Is Earlham a school for slackers?!

Like many here, we are still waiting for those EA decisions! Arrrgggh! The waiting really IS the hardest part! My son has applied to Earlham, Lawrence, Willamette, Puget Sound & Wooster. Last I checked he was planning to apply to Whitman and Colorado College by Jan. 15, however–I believe these are both reaches due to a lackluster math score on the SAT, which brought down his overall score. Puget Sound is an outlier–I seriously doubt they would give him enough financial aid. Although I love the location, the PacRim program and the outdoor-themed housing for freshmen, the administration has actually been rude (at worst) or disengaged (at best) in their correspondence–so I feel like they are not really a contender at this point. My son has a negative impression of Wooster. He’s a big reddit user and there was a huge community discussion there about rape culture that turned him off. Rationally, he knows he shouldn’t judge the entire school based on social media reaction, but we were not able to visit the campus this summer so unfortunately, he’s got few competing images of the place.

We did visit CC, Lawrence and Earlham. We were both underwhelmed by Earlham but loved the first two. My son had originally planned to major in music, but he has an unconventional background (no band, homeschooled for the past 2 years, mostly self-taught) so he did not feel prepared to audition just yet. However, he definitely wants to take theory and composition classes. His second main interest–Japanese–has moved to the forefront in the past month. For this reason, Earlham & Willamette have moved up on his list. In fact, he talks about Earlham a lot lately. I think he likes that it is small & does not have Greek life. He’s also very excited at the thought of doing their August Wilderness program before starting the fall semester. My son is on the spectrum & does not make friends easily. He does best in small groups. As far as the music offerings, between the two it seems that Earlham is the better fit. Because we’ve never visited Willamette, we don’t have the visceral connection that only a live visit can provide. However, we are well aware that the school’s location would put him in a very different (and beautiful) place to explore the outdoors. He has grown up in Austin, Texas so all of these locations would be different for him (which he is thrilled by).

Although this is all speculative since we haven’t received offers yet, I feel like Earlham is a safe bet. We got a call this week that made it sound like they were putting together an aid package. That’s exciting, but of all his schools, Earlham ranks the lowest in terms of graduation rates and student satisfaction (at least according to Niche). My understanding is that it was once a well-respected institution, but that it has declined in recent years. I’m also concerned about their financial health. I think it’s great that they have a large international population, but at the same time, different cultures come with a different set of social cues–which is challenging for my kid. Finally, it seems to be a “safety school” for a lot of students. My son is an intellectual by nature, but he is not competitive, per se. His stats are such that he could have applied to some more well known LACs, but did not because he struggles with anxiety and we didn’t think that would end well.

I’m hoping he can visit his top two choices in the spring and do some overnights, and I know that will tell him more than any responses I get here, but I won’t be doing the overnights! (They don’t allow parents to go, right? Lol) In a way, I feel like it will come down to Lawrence vs. Earlham and there are sooooo many things we love about LU, but Earlham seems to have the superior offerings in Japanese, although I realize LU students have that Waseda connection as well. My understanding is that if he chose that degree at LU, it would be more focused on East Asian Studies as opposed to language/linguistics. Ultimately it will be his decision, but I really can’t get a sense of the student culture at Earlham. I’d hate for him to end up in a place full of students who are bummed out that they ended up at their “last choice” school.

Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide!

Earlham’s admissions yield compares favorably to that of Lawrence:

Regarding Lawrence, East Asian studies, though broader than language studies, would not preclude the opportunity for serious language study.

Earlham is not a slacker school!! The vibe I’ve gotten from the Earlham people I’ve met is that they are very intellectually-minded and a bit quirky. In terms of the “student culture,” I think the Quaker values and midwestern setting have a big influence - it’s a small, friendly, community-oriented school. I didn’t totally understand your comment about the Reddit thread, but if you mean that your son has little patience for discussions about rape culture and other social justice issues, it might not be the best fit - I get the sense that it’s a fairly progressive/socially aware school.

@lalalemma Oh no, political activism is a good thing! I wouldn’t go so far as to call my son a “feminist” per se, but he cast his first vote this presidential election for a woman: Jill Stein. I think he might be annoyed at an over the top school like Oberlin (in terms of the political correctness) but I believe his response to Wooster’s supposed “rape culture” was about the fact that he’d feel uncomfortable in an environment with so many other men who aren’t aware of (or consciously disregard) the boundaries of women. Thanks for your thoughts on Earlham–that’s good to know.

