Intellectually Brutalized?

My son has Rose-Hulman on the top of his list after touring the maker space there. Was blown away, the kids building things in that space were his people. However, as a parent, I’m having second thoughts after seeing their brochure. On the first page it says “Will you be intellectually brutalized here? Probably. But you won’t be alone.”

Is this just a marketing message gone wrong or is this really the culture of the school? I’m looking for him to be inspired, for his horizons to be extended, for him to build things, and experience innovation. I want him to be supported. I’m not looking for him to be brutalized.

As background, he is a good student - very good GPA & ACT, goes to a demanding school, lots of APs, 5s in at least half of the AP tests (including Chemistry AP test), two varsity sports, and a genuine engineer - loves to build things, has a lot of his own hobbies, etc. But I’m sensitive to the fact that he worked to get good grades on top of the two sports- the grades were not free. Based on Niche and Naviance, his academics place him in solidly in the top quarter of the students who attend Rose but only above 35% of those that attend Stanford and Harvey Mudd. As a way to filter - we were targeting only small engineering schools where his academics seem to put him in the top 25% figuring that might be some indication that he could handle the workload and still be able to make the most out of college - join the clubs, build cars, etc. He wants a small school where he can know his professors and that is in the suburbs or country - he is not a city kid.

When we toured, I did not take away brutalized as a theme. I took away supportive and collaborative and was really impressed. Clearly, engineering is hard - I have a masters in engineering - but my hope is that he could be supported and inspired to become a great engineer. Am I taking this message way too seriously and in the wrong way, or is this representative of the culture?

I’ve only heard good things about Rose s Hulman. Bad choice of words on advertising

I know zero about the culture of that college. But I know a lot about how colleges choose to market themselves. I would bet that this is more of an aspirational goal than an actual feature of the college.

I would totally share your concern, by the way. I have been totally turned off by some of the tech schools’ bragging about grinding their students into the ground. I see that as a bug, not a feature.

Probably just marketing people attempting to get an attention grabbing tag line. It’s also rather derivative as the phrase “intellectual brutality” has been used by the Stanford football team for years (actually a better fit to a football program IMO). I’m sure it’s been used by others as well.

It’s a great school. Call and share your thoughts with them. Maybe there is a story behind it. It is a very demanding school where kids stay up till the wee bits of night to study. Also as you know engineering is not just about building things. If he found his peeps that is a large part of the equation.

My nephew graduated from there 3 years ago. He was somewhat of a HS slacker, though got the grades he needed and had good test scores. Things came rather easily. RH woke him up: brilliant kids there, had to buckle down and study (!), loved his classes. He had several west coast offers at graduation.

Maybe intellectually brutal means prepare to be pushed, more than you ever thought.

Thanks all the helpful perspective. New to this college search process! If all goes well with admission we will try to talk to admission folks and/or some of the students.

I think THEY think of it as a possitive. A little engineering humor.

Many engineers would think ‘intellectually brutalized’ is fun, getting to stay in a lab for 24 hours until the project is done right, until the problem is solved. And yes, it probably does mean the no one gets to coast any more, even if you were a superstar in high school.

A school doesn’t need to be small for an engineering student to know and be involved with their professors. Most engineering schools (or maybe the department), even those at big universities, are pretty intimate. My daughter went to a STEM school with about 3500 on campus student (and was in the smallest department) and knew everyone. My nephew went to a huge flagship (28000), was in engineering (4600 students), and knew all his professors, worked for a few, joined clubs and activities, and still had a lot of friends in other colleges and departments. And big D1 football.

Yeah, I think you’re overthinking it. They could’ve made a better choice of phrase, but I’m pretty sure they just mean to let students know that they’ll be challenged–as pretty much any engineering curriculum SHOULD do.

One thing to look into with RH is merit. As a reference my son got offered a half scholarship. But we were not convinced it was for 4 years. I don’t have my old notes or the offer sheet anymore. If that matters to you ask the question.
They look at the math and English section of the Act etc. GPA and test scores was really all they cared about it seemed.

