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University of Delaware

University of Delaware, Newark DE (visited 1/25/12)

For a larger state school (with about 16,000 undergraduates), UDel was surprisingly easy to navigate. The campus is long and kind of narrow so it seemed less daunting than some other larger campuses I’ve been to. A beautiful brick-building-lined main quad runs through the middle, giving the campus a traditional, smaller-school feel. However, the extensive resources that radiate out from the quad provide all the resources you’d expect at a bigger school. Even on a slightly drizzly day in January, the campus was bustling. Kids were taking advantage of all the open spaces, buses were coming through campus regularly with kids piling on and off, and there was a vibrant feel to campus. I can only imagine what it must feel like on warm, sunny day when the Frisbees come out!

As expected, there is a ton to do on campus. Students can start clubs with about 5 people and an advisor, and recently, students have started things like the Chocolate Club and Grilling Club. An active main street runs through the northern part of campus. The street has all the typical things you’d expect around a college campus: pizza and sandwich joints, pubs, book stores, etc. Buses and shuttles were always running around campus. There is an Amtrak and SEPTA station on campus: Philly and Baltimore are both about an hour away; New York City and DC are about 2 hours.

95% of freshmen live on campus, and although the percentage lowers as students get older, UDel guarantees housing for all four years (which I definitely did not expect at a larger state school!). Their retention rate is good: 90% of freshman return for sophomore year.

Some of the unusual academic programs include their Earth, Ocean, and Environment school, extensive engineering programs, and health services programs. They include service learning into their curriculum, involve over 700 students in research every year, and have an Honor Program which includes an Honors living community. They also enroll students into a First Year Seminar.

In terms of admissions, 12/1 is the priority deadline if students are interested in the Honors Program or Merit Scholarships. However, they consider senior-year grades to be the most important part of the application, and they will not make decisions until mid-terms! If students submit the ACT, they have to include the writing section. They also encourage students to send in a resume.

(c) 2012

Ohio Wesleyan University

Ohio Wesleyan University (visited 4/13/12)

OWU ceiling

The ceiling of a reading room.

I wish I had known about OWU when I was looking for colleges. Their slogan is “The Opposite of Ordinary” and I can see why. Before visiting, I knew that OWU was one of the Colleges That Change Lives (and they’ve also been named by as one of the top schools that fly under the radar but shouldn’t!) but knew almost nothing other than that. Now, I wish I had had access to their programs when I was an undergrad. The students I talked to raved about the Travel-Learning Courses and the university’s dedication to the Theory-to-Practice model, among other things. The school offers at least a dozen classes each spring (and occasionally in the fall) in which travel is part of the curriculum; the class sometimes travels during spring break, but more often will go “on location” for 2-3 weeks after the semester ends in May. Recent classes offered include Global Poverty (Econ class; travel to Bangladesh); Mathematical Models of Climate (Math/Comp Sci class; travel to Alaska); Beginning Chinese II; Castles and Cathedrals (History class; travel to the UK); Tectonics, Volcanology, and Geothermal Energy (Geology and Geography class; travel to Iceland); and Translational Research in Psychology (travel to Tanzania).

OWU 1The campus impressed me immediately; I drove in on the main street that cut through campus. On one side, a three-story gothic grey stone building sat at the end of a brick walkway; on the other, a wide brick pedestrian walkway stretched for at least a block in the other direction. Pulling into the visitor parking lot next to the big stone building, I got to see the mix of buildings: older, more traditional-looking buildings closer to the road (much of which was the original college) with the newer, funky architecture stretching behind them. The “JayWalk” runs perpendicular to Sandusky Ave, separating Res side from Academic side. A beautiful new student center sits along the JayWalk across form the new library. My tour guide raved about the food options on campus; I can’t think of another student who was so effusive in her praise of his or her college’s food offerings. They do, of course, have a traditional dining hall, but meal plans are organized on a point system, and these points can be used at dining hall, in any of the multiple coffee shops/grab-and-go shops around campus (which are tucked into all sorts of corners, making for great study areas), the on-campus food court with a variety of options I’m used to seeing at much larger schools, and even downtown at places like Subway and the locally run coffee shop.