For a number of reasons, I have gotten to know several Earlham students and grads and feel like all of them have been really impressive. Not, in fact, what I would have expected if I had looked at the ranking alone. Most definitely not slackers! DS went back for the overnight revisit and found the participation and energy in the classroom to be high and the students to be friendly and down to earth and non-conformist. While he ultimately opted for a different school, all of us were impressed with this school. (And one of his “super smart” classmates did attend.)

We visited Lawrence, Earlham (and Wooster) multiple times with my son, a musician and athlete. We thought the facilities at Earlham were gorgeous, a lot of very nice renovations and new construction. We are in Indiana so know a bunch of kids who are at Earlham, and I wouldn’t call it a slacker environment at all, much more of a collaborative and “chill” environment. My kid enjoyed the student engagement in the class he attended (poli sci, I think). Earlham has a very diverse student body, with a fairly high international population-- our understanding, which may not explain fully graduation rates, is that international students may take a year off and then return.

I would also say, at least in Indiana, Earlham’s reputation is at least the same if not better. Its endowment is quite healthy, and there has been steady work on the physical plant.

As for Lawrence, my kid was interested in playing as a non-major or as a minor, and was very encouraged by the opportunities for lessons with Conservatory faculty and open auditions for ensembles.

Bottom line, they are both terrific schools and communities. Weather might be a little less of an adjustment at Earlham than at Lawrence.

I’ve heard only good things about Earlham as well, from someone who gave up a position at Bowdoin to attend Earlham. S/he loved the vibe and was very happy there. I consider it a hidden gem and wonder why it’s not higher on many people’s lists. Maybe because it’s sort of a bluish school in a carmine-colored state . . . .? Because the Oberlin/ Kenyon/ Wooster-interested folks should really drive a few more miles west to take a look at Earlham. It offers a lot, IMO.

My daughter was accepted at Earlham but enrolled elsewhere. One of the things that impressed her in her campus visit was sitting in on a class that was doing group presentations. She felt the basketball players were working just as hard on theirs as the other students.

She did feel the school was too small for her in the end, though. Also the shuttle driver taking her to the airport on the trip back made an offhand remark that rubbed her the wrong way. As a parent, it seemed like a silly reason to reject a school, but maybe no more silly than other things that kids consider when choosing a school.

Thank you all so much for this feedback! It’s so tough when this school has a bit of what you want and another has a bit of something else…it’s almost like choosing a mate! Ha. I suppose no place (just like no person) will be “perfect.” Earlham must only offer overnights to accepted students–I had inquired early on…before he’d even applied…and I don’t think anyone answered me! I must say, Lawrence wins the award for most gracious, thoughtful and caring staff. Every time I have emailed them about something they always go above and beyond with their responses & everyone has seemed genuinely interested in us and our questions/concerns.

@Basbleu , the ov was offered after admission. We only encountered one school that allowed it pre-acceptance. I’d imagine it can be a bit challenging, especially in a smaller school, to host prospects (and be responsible for them.) Definitely visit in the spring on the accepted student days; it’s likely to be easier to decide at that point. The Japanese program at Earlham has a great reputation as does the music program at Lawrence, so yes, there’s a choice as to focus. Good luck!

Thanks so much! We have pretty substantial financial need so who knows, the decision may be made for him! This week will be so long. :slight_smile:

The international student count at Earlham is a bit misleading - they bring in a large number of one-year Japanese students who tend to stick together and don’t integrate much with the rest of the student body.

The fact that Earlham exists in VERY conservative Richmond Indiana means more than one might think. For example, the incarceration rate in that county is MANY times greater than the national average and arrests for students occur in situations that would not result in arrest in other parts of the country (e.g., so-called public intoxication). In fact, my nephew had a friend who was arrested IN his dorm room because he was drunk, got sick in the room, and someone called campus security instead of the RA and when campus security decided to NOT awaken any of his friends to sit up with him in case he got ill again, they chose to call the local police, who promptly arrested him and took him to jail. So yes, the poor kid (who clearly made a bad choice to drink too much) was arrested in his own dorm room.

The biggest concern that I heard about is that, despite having some perfectly wonderful people working there, the various “groups” on campus do not communicate with one another (faculty, disability services, student health, advisers) and so for students needing a little extra help, there was no way to coordinate resources.

Actually there are only about 20 Japanese 1-year students compared to a total of about 220 int’l students. Earlham truly has one of the highest % of int’l students around. While that may present challenges for @Basbleu’s S, it was a major plus for my D. The retention rates for int’l students are slightly better than for domestic, not sure about graduation rates.

Earlham sends a huge contingent of students onward to earn PhDs, no slackers there. I did not pick up any sense of Earlham being anyone’s begrudging last choice. On the contrary, students and parents were brimming with eagerness and excitement. Freshmen were champing at the bit in their readiness to dive into Japanese language study & go abroad.

