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What is your favorite NESCAC school?

bs_hopefulbs_hopeful Posts: 214Registered User Junior Member
edited November 2012 in College Search & Selection
Hello,

I am looking to attend one of the NESCAC schools. I would like to know which ones you guys like. Not that I will necessarily choose the one that the most people like, but I would like to hear about which NESCAC schools other people have enjoyed the most.
Post edited by bs_hopeful on
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Replies to: What is your favorite NESCAC school?

  • AnchserAnchser Posts: 134Registered User Junior Member
    As an athletic recruit for a NESCAC school, I am of course a little biased. However, I have visited 6 of them and can share my opinions.

    Wesleyan - very diverse student body. Has vibrant social scene, including Greek life. Academically challenging and strong all across the board, like many other NESCAC schools. Campus is very nice but not the absolute best. Weather is probably the most fair you're going to get (along with the other CT schools). School is and feels larger than other NESCACs that I visited. My personal favorite.

    Hamilton - picturesque campus in a great town. A little isolated, but it's college and there are tons of things to do. Weather does get a little crazy in this part of NY. Small school, but seems to be a very close-knit community which is a plus. Also very strong academically, with a lot of focus on writing. I really like the school.

    Trinity - this is just my opinion, but I didn't like this school. I didn't even stick around for the tour, for a couple reasons.

    Williams - another picturesque campus. Doesn't get much better than Williams in terms of an LAC. I don't have the grades for it, unfortunately. As I'm sure you know it is very selective, even for NESCAC standards. I also can't really comment on the students at all because I did not do an overnight visit.

    Bates - another great campus. Maine isn't as much of a hassle as you might think. It is very beautiful up there, and Bates is no exception. It is a simple campus, and if I remember correctly is just a large square with everything included (including all sports fields, dorms, etc). State of the art facilities all around. I did an overnight there and found that the kids were generally more of the New England semi-preppy type (which I would fit in with) whereas at Hamilton the kids seemed a little more outdoorsy. Just something I observed.

    Colby - in my opinion, probably the nicest campus I saw. It was snowing on the day I visited and looked perfect. That being said, it was also freezing and was in October, which made me like the school less as I walked around. Rightly so, Colby is commonly compared to Bates. If you are considering these two, I would highly recommend visiting both, as it is likely that little nuances will give you a "gut feeling" of which you like better.

    That's all I've got. Didn't visit Amherst, Middlebury, Tufts, Connecticut College, or Bowdoin.
  • bclintonkbclintonk Posts: 6,484Registered User Senior Member
    Between the two of them, my D1 and D2 have visited most of the NESCAC schools. D1 liked Wesleyan and Bowdoin, but she liked Haverford (not in NESCAC) a bit better, and that's where she ended up. D2 is a HS senior, applying ED to Middlebury, but she also likes Williams and Bowdoin.

    All the NESCAC schools are good academically but Williams and Amherst are probably tops on that score, followed by Tufts, Bowdoin, and Middlebury (in no particular order), with Wesleyan close on their heels. I'd place Hamilton, Bates, and
    Colby a notch back, and Conn College another notch after that.

    Middlebury's in an absolutely gorgeous setting, on a low ridge from which you can see the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west. Lots of outdoorsy types, but that's pretty common at Williams and Bowdoin, too. Bowdoin may have the prettiest campus, and is very close to some really beautiful places on the Maine coast.

    Neither of my Ds had any interest in Hamilton because it's in the middle of nowhere. D1 felt the same way about Williams and Middlebury; D2 loves Middlebury because it's in the middle of Vermont, which to her has its own charms, and she didn't mind Williams' location, in a pretty little Western Mass town, in the least. To each her own.

    D1 visited Bates and D2 visited Colby, and they had similar reactions: not thrilled about the school, and hated the location in a depressed and depressing old mill town. Trinity also loses points on location; it's surrounded by some pretty beat-up (and downright scary) parts of Hartford.

    Tufts is bigger (5,000 undergrads, 10,000 students total), more of a medium-sized university than a LAC. It's also the only one of these schools in a major metropolitan area, which is a big plus for some and a matter of indifference to others. (My D1 mostly wanted to be in or or near a city; D2 prefers a small, charming college town, one reason Middlebury, Bowdoin, and Williams stand out for her). Wesleyan (about 2900 undergrads, 3200 students total) is classified as a LAC but in some ways is more like a small university; its town is OK but nothing special, in my opinion. The rest are true LACs, ranging from just under 1800 to 2500 students.
  • timetodecide12timetodecide12 Posts: 680Registered User Member
    Williams, Bowdoin, Amherst, Middlebury
  • circuitridercircuitrider Posts: 765Registered User Member
    None of them are looking good lately, not in terms of that ambiguous category referred to lately as "student culture". The reason, IMO, seems to lie in the very thing that makes them appealing: their size. Specifically, in order to maintain a fully-rigged panoply of athletic teams competitive in all the favorite American sports, they have to devote - on average - a third of their limited class sizes to a fixed number of recruited athletes. The comparable percentage for an ivy league school like Yale, for instance, is somewhere in the teens.

