LACs: Bates vs. Colby vs. Whitman

S21 interested in English, CS, and maybe film. Would maybe like to be on the west coast after graduation, but just a guess. Only applied to LACs, and happy to be rural after growing up in NYC. Definitely likes outdoors (hiking, kayaking, skiing, climbing, etc.). Would prefer warmer climate, but not deal breaker. Money not an issue (but, see below, $60k is $60k). Smart, quirky, non-partier, introverted but wants to meet people. Also wants to play in bands (jazz, symphonic).

Bates College: Likes focus on community and impact. Seems more open to quirky kids. Doesn’t mind Lewiston. CS seems pretty limited. Film is combined with rhetoric.
Colby College: Likes CS structure, film program. Likes Waterville more than Lewiston. Impressed by dynamism (art museum, arts center in Waterville, etc.).
Whitman College: Has $15k/year in merit aid. Hasn’t been to visit (debating whether to go). Has spent time in Washington but in mountains and along the coast (very different). Great music program (but he doesn’t want to major). Nervous about rising admit rates, dropping yield.

On the waitlists at Bowdoin, Davidson, and Hamilton, as well. Bowdoin is #1 choice (great town, Digital & Computational Studies major). Not sure that Davidson or Hamilton beats out what he already has. Already declined other offers/waitlists (got waitlisted at six places).

Inclined to turn down Whitman without visiting because the “gap” between Bates/Colby and Whitman just seems too big, but not sure if that is parental obsession with status. REALLY not sure how to pick between Bates and Colby, though waiting for Colby’s admitted students events (virtual) starting next weekend.

Welcome any thoughts.

I don’t know much about Bates or Whitman, but S18 is a CS and Econ major at Colby. He did not initially intend to study CS, but took one class and loved it, so he stuck with it. I have been impressed by the dept. and professors. He will be an Artificial Intelligence Intern this summer at a multi-billion dollar company. One of his professors went out of his way to make the introduction that made the opportunity possible. S18 is also introverted, but made friends quickly at Colby. Good luck! All great schools - can’t make a bad decision!!

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My D graduated from Bates last year and received the same scholarship to Whitman back in 2016. She ultimately decided against Whitman for a number of reasons. (As an aside, in her junior year, she studied abroad with several Whitties and loved them. She thinks she would have liked it, but doesn’t regret not going there.) D did not consider Colby as she felt the vibe wasn’t right for her.

Your comments about Bates–“Likes focus on community and impact. Seems more open to quirky kids. Doesn’t mind Lewiston. CS seems pretty limited. Film is combined with rhetoric”–are pretty accurate, though I believe Bates is expanding its CS offerings pretty quickly. D did a couple of film classes and rhetoric. She loved rhetoric and her favorite class ever was about analyzing Japanese monster movies.

Re Lewiston, has your S looked at this thread? The Horrible Misconception about Lewiston
Many students actually like Lewiston. :blush: My D came to love Lewiston, and I think it’s true for most Bates kids. Bates has a lively art scene and the Museum of Art has great exhibits.

One thing I love about Bates is that it prides itself on being inclusive. Any student can join any club, there has never been greek life, and it was founded by abolitionists.

Re the students, I would describe them as a big mix of kids from urban and rural places, friendly, outdoorsy, creative, cool or nerdy or both, liberal, and intelligent. They take their studies seriously, as do students at all the NESCAC’s. Professors have high expectations. The learning environment is collaborative rather than cutthroat. I also think Bates thesis requirement is a huge bonus. It’s something concrete which they can put on resumes as a big project which requires much work.

My D had a great experience and loved her profs and fellow students. You can read more here about why we felt a Bates education was right for her: How Bates prepared my student for her future - #3 by Lindagaf

Feel free to message me if you have further questions about Bates.

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Does your son prefer Digital and Computational Studies (as at Bates) as a major, or traditional computer science (as at Colby)?

Thank you @xyz123a and @Lindagaf – exactly the kinds of perspective I was hoping for. @Lindagaf, I may come back for more (we haven’t been viewing combining rhetoric and film as a good thing, honestly). And he did like Lewiston more than I expected, just not as much as Brunswick and even Waterville (he likes the main street feel of both).

@merc81 He’s definitely not interested in “straight” CS right now. The Colby major makes it clear there is a “straight” CS track and a data/visualization/applied track (based on the various courses required), and he’s much more interested in the latter. I think the DCS major at Bates scares us all a little because there seems to be so little CS backbone, just the more humanities / social sciences perspectives. Since Bowdoin has both CS and DCS, the ability to get at least a decent CS foundation but then focus on the applied DCS options is appealing (he does NOT like the straight CS major there, but only the DCS major). But honestly he can always get more CS training later through General Assembly, etc. – this is supposed to be a liberal arts education by design.

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I didn’t mean to imply that my D took rhetoric combined with movies, haha.

Re Bowdoin, encourage your son not to invest too much thought into the waitlist. He hasn’t been accepted there, and getting off waitlists is very difficult. He can send a LOCI and maybe do a follow up email after May 1, but he should get excited about the places he’s been accepted to. All three are excellent choices.

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100%. Did the research. Send the LOCI. Said he’d definitely take Bowdoin. Now trying to ignore it completely.