Since you mentioned the objective aspect of SAT scores, you may want to note RHIT’s math section profile in particular. At a middle-range of 660-780, it overlaps with those of the most selective schools in the country. If your son fares well in comparison to even this high standard, I’d expect him to be fine at RHIT.

That’s a good point.

He took the act in ~April. Got a 34…30 in math. He felt good about it so he did not take it again… He had not done well on the English PSAT so studied English before the test but not so much math… And he was only part of the way through precalculus when he took the exam. That’s like a 660/670 SAT… So definitely the low end of that range. If he had finished precalculus it might have helped… Got a late start so is on grade level in math vs his peers in his science classes… I’ve pushed him not to worry about that and just learn the math. Taking calc this year and I think he should take it again in college…not sure AP calc in high school is the same as a college calc class.

In that light, I don’t know if kids study a ton and take the act 3 times to get those scores our they are just better at math. I think if he studied the math ACT book and took the test now that he has finished precalculus he would definitely do better.

But I guess that’s the reason for my concern. Are all these kids brilliant, looking to be hit with impossible problems…and not just plugging away and reading their text book? Mine is plugging away, doing his HW, and needs to study for his high school tests.

To establish this in terms of the test format that corresponds to your son’s results, I should have stated RHITs middle-range profile for the math ACT, which registers at 28-34. If this were the only figure with which you could compare your son’s academic level, he certainly places respectably with his score of 30, even compared to this, RHITs toughest metric.

A successful year of AP calculus in high school (AB, with a score of 4 or 5) should, in general, equate to a semester of college calculus that would not need to be repeated. Your son can inquire with his college advisor for appropriate placement of course.

Your son’s efforts to achieve in HS should offer him an advantage in college, even though it may not necessarily seem that way to him at this time. Based on what you’ve written, he’d have little reason to feel intimidated by the general intellectual climate at RHIT.

I know quite a few very happy Rose kids. Work there is HARD, no question, but they seem to thrive in the environment. Do they offer overnight visits. I know my son attended classes when he visited. Maybe admissions could put him in touch with a few students who could talk to him about their experiences. My kids found those contacts very helpful.

Out of curiosity, if he’s looking at small engineering schools with awesome maker spaces, has he looked into Olin. Very similar subset of kids.

Let us know what you find.

I don’t like the word “brutalize” either. I think they could have come up with a better way to say “challenged”, which is the reality for almost all engineering students in almost all programs.

I agree with the idea of sitting in on some classes. You can really get a feel for a school watching the interactions between students and profs.

Thanks - these are really helpful suggestions. If he gets in I’ll definitely ask about visiting again and talking to students, and I’m feeling much better about him applying after all this feedback. We did just visit OLIN also and he would definitely be happy there, It looks like a terrific place to learn and the right kind of project based environment. However, that seems like an even more distant reach, so not something to put on the list as anything but a complete lottery. He will definitely apply to both as well as several safer choices.

“I don’t like the word “brutalize” either. I think they could have come up with a better way to say “challenged”, which is the reality for almost all engineering students in almost all programs.”

I completely agree. This is a school I would like DD to consider, but if she sees that’s how the college describes itself - in addition to the fact that RH already has a low female population - it’ll be game over. OTOH “very challenging” is a whole different story, and completely in line with her expectations.

– RHIT brochure

– Ronald Reagan

Summarizing the on-line and direct message feedback from people with more experience including direct experience with students at Rose-Hulman.

This marketing message does resonate with some - implying a serious challenge and rigorous education. For those it does not resonate with (soft-hearted parents included), the feedback I have received leaves me with the impression that while Rose-Hulman is very challenging, it does not have a brutal culture, it’s possible for a solid student to thrive there, and it sounds as though the students who attend the school and the administration are very supportive. This is the way the school came across during the tour. It also sounds like they are willing to have students talk to other students and perhaps sit in on classes to get a better feel for the school.
I guess the take away is that marketing is hard - not every message appeals to everyone. Thanks very much to everyone for the constructive input.

Just talked to the parent a of a RH grad. She was thrilled what the school had done for here son, years later. Sounds like he was a reasonably smart kid, but didn’t have the best stats going in due to some academic malaise as a Freshman and So. in HS.

I wouldn’t be worried. I can think of many more “brutal” schools.