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How similar is WPI to Stevens in terms of vibe/atmosphere?

AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1355 replies50 threads Senior Member
My S21 did a summer engineering program at Stevens that he really enjoyed, but he won't apply b/c he felt like the campus was too small and too focused on just STEM. He wants the big leafy quad and something going on besides engineering. Doesn't need a big school, though he's mostly looking at those, but does want that classic college vibe with students pursuing different passions.

WPI's project-based approach to engineering seems like a good fit for him, and in many ways I think he'd benefit from not being at the typical large engineering program you find in public universities, esp. b/c of weed-out practices. But I'm wondering if WPI's vibe is similar to that of Stevens and therefore it wouldn't be a good fit?

As reference, has visited and will def. apply:
VT
NC State (in state)
Wisconsin

Wants to visit:
Lehigh's IBE program
Case Western
WPI
Maybe: Purdue, Clemson
Need to add a couple safeties.

I'm also going to make him apply to a couple of non-engineering schools in case he changes his mind senior year -- he's also interested in business. Our top budget is $50k, which means he'd have to get some merit or need (we're bubble family for EFC) at the privates.

He's 4.0 uw GPA at a top public with lots of rigor. His AP Lang this year is TOUGH, so I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a B. His ECs are not amazing -- sports, robotics, rocket club, plus working at a sleep away summer camp. He will have very good recs though b/c he's super charming and a very engaged student.

Taking SAT for first time right now! He probably won't knock it out of the park this first go around b/c he didn't study this summer at all (sigh), but based on his first practice test I think with some decent effort on his part he'll end up doing well enough to be in range for these schools.

Insights welcome as we're planning his college visits and seeing WPI requires a plane ticket!

edited October 5
12 replies
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Replies to: How similar is WPI to Stevens in terms of vibe/atmosphere?

  • merc81merc81 10497 replies160 threads Senior Member
    If the the campus appeared too small for your son at Stevens, then to better imagine WPI, you might want to consider its physical size (95 acres) in relation to that of Stevens (55 acres).
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  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1355 replies50 threads Senior Member
    Thanks, @merc81 . Good to know it's much bigger physically - you're right that's one way to compare.
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  • VMTVMT 1193 replies16 threads Senior Member
    The vibe of the two schools is different. However, with both being small STEM focused schools, neither matches your list of wants. Yes, there is a quad and leaves. But, if you really want NC State (great in state option) or Wisconsin (fun college town, great campus, lakes) WPI/Stevens are probably not the right fit.
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  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1355 replies50 threads Senior Member
    edited October 5
    Thanks, @VMT.

    He's not opposed to a big school like NC State or Wisconsin, but he's also not set on that being what he wants and I think worries about feeling a bit lost with so many students. Though, I should add he's pretty confident he doesn't want a small LAC like his sister attends.

    He didn't like the urban/tight quarters location of Stevens, despite it being a real campus with AMAZING views of NYC. And I think he felt is was too 'one note' for lack of a better term. I'm not sure how much of his reaction was based on the physical location of Stevens and its small campus vs. he doesn't want a STEM-focused school. I don't think he knows either.

    With that in mind, how would you describe vibe difference between WPI and Stevens? Does it seem to be a bit broader in focus and/or feel more expansive -- or no?

    The global projects at WPI are really interesting. He was in bilingual program from preschool through 8th grade so he's fluent in Spanish. Currently taking global issues courses in HS with growing interest in doing something like Engineers w/o Borders.
    edited October 5
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  • VMTVMT 1193 replies16 threads Senior Member
    I PM’d you.
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  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer 1079 replies3 threads Senior Member
    edited October 12
    WPI takes a very interdisciplinary approach to education relative to most STEM Universities. This team directed research combines with interdisciplinary problems to drive team solutions. The focus is on team solutions, not so much on GPA competition which is common in STEM Universities. The focus is on designing solutions to real problems in the Social Sciences (IQP) and studying real Questions in the Humanities and Arts as well as the MQP (Major Qualifying Project).

