campus encounters

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Lafayette College

Lafayette College (visited 4/23/18)

Lafayette chapel 1

The chapel with a statue of Lafayette and the insured Japanese maples.

A few fun facts about Lafayette: the original letters from Lafayette to Washington are in their archives; the 2 Japanese maples by their main building are insured for $1million each; and their Civil Rights Hall, built during the Depression, was the most expensive building on any campus at the time.

Lafayette students lawn

Students on the quad

“Students who thrive here are passionate. They tend to be extroverted, or at least not mind getting to know people,” said a rep. “This is a great networking school with great outcomes. It’s collaborative. There’s a lack of pretense here.” I’m not sure I can entirely agree with that last statement having met several students. There seems to be a great deal of pride in being a Lafayette student (not a bad thing or unusual) but it seems like students know they’ve “made it” to a selective school! However, they’re also taking advantage of all the opportunities here, and they clearly love where they are. They are highly social; students were all over the main quad in groups during their free time; that was refreshing to see!

Lafayette 3Their motto is “Why not?” Students are not sectioned off into colleges; they are simply Lafayette students. “It’s easier to take electives or change our major. It’s not unusual to see things like Computer Science majors in a History of South Africa or a Martin Scorsese class. People are well rounded,” said our tour guide.

Lafayette 6“Lafayette has been great because of the size and there are no TAs.” The intro classes are capped at 80 students; others are capped at 40 “but rarely get that big.” Professors do a lot of research, and students can get funding for this through the Excel scholarship. They don’t compete with graduate students for research. It’s fairly common to be published with the professors.

Lafayette engo lab

An engineering lab

About 25% of students are in the Engineering college; most typical engineering programs are offered as well as Engineering Studies and an interdisciplinary Engineering and International Studies Dual Degree program. Lafayette does not have a business college but offers economics. “We also have a good geology major!” said the tour guide.

I asked a couple students what their favorite class was:

  • “Cybersecurity class is pretty awesome! I’ve never been a super math person; what I like about the class is that it’s beautiful math! We learn why passwords are better than others and how to encrypt things It’s like code-breaking. This is the only class where I’ve filled up a notebook with notes; I usually don’t get past page 10!”
  • AI: “We were given a problem that we had to solve in a group using AI. It was self-driven and learning from each other.”
Lafayette arts complex 1

The Arts Complex

There is a big new $30m art complex at the bottom of the hill from Main Campus. There are steps “but it’s easier to take the shuttle back up!” There’s a new movie theater and classrooms. Students said good things about the Film and Media Studies as well as Theater. “About 1/3 of the students in the arts also major in Engineering,” said a rep.

I asked students if they felt that they could help differentiate between here and Lehigh, one of their big rivals. “Liberal Arts more of a focus here than at Lehigh; Lafayette is smaller, fewer students in Greek life, less engineering.” Lafayette students also come across as preppier (think blazers and salmon-colored pants!).

Lafayette 8

The Civil Rights House

Their Gateway career services program is one of the oldest programs around, and 93% of the class of 2020 enrolled in it. This provides 1-on-1 meetings, externships (3-5 days of shadowing), networking, and other programs with alumni (which helps keep alumni involved in the college).

Lafayette stadium 2Most students live on campus until Senior year when many move off. Food got good reviews, and a lot of local restaurants (and the CVS!) will take flex-dollars. “The food in town is amazing! There are so many restaurants. You can’t go wrong with them,” said a student. Campus life is active. Watching and participating in sports (including rugby and fencing) is popular, and they offer about 200 scholarships in 11 of their 23 DI sports teams. Approximately 30% of eligible students join Greek Life; “that’s a bit higher than some schools, but it’s not exclusionary.” Rush is delayed until sophomore year; they must have a minimum GPA (some chapters are higher) and must be in good standing with the college to rush. Most chapters have a 1-semester residential requirement: “I love it! It’s the greatest experience!” Most have 20-30 (usually juniors) living there at any given time.


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