figure out what I needed when I needed it. However, I do know that in the past, people have had issues, specifically with tracking graduation credits. There was (or is) a student written program that allows you to track your progress towards graduation that I used, and it worked well. However, I would also go in and talk directly with the student advisers on a regular basis and verify that I was doing things correctly. There have been several occasions where people have been 1-2 credits short because they thought they were taking enough credits but didn’t take the time to go and check with advisers each quarter…
As far as finances go, I was able to get my loans through the Department of Education and Sallie Mae with my parents as co-signers on those loans. With the economy having tanked, and quite possibly still in the tank, I’m not sure how difficult it will be to get financing, it’ll really depend on your situation. I was lucky enough to not have to worry about it much or have deal with the financial aid department at school. I do know that if I had not received loans or financing, I would have had a VERY difficult (if not impossible) time going to Neumont. Again, this is where I would get a Rep, ask very specific, very direct questions. Make sure they give you an answer, that’s what their job is.
Was Neumont affordable? I made it through. I will be able to pay it off with my current job over the next ~3 years, and my interest rate seems rather standard as far as student loans go.
Was it a lot? Yes.
Was it worth it? For the field I’m in, Yes. For the contacts I made, the experience I gained, Yes.
Neumont is a great school, for business software development. For what the school is and at the time I went through the program, I don’t know of any other degree program that could trump it. It does have a very narrow focus, it’s hard, it’ll make you learn, and you’ll be better for it. Like any school, you only get out of it what you put into it and there will always be people that don’t care, don’t work, fail out, and complain to all ends of the earth about how it’s the university’s fault or how this or that caused them to _____. Fill in the blank.
Work hard, do your best and you’ll be fine wherever you’re at.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a comment, call me, send me an e-mail, I’ll do my best to get back to you when I can.
– Paul Rohde
Note: The opinions presented here are my own and do not in any way represent the opinion or position of my Employer or that of Neumont University.