    Do visit the campus. It may help to read "10 Things to Know About the WPI Plan" at https://www.wpi.edu/project-based-learning/wpi-plan. It is a suburban setting.

    Stop and talk to the students about what they are doing. Judge the vibe first hand by asking them what they are working on.

    Both universities have very solid, highly developed programs with many similar majors. WPI likes to feel that the program design makes a difference in the structure of student development by shifting the focus from GPA to the design of working solutions.

    This is the biased perspective of an elderly WPI alumnus who was a student there as the WPI PLAN was being developed. I have never attended Stevens classes, but a review of the process may illustrate a real difference today. I did work at WPI for the first ten years of the WPI program development.

    Graduates from both Universities have remarkable employment/placement opportunities.

    What fits?
    edited October 12
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  • Parent0347Parent0347 46 replies0 threads Junior Member
    edited October 18
    Stevens comes in at 13th of all schools in the United States for return on investment and mid-career salaries.

    https://www.stevens.edu/news/stevens-alumni-earn-among-highest-mid-career-salaries-nation-and-top-new-jersey-schools

    All urban universities have what the OP would consider "tight quarters". Many do not have a real campus, but are row buildings on city streets that resemble any other office building. Stevens has a real campus. Many of the academic buildings are in the lower (south) portion of the campus which consists of city streets, however, the dorms and the administrative buildings are on the upper, green, park like setting of the north campus. It is an oasis in the concrete, high density world of the city of Hoboken. Of course, being in a populous city, Stevens isn't going to have 300 acres of green as a suburban or rural campus would have, but by urban university standards it is far "greener" than the norm.

    By the way, WPI is not unique in having "project based" or experiential design work in the curriculum. This has been mandated since 2000 by ABET, when it updated the curriculum scope in its accreditation requirements. All accredited engineering schools had to incorporate a fourth year capstone design project into the currculum prior to that, but the ABET 2000 requirements expanded the design scope into the earlier years as well. Stevens has been a pioneer and leader in stressing the importance of interdisciplinary depth and education beyond a narrow engineering specialty since its inception.
    edited October 18
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  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1355 replies50 threads Senior Member
    edited October 20
    @Parent0347 -- My S spent two weeks at Stevens this past summer so he's very familiar with the campus. I agree it's a real campus and loved the amazing views of NYC and the nearby restaurants are a plus. Appreciate the insights on project-based learning. In the end he's not sure he sees himself at a STEM-focused school, but we'll see. He really enjoyed the summer program though!
    edited October 20
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  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer 1079 replies3 threads Senior Member
    edited October 20
    Please note. It was the WPI program which largely motivated ABET's accrediting procedure to adapt the project requirement. In 2016 The National Academy of engineering awarded the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation In Engineering & Technology to four WPI faculty members because of this program development. This pioneering project approach was actually launched in the late sixties. Stevens was one of two Institutions which originally signed on to this NSF funded study at that time so the new experimental WPI program could be compared with the standard, more traditional approach used at Stevens and almost everywhere else. Stevens dropped out of the study after one year. I know because I was there!

    Yes, Stephens now boasts capstone projects and remains a very fine university! And yes, it also was a pioneer in encouraging a broadly educated engineer through broadly designed engineering majors.

    See https://www.wpi.edu/about/awards/bernard-m-gordon-prize-innovation-engineering-technology-education

    The WPI program does not stop with project activity in the students' majors in the senior year, but actually involves three different projects to incorporate a range of disciplines. Most students now start projects in their first year. This is a very different program. Please see "10 Things to Know About the WPI Plan" at https://www.wpi.edu/project-based-learning/wpi-plan.

