Feedback on WPI

DS was accepted to WPI. Looking for feedback on school life, internships and co-ops and dorms/Freshman dorm selection process, etc. Anything you can share is greatly appreciated.

@FlightGirl103 - Our youngest D is a freshmen biotech major. She is in a triple room in a dorm connected to the main dining hall - great roommate match via social media outreach on her part before the formal housing process. She will be in a double room in sorority house next year - one block from her current dorm. She is involved in intramurals, Colleges Against Cancer, and Greek life (her sorority hosted a charity gala for women’s heart health last weekend). Lots of EC’s for students. Curriculum is challenging - combo of STEM and humanities classes so far. She’s very busy, but absolutely loves it. She’s independently pursuing summer internships and REU’s in her field. She hopes to get into one of the labs on campus down the road - lots of opportunities.

I’m an alumni (BS & MS EE) from the 80s. Back then there weren’t many girls. I toured with my son, who is a credit junior EE major (class of 2022 but he’s going to move it to 2021 but stay on to get his MSEE). I was amazed at the difference in surroundings and support and just how many women there are.

There is an intensive welcome orientation for Freshman. Dorm selection was in the summer if I recall correctly and you ranked by preference. He chose Morgan, which back in my day used to be male now has co-ed floors. I was so happy to see how many women were on the floor.

My son found an apartment right off campus after Freshman year which he’s really happy with, he doesn’t have a car so he needed to be close which he is.

My daughter also got in this past December (with a much better merit package so if she wanted to go it would work). She’s not sure yet because we live in CA and she’s waiting on UCs before she makes her final decision.

Meanwhile? Back in the day we had the project based system and now it really has grown in to what they envisioned all those years ago. There are so many interesting IQP opportunities and a project center to help you figure it out. My son just texted me that he’s locked down an MQP that he’s really happy with, working with a team he really likes. One of the projects has changed, the humanities project used to be called a Sufficiency so my son just talks to me using that because he got sick of me say “oh, you mean the sufficiency?” Sigh. Okay mom.

He is thriving there. When we left him Freshman year I was telling my husband (also a WPI alumni) that I would have loved to go to this school the way it is today. The President is a woman too which also makes me so happy.

There are so many opportunities to not just learn but to personalize your education.

Congratulations to your son!

ChillDad’s daughter here!! He seemed to give a good overview of things, but if you have any more specific questions I’d be happy to answer them! I do absolutely love WPI and am very happy with my choice :slight_smile:

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Worked at WPI for ten years at the time of the “WPI PLAN,” i.e. project education, implementation. This started in the late 60’s when I was still a student.

Hopes and dreams were very strong, there was electricity all over the campus. The concepts largely survived and were highly refined. The community dedication and spirit were very real… it appears to not only have survived a revolution in educational approaches, but continues to be refined on an ongoing basis. Constant refining of the educational processes were specifically designed into the program.

My job was to explain this radical new program to educators , parents and students all over the east coast and South America.

Good ideas do not stand still. I could not be a prouder alumnus. I left the college for money, but never had a better job!

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BSEE '92 here and my daughter is a freshman there in BME. She is also a varsity athlete. Dorm rooms are almost all forced +1 on capacity. She is a 6 person (3+3) Founders suite that used to be 4 person when I was there. It is tight and many move off campus 2nd year.

The project based curriculum is WPI’s strong point and I am probably in the minority that would express dissatisfaction with how the IQP and humanities components have evolved. When I was there the humanities “sufficiency” was closer to a minor. Now the same degree of concentration is not required. Also, the IQP used to be more topic-focused and not “location-focused” as it is now. The project was generally spread across 3 or 4 terms (quarters) working on a cross-disciplinary team on a project that the students selected based on topics. Now everyone focuses on where they want to go and many have no idea what the project when they are assigned a location. Spreading the project over 3 or 4 terms meant that for the majority of your junior year, you only had 2 intensive classes per quarter. Now the IQP is done in one term and the other terms are fully loaded.

As someone that went to WPI then spent the next 14 years at RPI for grad school and as a professor, WPI has a significantly better campus life. If you visit you can see the students and the campus is vibrant. And Worcester, while a gritty blue collar city, has a lot to offer to students.

The dorm selection process changed last year and leaves a lot to be desired. It seemed like it caused a lot of stress for the current freshman, but you do have the ability to select who you want to live with if you can identify them. Your group leader is assigned a selection day and they do a virtual race to pick rooms or suites. D had a group of 5 and her leader was only able to get a 6 person suite, so WPI assigned a 6th. That did not work out so they only have 5.

Recent classes have been over 40% women and WPI has been giving larger merit scholarships to drive that demographic shift. My older daughter is a 2nd year at another school and the merit scholarship she was offered with her EA acceptance in December 2017 was about 10% higher than what other women with similar stats seemed to be getting a year later…so they might be moving things more into balance for the men.

Students generally secure internships and coops either through department contacts or by going to one of the two career fairs that are held each year. I would expect to see a lot of contraction there for the next few years as tech companies regroup post-coronavirus.

First year - first semester in particular - is the toughest. Students are adjusting to college, the crazy pace of the quarter system, large classes with underwhelming access to professors, and lots of required math/science classes that inevitably don’t excite the students as much as the in-major courses that start to him sophomore year. A/B students in HS should not be surprised to see there first C’s and maybe even an ‘NR’ - which means that WPI does not record classes that you fail (i.e. score below a C).

Having said all of this - D loves it. People complain about the food - my daughter actually has not complained. She has a good friend group in her team (and the men’s). The freshman are part of the upperclassmen social groups but she also has a very friendly floor.

Good luck!

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@jmk518

Left WPI in 1983. I thank you for an insider’s update!

WPI '67.