    If I had to pick a favorite nescac college, I'd go for one the bigger ones like Tufts or Wesleyan.
  • bs_hopefulbs_hopeful Posts: 214Registered User Junior Member
    Bump! This has been good information so far...
  • tk21769tk21769 Posts: 7,572Registered User Senior Member
    None of them are looking good lately, not in terms of that ambiguous category referred to lately as "student culture". The reason, IMO, seems to lie in the very thing that makes them appealing: their size. Specifically, in order to maintain a fully-rigged panoply of athletic teams competitive in all the favorite American sports, they have to devote - on average - a third of their limited class sizes to a fixed number of recruited athletes.

    That's an interesting observation, and one that jibes with our observations at a NESCAC college one of my kids considered. After an overnight stay, he concluded that students were a little too sports-focused for his liking, with dining table cliques and partying organized around specific teams. I advised him that his experience might have been colored by the school's choice of host student. However, I can see how the "class crafting" fetish could produce these outcomes in a very small school.

    I like the consortium LACs (Amherst-Smith-MOHO-Hampshire, the Claremonts, the Philadelphia Quaker schools). A consortium helps avoid the insularity you might get with a tiny school in the middle of nowhere. It also opens up a lot more courses and other resources.

    Still, for many students, I'd recommend most of the top 50 or more LACs over most research universities. I don't see much difference in quality among these schools. LACs get more selective as you move up in the rankings; the financial aid tends to get a little better. Other than that, they all offer pretty much the same general education product, with pockets of extra strength in a few departments here and there (languages at Middlebury, film at Wesleyan, art history at Williams, botany at Connecticut College, classics at Bryn Mawr, Asian Studies at Oberlin, anthro at Beloit, etc.) I don't see any objective reason to limit oneself to the NESCAC schools (unless for some reason you need to be in New England.)
  • BeanTownGirlBeanTownGirl Posts: 2,725Registered User Senior Member
    Tufts! It has a LAC feel since the undergrad population is around 5,000 and most of the grad programs are on different campuses (Boston, Grafton). Yet it has the academic offerings of a university. There are sports for those that want them, but it is not a sports-focused culture at all. There is some Greek life, but less than most colleges (I think it is about 15%?). I like the intellectual diversity of the student body, helped in part by having a an engineering school :-)
    I love the location too. Pretty campus (not as stunning as others on this list), but you can be in Cambridge or Boston in 20 minutes. Good restaurants on the hillside and tons more once you go to Davis Sq. (15 min walk or 5 min shuttle ride).
  • Hitch123Hitch123 Posts: 939Registered User Member
    Middlebury is also a little larger than some with 2400 students vs. about 1800 at Bowdoin, Amherst and others. Maybe being in a consortium outweighs that, but you have to really examine how easy it is to travel to the other schools and how often students do it. The Middlebury campus is also somewhat spread out, so it feels bigger (which some students may like and others may not). Middlebury is now combined with the Monterey Institute in California which has some interesting environmental and international studies master's programs and seems to open some options for Middlebury students who, I think, can do some course work at Middlebury to be applied to the Monterey degree. The town is very charming and the college owns a restaurant/music space in town which is used by students and townspeople and is part of what I think are pretty good town/gown relations. Middlebury has been chosen to participate and placed quite high in the solar decathalon (innovative solar house construction) and is the only LAC to have done so.....environmental studies endeavors are pursued very seriously.
  • bs_hopefulbs_hopeful Posts: 214Registered User Junior Member
    BUMP! Any others out there?
  • barrk123barrk123 Posts: 3,457Registered User Senior Member
    Probably Tufts.
  • bs_hopefulbs_hopeful Posts: 214Registered User Junior Member
    Tufts does seem pretty cool. I am going next week. I've heard it's a bit like Wesleyan, as in the campus is very liberal and quirky. That sounds kind of neat.
  • circuitridercircuitrider Posts: 765Registered User Member
    Tufts! It has a LAC feel since the undergrad population is around 5,000 and most of the grad programs are on different campuses (Boston, Grafton).

    I think that with the Fletcher School, the School of Engineering and the A&S division, you have about 1,500 grad students at the Medford campus.
  • BeanTownGirlBeanTownGirl Posts: 2,725Registered User Senior Member
    Yes, my point was that for a university with a large number of graduate level programs, the campus is still mostly undergrads and thus feels more like a LAC than a larger university.
    The med school, dental and vet schools are on different campuses (Boston and Grafton).
  • bs_hopefulbs_hopeful Posts: 214Registered User Junior Member
    Does Tufts have the attributes of a LAC? Like small class sizes, interaction with professors, etc?
  • BeanTownGirlBeanTownGirl Posts: 2,725Registered User Senior Member
    Yes! Luckily, since you are going there you will find out for yourself :-)
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