    @AlmostThere2018
    The two other project requirements at WPI are unique and are are focused on interdisciplinary thinking which links the student major (STEM or any other major) to the non-major areas. They are very serious about interdisciplinary approaches as all these parts of intellectual development are really interdependent when solving real world problems. The overwhelming number of majors are STEM, but the IQP's tend toward the Social Science interfaces while the Humanities studies permit in depth exposure. These are three different parts of the educational puzzle which are designed to piece together a more experiential learning process. The course selection process is integral to the experience. Advising and student involvement in the design of your course selection is a large part of the program experience.. Knowledge is a whole.
    edited October 20
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  • Parent0347Parent0347 46 replies0 threads Junior Member
    @retiredfarmer - Stevens (not "Stephens").
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  • Parent0347Parent0347 46 replies0 threads Junior Member
    edited October 21
    @retiredfarmer - Actually, the website "10 things you should know" says little about how this plan impacts the student's semester to semester schedule or classes, other than they take 3 courses per semester (which are half the length of a standard 14 week semester in most schools, I suppose). Do they have to spend time off campus (similar to co-op programs)? How does the student handle any needed logistics, etc? I suppose the detailed curriculum breakdown would provide that information. Additionally, not having failing grades IMO doesn't help the students. Do they give out grades of C if the student is not doing even that level of work? Most schools do have D and F on their grading scales. If an employer is evaluating a transcript, it makes comparisons between WPI and other schools' graduates more difficult. If I am interviewing someone and his/her transcript contains a "No Record", I likely would equate that to a D or an F, anyway. In many schools, a made up course replaces the F, so the "NR" really doesn't buy anything.
    edited October 21
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  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer 1079 replies3 threads Senior Member
    @Parent0347

    Thank you for the spelling correction!!

    The seven week terms were set up in the WPI Plan specifically to permit more scheduling flexibility to incorporate student projects. The purpose was to shift the principal focus from the lecture/recitation mode to a more interactive research mode.

    Each seven week class is recognized by ABET as equivalent to three of the old semester hours. Three courses are taken every seven weeks for a total of six courses in roughly the same time frame as the old semester. Courses were completely re-written to accommodate this new schedule design. This raised a lot of eyebrows and required a fresh look at how students were presented course materials. The entire process was an eyeopener.

    Students meet more hours per class each week, but are carrying three courses instead of four at one time. One cannot take days off as it is more difficult to find that "catch up" time for the course one slacked off on. One the other hand, one focuses on fewer courses each week. It does require some students to change habits. Graduation data indicates that the WPI students are doing well in the system. First year can be a shock for some, but that has often been true for first year STEM majors.

    The focus is on solving real problems. Seven week terms create many more scheduling opportunities to fit in both on and of campus research. One thousand and thirty undergraduate students completed OFF CAMPUS projects last year. Over thirty countries and over fifty project centers were involved. Every student automatically receives a $5,000 credit to cover off campus project costs.

    WPI projects are not Co-op. The nature and scope of undergraduate research is not controlled by an employer, but remains in the hands of the faculty. A co-op program is available largely as a financial aid. There are some (e.g. US Army Natick Labs and Gillette in Boston) off campus project centers in corporations where students do research.

    Regarding grading:
    This was a big issues at WPI decades ago when the current grading system was designed. When a large number of "A" students get together a test/grade competition is guaranteed to break out. Exam grades have been their life focus! They like to compete for those grades.

    WPI would like to have them work together in teams to design solutions to real problems. They need to listen to each other to incorporate the best designs the (often three or four person group) can design. "Grade grubbing" can actually get in the way and distort the group focus. Slackers also do not do well in this environment because of the caliber of enrolled students. They tend to work it out.

    As you know, ABET does not recognize a "D" grade. At WPI "D" is not a passing grade and also is not recognized. It becomes an NR (no record). The student has lost money and time. It was not a free ride! WPI wants to encourage these habitually "A" students to take a course which may really interests them, but may be particularly challenging. It is about learning, not about the GPA. Yes, an NR can be thought of as a "D" or an "F." It ABET does not recognize either grade for credit, what is the difference?

    Hiring and grades:
    Job and graduate school placement at WPI is very strong. The focus is on the students actual research experience on three or more project experiences. What have they done and what can they tell you about their work. When a professional applies for their second post graduate job, what does the employer ask them?

    WPI is not the standard "project" experience. I hope this was helpful!
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