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Forming the apply list, Wesleyan is up there...need your help.


Replies to: Forming the apply list, Wesleyan is up there...need your help.

  • swanson threeswanson three 5 replies0 threads New Member
    My D is an athlete and was deciding between Wes and Vassar. Brother attends Wes, she loved Wes, but was looking for a school she could love that was not Wes (because of not wanting to follow in brother's footsteps). Based on what she had heard and read, Vassar sounded like it might be a good fit.
    She is interested in science and attended a chemistry class during four overnights at various schools including Vassar. She felt the class at Vassar was easier than her high school AP Chem class. This was a chemistry class for science majors. I had heard that Vassar was weak in sciences and this seemed to confirm it. It was a deal breaker for her. It would probably be important to attend some science classes if one was thinking about science.
    In terms of athletic facilities, Wes wins hands down. There are also many more housing options at Wes. At Vassar it is common for students to live in the same dorm for all four years. Wes has more of a progressively independent housing system and a wide variety of special interest housing.
    I wanted to like Vassar but was turned off as well. The campus was dirty, with cigarette butts everywhere. There seemed to be no central outdoor gathering place-is it the quad in the middle of the dorms?- and food options seemed very limited.
    I know that many students and their families love Vassar. This was our experience and what led to my D's decision to attend Wes. Good luck with your search!
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  • penelopepitstoppenelopepitstop 43 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Hi Weskid. I'm with you. I think the point that I was making, and that you understood, was that the campuses have a similar vibe and are similarly selective and academically rigorous. It may be true that the acceptance rates have moved a few points in the last year, but since they are still within 2% of each other, this is to me statistically insignificant. This is still true. I still think that most student who love one would be very happy at the other too.

    I'm not sure how the conversation devloved into how-many-angels-will-fit-on-the-head-of-a-pin minutae that had nothing at all to do with the point I was making. Given the similarities between the schools, it becomes harder to point out the differences. Wes is more populated than Vassar. Is it exactly twice as populated, no. But is it significantly more populated? Well, yeah. So could it be a factor in selection? Yes. john was successful in refuting my approximated statistic while simultaneously proving the point I was making. A rare talent indeed.

    The statement 'everyone's admissions rate went down last year' is obviously a generalization, like, 'everyone knows newt gingrich is full of crap.' Is it generally true? Yes. Is it technically true? Well, no. I'm sure there are three guys in a cabin in Wyoming that think Newt's got it all figured out. But the statement is generally true. (john, that's called hyperbole. no need to correct that statement ;-)

    The vast majority of selective colleges AND LACs saw an increase in apps and therefore a corresponding decrease in acceptance rate. This is generally true. It is not universally true, but in terms of the conversation we were having, Wes v. Vassar, it was true. Once again, refuting my generalized statement while simultaneously making my point for me.

    An alum who arguably has to make a living and get along with other people should know the difference between a valid, substantive point and pointless argument. On a board like this, it kind of paints Wes in a bad light. How can an educated person not understand the difference?

    Ok, I'm done. I have to pack for college.
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  • johnwesleyjohnwesley - 4473 replies137 threads Senior Member
    penelope - the other thing it might be useful to pack with you is a thicker skin. this thread, including my posts, began as a useful exploration of the OP's choices. I believe things were pretty light and conversational until you began taking every citation or tweek as some kind of personal attack.

    Please rest assured that this thread and the information provided in it are not about you, is not meant as a reflection on you or your intellectual abilities. I have said nothing about your personal life and I don't intend to. Good luck at Vassar.
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  • jarsilverjarsilver 498 replies13 threads Member
    You won't get a lot of girls that way. IMO
    how heteronormative of you. (just kidding)

    I chose Wes over Vassar, but I'll be the first to admit that Vassar's campus is much, much prettier.

    I personally thought Wesleyan students seemed more academic/intellectual, but that was based on seeing only a small portion of the student body... but I digress. the Wes vs. Vassar debate has pretty played out on these boards. they're both great schools.
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  • VassarDad13VassarDad13 3 replies0 threads New Member
    ok, I've read this thread, and as a completely outside party, I have a comment or two.

