10 Myths about Case Western Reserve University from a Current Student

Hello college confidentialers. I’m a second-year double major at CWRU’s business school and its college of arts & sciences, and I have a bone to pick. Now don’t get me wrong, I think CWRU is an awesome school, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here. However, I constantly hear inaccurate things get repeated about CWRU by friends, family, prospis, parents, alumni, and even other students, and they’ve begun to get on my nerves. So, I’m going to try to nip these things in the bud by inoculating people with some facts. I’ve listed what I think are the ten most common CWRU myths and provided solid, evidence-heavy arguments for why they are wrong.

Hope this is helpful to prospective students and changes some opinions.

1. CWRU is a stem school
In my opinion, the only thing keeping this myth alive is that (1) people keeping repeating it and (2) our history. If you objectively look at the school as it is today, CWRU is no longer a school for only future doctors and engineers. Consider the following:

Our Ranking: Excluding two of the undergraduate engineering majors (BME & Material Science), our undergraduate business majors pretty consistently rank higher than the engineering majors (Top 40 vs Top 40-100). Moreover, many of our undergraduate business & humanities majors have a very strong upward trajectory, while our engineering majors are more-or-less still ranked where they were 20 years ago.*

Our alumni: Many of our recent famous alumni are from the law & business schools. For example, both our most recent Nobel Laureates won the prize in economics. Other examples of recent famous non-stem grads include Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Dennis Kucinich, the CEO of Ernst & Young, the Russo brothers, the founder of Glassdoor, and the CEO of warner bros to name a few. Although my opinion admittedly may be skewed because I’m more exposed to our successes in business/politics due to my interests, I’m willing to bet that over the past few decades, the non-stem departments have produced more nationally-recognized leaders/innovators than the stem departments.

The administrators: Let’s briefly review the resumes of arguably the four most powerful people at the university: President Snyder is a former law professor; Provost Vinson is a former history professor; Dean of Undergrads Wolcowitz is a former Econ professor; and VP of Student Affairs Stark has several degrees, all in non-stem fields. You really think these people are going to neglect the quality of our non-stem programs?

The major breakdown: Although we undeniably have a strong tilt toward the hard sciences, I think most students overestimate the extent to which Stem majors outnumber non-stem majors. We have just as many accounting majors as we do ChemEs. We have just as many PoliSci majors as we do Aerospace engineers. We have just as many finance majors as we do EEs.

The faculty caliber: To quote the university, “CWRU’s reputation as a ‘science and engineering school’ is certainly a recognition of the strength of those programs, but there is a perception that our other disciplines are not equally strong. This perception is frustrating, especially in light of the accomplishments of so many of our faculty in these disciplines, including: 24 Fulbright Scholars, 9 Guggenheim Fellowship holders, 11 American Council of Learned Societies Fellows, a MacArthur Fellow, and a Pulitzer Prize winner.”

Finally, to the extent we are a stem school, the university is working hard to shed this reputation, and I expect the school to be even more balanced over the next decade. They’ve been offering arts/humanities prospis with strong stats larger scholarships than comparable Stem majors (per my adviser); the surplus of research opportunities is even larger for non-stem subjects (I’ve had three unsolicited offers for a research position so far); and lastly, they’ve made it super easy for non-stem majors to get funding for conferences, independent research, and other experiential learning opportunities (based on my experience trying to get these things).

2. There’s nothing to do/Cleveland is a dead city.
This is just lazy. Frankly, when someone says this, I begin to form some negative opinions about them. I understand Cleveland isn’t New York, but it sure as hell isn’t Ithaca either. Consider this:

  • Cleveland is a major stop for any reputable band, comedian, circus, or politician.
  • There are 3 major sports team that are highly talked about (for better or for worse…)
  • The arts scene is top notch. There is the Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Hall (home to arguably the best orchestra in the world), the Cleveland Institute of Art (who holds some pretty cool events), the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the house of blues, playhouse square, MOCA, and the Rock Hall of Fame.
  • There are also alot of ‘brainy’ (for lack of a better word) things to do: the city club, the great lakes science center, the museum of natural history, the western reserve historical society, the Think Forum, The Siegel Lifelong Learning Institute, and the Moot Courtroom Lecture Series.
  • Our party scene is pretty in-line with schools with comparable academics (John Hopkins, CMU, etc.). You can find parties any weekend except immediately before midterms/finals. We definitely don’t party like OSU or Vandy or Stanford, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Given the serious sexual assault problems and toxic culture at those schools with hyper-partying, I think we’re at a happy medium.
  • The university puts on a lot of fun events for student. The spring comedians are my personal favorite; the past few years, CWRU has brought Trevor Noah (from the Daily Show), Hasan Minhaj (Daily Show & Netflix), and Michael Che (SNL). There are also 3-4 concerts per year, which have included BOB, Sean Kingston (yes, a lot of throwbacks), Blackbear, ASAP Ferg, Waka Flocka, and Amine.

