My son has visited and loved both Wash U and Colby, 2 very different schools, I know. He will most likely apply E.D. to one of them (yes, I know Colby has ED2 as well). That aside, anyone have any opinions on the differences between these schools? Comparisons, etc. FYI, we are from NJ.
I don't know very much about Wash U but I do know a lot about Colby. From what I can find online about Wash U, the school is fairly large; the amount of students is much different at Colby. It all really depends on whether or not your son wants a larger institution or a smaller one. Colby is only comprised of undergraduate students so the student-teacher connections start immediately. Whenever a professor at Colby needs assistance with their research--in any of the disciplines--they go right to the undergraduate students for that help; in larger institutions, this research assistance would most likely go to a graduate student. I have friends who worked directly with professors on research the first semester of their freshman year in both biology and in theater and dance, and I'm sure there are other students who have done research their freshman year in other disciplines as well. Again, I can't speak for Wash U but I can say that a strong student- professor relationship is a really important part of the Colby experience.
Would you son do better at a LAC or a larger research university? That's a lot more significant a question than Colby vs. Wash U.
Does he thrive best in small classes with a lot of personal attention from faculty? Will he be happier in a school with a strong sense of community? Does he like walking into the dining hall and always having someone to sit with? Does being able to play on a sports teams - or having a seat in the orchestra, or a role in the play - matter to him? (Wash U's size means more competition for those slots).
Or does he need more variety and diversity to feel happy? Might he want to take graduate level courses at some point in junior or senior year? Does he prefer listening to the 'expert' (i.e. the prof) rather than listening to his class-mates (who may or may not have thoughtful comments)? Would he rather be in a city where he can potentially get off campus with relative ease? Would he be happier watching the 'best' students get on the team, in the orchestra on the stage, even if it means he didn't get that role? Might he want to do more cutting edge research (even if it means working for a grad student at a menial level.)
I had one at a LAC and have one at a research institution. Both were in the right schools for who they were. Neither would have been a good fit at the other's school. Some kids would obviously do well anywhere - but I think there's probably a 'best fit' for most. Which one sounds more like your son?
I agree with M's Mom. I had a daughter graduate from UC Irvine (19,000 undergrads-with lots of grad students), and my second daughter is at Colby. Each ended up at the place which was perfect for the child. My older daughter would have found Waterville clausterphobic, my younger child would have been really unhappy at a school as large as UC Irvine, and is happy as a clam at Colby and even finds Waterville very charming--except for the Walmart. She has no desire to be anywhere else--Colby is giving her everything she needs and wants from a college.
WashU is closer to an LAC in feel than a school like UCIrvine. With roughly 6,000 undergrads it's a pretty tight community and the school does a good job of providing all a student needs. I also think the student/faculty ratio is pretty good so undergrads won't get lost in the scuffle. Still, it's not as intimate as Colby, no doubt. The big difference is location...STL vs. Waterville. While WashU isn't exactly urban, the students are all about that sensibility...Seems very different than Colby's reputation as an outdoorsy school.
Like many people have noted, the most obvious differences between Colby and WashU are location, campus size, and research opportunities. However, as a senior here at Colby, I can let you know why I decided upon a small school in Maine rather than a large university in an urban environment.
I'm from NYC, and thought I wanted to go to a large school. Once I began touring them, I realized (pretty consistently) that the curriculum would be dictated by advisors and such. Whenever I said "I'm interested in pre-med" I was directed towards the Bio department, or Chem, or Physics. One thing I knew going in was that although my ultimate goal is medical school, I wanted to use my undergrad years exploring other subjects. At Colby, I am free to do just that! The student-professor relationships are close, and organic--not forced. Studying abroad is a huge part of our student life (about 2/3 of Colby students will go abroad at some point in time). Out 4-1-4 academic calendar makes for in interesting year. The campus is close knit, but you are able to stay in a constant state of meeting new people. If you have any other questions, feel free!!
Interesting and probably infrequently asked question… In my experience, Colby and Wash U could hardly be more different, bringing to mind the more generic discussion of Ivies vs NESCAC’s or other LACs. in fact, about the only thing they share in common (except academic excellence) is D3 sports.
Wash U is very much the high-powered research institution, teeming with graduate students, med/law/biz schools, high profile faculty, etc, and it attracts and selects for an undergrad student body somewhat more driven by academic performance metrics (grades, test scores, etc) than I would associate with Colby. If name recognition is an important factor, Wash U will have more of that, at least outside of the northeast. At Colby, on the other hand, I think one could expect a more relaxed, nurturing educational environment, and students that are equally bright and intellectually curious, but probably less overtly competitive, at least with each other. The faculties of both are outstanding, but somewhat differently focused, with Colby being more exclusively centered on the undergraduate experience (and teaching) than Wash U, where its focus is necessarily more diffused among its extensive graduate programs and research, in addition to its excellent undergraduate programs. These are obviously generalizations...
The campuses are certainly very different also, Wash U with a mid-size Ivy type feel, Colby with a more isolated, closely-knit, small LAC atmosphere. Wash U has more of the cultural and entertainment activities that go with being located in a larger city, whereas Colby offers more accessibility to a wide range of outdoors activities, each of which in turn I suspect leads to both schools self-selecting to an extent for a student body more focused on somewhat different lifestyles.
Certainly both are great schools in their own rights, each of which can boast a wealth of exceptional attributes, and for most students either would deliver a great undergraduate educational experience. There is probably a minority of students that would thrive at WashU and feel stifled at Colby, and a corresponding minority that would thrive at Colby but feel “lost” at Wash U, but I suspect most would be very comfortable and successful at either, albeit perhaps for somewhat different reasons at each school. The good news is that if you've visited both, the differences should be fairly apparent, and make it easier than choosing between very similar NESCAC (or Ivy) schools. Good luck.