    First, I'd say that penelope has a point. As a viewer with no dog in the fight, I'd say when someone continuously feels the need to correct other people's minor details that don't substantially affect the point they are making, that's kind of annoying. At least to me.

    Further, it seems to me that the comment 'welcome to college' is a little personal - as in, step up your game, this is how it is. I can state from personal experience that this is not necessarily how it is. So, again, as someone who has merely been stalking this thread and became interested when Vassar came up in the conversation, your statement that you're just providing information is a little disingenuous.

    I kind of understand why she reacted the way she did. Your responses seemed to me, again, as a disinterested outsider, to be knit-picky. And they completely ignored the point she was trying to make.

    But all that having been said, penelope, you gotta lighten up. This isn't health care reform. It's just a comment forum.

    Now, to add to the actual conversation, My d toured Vassar, Wesleyan, Bowdoin, Tufts and maybe 5 or 6 other colleges when we were looking. There is no doubt in my mind that Vassar was the most attractive of the bunch. By far.

    To respond to other comments, yes, Wesleyan seems to have more housing options, but as I understand it the reason why Vassar students stay in the same house for 3 or 4 years is because they want to. My d's dorm has a Steinway Grand and a pool table in the parlor. The place is like a palace. I'm going to have a hard time getting her to move out when she graduates. In contrast, I saw the wood frame homes the seniors live in at Wesleyan. They're, well, um... ok, they're kind of run down looking.

    I can't comment about the kids at either campus. I've only met a few of my d's classmates and I don't know anyone at Wesleyan. But overall, I'd say they are both top-notch, outstanding academic institutions. I agree with most in this thread who say that if you like one, you'll probably fit in well at the other.
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  • johnwesleyjohnwesley - 4473 replies137 threads Senior Member
    actually, i'm glad this thread is drawing its share of first time posters. That's a good thing.

    However, in my own defense, i think if you look back, i tried to keep my posts as short as possible. I don't think they were intrusive. They certainly weren't meant to be. I think when someone demonstrates a lack of basic information like, how many students attend a certain college, a helpful cite is called for. And, that's all I did.

    In the case of the upward or downward trend of selectivity among colleges in the U.S., I'm still not sure Penelope understands the point Weskid was trying to make. Mind you, I'm not saying she's stupid, I'm just saying she was in a bit of a rush to defend herself. The point was that selective LACs as a whole (and, Vassar and Wes are both selective LACs) tanked admissions-wise this year and that fact -- by itself -- is the backdrop against which Wesleyan's rather extraordinary rise in applications took place, and deserves some thought.
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  • VassarDad13VassarDad13 3 replies0 threads New Member
    I can't speak to every LAC out there. I was only concerned with the schools my d expressed an interest in. Except for skidmore and conn college, which were her safeties, I'm pretty sure all of them reported a huge increase in applications last year (for reference, Bowdoin, Haverford, Vassar, Wesleyan, Tufts, Brown, Skidmore and Conn). So, I guess I'd have to source your assertion that LACs "as a whole" tanked in admissions. That wasn't our experience. And it probably depends on the selectivity and reputation of the school. I'd suspect that if we're limiting the sample to highly selective LACs with a national rep and some cache, which is how most students in that range will limit their sampling, your statistic may not hold up that well.

    Again, I haven't researched schools outside my d's interest range. At this stage, I don't see the point. But Wesleyan's increase in applications last year was remarkable. I'm not sure if it was an anomaly or not, but it was remarkable.
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  • mythmommythmom 8292 replies13 threads Senior Member
    I wonder if Obama's giving the commencement speech had something to do with it, no disrespect intended.

    Schools have fashions.

    Middlebury was hot two years ago. I guess it's Wes's turn.

    The top LAC's are different flavors of gelato. If you like gelato, you're going to like more than one flavor I think, but you'll have your preferences.

    I know that Wes's students are passionate about their school, a feather in Wes's cap in my opinion.
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  • johnwesleyjohnwesley - 4473 replies137 threads Senior Member
    Vassardad13 - it isn't *my* assertion; it's Bloomberg.com's. And, it names eight of the top ten LACs ranked by USNews, including Bowdoin (-)1.6%. I take no pride of ownership in it; I cited it because I generally believe the source. That's the beauty of the internet, if the article is incorrect, surely someone somewhere will come up with a better or more up to date "source".

