Ugly and run-down campus

Hello everyone, so my DS was fortunate enough to get into a top LAC in the East coast, which is his first choice to attend. We visited the campus “unofficially” on Friday and I can’t get over how old and run-down the buildings looked. The campus was not aesthetically pleasing. I realize that the overcast weather had a great deal to do with its appearance. The campus looks much better on the school’s website,when all the trees have leaves and the grass is green. However, many of the dorms were built in the 1960s and just clash horribly with the grand buildings of the 19th century. I know this sounds terribly snobby, but it looks like my son will be living in a Motel 6. (My husband actually made this observation and I agreed.) I am first-generation middle-class and on occasion have stayed in a motel 6. It’s not where I prefer to spend my hard-earned money. I usually go for the moderate Hampton Inn, lol. Now that I have to pay almost 50k (after financial aid) I feel so distressed about dropping him off to live like that. We did not get to see the inside of the buildings (the outside was bad enough!) but there are several Youtube tours of the student dormitories. Everything looks so old and weathered. I realize it is tough to keep up these buildings with all the wear and tear they get from a rowdy age group. But other colleges have done a better job. My son looked disappointed as well but was trying hard not to show it. Or maybe he was more upset at our reaction. I get that we are paying mostly for the education and degree, but is it unreasonable to expect better living conditions, possibly to the point of persuading my son to go to his second choice (another great LAC)? Has anyone else experienced this? I also realize it is my son who will be living like this, not me. It’s the thought of spending so much money on subpar living conditions that’s driving me crazy. Also, it is required that all students live on campus all four years. Any thoughts will be appreciated.

What does the student think about the campus physical plant at the unnamed school in question and at the other unnamed school in question?

If he was turned off by the physical plant at this school but not the other school, then he may make the decision himself without you doing anything to persuade him.

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It’s a reasonable reaction. Also why costs for college are sky-rocketing. Colleges aren’t unaware that making their campus look like a country club makes them more attractive to families who can afford to be full-pay.


I hope I can name the schools without getting in trouble. His first choice is Wesleyan University. His second choice is Swarthmore College. The Swarthmore campus was gorgeous in every way. But my son feels that he will fit in better with the student body at Wes. The academic pressure seems too intense at Swarthmore from everything he’s been hearing. Also, grade deflation is a concern for him as he is premed. Swarthmore has a reputation for this as well. He knows the academics will be tough at Wes but he thinks that the campus culture just deals with it differently. The negative aesthetics have not changed his mind, it has just put an uncomfortable damper on things, sort of like he is settling for something. He is not as excited.

Wesleyan doesn’t seem to be responding to this trend.

You didn’t have to name the college, since pretty much everyone says the same thing about the buildings they encounter when entering from the west:


Might your family have had a different overall impression if you had entered from a different side of campus?

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LOl, that’s one of them and about three other similar dormitory buildings, encompassing about 1/4 of the main campus circle. What were they thinking?

Resources has something to do with it.

Wesleyan doesn’t have an endowment close in size to the WASP LACs (especially on a per capita basis).

The colleges that can keep up with the Jones are doing so (actually, in this case, Swarthmore would be one of the Joneses).

I too have heard that Swarthmore is a GPA-killer.

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We had a very similar reaction to Wesleyan. The dorms were truly depressing and the arts buildings were really off-putting as well. The grounds didn’t seem well-kept. That, and the fact that the dance studios were well off-campus & seemed really small (though because we were self-touring we may have missed something) pretty much took it off my D22’s list. We saw it after seeing Mt. Holyoke & Vassar (again just walking around last summer, no official tours) both of which are gorgeous and well-kept. That said, we know kids who are attending/have attended Wes and it does seem to be a truly special place. On paper it’s a good fit for my daughter, but neither of us liked it (and yes, we came in from the other side of campus, starting at the admissions office).

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@ORivygrad I knew right away you were describing Wes before I even got to the post where you said it!

