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Campus Culture

JerseyGirl2001JerseyGirl2001 1 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
My daughter and I visited Wesleyan recently and loved it. It would probably be a reach school for her and would only have a good shot at getting in if she applied early decision. The counselor that we have been working with does not think that Wesleyan would be the right fit for my daughter, who attends a small, all girls inner-city parochial school. Although my daughter is fairly liberal minded, she has lived a fairly conservative lifestyle and that is not expected to change. The counselor thought that there would not be enough students that were like her to find the right group of friends. The counselor has mentioned numerous times the the drug and sex culture on campus as problems. I have read the Washington Post articles involving the Molly overdoses that occurred a few years ago and do find them troubling; however, of the 13 schools that we have visited in the last year, we still like Wesleyan the best. So what are the students like generally at Wesleyan? Are drugs a normal way of life? Are students who don't party or hook up in the minority? Are almost all of the students coming from privileged backgrounds?
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Replies to: Campus Culture

  • circuitridercircuitrider 3367 replies168 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Wesleyan has approximately 3000 students. About 25% of them are varsity athletes. Another 20% are STEM majors. The incoming first year class will probably be around 20% First Gen. IOW, think, numerically speaking, your daughter's chances of finding a cross section of students with fairly conventional personal habits are just as strong as they would be at smaller NESCAC colleges like Amherst, Bowdoin and Bates. What sets Wesleyan apart from those other schools is the large number of professionally minded performing artists who are attracted to it, and who perhaps give it a reputation for being "artsy" even though I'm not aware of any evidence linking the arts to drug taking or risky sexual behavior among young people. To the contrary, having safe, healthy alternatives to drinking alone in a dorm room on a cold New England Saturday night, IMHO, is the best protection your child could have against falling into unsafe recreational habits.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5712 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @JerseyGirl2001 , is there any way she could visit for a day and stay overnight (with someone who graduated from her school, perhaps?)

    I think your GC's comments reflect the dominant culture at Wes while @circuitrider accurately highlights that there is a lot going on outside that and that there is no single type of kid there.

    I think your D should get the vibe thoroughly before applying ED. I also think it is absolutely possible to love a school and thrive there even if "your tribe" is smaller and outside the mainstream. The key is going in with your eyes wide open. And Wes, being slightly larger than many LACs, has a bigger community (which is good in this regard. )

    FWIW, most of the people I know who have attended Wes in recent years have been free spirits. Some artsy, one non-binary, etc. All really smart. But I know kids who absolutely do not fit that description who were considering it as recruited athletes.
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  • merc81merc81 10346 replies157 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 16
    Your counselor may be advising you based on personal experience and recent feedback, or perhaps based on sources such as the Princeton Review, in which Wesleyan places fourth in the Reefer Madness category. I'd suggest that your daughter inform her choice with an awareness of these types of sources and impressions, but also through her own, as well as your, recent and direct experiences. With respect to gaining further perspective, a good social contrast to Wesleyan might be Swarthmore. Even if she has no current interest in Swarthmore, it could be a good school to visit in order to refine her understanding of the type of college she would prefer. If at that time she remains drawn to Wesleyan, then I think she could proceed more confidently with an application there.
    edited June 16
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  • mominwashingtonmominwashington 4 replies0 threadsRegistered User New Member
    edited June 16
    I'd be careful of the source you rely on for opinion. From first hand experience at several NESCAC schools with my kids, we've seen a significantly more prevalent party scene at the smaller schools. My son (who is neither an athlete nor an arts major) has a very large group of friends who are not part of these party scenes at Wes yet are super engaged, involved and whipsmart. They are never excluded from social events, and never pressured. And there are lots more like him. Sure, there are parties and there is drug use at Wes. However, our experience with my daughter at other NESCAC schools (she's an athlete) is that the party culture is significantly more pervasive - maybe because they're smaller and more remote. Also, Swarthmore has it's share of social issues too: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/us/swarthmore-college-phi-psi-fraternities.html. I think fit is very important and if your daughter is telling you that she feels her fit at Wes, then I'd listen to her.
    edited June 16
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  • merc81merc81 10346 replies157 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 16
    I'd be careful of the source you rely on for opinion. From first hand experience at several NESCAC schools with my kids, we've seen a significantly more prevalent party scene at the smaller schools.

    Princeton Review surveys place Connecticut College, Bowdoin and Colby among the top schools in its alcohol consumption categories, so these results may, in actuality, comport with your experiences.
    edited June 16
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5712 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 16
    ^^There are some schools that lean more toward alcohol, others more toward weed, although at most, both are available to those who are interested and want company while partaking. I would say (being a parent so not getting this info first-hand) that of the NESCAC schools, Tufts and Wes are at the weedier end of that spectrum.

    And yes, those 3 (and Hamilton, Bates, Midd, and Trinity) have plenty of drinking.

    Of course, a student can have a great experience partaking of no substances. But it's important to understand in the process what others will be doing and if it bothers you. Again, one of the benefits of Wes size is that there will be more people to do things with whatever you choose.
    edited June 16
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3367 replies168 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think now would be a convenient time to point out the other thing that sets Wes apart from other NESCACs is its reliance on neighborhood housing stock to do the job of rooming and boarding a majority of undergraduates. Practically every standing single family home within walking distance is owned by the university, furnished and equipped with modern kitchens. This means, beginning sophomore year and really accelerating through junior and senior years, no one has to be held hostage to dorm parties unless they want to. Kids get to pick six or seven roommates and take their chances in the annual housing lottery. So, in addition to drugs and alcohol there is a burgeoning foodie culture that doesn't get nearly enough play in the rankings monopolies.
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  • JerseyGirl2001JerseyGirl2001 1 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Thank you all for your insightful comments. The size, small but not too small, and the artsy vibe were two features of Wes that we really liked. Although my daughter is nowhere near being a professional singer or actress, these are two things that are near and dear to her heart. We also liked how Wes prepared all of its students to be better writers. Any suggestions of other schools that have a similar feel but might not be as hard to get into as Wes?
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  • PetraMCPetraMC 771 replies5 threadsRegistered User Member
    Maybe Bard, Sarah Lawrence, Connecticut College, Mt Holyoke if she's open to women's colleges.
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3367 replies168 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^Skidmore, Brandeis, Rochester, and Bryn Mawr come to mind. I'm sure there are others.
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  • merc81merc81 10346 replies157 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    For campus atmospheres that align especially well for students interested in performing arts, look into Connecticut College, Barnard, Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Bard, Skidmore, Kenyon, Oberlin. You can trim by selectivity and other attributes as appropriate.

    For colleges that offer the type of writing emphasis you described, consider choices from this group: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/writing-programs.
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