Tuesday, October 13, 2009

College Search

We spent the Columbus Day holiday at WPI for their Fall open house looking over the school with The Young One. This is her first choice school.

We were treated to a continental breakfast while we went through registration and waited for the speechifying to begin. We had lovely croissants (though they could have been lovelier if they had been heated) and delicious hot chocolate. The hot chocolate earned high marks from The Young One along with the school color, crimson. Her favorite color is red. Hey, everyone needs a criteria for judging their school. (-;

After listening to speeches from Admissions and the Provost, and watching a slide presentation, we were sent on our way to learn about the many academic programs. The Young One chose Computer Science as the first program to learn about.

The professor stressed that WPI is very much a hands on school as exemplified by the school motto: Lehr and Kunst (theory and practice). Students are required to complete two team projects, one outside their major and the other in their major. The projects present the students with real world problems and the students must find a real world answer. Projects are done during the junior and senior years. Some of the projects are done overseas England, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Africa to name some of the places. Real world problems, real world solutions in the real world. It will be a great experience for The Young One and will certainly broaden her horizons.

I was also struck by the fact how much college has changed in the 32 years since I graduated. Back in the olden days, we went to college, had our heads crammed with facts, churned the facts back and were awarded our degree. Then good luck if we found a job in our degree field.

The emphasis at WPI was not only on learning and doing, but preparing these young people to go out and work in industry.

The Young One chose Interactive Media and Game Development as her second session. The presentation was very entertaining and The Young One was very interested. This relatively new degree combines both Computer Science and Humanities and the Arts. Artists learn how to talk to engineers and engineers learn to make the program do what the artist envisions.

We were treated to a nice buffet lunch, cold cuts,rolls, bean salad, Caesar salad, stuffed shells, garlic bread and a very delicious pumpkin curry soup which smelled heavenly. There was also a very tasty apple crisp for dessert.

After lunch we hit the financial aid table. Not only are the academics at the school impressive but so is the price tag. A whopping $50,800 per year. If The Young One commutes, it would knock close to $12K off the total. Hopefully, she'll be eligible for a hefty scholarship. Only problem is the competition. There were 1000 students attending this Open House. There are a couple of Open Houses through the year. This Fall, WPI admitted its largest freshman class of 950 students.

We then went on a tour of the campus. It's not a large school (by my BU standards) and smack in the middle of the city. Though one forgets one is in the middle of the city. The buildings are a mix of new and ivy covered (the school was founded in 1865) and are connected by paved and bricked walkways, a grassy quadrangle, fountain, shrubbery and trees. It also felt very safe.
While the student guide was showing off the library, Himself nudged me. I turned to watch a young woman who was busy working on her farm in Farmville, which has become my latest, favorite pasttime. Nice to see a productive use of computer time.

Freshman who live on campus are guaranteed dorm space, such that it is, said The Little Princess. The freshman dorm we got to see had 3 students in the room. The beds were bunked over each student's desk. The Young One had decided she didn't want to live away from home and seeing the dorm space cinched the deal. Another Little Princess in the making (-; There are more luxurious accomodations. New suites, but these are reserved for upper classmen (i.e. Seniors). After Freshman year, students who want to live on campus are put into a lottery for rooms. There is not enough dorm space for all of the students. Some students elect to live in apartments off campus or move into the Greek houses.

After the tour, we split up. Himself went to listen to the admissions spiel while The Young One and I went to find out about Student Activities. There are over 140 clubs and activities. Sports, chorus, theater, Greek fraternities and sororities. Seemed to be something for everyone to get involved, to have fun and let off steam.

We came home tired, impressed and overwhelmed with all the information. Overall, a good day.

Have you been on the college hunt with your young people? What's your experience been?

1 comment:

  1. Dorm life is for everyone. It builds character, but at 12K, I can see missing it. Course, how much will insurance and car cost? You won't really be driving her back and forth to college daily, will you? Are there car pools?

    College visits... I remember mine. Dad wanted me to go to X. He had such a good feel about it. I hated his choice. Mine had perfection. It was such a good feel. I dreamed of going to "Y". Yes, it was the lovely, private, expensive school. It looked good, they wined and dined... (good Catholic school!) I got accepted. I got housing. I got scholarships for brains and music.

    Why didn't I go? At the last minute, they changed my financial aide packet. FOR ME, knowing I wanted nothing less than to teach, knowing without a doubt that's what I would do, there was no sense in the fancy smancy private school education that would leave me in debt my whole life. The name was never going to get me anywhere.

    The school I attended actually had an incredibly well rated international program and that's what I needed, state school or not. I went with my second choice, the state school...

    Course, schools in the midwest are best! ;) Hands down. :) Look at their feeder schools. :) :) :)

    And remember, my dad believes the education means more if you pay yourself, so we all paid our own college educations. (He would have cosigned my loans at the big dollar school.)

    TO this day, I'm SO GLAD I got that letter changing my aide. It wasn't the right fit, although at the time, I thought it was.

    Here's the thing I KNOW as a teacher. It isn't so much about the school. It's more what the student BRINGS to the table. Colleges and employers are now looking for well rounded, balanced people. 4.0 is meaningless if there is nothing else, no clubs, no sports, no service, "easy" classes. Can they work with others, solve problems, think outside the box? Think for themselves? Self motivate? That's what the world wants. WPI seems to see that.

    Now, if only the people in DC would figure out this stuff is NOT measurable on a standardized test.