D20 attends another top LAC in the east and was stunned and thrilled to be assigned a room in one of the brand new dorms (students literally only lived there for the fall and a few weeks last spring before being sent home). The building is gorgeous and looks like a 5 star hotel. Let’s just say the general behavior on her floor resulted in a bill for her portion of shared damages (split among all residents on the floor unless someone confesses) for the fall semester to replace water bottle filling stations that had been pulled off the walls, broken furniture, painting, and cleaning above and beyond “customary”. The “facade” of the building and rooms isn’t what makes her experience, and doesn’t make up for the frustration of living with others who are disrespectful. She chose her school based on academics and professors, which are terrific. Her living conditions are temporary but her education is forever.


OMG! I swear as soon as I read your first post I thought of Wesleyan! Hahaha!

I wouldn’t worry. He’s going to be fine. Kids adjust to anything. There are soooo many elite colleges with crappy dorms. And fwiw, the dorm we saw at Swat looked like a flophouse, not kidding. The dorm we saw at Wes was actually nice, though the whole campus could do with some TLC. Let’s just say that whatever they are doing with their endowment, which is large, it’s not being spent on a country club finish. Wesleyan is a great school and he’s going to love his fellow students, his professors, and Middletown.


So, my D was the opposite on college tours. We saw some truly awful dorms but if the engineering facilities, makers spaces, and labs were state of the art, that was all that mattered. FWIW, I appreciated the schools that showed us the worst dorms instead of the best, where no freshmen even live.

If your son isn’t bothered, let it go. The academics and fit are more important.


100%! We saw some colleges with incredibly swanky dorms, which always turned out to be for upperclassmen. Fair enough. But some of the most prestigious colleges had the worst dorms. I’m looking at you, Hamilton, Swat, Northeastern…

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We’ve probably toured 30-40 schools the past few years including summer programs (not Wesleyan). Wide range of dorms, even at the same school. As long as there isn’t mold or a rodent problem it will be OK. Kids adapt. How’s the food might be a better question.

Fit, professors, labs, and being surrounded by his tribe is much more important. S20 ended up at GT. The saying is “you don’t go to GT for the accomodations”. The dorms are just OK. The food is awful. If your son has found his home, smile and tell him go with your blessings.

One more thought…pretty much every school had at least one new, modern dorm that they showed everyone (Pitt Nordenberg). When you tour ask to see the worst dorm. That will tell you more about the accomodations.


Not sure about Wesleyan, but some top privates spend significantly more than the full tuition per student (and some barely break even on R&B). If we want to complain about the high cost of higher education in this country, shouldn’t we also have to prioritize what is important?

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My son’s freshman dorm was like a fine hotel… Everything about it was wonderful. Then he moved into university apartments on campus. They looked like ww2 shelters to me. Inside just blah… He could care less! Remember that. The students could care less. You and your husband aren’t going to college. You are paying for the education. If you want a beautiful college go to Wash. Lol :kissing_smiling_eyes:


If considered by a combination of architectural variety and accessible scale, Hamilton may offer the best residence halls in the country. These represent examples from different sides of its campus; all are available to first-year students:

For interior images, see available slideshows:


Could be worse - my son’s first year room at Oxford was the converted attic of a 15th century building. The last flight of stairs (four) were incredibly steep and the wood was worn from years of use. Top of the door was slanted to match the roof line and you had to stoop to get in without banging your head. Shared bath on the stair landing had a single enormous tub and no heat. He survived. In fairness to Worcester, he also had the most beautiful college quad and gardens in Oxford.


I’m referring to the inside. The dorm we saw at Hamilton was soooo bad. It came with the added bonus of smell-o-vision and used red Solo cups. It was a suite for four guys. Let’s just say that the parents were very amused. At Swat, the dorm was super basic, but with the added bonus of boxes of condoms tacked up on several walls. Hey, good for them, glad they are responsible. My kids were never bothered by the dorms.