    As a reminder, here is the offending post (#37), in its entirety:
    Weskid, everyone's admit rate went way down this year.

    That's, kind of, not true:
    Williams College?s Applications Drop 20% as Economy Takes Toll - Bloomberg.com

    And, here is the url for the article:http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=a.vca3DMhCHc
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  • nursekaynursekay 258 replies1 threads Junior Member
    To head back towards the original question a couple of other schools your S might want to have a look at are Tufts and Brandeis. Both are at the larger end of the LAC spectrum. They have some of the advantages of being attached to graduate schools but are primarily focused on undergraduates. I realise that one needs to narrow the list, but nothing will substitute for visiting some schools. It may help him to narrow his focus some.
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  • VassarDad13VassarDad13 3 replies0 threads New Member
    "It isn't *my* assertion..." Well, yes, it is. You inserted it into the discussion. That makes it yours.

    Fox News makes the same kind of false distinctions. They'll "report" on some whacked out theory without comment (but only if it fits the narrative they previously constructed) and only later, when they're called on their nonsense, will they disavow the source, even though they're the ones who gave the whacked out theory publicity in the first place. Glenn Beck - "Hey, I'm not saying that Obama wants to kill grandma, but it makes you think..."

    I read the link you offered, and there's a lot of speculation included - The report mentions lower applications than last year for many of the colleges, but gives hard numbers for scant few. a percentage or two either way has to be within some margin of error. This article appears to me to be one of those fluff opinion pieces that bloomberg and msn regularly trot out to forward some baseless speculation that has no real meaning to anyone.

    Rather than attributing the increase in Wesleyan's applications to some unknown new magical lure that hasn't historically existed, I tend to think mythmom has a valid point. One college or the other becomes the "hot" school for a year or two, then another is in vogue for a while. I'd speculate that a huge increase in apps to one particular college in one year is no more than an aberrant fluctuation that will settle out over time.
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  • johnwesleyjohnwesley - 4473 replies137 threads Senior Member
    Look, in a month or two, it will be easy enough to look up the admission rates for 2009 for each and every LAC listed in the bloomberg.com article, if that is the degree of skepticism to which you aspire. They are what they are. Again, I "inserted" the cite for purposes of discussion, not to advance some vast nefarious conspiracy theory. o-0
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  • NigiriNigiri 132 replies8 threads Junior Member
    Hi, back from out of town and happy to see so many helpful thoughts on this thread. There is one point where I did disagree (much of the rest was helpful exchange of opinion). The idea that graduate students are just a distraction is untrue I think. The tradeoff at a research U is not the existence of the grad program, but rather the faculty focus on research sometimes at the expense of the undergraduate education mission. I am in higher ed, at a research U, and see this. If anything, the grad students make the situation better, providing accessible expertise and smaller effective class sizes.

    In my view, the grad program at Wesleyan reflects an attempt to be serious about science, and they are being mildly successful as shown by funding and citation stats relative to other LACs. This is a good thing for science students and the main reason why I, as a scientist, am so intruiged by WU.

    I will point out though, that the citation stats provided by Wesleyan show that the acumulated high profile papers published by the faculty there are just competitive, as an entire college, with a single national academy member at a research U (using the h-index as a guide). So while there is a serious effort there, you are going to a place that takes the mix of science and education seriously, you are not going to a research institution.

    Cheers, and thanks for all the discussion.
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  • penelopepitstoppenelopepitstop 43 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Nigiri, I think Wes does a good job of balancing the graduate program with the needs of the undergrads. One of the reasons I applied there and not to, say, Yale, for example, is because I didn't want my classes taught by graduate students and I wanted relatively easy access to my professors without having to elbow a half dozen grad students out of the way. Because of this, I only applied to a few colleges that even offered a graduate program and Wes was one of them.

    I do think it is a balancing act. Many research schools tend to get graduate-focused to the point that it detracts from the undergrad experience. The point that I was making was that counting only undergrads to make Wes seem about the same size as Vassar is deceiving - grad students take up as many or more resources as their undergrad counterparts and make up a not insignificant portion of the campus population.

