Please share "Campus Vibes" for Brown, Davidson, Duke, Vandy, Wake, Yale and/or GW

The title says it all.

Note: We were able to visit Davidson, Duke, Wake and GW but not Brown, Vandy, or Yale.
Any answers you can provide to the questions below would be greatly appreciated. We are researching lots online but…I want to hear from those who have been there with their own ears/eyes, etc.

S21 is currently working on these school apps (as well as two FL schools) but…IF we consider ED then we need more info on fit.

I found a Vibe check on Reddit, so I’m unabashedly including the questions here that would likely help S, DH and I learn specific vibes about these schools:

(1) Why did you (or your S/D) choose this school?
(2) What is your school known for? What is its reputation?
(3) Is this reputation accurate?
(4) What are you (or S/D) involved with on campus?
(5) What do you think your school offers that no other school does?
*(6) What kinds of people do you think would love your school?
*(7) What kinds of people do you think would hate your school?
(8) Do you like your school? Why/Why not?
(9) Your college’s biggest strengths. What do students appreciate about their school/take for granted?
(10) Your college’s biggest weaknesses? What do students complain about the most? What would an admissions counselor never tell you?

(* - I especially am looking for answers to these questions.)

S21 is a strong (but not exceptional - no national awards or anything!) applicant. Full-pay. Hispanic (adopted), and will submit scores (ACT35, etc).

Many thanks for ANY f/b you can share!!!

Of the schools on that list, my S19 applied to Yale, Vanderbilt and Brown and we had not visited any of those prior to applying. He was deferred and then rejected by Yale and accepted to Vanderbilt and Brown among others. He chose Vandy and has been very happy. I think it has a reputation as a southern Greek wealthy student body, and that is true to some extent. However, the students are quite diverse and come from many different backgrounds and parts of the country. Of my son’s initial close friend group of 10 guys, only he and his roommate (chosen randomly) were the only ones from the southeast (and roommate’s parents are not from the U.S.). Vandy is also known for having very happy and friendly student with a good quality of life. I observed this to be true when visiting - everyone was quite friendly and seemed happy. Of course Nashville has much to offer. I don’t think there is a type of student that wouldn’t like Vanderbilt - maybe super intellectual - but it seems there is something for everyone there. S19 is involved in a fraternity, a club sport, multiple clubs and leadership positions. Some students and parents complain about the food and some dorm issues in the older dorms, but most seem thrilled to be involved with the university. I’ve also been very impressed with how they have handled issues related to the pandemic.

S is a senior at Wake. I would describe the overall student body as very smart, active, successful, service oriented, and spirited. Lot of class presidents, vals, sals, team captains, leaders. Academics at Wake are quite challenging but the kids manage it well while doing lots of things. As an example, S is in a challenging major and does well while spending plenty of time participating in a business fraternity (leadership role), club baseball, intramural sports, mentoring younger students, and his first two yrs he worked in the Controller’s office 10 hours per week to cover his social money of which he spent regularly. He is fairly typical at Wake.

A unique or rather unusual characteristic of Wake is the combination of an LAC environment (small classes all taught by professors, close relationship with professors, residential & undergraduate emphasis which creates a tight knit community - required to live on campus three yrs) with a huge Power 5 sports program which gives it the best of both worlds. Tons of spirit and excitement of ACC sports, rivals, pride with that small school academic foundation. Smallest school in the Power 5.

S is a senior at Yale. Based on his and his friends’ personality and interests, they are the type of kids that want a diverse experience academically and socially but don’t want to be overwhelmed at Big U. S was a recruited athlete to half a dozen SLACs, but after visits, he felt the schools were too homogeneous. His suitemates have been STEM and humanities types, but I get the sense they like to hang and discuss any topic. I think a lot of kids pick Yale (and Harvard) because of the established residential college/house system that replicate a LAC social environment. I know other colleges have their version of residential colleges, but most are by application so the makeup tends to be less diverse. Many kids are work hard/play hard types, S included, but you can find a tribe of almost any stripe.

I think the kids that would not do well are ones that are very singularly focused on academics, primarily STEM. S was recruited by MIT and Caltech, and the time he spent on campus he described as being very STEM oriented. Even the beer chugging device he saw at MIT was a uniquely engineered device.

I would add that many at Wake tend to be work hard / play hard types and that you can also find your tribe regardless. Very well rounded kids as opposed to straight intellectuals.

@elena13 - Thank you for so much for sharing about your S19’s Vandy experience. Every detail you provided helps us form a better sense of the campus and students. I so wish we could have already visited. (Had to cancel reservations twice - once in Jan, another for March!) I like hearing that the kids are very happy and friendly. Any more thoughts about Greek life would be helpful. Should I assume that it is likely an imp piece to have S consider pursing? (I was in a sorority in college and adored it for the two years I was active before transferring to another school.) Does your S plan to stay on campus all 4 years? (I believe my S recalls hearing that from a rep who came to his high school a couple years ago). Did your S visit before accepting? Does he have any f/b on the Career counseling services? (for job placement and/or internships and/or post graduate school plans?)