Thanks so much for your input. DS has not committed yet, and unfortunately will not be able to visit prior to committing.

I am concerned from the lack of communications for admitted students compared to other universities, and wondering if there is any reason behind it (other colleges are doing online student sessions, specific sessions by major, delaying decision date to June, etc. - the parent chat/virtual tour that WPI offers, is really not enough)

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@FlightGirl103

Have you gone through information @ https://www.wpi.edu/admissions/undergraduate/visit ?

What is your anticipated major (aerospace)?

You may e-mail questions the departments of interest. For aerospace see https://www.wpi.edu/academics/departments/aerospace-engineering.

Write/call them directly and ask directed questions.

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FYI RE admissions, ETC, see https://www.wpi.edu/news/coronavirus/faqs#undergraduate-admissions

This is my first post, and I’m using an old thread, because I think this info could help people and I didn’t know where else to put it.

People talk a lot about the 7-week terms and how that makes things really fast-paced, but here is what we didn’t understand about 7-week terms, even though a cousin and a best friend were already at WPI:

  1. The problem of timely grading
    Timely grading is a problem anywhere, but a 7-week term hugely exacerbates the consequences of delayed returns.

Calculus solution: No solution - they handed graded stuff back long after it mattered, if at all. By the end of the 7-week terms (both A and B), my son had only half of his calculus work returned; he had no relevant work returned before heading into any of the tests. Not getting timely graded feedback also means you can’t adjust how you are approaching the class if you aren’t doing well, because you don’t know you’re not doing well until it is too late to do anything about it. (There was a similar problem in a social sciences class - by the end of the term, he did not have a single graded assignment returned, so he had never had the opportunity to make adjustments in how he responded to the assignments to better match teacher expectations.)

Physics solution: Autograding - everything is on computer, answers are entered into text boxes (NOT multiple choice). You find out immediately (problem by problem) if you got the right answer or the wrong one, BUT there is no way to tell (1) if you had the right answer but you just didn’t match the expected form, or (2) if you had exactly the right idea but made a small mistake somewhere, or (3) if you have a major misconception. So it is infuriating and useless for learning. Also, no partial credit in the traditional sense; it doesn’t matter if you lost track of a factor of 2 along the way or you had the problem completely wrong from start to finish - it’s the same outcome. Partial credit does exist in the sense that you can do multiple submissions for decreasing credit for a right answer, but my son often found he used that only when he realized his answer was probably marked wrong because of formatting.

  1. No opportunity to settle into a routine
    It’s always hard starting a new term (high school or college) - you have no idea how difficult you will find the assignments, how you will need to pursue the material for the best outcome, what the best way is to get additional help, how to balance the different classes. It takes a few weeks to get it all sorted out. But with 7-week terms, just when you’ve got it all sorted out, the term is over and you are starting 3 new classes. It was actually this piece that made us realize that WPI would probably be a bad fit for our other son, who always has a rough month at the beginning of each school year, but then things settle out and the rest of the year is fine.

Hope this is helpful.

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@HomeschoolMomMA That’s unfortunate about the calculus. My daughter took calc 1-4 last year and didn’t have any issues with timely grading, even during D-term when everything did a fast pivot to online. So maybe this is isolated to the particular professor. My daughter had some very good TA’s as well. In my experience with WPI (I went there), the 7 week term requires you to face facts brutally - you either get the material or you don’t. If you don’t, you need to get extra help fast because there’s probably a quiz or test within a week and then on to the next topic. Freshman usually are hesitant to seek help.

Regarding the physics, my other daughter is at a top-25 university and they do use a similar approach. I think it works well on homework because if the student gets immediate feedback then they are forced to review the entire problem to find the errors. In one instance where she found the problem was wrong when she thought it was right, there was a mistake in the programmed solution. The problems always made it clear what format or number of significant figures were required. The strategy needs to be to assume that the answer is wrong and go back to find the mistake. One of my daughters initially assumed her answer was correct and that it must be formatting entry. All that did was result in burning through all but one of her remaining attempts. I think it is problematic on the tests for the partial credit reason that you describe, as well as the time constraints that often leave students short of time. I found that over time at WPI my quizmanship skills increased and test scores increased as well.

This is an unusual year and nobody is having an ideal situation. MY daughter is sophomore and her grades are higher than they were last year, even with the harder classes and complications of being online. Adjustment first semester at WPI is definitely harder than many other schools, but my hope (and belief) is that your son will find his groove this semester.

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I went there in 1982 and I hated a lot of it. It was so sexist and 7 week terms are hard. My kids are there now. My husband went there too (we didn’t date or marry until years later) and he was so opposed to my son who is graduating in May going there. We live in California and my husband was pulling for Berkeley. After the tour though my son loved WPI and so did I. I told my husband THIS is the school I wish we went to. Meanwhile my son didn’t get in to Berkeley which made him so happy because he didn’t want to go there. I had to listen to the “this isn’t what I want to do Mom on the tour”. WPI ended up being the right place for him. My daughter didn’t get in to UCLA and that was our agreement. If you don’t get UCLA then WPI will give you more options. You can change your major every day without blinking. And it has become a super welcoming place for women.

This year has been horribly isolating in general. She entered taking Calculus 4 and did well on the midterm not so well on the final and ended up with a B. “Mom, if I had in person classes I might have gotten an A” Why is a B something you think you should explain to me. If I get a B to this day in whatever I’m doing I consider that a win.

I had to talk her down her tree over a Linear Algebra quiz. Mom. I did terrible and I don’t think this school is for me. She got an 80. I was so exhausted.

WPI has built a lot of structures since I was there to make sure the students succeed. It’s not perfect. Covid has put everyone back and even though they are on campus it’s so stressful.

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