An important thing to keep in mind is that Cleveland was one of the ten largest cities in the United States for the first half of the twentieth century. At least partially due to this, it has attractions, infrastructure, and opportunities comparable to a city about twice its current size. In my experience, this means that you get all the great things about a huge city without all the bad things (traffic, pollution, crowded buildings, etc.).

3. It isn’t safe.
Okay. Kids who come from sheltered wealthy communities like to come here and fear-monger about our proximity to East Cleveland. Given the way students talk, you’d think we border a piece of Afghanistan. In my opinion, if you exercise a minimal amount of common sense, you have nothing to worry about in terms of safety. Each time a crime occurs, CWRU police send us a warning along with details of the incident. Here are the paraphrased details from some of the notifications that I’ve read:

  • Student fiddles with their wallet directly in front of strangers/the homeless and subsequently gets their wallet swiped.
  • Student lets a random person on the street borrow their phone, and the person proceeds to run off with it.
  • Student walks alone, off-campus at 3 AM and gets mugged.

Of course, there are some serious, unavoidable incidents. However, atleast two-thirds of the handful of incidents each year are like those described above. Assuming you want to live in an urban area, I’m skeptical that you will find anywhere safer.

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4.Students have no time for fun
If a student has no time for fun, it is usually because of their own decisions, not the university’s rules & requirements. More specifically, we have a huge proportion of students who take beyond 19 credits hours, pursue double (or even triple) majors, and who participate in 3-5 different clubs. These decisions are neither mandated nor encouraged by the university. In fact, the administration has tried several times to diminish academic requirements (some majors don’t even require 7 core classes anymore), so that students are less overwhelmed. However, students just respond by upping their number of credits/majors!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the fact that we have a lot of overachievers here. However, it’s more than a little annoying when these people begin complaining about the workload.

5. It’s expensive.
Lots of people (particularly those comparing us to top public schools) look at our sticker price and are taken aback. You have to realize that very few people pay that sticker price. In fact, in my year and a half here, I have not met a single domestic student who gets less than 20k in need/merit based aid. Although these convos admittedly dont come up that often, I can say with a high degree of certainty that you (presumably a prospi) will not be paying that price if you come here, especially if you have high test scores. Personally, my family is upper middle class, and I basically only pay for room & board. In comparison to our peer schools, we are far-and-away the most generous in terms of both need & merit-based aid. In fact, I have a close friend who goes to a peer school (think Emory/Rochester/CMU) that has very similar financial means and admissions statistics as I do, and he pays almost triple as much.

6. Case is mostly Ivy League rejects.
This may have been true in the past, but in light of the rising cost of education (especially amongst top private schools), it hardly holds water nowadays. For instance, consider some of the universities that students in my randomly-assigned freshman quad of 8 were admitted to: yale, brown, vanderbilt, cornell, georgetown, uchicago, berkeley.

More often than not, we aren’t here because we can’t get into the schools that USNews is obsessed with. Instead, we think that 200k in tuition isn’t worth it to go to a (arguably) marginally better school. I’d say this storyline is much more accurate than the ‘ivy league rejects’ trope. You also don’t have to take my word for it. Take a look at our average gpa/act/sat statistics. I think those definitively support the premise that we aren’t any dumber than students at most of those schools ranked higher than us.

7. The sports stink.
Admittedly, I am of the opinion that CWRU has severely mismanaged our athletics programs. In fact, I think that one of the worst decisions in the history of the university was to eliminate our D1 football program, which rivaled ohio state. However, in the context of D3 sports, we have solid teams. Our softball team, soccer team, baseball team, and football team regularly make it deep into the playoffs and consistently beat our rivals. In fact, our baseball & football teams have been nearly undefeated for the past few years. I will concede that the attendance at these games is lacking, but it is undoubtedly improving. This year’s freshman class certainly fills the bleachers more than any past class.

8. School spirit is nonexistent.
Even though our sports-related enthusiasm has room for improvement, I don’t think this means we don’t have school spirit. We have a lot of cool traditions like the Midnight Breakfast, the Humans vs Zombies game, Homecoming, Spartie, Spartathon, Intersections, Thwing Study Over, Community Day, Senior Week, and bunch of other things. Although we probably have a lot more debbie-downers than other universities due to our disproportionate number of premeds/grad-school-conscious students/overachievers, there are enough students participating in these traditions to foster a somewhat strong sense of community.

9. The Admissions Office has Tufts Syndrome.
Since people rarely talk candidly about schools that they were rejected from and most admissions policies are top-secret, I don’t really have enough knowledge to address this one head-on. However, having had many friends who work in/with the admissions office, I can confidently say that our admissions office has more ethics & compassion than almost any other top 50 university (however, in light of the disclosures coming out of harvard’s lawsuit, that bar is admittedly pretty low, but I digress…). First, they read every application, and they have no qualms about pushing back the release deadline if they think that they can’t realistically give everyone a fair shake. Second, prospis aren’t treated like commodities (as they are at other schools). CWRU’s admissions office personalizes acceptance letters, invites applicants to alumni events, informs you regularly about on-campus activities, and often times, gives you an attractive scholarship. Considering all this, I’d be shocked if CWRU actually adheres to Tuft’s strategy.