The JayWalk with the new Union shown (the library is across the way)

The town of Delaware is cute and clean; although it’s nothing fancy, there are things to do on Main Street, easily accessible from campus. Standing on campus and looking at Sandusky (the main street cutting vertically through campus), it’s easy to see what kids have access to, including coffee shops and book stores. Town-gown relations are very good. The school opens up the JayWalk a couple times a year, and there are “street fairs” held there. Arts, sports, and other events on campus are open to the public and well attended. The town holds First Friday parties when shops are open late, and students take advantage of this. The ice cream shop has created a “Battling Bishop” ice cream after the school mascot; the movie theater gives discounts to OWU students. Additionally, they are only about 20 minutes from Columbus, so they have easy access to all that offers.

Athletics is a big thing on campus; about 1/3 of the students play a varsity sport, and watching the games is a big thing on campus; school spirit is strong. They have two full stadiums: one for lacrosse, field hockey, and soccer, and one primarily for Track &Field and football. T & F (who were DIII finalists last year) and Cross-Country are particularly strong, as is Soccer; the admissions counselor I spoke to said “Don’t tell the football team, but we’re a soccer school!” The new gym is large and comfortable; this is the building with the funky, wavy roof that caught my attention when I first drove on campus. They also have a newly built geothermic aquatics and rec center which includes a diving well.

About 30% of students participate in Greek Life but this does not dominate the social scene. They cannot rush until 2nd semester so students have already formed groups of friends, and it is not unusual for friends to rush at different houses. There is quite a bit of inter-house cooperation and socializing. There is also a rush – called a “Slush” – for Special Living Houses on campus. These houses are based on a variety of interests such as Habitat for Humanity, World Languages, Thought House, Women’s Studies, Black Culture, InterFaith, and Peace&Justice. Freshman dorms are the only ones with communal bathrooms.

Although this started as a Wesleyan college, they have dropped their affiliation (although they kept the name since that is now part of their identity). The two largest religious student groups on campus are the Catholic group and the Hillel. Hillel is extremely active and inclusive; the week before I toured, the students had thrown a large Seder to which everyone was invited. They host speakers and other events and will carpool to Synagogue.

OWU 2The students who tend to thrive here are usually the B-B+ students who are go-getters and who are active in the community. There is a tendency to get involved and to help others. People are not stereotyped here and are encouraged to go after their passions, recognizing that majors and outside interests don’t always intersect. Math majors participate in theater; music majors play sports. Students clearly liked their surroundings. There was a lot of camaraderie: students were studying together on the grassy areas, they greeted each other when passing, and it felt like a community. I’ve already started talking this school up to my students.

(c) 2012

Washington College

Washington College (visited 8/19/16)

WAC statue and stu cntr

Washington bust in front of the new (2009) Student Center

WAC (pronounced “whack”) is a beautiful, traditional-looking campus in the historic town of Chestertown along the Chester River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It is named for George Washington who not only agreed to having his name used, but he donated money to start the school and sat on what was essentially the Board of Trustees.

WAC sign and performing arts

WAC’s performing arts center

Because of this tie to Washington, they also have a connection to Mount Vernon where two of the big college traditions are held. During orientation, freshmen spend time out there where they also sign the Honor Code. Right before graduation, seniors return as a class to spend some final time together before they graduate and go their separate ways. During this time, people give toasts (including one by a Washington impersonator) and students leave via a boat to cruise up to the National Harbour. The college also throws an annual Birthday Ball on the weekend of Washington’s birthday. Dubbed “Prom 2.0,” students, faculty, and alum come together in a non-academic setting to have fun and just enjoy each other’s company. They turn the field house into a beautiful space: “It doesn’t seem possible, but they do it!” This is usually themed: in the last couple years, they’ve had Narnia and Harry Potter. This is decided by a vote of the students.

WAC’s 1500 undergraduates have access to some amazing resources, including waterfront property about a mile from main campus. This area houses the boathouse for the crew team (including a rowing tank for winter training), the sailboats, kayaks, and research vessels for Biology and Environmental Studies/Science classes.

