Friendly Atmospheres?

<p>I visited St. Olaf (in Northfield, MN) recently, and really enjoyed the feeling of community and overall friendly atmosphere of the college.</p>

<p>However, many factors discourage me from applying (here comes a run-on):</p>

<p>I feel that, while I may receive a good education at Olaf, a degree from this school might not look as impressive on a job application as one from another college where I could, for example, get the same or better education, perhaps at a lower price, with more recognition/stock. (Not that I need a name-brand school... but one that looks more competitive, perhaps. I am pretty confident I could get into St. Olaf, and I have always looked at more competitive schools.)</p>

<p>I also visited Carleton, another school which I am considering. The atmosphere here was less friendly and more discretionary, if that makes sense; it seemed more as if St. Olaf was trying to sell themselves while Carleton's stuffy attitude was that they got to choose us, we didn't have to choose them. (Does that make sense? Nothing against Carls; I am considering this school nevertheless . It's not that I minded the atmosphere here so much; I just want to look at schools that might be similar to St. Olaf in atmosphere.)</p>

<p>I was just wondering if anyone has visited schools with great, friendly atmospheres--similar to St. Olaf--and want to share. I don't need to be told, "Oh, St. Olaf is great. Don't worry about the cost, just do what feels right; there's aid. It's a great school, you'll get a good education, blahblahblah." I already know these things. I am just looking for schools with similar atmospheres. Thanks!!</p>

<p>(Even if you've never even heard of Olaf, any colleges you've visited that were really friendly and welcoming, etc?)</p>

<p>Rice University in Houston, TX and Washington University in St. Louis have similar friendly atmospheres.</p>

<p>I don't have any friendly atmoshere advice, but a St. Olaf story...DD and I visited with the St. Olaf admissions rep in Maryland at a college fair and about a week later, my daughter received a handwritten note from the rep. The only thing to happen that was comparable were birthday cards each year my daughter was in high school signed by the entire admissions staff at Truman University (Missouri honors college). Perhaps you could look at Truman!</p>

<p>I've found Pomona College to be one of the friendliest places I know.</p>

<p>^I second Truman State University if you're looking to stay in the midwest</p>

<p>My sister goes to Truman. She loves it there; the place is very friendly, open, and intimate. You get to know the staff/faculty very well.</p>

<p>My son loves Truman, too, and it has a good academic reputation. Another place I loved the atmosphere was Wartburg in Wavery, Iowa. Probably not the name recognition or clout you are looking for but when it comes down to finding a place to be happy for 4 years, other factors than reputation might be good to consider. Wartburg was a neat little place. Loved the connected buildings so you don't have to be outside in the winter as much :) And the faculty was so down to earth and hung out with us like old friends on our group visit day. It was a good day. It was the most welcoming feeling we have had from various visits, like they wanted us to be a part of their family.</p>

<p>Davidson is the friendliest LAC I've come across. I grew up about 15 min away, and I've yet to meet a Davidson student/alum I didn't like.</p>

<p>I found Swarthmore to be very friendly as well, though more intense.</p>

<p>We're from the west coast, but our S visited a bunch of colleges in the midwest and east. My S didn't visit St Olaf but did go to see Carleton and Macalester. He and my husband were completely turned of at Carleton by their attitude toward prospective students, aloof and unhelpful were the terms used. They LOVED Macalester! S applied, was accepted and we visited for an overnight and admitted students day. The staff, faculty and students were wonderful; down to earth and very friendly. The school is awesome with a great national reputation. It may be more liberal than St. Olaf, judging by what I've read, but it's a step higher on the competitive scale. I loved St Paul.</p>

<p>My S decided to attend Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. It's further off the beaten track, but it has an incredibly accepting and friendly atmosphere. The academics are challenging and its national reputation is continually growing. I've encountered many students accepted to top graduate schools from Whitman. He chose it because of top notch academics and the warm tight knit community, plus much warmer weather than Minnesota. They are trying to expand their recruiting to bring in more kids from beyond the west coast, you might have a geographical advantage.</p>

<p>Good luck with your search!</p>

<p>The book, Colleges that Change Lives has some insight into the feel of schools if I remember correctly. You might want to take a look at that.</p>

<p>Cornell College is another school worth looking into for a positive, community feeling.</p>


<p>Back in spring 2009, my S visited Macalester, St. Olaf, and Carleton all in one week. He didn't particularly like the "vibe" at Carleton, but wouldn't be more specific. S wound up not applying to Mac mainly because he didn't like their pianos, but we have two nephews who graduated from Mac in 2008 and 2009 who absolutely loved the place. S really enjoyed his overnight stay at St. Olaf and he wound up applying to and the selecting St. Olaf in part because of the friendly, cooperative rather than competitive, campus culture.</p>

<p>Two other schools that he also visited, really like and applied to are College of Wooster and Lawrence University. Again, he was really drawn to these schools by how friendly everybody seemed on his visits and the fact that they seem to provide a more cooperative rather than competitive campus culture and have stronger music programs than Mac. [He was looking for places with high quality music that also strongly encourage non-music majors to participate in the ensembles and private lessons.]</p>

<p>Long time ago I taught at Illinois Wesleyan U. and it was a really friendly place too. My guess is that the campus culture has not changed much.</p>

<p>Typically large public schools such as those within the Big Ten like The University of Iowa, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, or even private universities like Northwestern.</p>

<p>For the same high quality academics, but a little more laid back culture, take a look at Grinnell. S visited Carleton, Macalester and Grinnell and decided to ED at Grinnell. Part of what influenced him was how warm and welcoming people were. He also picked up on the vibe you mention at Carleton-not so much stuffy, as striving to model themselves on some of the highly selective NE schools. Grinnell didn't have that 'wannabe' feeling. (The vibe at Macalester was similarly laid back, but he wasn't interested in an urban school.)</p>

<p>Thanks so much, everyone!</p>

<p>Glad to know that, although I have not yet visited, a few of my early considerations (Lawrence, Davidson, Truman) make the list :).</p>

<p>In your opinions, what else should I be looking at as I narrow down my options?</p>

<p>I'm going to continue to brag about Truman and say that so far my sister has found it a very good education at a very reasonable price. It's sometimes called the "Harvard of the Midwest" where I'm from. Just saying. =D</p>

<p>I agree that the large midwest public's are very friendly. I have recently been spending a lot of time at The Univ of Iowa in Iowa City, and amazed at how friendly and helpful the students, community and administration all are. Although briefer visits, same at Indiana and Kansas.</p>

<p>The friendliest college that I have visited would have to be Creighton University in Omaha, NE. The Midwest flair was definitely evident. I attended a class, and nearly every student greeted me and asked where I was from, etc. The girl I was sitting next to even gave me her email address in case I had any questions! It was a great experience, and I didn't meet an unfriendly person. Although I don't know if I will attend Creighton, the experience that I had certainly inspired me to apply in the fall.</p>

<p>Re: Creighton, Interesting you say that -- I was just in Omaha last week (briefly on the campus, in fact) for a conference and all the locals were very friendly there as well.</p>

<p>I read this thread on a whim and was sort of surprised. I recently visited St. Olaf, Carleton, and Macalester and I'd have to say I felt the most welcomed and comfortable at Carleton. I didn't feel any stuffiness or pretentiousness at all. St. Olaf to me was... nice, but very homogenously nice and kind of bland. Macalester was an awesome school but I didn't feel a particularly friendly vibe nor did I feel an unfriendly one. </p>

<p>As for what you really asked about, I would also recommend Whitman in Walla Walla and Bates in Maine. Most LAC's seem to have friendly, inviting communities so you will probably have luck at most anywhere you look.</p>