Disappointing Olin college recruiter

My son is a junior and has narrowed down that Olin really was the only US based college that he even cared about. He already goes to a PBL Engineering high school, so the style of learning is something to which he is drawn. We have not visited the campus, just lots and lots of online searching.

Today there was a college fair, in which Olin was in attendance. It seemed to be clear that the recruiter may not have actually known much about Olin. He spoke about its partnership with Babson & Wellesley, (?? - honestly not something that drew us) but not much about the PBL methodology. My son had detailed questions, but the gentleman just talked about the 3 degrees they have - couldn’t talk much about the PBL approach within the core vs. non-core classes (are non-core classes a thing?). My son will come in with 4 years of engineering + digital design with CAD, Laser Cutting, 3D Printing & Imaging, a total of about 15 strong cross-curricula projects and when he asked how to communicate to the school his background - again - the gentleman just repeated what we already knew about the school (the number / type of degrees).

It was not a great impression to us. Upside is we ended up meeting a few other schools he is willing to look at (Rose-Hulman / Belmont / WPI) before he gives up and applies overseas.

  1. He has an interview scheduled (these are prospective student interviews, not part of the application process)…we are wondering whether it will look bad to cancel it - it will be with the same person. 30 minutes to talk in detail, but he had no idea.
  2. Is this recruiter indicative of Olin? Are they really project based focused - working in teams to build solutions versus sitting in classes lecture style?

Research told us Olin was the school perfectly matched for our son’s learning style, but we now are wondering (and happy he has found other choices to be honest).

often the only people available to man booths at college fairs are alumni, not the actual college admissions officer responsible for a particular district/ area. I suggest your DS call the admissions office at Olin and ask to meet with the admissions officer responsible for his HS.He should mention his genuine interest in Olin, as well as his less than glowing impression of the person at the college fair representing the college.

He was too ignorant of the program to be alumni. The school only has 85 students within each class, so it would be impossible for him to have been at school there and not be able to talk about the classes. We thought it would be difficult to have alumni manning the booth since its such a small and new school. Good suggestion for him to call…demonstrated interest counts for admission, so we are unsure how to proceed with the interview.

Today was an open house at Olin, so that was most likely where they put their energy. College fairs are not for getting in-depth information, but are more a chance at an introduction to schools. Because my daughter attends a small engineering/science based magnet school, we are also well versed in PBL. She loves her current school, despite it being small, and having limited offerings outside of STEM subjects, and has moved Olin up to her #1, above MIT and Princeton, her previous top picks.

The partnership with Babson and Wellesley allows a broader range of non-STEM classes. With less than 90 students per class, options for electives would otherwise be extremely limited. I would suggest a visit to campus, to get a better sense of how things operate, but spending some time on the website should give you a good idea of how their curriculum is set up.

“He was too ignorant of the program to be alumni.”
I meant he MAY have been an alumni of OLIN, NOT of the HS where the college fair was held!

I understand that. He didn’t understand Olin’s program, and then if he is an alumni of Olin, it does not speak well of their graduates.

Yes, it is our son’s (was) top pick. But after meeting the person today, it dropped significantly. I guess that was my question - how much does the recruiter represent the school? Related to Babson / Wellesley - I was just surprised that was what he wanted to talk about. It was a STEM College Fair, the kids were all looking for engineering schools…it was a disappointing sell - not talking about what looks like an amazing PBL program and instead emphasizing the option to take classes at B/W. We moved from Boston because my son doesn’t like the colleges up there (go figure)…but Olin looked different and looks just like his high school. Now we are wondering if it really is as different as the website says.

“how much does the recruiter represent the school?”
very little.
you wound talking to what is probably a poor representative of Olin, since it conflicted with the Olin Open house and the college admissions officer was probably at Olin, instead of at the college fair.
In other words, DON’T throw the baby out with the bath H2O!
one person does NOT represent ALL that a college can offer.
NOR speak for all of it’s graduates!
so have him talk directly with a Olin admissions officer.

Too bad you dodn’t get your questions answered but your reaction seems a bit over the top.

We visited Olin in early September and took a tour. They are 100% project based, which is my daughter’s preferred learning style. Their admit rate last year was about 19%, so they are a reach school even for the best students. It would be wise to apply to several others as a back-up. WPI also has a project based learning style, and is on my daughter’s list.

I would not base any college decision on any one admissions representative. Focus on the program, the school, the fit, etc… Remember, once a student begins college, he/she will have no need to see an admissions person again.