WAC quad

The quad

They have 17 DIII sports competing in the Centennial Conference: “We’re the smarty pants conference,” said the admissions rep, also a WAC alum. The “student” in student-athlete really does come first here. If class and practice overlap, you’re going to class. Teams have an annual competition for which team has the highest GPA. “It usually flip flops between lax and rowing, but sometimes the women’s soccer team sneaks in there, too!” The Men’s Lax has a huge rivalry with Salisbury: the “war on the shore” game alternates campuses every year, and there’s always a giant campus tailgate. Baseball and soccer also draw big crowds.

WAC dorms

2 of the specialty dorms

Housing is guaranteed all 4 years, and 90% of students live on campus until graduation. The four dorms (2 all female, 2 coed) located across the street house mostly freshman and are fairly typical freshman dorms with bathrooms down the hall. There are 3 smaller dorms located in the middle campus that are Special Interest Housing: Middle is for the Arts (“This dorm puts on the BEST Halloween haunted house – not surprising with all the theater people there!” said our tour guide), East for International Studies and international students, and West is for math and science. Upperclassmen tend to get the suites located across campus. WAC has a partnership with local apartment complex where they rent out a block of apartments: WAC furnishes them, provides wifi and security, etc.

WAC Case bldgWAC is far from a suitcase school: 85-90% of students stay on campus any given weekend. “WAC students are busy. They join a lot of clubs, Greek life (4 frats, 3 sororities with rush happening in the spring), and sports teams. People stick around,” said the admissions rep. Clubs getting school funding must commit to completing community service, so they get involved in the Chestertown community as well.

WAC egg

The Egg


The new Student Center with the dining hall was opened in Fall 2009. The Egg, a round multi-purpose room in the middle has Open Mic nights, games, performances, etc. The first floor of the Student Center has food areas open from 11 am to 11 pm; the second floor, the more traditional all-you-can-eat, is open from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. Our tour guide told us that students used to rush over for mozzarella sticks when they were offered; they were so popular that they started offering them a lot more! Now students get excited about the theme nights, midnight breakfasts, and Thanksgiving dinner.

Almost all majors have some sort of experiential learning component. They offer quite a few “Tourism study” classes (this makes so much more sense than calling these short-term, 2-3 week, classes “study abroad”). They also offer research trips and the traditional semester and year-long programs. South Africa, Hong Kong, and South Korea have become popular destinations.

WAC sci cntr

Part of the Science Center

Summer research is big, and lots of students stick around campus – or go to other facilities – to complete things. The Toll Fellows Program is math, sciences, psychology, and computer science majors, but there are plenty of other internships and programs for other students including the National Security Fellows Program, Maryland General Assembly Internship, Comegys Blight Fellowship (Studying vanishing islands of the Chesapeake), the Roy Ans Fellowship (Jewish American Experience), and the Frederick Douglass Fellowship.

WAC offers most of the majors you’d expect from a quality Liberal Arts college. A few unusual ones include International Literature and Culture and excellent dual degree programs:

  • Engineering: students complete 3 or 4 years at WAC and 2 at Columbia University
  • Pharmacy: students complete 3 years at WAC majoring in biology OR psychology with a minor in behavioral neuroscience, then complete 4 years at the University of Maryland.
  • Nursing: Students complete 3 years at WAC majoring in biology or psychology, then complete 2 years at either the University of Maryland or the University of Delaware.

The minors offered at WAC are amazing, especially for a school this size. Some of the more unusual ones include:

WAC acad bldg 2Classes usually are in the 15-30 range, but my tour guide’s classes have been as small as 7 (“Friends of mine have had them as small as 3”) and as large as 35 for an intro class. His favorite class was his Freshman writing class called “Life in 140 Characters” looking at social media.

For admissions, they’ll take either the Common App or their own institutional app. It’s free to apply because “We don’t think it money should stand in the way of applying to college,” said the admissions rep doing the presentation. On the Common App, all students can choose the WAC fee waiver.

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