Rather than fading compared to previous glory, I think Earlham is on an upward trend. The retention & graduation rstes gave me pause but were not deal-breakers. Some kids just may find it too small or the sports not competitive enough or not like being surrounded by Indiana countryside, etc.

I could not find anything to corroborate @profdad2021’s assertions about crime, incarceration, and arrests of students, and they seem rather opposite to my and my D’s personal experiences.

On the issue of Japanese 1-year students - I didn’t know the exact numbers. Thanks for posting. But the relevant comparison would have been the number of Japanese 1-year exchange students versus the number of Japanese “regular” international students.

The actual arrest story was a word-of-mouth one-time story. I thought my post was clear. I don’t know how often this occurs and importantly, neither does Earlham. As I understand the story I was relaying in my previous post, administrators at Earlham had no clue about this student’s arrest until the student himself conveyed the information. When the student was taken from the dorm room, the understanding was that he was being taken to the hospital because campus police did not want him left alone.

On the broader issue of how the police conduct themselves and use arrest and incarceration differently in counties in indiana than in the rest of the country, see the article below. It is not intended to be scary to mention this - it just reflects one aspect of the broader community that parents ought to be aware of. This general topic has been in the news a LOT recently, in the wake of the recent presidential election, in discussions of the quality of life in rural areas in very red states.

So the article includes a graph showing huge increase in incarceration in ONE Indiana county, NOT Wayne County where Earlham is located, over the course of 11 years, while the total Indiana incarceration rate hardly budged…

I’m sorry but your recounting of the alleged incident at Earlham does not meet my standards of credibilty. I’ll accept that perhaps it happened, perhaps not, perhaps the details have become scrambled. Pretty much every college on earth has some such story, some documented, some not.

profdad, have you been to Richmond Indiana?

Go back to the article. The article shows incarceration rates by county for every county in the United States. Move your mouse over to Wayne county. The rate is VERY high, despite having fallen in recent years. It is WELL above national averages. . Of course, this only means what it means.

And the arrest I described DID happen, in the way that I described, despite failing to pass your credibility standards. (By the time that the story was recounted to me, it had been researched diligently.) Of course, that incident only means what it means. Nothing more, nothing less.

Yes I have been to Richmond, a handful of times in recent years, for a variety of reasons (both professional and personal).

In my view, it is OK to talk about concerns related to a college or its local community, even when the college is much beloved by many. My recollection of Earlham is that the student/faculty interactions are wonderful.

Already, I think this one point has been over-discussed given the topic of this thread. I mentioned the incarceration rate issue as just one aspect of several items to consider. Didn’t mean to start an entire discussion. THAT could be an entirely different thread! So this is just a heads up - I’m done discussing this issue on this thread. NOT to be rude, but instead, to keep the thread closer to the topic of the original post.

I appreciate all voices. We are in the red state of Texas, albiet in the relatively low crime and liberal mecca of Austin. There is no perfect, utopian college OR city. All of us need to learn how to exist in the real world and actually–if you think about it, going to college in an area where there are serious challenges in regard to race, unemployment, crime…this could be seen as a great opportunity for hardworking idealists.

My oldest graduated from Earlham about three years ago, and had a great experience there. I would say Earlham students were very motivated intellectually, but not at all competitive. There is a very down to earth feel there, and genuinely close relationships between students and professors. Everyone we had contact with during his time there was incredibly nice and helpful, and now that I have experience with two other small liberal arts schools I can honestly say Earlham was the best in this regard. The Quaker values seem to contributes to it being a very supportive environment.

Also, lots of graduates pursue higher education, it’s not at all a slacker school.

I don’t know about all of the music offerings, but I know my son enjoyed the ensembles he was involved with. Lots of talented kids.

While I don’t doubt that the police incident mentioned in this thread happened, it’s certainly not a common thing. In fact, it seemed as though the approach to drinking was generally supportive rather than punitive, especially when compared to some other schools I am aware of.

Finally, you didn’t mention if your son is interested in traveling, but Earlham has its own great study abroad program.

If you have any other questions about Earlham, I’m a first year student studying biochemistry and Japanese. I’d definitely recommend coming here, they have a great Japanese program and the professors are friendly and understanding. It’s not a slacker school, there are a few people who don’t care too much, but everyone I know is smart and dedicated to their studies. Overall, students here are friendly and accepting (participating in August wilderness is an easy way to make friends). Also, I wouldn’t worry about Richmond, I lived in Cincinnati for a few years, but I grew up in Richmond and it’s completely safe.