Yes, its as different as the website says. I’m sorry your college fair experience was a washout. We had a few of those too, with other colleges. When he’s ready, your son really needs to reach out to the school and talk to ambassadors. They have students who are more than happy to answer emails, have conversations, and tell all things Olin to anyone who asks. They also have overnight visits (which I totally recommend) for students to be immersed in the Olin culture for a day. Students can attend classes and club meetings, talk to professors, and be part of the community for a day to try it on for size.

I know this blog isn’t really the same stage you’re at, but I think it speaks pretty specifically to the Olin culture. Check it out http://www.olin.edu/blog/the-olinsider/post/letter-the-admitted-students-love-someone-who-was-your-shoes/

Ask your questions. Hopefully you’ll get the answers that you’re looking for.

It’s up to you whether you want to cross Olin off your list. Seems like you are basing that decision on one person who is not a professor but an employee of the school. He’s a marketing guy whose job is to sell the school. There are plenty of other students who will overlook this guy and apply, so Olin won’t come begging you to attend.

I think your son should be prepared for things NOT to be perfect at Olin or any other school. There will be staff who don’t really know much about engineering but do other jobs at the school. Every American business, and colleges are businesses, have staff who are very good at one job but can’t answer questions about how another department works. I swear I spoke to every single person at my daughter’s school because each person had ONE job and the admissions people couldn’t answer questions about financial aid, and the bursar couldn’t answer questions about the meal plan, and the registrar couldn’t help with billing. It took 3 calls to get her name corrected on the official record. The coach recruiting her was new to the school and really didn’t know anything about engineering, how the financial aid at the school worked, how her schedule would work. She was just plain wrong on some types of aid that came from the state or the state 529 plan. Still, we didn’t cross the school off the list and I just kept digging for the info we needed.

Yes, non-core classes are part of Engineering and required for ABET programs. Two writing class, a humanities, etc. for 15 credits in total. Olin teams with other colleges that offer many more options to fulfill those requirements. Your son will not have to take courses at those other schools, but can if he wants more options. My daughter could only pick from the few classes her school offered.

I think you do need to ask if all the work your son has done will count for college credit or advanced placement at Olin; it may not. He may be required to take 3D printing at Olin, or CAD. If it is important for you to get credit for the high school work, make sure the college will give credit (or placement).

College fairs are often tough for schools to staff. I remember one where almost everyone representing a school was pinch hitting (and doing a not so great job of winging it!) In fact, some that were not staffed and had simply left out materials may have been more impressive.

This fair served its purpose in acquainting you with some new schools to consider, but you really should follow up with all of them more thoroughly, preferably with campus visits. Throughout the process, you need to remember that there is some serendipity. The tour guide you don’t connect with, the interviewer who shares your love of x, the kid who offers directions, the loud team that walks into the dining hall with you, who is on your tour… these all will have an impact on how you feel about a school but it’s up to you to figure out if that one moment is an outlier or the norm.

I attended a large college fair with my D. She visited several tables and answered the generic questions from each rep (what grade are you in, which school are you from, what are your grades like, do you have a major in mind). What I found most interesting, was that a really great rep could move a college onto her consideration list, but a really poor rep had no impact on whether the school made her list. Ironically, her first choice college (after visiting about 10) is one where the college fair rep was pretty bad.

To repeat what others have said, one person does not represent the entire school.

Someone mentioned up thread that sometimes schools use alumni to staff these kinds of events. Depending on a person’s major, their experiences may be very different and limited than what you are wanting to know. Usually colleges are just looking for an enthusiastic representative and someone that can refer more “technical” questions to the proper channels.

OP, did your son end up doing the interview? Was it the same person? How’d it go?

Actually, he did the interview with the same person and it was a very different experience. He was glad he did it and they spoke more about my son’s high school and what he got out of his PBL learning opportunity and the various projects he has completed. Ironically, the best thing out of the situation was that he got some great feedback from other schools he met at the fair who are now trying to recruit him…it’s really made him feel good.

WPI is all about Problem Based Learning. They started it before Olin was founded. The entering class this fall has an average, unweighted secondary school GPA of 3.89, but accepts about 48% of applicants with an entering freshman class of 1,280 students. There are three project requirements MQP, IQP and Sufficiency. They are all about teamwork, interdisciplinary thinking and 70% participate in overseas projects at no additional costs… See https://www.wpi.edu/project-based-learning/wpi-plan

WPI "67

WPI is definitely on the list. We will visit both at the same time. Our only experience with WPI was when he competed in FLL there - cramped, terrible parking…haha…nothing to base a college selection on. The program is looking more and more exciting, especially as he really wants to go overseas for a bit.