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Hi…no expert, but D17 went to Whitman and S21 headed to Bates. He was very drawn to the collaborative nature of Bates.
I can’t tell you much about CS at Whitman, not in D17’s wheelhouse. The campus is kind of remote, but in a really lovely smaller town. Walla Walla actually made the Wine Spectator’s top ten list of places to visit a few years back. There are some terrific (parent priced) places to eat should you be visiting and several places that serve an unbelievable breakfast (more affordable).
Whitman is the friendliest campus I’ve ever visited. Stop and look at a map—someone will ask if they can help. D17 was interested in art, so we headed to the art building when we visited. A senior walking by offered to take her on a tour of the senior studios and an art professor came into the hall, asked about her interests and showed her some of his new work.
There is a great outdoors program, a super indoor climbing wall. They send a bunch of kids to grad school…there is a lot to like, but I can’t really speak to CS. I think some students have expressed concern that the administration is putting too much money into CS and hard science at the expense of some liberal arts programs (maybe a dance major being eliminated next year?) I’m happy to answer (or ask my daughter) if you have any specific questions.
S21 was planning to apply to Colby also—but decided Bates a better match for his personality and applied ED. Maybe it was our tour guide, or the presentation, but we didn’t get the same collaborative feeling at Colby as we got at Bates.

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My recent Colby grad had lots of opportunities to do music things (and only one was for credit.) There’s an active student band culture (which is facilitated by school instruments, amps, etc.) in addition to opportunities through the music department.

Not CS, so can’t speak to that major. Overall, he found it very collaborative and had a lot of engagement with profs (including those who had students over for dinners.) Curiously, the ones he connected with best were outside his major. I really liked the way this “fed” intellectual curiosity.

The career office was extremely helpful as well.

He ended up deciding between Bates and Colby and they vied for the top of his list throughout the application process. I suspect he’d have been just as happy at Bates. For him, the structure of the program in his expected (and ultimately actual) major was more to his liking at Colby.

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FWIW, S21 has ended up committing to Colby. We all agreed that if it was 100% about location, he’d go to Whitman. And if it was 100% about culture, he’d go to Bates. After Colby’s admitted students programming last weekend (which was generally very good), and separate conversations with a faculty member and a current sophomore, he felt that the “culture gap” between Colby and Bates was pretty small, and that Colby’s other advantages for his personal interests more than made up for them. Clear that all three are really great schools, and he’s lucky to have had such options.

Thanks everyone for the comments, suggestions, and assistance. This has been a really awful year to be helping a child navigate the college process (especially since the HS guidance counselors for him are worse-than-useless).

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Congratulations!

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Congrats! There was no bad choice!

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Where did your son end up going?

The OP’s son chose Colby.

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Yes, he’s at Colby. My assessment 3/4 of the way through one year (without knowing what things would be like at Bates or Whitman):

  • Exceptionally happy to have a strong but liberal arts inspired CS program.
  • He quickly found his “people” on campus, through mostly idiosyncratic channels.
  • The party culture on campus IS pretty strong, though he’s been happy mostly skipping it. I don’t know if he feels he is missing out, but he’s never wanted a massive friend group. His roommates are hoping for substance free housing next year.
  • Like many other similar schools, Colby overenrolled last year. But given announcements about the scale of new housing being built, Colby might actually be choosing to grow and make 600+ a normal class size. Just a guess, but LOTS of new dorm space opening temp in fall / winter and permanent in a few years.
  • Colby uses a TON of visiting faculty. He’s actually had classes from three and they have all been wonderful. But it seems odd that the school seems to have far fewer permanent faculty than they need. I hope that changes — I don’t love the idea of incredibly high levels of faculty turnover, when thinking about picking thesis advisors or the like.
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@nyreader, so glad your kid is happy.

Mine was a '20 grad and never had a visiting prof! Wondering if this had anything to do with covid as so many faculty at so many schools were reluctant about in person teaching? Or if it’s related to specific departments? Or meeting the needs of more kids who stayed on campus rather than going abroad?

Over-enrollment is impacted by students who couldn’t go abroad because of covid and had to stay on campus. I thought I had read that they were going to 550 but your # could be right. Waterville doesn’t have an abundance of overflow housing like Boston or Durham (places where I know kids who were “forced” into alternate housing) might when this happens. I didn’t realize they were building more housing.

Hope your DS continue to enjoy his time on Mayflower Hill!

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Thank you!!

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Great points. I also wonder if some senior faculty took leaves due to Covid but are planning to come back when it abates, thereby creating the need for temporary replacement profs.

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My Colby senior is a CS major with minors in Econ and Math. He has not had visiting professors, but his favorite CS prof. has been on sabbatical for the last two years (working locally with Northeastern’s Roux institute) and will be returning next year. Some visiting profs may have been used to teach his classes. My son has had a very good experience with his thesis advisor. He sought out a prof who has a lot of experience in the area he is studying. She was enthusiastic to help him and has invested a lot of time guiding him through the process.

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Very helpful. And yes, with a small CS department one person being away makes a noticeable difference. There may be some increase in the use of visiting faculty due to higher enrollments, but it was definitely present when we looked at the course catalog from 2020-2021. Covid? Random and specific to classes we looked at (like CS)? Part of an overall higher than expected use of visiting faculty? No clue.

Again, he’s had classes with three visiting faculty among his first eight classes, and LOVED each of them. So this isn’t about quality, just about potential continuity.

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