Hi Essnce629, KnearSeattle’s daughter here (Whitman '19).
I feel like Whitman did a good job at preparing us for real life. My friends who wanted to work after Whitman were able to get jobs fairly easily and those who wanted to go on to graduate schooling were well supported by professors on deciding where to go and on applications. I had friends who went straight into master’s programs/medical school, others who entered the work force, and a couple who took time off to travel before deciding their next steps.
I had good relationships with my professors and it was not unusual for students to go over to professor’s houses or to local restaurants together. I was pretty quiet in classes and did not go to office hours frequently. Looking back I would have done so to build better relationships with my professors. They were all very approachable, I just found it easier to ask my friends for help when needed. One thing I did appreciate was how understanding and willing to work with you my professors were. I had to go to medical appointments and take some time off during my time at Whitman and my professors were incredibly kind and understanding when I needed to miss class or reschedule an exam last minute. I know that is not something I would have experienced at a larger school. I did have a few meals with professors. My Encounters professor (the old First year mandatory writing intensive class) invited our old class out for drinks before we graduated. I went to a BBQ at President Murray’s house for Fourth of July one summer. I was at my Cross Country coach’s house frequently for meals and team bonding.
I had an internship in a research lab in Boston the summer before my senior year. Most majors require a thesis or senior project of sorts for graduation so almost everyone I knew did research of some type in their field. There are some opportunities on campus and locally, but they were less numerous than I would expect a larger school to have. For me, it was a nice opportunity to live somewhere else for a bit, since I’d never lived outside of the Seattle area or Walla Walla. One pro, for my friends who did research at Whitman was that there are no graduate students, so they got to do a lot of high level research that would probably left to the graduate students at a university. This could be something for your son to consider if he is passionate about research.
My brother and I both had work study positions with technology services. I was also able to spend one summer in Walla Walla through an internship with them. I also worked as a TA and writing fellow in the Biology department my senior year. Some students worked off campus, especially at wineries as upper classmen. I nannied for a family a few blocks off campus and many of my friends worked at wineries.
I did not study abroad because it is more difficult (but not impossible) for BBMB majors due to class schedules. I would have had to take two very difficult classes at the same time, and I loved Whitman and didn’t want to leave and miss out on my last semester with my upperclassmen friends. Anyone who wants to study abroad can, and I heard amazing things about the study abroad programs.
One negative thing would be that Whitman is lacks in diversity. Most students are liberal, affluent, and white. Some more conservative classmates struggled being the minority during discussions in classes or in the dining hall over politics. I think the Republican’s club had less than 10 members my first year. I personally had quite the culture shock when I was a first year due to the amount of wealth most of Whitman’s students come from. It was never a real problem, but it was a very different demographic from what I grew up with. Many POC have had struggles at Whitman with being a minority, but I would assume this is common among POC in predominantly white liberal arts colleges.
I thought that I was going to find Walla Walla isolating, but honestly I was so busy with classes I hardly noticed how small the town is. There are multiple amazing restaurants within walking distance and a Safeway a few blocks from campus. I didn’t have a car with me and I was fine. There are constantly events on campus to go to, so there’s never really a need to get away.
The on campus food is pretty good. Admittedly I have nothing to compare it to except WWU and UW, but I liked the food for the most part and it got even better my senior year when the new dining hall opened. I had a few friends with complex dietary needs and the dining hall did an excellent job at meeting their needs, if that is a concern. One thing that most people don’t understand about Seattle is that it doesn’t rain that much but we have a lot of overcast and drizzly days. The weather in Walla Walla is similar to Seattle but a little drier. We get snow in the winter and it can linger for months, but there isn’t a lot of precipitation. Summers are hot and dry, but tolerable even without AC.
You mentioned that your son is a rock climber, I had friends who were very into rock climbing and I’m sure he could find plenty of similar minded people. There are multiple climbing classes and a climbing team. The climbing gym also employs many students if he wanted to work there. There are climbing trips through the outdoor program that your son could go on if he likes outdoor climbing. He will get a set amount of money that he can spend on outdoor program trips each year. They range from backpacking to sand dune sledding to snowshoeing. I also took a beginning skiing class one semester where they would take us up by bus to the local ski resort on Friday afternoons and we would take lessons through the resort. It was a very cool program if that’s something your son is into or would be interested in trying.