    My point was that campus population as a whole, and the percentage of that population comprised of grad students, would be a valid contributing factor in distinguishing between two similar colleges, should one be forced to make that happy decision. I didn't say which way that factor should push the student - simply that it is a valid contributing factor. As you say, for many people the addition of grad students to the mix would be seen as a plus.
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  • johnwesleyjohnwesley - 4473 replies137 threads Senior Member
    grad students take up as many or more resources as their undergrad counterparts and make up a not insignificant portion of the campus population.

    I think your point would be stronger if we were talking about Humanities or social science students. But, at Wesleyan, they are scientists and performing artists for the most part. They take none of the same classes, rarely have need of the same library materials, have no dormitory space of their own and are not on any meal plan that I am aware of. And, as for the space they might take up on the sidewalk -- hey, it's Middletown, -- there's nothing to distinguish them from anyone else who rents a house or an apartment near campus.
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  • NigiriNigiri 132 replies8 threads Junior Member
    Penelope, My experience is with the sciences at a research U. Grad students and undergrads do not compete for resources or faculty attention. Grad students are the engine that generates the science, and they TA lab sections and such. Those activities are a net plus for the undergraduate population.

    For example, lets suppose a professor teaches some courses, and has 5 graduate students in his/her lab. Those students are generating their own research activities. It is not uncommon for a professor to supervise undergraduate research by pairing up undergrads with graduate student projects and forming a collaboration there. I know of professors that organize the research activities of 10 or more undergraduate projects through collaborations with grad students and post-docs. That is one faculty member. Without a graduate program, that research is not being done at that University and those research opportunities do not exist.

    In terms of teaching labs sections and discussion sections, one might argue that it would be better to get more exposure to professors, but grad students often do a better job than profs in those informal settings, and their teaching mission generates time for the professor to teach other courses, which is good. Graduate students are additional teaching resources, and without them the University would rely only on faculty and they would be forced to teach fewer courses in the interest of time.

    I can understand wanting to attend a College where the emphasis is on undergraduate teaching. That is a choice. There are tradeoffs, but I see the existence of a graduate program as uniformly positive from the perspective of undergraduate education, and essential for the advancement of genuine scientific research. Without graduate programs, research projects are difficult for faculty to sustain. Some are successful, but it is difficult.

    In terms of graduate students teaching actual courses, this is not as common in the sciences as is generally thought, and can vary from one institution to the next. At UVA and W&M for example, I know of no science courses that are not taught by faculty member. Though some of those faculty members may have only temporary appointments, this is true at LACs as well.
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  • penelopepitstoppenelopepitstop 43 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Hi Nigiri. Well, it is a choice, and I understand your point of view. Depending upon your perspective, a robust graduate program could be a net positive for the institution as a whole.

    However, my college selection process was driven by many factors, and one was the experiences shared with me by friends who had already transitioned to college. My friends in large research universities all told me that while a full professor was assigned to teach their intro courses freshman and sophomore years, they rarely see the actual professor. Grad students typically lead lectures and labs.

    I understand the need for continued research and I respect that motivation, but this is a need from a societal perspective, from the university's perspective and from the professor's perspective. Indeed, I'm certain that students at many research universities are better off keeping the professor in the lab, where his passion and skills reside. It's been suggested to me by more than one person that researchers often don't make very effective teachers.

    My own personal needs are what drive my personal college search however, and frankly, if my parents are paying $50,000 a year for my education, I have a problem with that education being provided by someone who is only a few years ahead of me. I want the full attention of the full professor and I want him to be effective at relating his experiences.
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  • madjoymadjoy 619 replies6 threads Member
    One extra benefit is having grad-level facilities and courses available to undergrads. As a math major, I saw lots of undergrad math students take graduate-level courses that wouldn't be available at all at other similar liberal arts schools.

    And the science students - tons of my friends in the sciences worked alongside grad students in research labs, and definitely learned from and benefited from their experience.

    That definitely contributed to me and my friends getting research jobs straight out of our bachelor's programs! :)
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