10. The meal plan stinks.
This one has always baffled me. Bon Apetit is a nationally acclaimed food contractor and the menu is inspected by at least a half-dozen different people/committees on campus, so it’s hard to make the argument that the meal quality is poor. As for the range of choices, you can go to: Fribley, Leutner, Grab-It, Jolly Scholar, Melt, 8-20-6, Dunkin Donuts, Rough Rider, L3, Tomlinson Marketplace, the Den, Pinza, and Naan (not to mention the ten additional places that accept Case cash). So the range isn’t too bad either. As for the staff, they are all unbelievably friendly & upbeat and love chatting with students. So the experience is pretty good too.

Like any university, we definitely have our problems, but in my opinion, the problems stated above are either entirely nonexistent or seriously overblown. Hope this helps someone out there.

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Great post! Thank you for taking the time to articulate your thoughts. This is very helpful for those considering CWRU.

Thank you @Person500 for writing this excellent post.

My daughter is a junior at CWRU, and in conversations with me, she describes the points you mention almost exactly the way you have.

We continue to be amazed at how wonderful the CWRU experience has been for her.

Thanks for sharing!

Re your #5, it may be that you have only met people getting over $20k in aid because people getting less than that can’t afford to be there. That’s probably going to be the situation for my admitted daughter. CWRU cost is coming in about $12k more per year than her other good options. :frowning:

Thanks @Person500 for taking the time to share this!!

So helpful! Thank you, @person500!

Thank you for posting, although I have not heard most of that in reference to CWRU. It is a fantastic school, and from the results threads this year, admissions is getting more and more competitive.

nicely written

Always great to hear from students who are happy with their colleges! Thank you for a well-written assessment of CWRU.

This was very helpful! I was accepted EA this year and was “!!!” about the personalization :,) definitely putting CWRU higher on my list now!

I disagree with your point in #5. I think it’s very wrong to say things like this, very misleading to applicants. You say…
“I can say with a high degree of certainty that you (presumably a prospi) will not be paying that price if you come here, especially if you have high test scores. Personally, my family is upper middle class, and I basically only pay for room & board. In comparison to our peer schools, we are far-and-away the most generous in terms of both need & merit-based”
My daughter just get accepted to CWRU. 1490 SAT, 700 English, 790 Math, all 5’s on her AP exams, lots of leadership/service, amazing letters of rec.
$0 in anything. Literally not even a penny in merit scholarships and she missed 1 math question on the entire SAT test.
I think what nobody seems to be addressing is the big issue of going Early Decision.
Clearly it is true ( even though schools deny it) , they have no motivation to give an ED applicant any money, they are a sure thing… sad that the office told us although they could not guarantee anything, they said with high test scores students will get at least something.
Ridiculous what they are putting families through. Kids feel pressured to go ED to get into a strong school. At least they could be honest about the process.

Aren’t most of the merit scholarships at Case competitive with winners notified by April 1 (and applied for by Jan 15)?

I think you may be talking about scholarships for enrolled students that they have to write a separate essay for.
I am talking about the merit scholarships that schools award to applicants along with their acceptance letter, part of the package. My daughter has been getting merit based scholarships from every school she applied to , the smallest amount being $20K per year for 4 years.
CWRU just told her you did not qualify for any merit scholarships. They said it is not based on just high SAT scores, etc, that they look at the whole application.
Said a 1490 was in the 50th percentile of applicants… so maybe it’s true that it’s more competitive when you apply EA or ED. The other point I’m trying to make is it is a little bit of a mind screw for these kids.
I think colleges practice yield protection more than people realize and going ED is a huge boost. I read one article that said the acceptance rate for ED jumps to 40% at George Washington University.
I just think schools should be more transparent about the process.

 We both obviously were very impressed with Case and are excited about it. I guess it just stings a little that that every other school she applied to, very good schools, all offered her $20-30K a year .

@Lou346 I believe ED is not binding if a school’s offer is not financially feasible for your family. Therefore, if you cannot afford Case without the merit you were expecting, your daughter may be able to get out of her contract and choose one of the other very good schools where she was offered $20-30k, a year.

Congrats to your daughter on her acceptance and my sympathies the merit money wasn’t there.

@Lou346

What major is your daughter hoping to major in? Engineering may have a higher SAT avg.

I asked Case about ED merit vs regular and they said the “decision plan has no bearing on merit money awarded.” It makes sense because if a college was known for no merit at ED, who would do ED? Or students would get out of ED because they did not receive any merit.

Usually students with that SAT had gotten some merit in the past
e.g. ,https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/21064126#Comment_21064126

What is “Tufts syndrome”?

Yield protection (commonly referred to as Tufts syndrome ) is an admissions practice where a university or academic institution rejects or wait-lists highly qualified students on the grounds that such students are bound to be accepted by more prestigious universities or programs.