Read the Yale Daily News’ “insiders Guide to College”. It will answer your questions. Excellent book, i even if not recently

@rickle1 - I can’t believe your S is a senior already. I remember you first telling me about your S a couple years back (he was headed overseas I believe for a semester?) Your S is very active. He obviously balances all of the demands and social activities well. My S immediately fell for Wake when we visited there his 10th grade year. We had planned to return again this past March. He has interviewed there and could certainly see himself at Wake. Do the kids go off campus much? I believe your S did not go Greek but was totally okay with that b/c he found a great group of kids in his dorms his first year? Has he used the career counseling services for assistance in whatever his plans are for after graduation? Did he ever get tired of the relatively small campus? (granted being overseas, and the pandemic took out a year or more of his time there…) Lastly, are there any kids there who are not big sports kids? My S is very physically active (NJROTC for 4 years) and likes to run and exercises daily, but…he has never watched an entire basketball game (or FB, or BB, etc). Crazy, I know (hubby and I watch lots of sports). He always says he’d rather play sports versus watch them. But I personally think that would change if he had a bunch of people he was attending games with (like WF bb). I think he’d be converted in that respect.

@BKSquared - The quote “he felt the schools were too homogeneous” (SLACS) resonates with me a bit. Okay, actually a lot. I appreciate you including that description. Diversity is huge to S. (After several years of private school, S asked us to let him leave his private school and transfer to that of a public school bc he was yearning for diversity and was not getting it where he was at.)

Thanks for the heads up about STEM. My S is actually a social sciences type (history/poli sci) who loves current events, being very involved on campus, and meeting new people, and trying new food (especially this) and new experiences. He always is seeking to improve and expand and not sit still too long with any one thing or person.

Many thanks for sharing some f/b. Yale has been a black hole of knowing much about it beyond that of “reading” or stereotypes so I yearn for real details from those who know it.
If you think of anything else to share, we are all ears!!! :slight_smile:

@jym626 - Awesome book tip. Thank you! Just ordered it!

@123Mom123 I sent you a PM so as not to hijack the thread.

Thanks. My post got cut off but you got the key part. Its a great book that describes the schools from the students’ perspective.

@123Mom123 - I do think most Vanderbilt students live on campus all four years and I was looking forward to that for my son. He loved the residential college system and the Commons area for freshmen (10 freshman dorms all together) is fantastic. Unfortunately, due to de-densifying the dorms this year because of Covid, he decided to live off campus this year. Hopefully he’ll be back on next year. He did go to an accepted students day in April of senior year and we were very impressed will all aspects of the school, including the location in Nashville.

With regard to Greek life, I think 40% of males at Vandy are involved. My S was very happy to pledge a fraternity where he felt great about the character of its members, but made it through pledging (they rush casually in the fall and pledging starts in Jan.) and then everything shut down. So he missed out on most of the events he was looking forward to in spring. Over the summer, there was much controversy and discussion (mostly through social media) about Greek life, with many Greek and non-Greek students and alums calling for abolishing Greek life on campus, due to the history of exclusion, unfair advantages gained by Greek students etc. S was involved in many zoom meetings and discussion listening to those who felt they were hurt by there being Greek life on campus. There was much debate about if/how Greek life could be reformed to be more inclusive to minority or lower SES students, with many believing getting rid of the whole system was the only option. It seems like it was an important issue to address, with a lot of healthy debate, and I think my S benefited from being involved. I don’t know where things stand at this point because coronavirus has limited any Greek activities that would have taken place this fall.

S hasn’t had much involvement with career services yet because it is the start of sophomore year for him. However, he has been applying for internships and clubs on campus as well as rushing a business fraternity. I get the impression that he has access to and information about a number of career related opportunities. I have heard good things about career services.

One of the unintended consequences of raising the drinking age to 21 has been the movement of “Friday/Saturday” night social life off campus, and IMO less safe party environment. This has also resulted in the reemergence of Greek life on campus. Prior to this, everything social was much more focused on the colleges. This is not to say that Greek life dominates the social scene. There are plenty of alternative social groups. S belongs to a frat (but one of those that is more diverse and reputationally is made up of “nice smart guys” - so he tells me). He also plays 2 club sports, participates in student government and co-leads a service organization. He was always this type, the very round social kid. Other students are more singularly focused and others have even more irons in the fire, but the point is Yale has the resources to give every student options in what they want to pursue and a large and diverse enough student population to create various critical masses.

I compare S’s group of friends with mine, and it is much more diverse. My circle of friends were almost all white middle and upper class. I had 2 gay friends, but I didn’t know they were gay until years later. At least 50% of S’s friends are non-white and his LGBTQ friends are openly so. He has some very wealthy friends and others on full aid.

One area that does not represent an improvement is a stifling of non-progressive points of view. My kids grew up in fly over land, and while my son would be considered liberal in his views here, he feels that he cannot freely express some opinions at school. We will talk about some stuff that goes on at campus and on campus SM that we both disagree with and I’ll ask him if he will respond. Too often it is “no, I’ll get blasted”. This is very different from my era when students proudly wore their political stripes and some of my best education was from free and respectful exchanges of views in the class rooms, dining halls and courtyard areas. This however not a problem unique to Yale.

D went to a NESCAC and it was definitely a different experience. Not better or worse. She was also a varsity athlete, so perhaps her more limited social group was a natural byproduct of her team pretty much sticking together. But walking through campus, it was pretty white. Socially, it was very much driven by Greek houses. D and her suitemates did not pledge, but they were a bit of their own contained social group and they had friends at the houses. Her other set of friends were fellow majors. D was never as social as S, so this more tightly knit environment was right for her.