A Letter to the Admitted Students. Love, Someone Who Was in Your Shoes

Hello Admitted Students!

After a long school year of application-writing, interviews, and college visits, the wait is finally over. We are ecstatic to congratulate you on your admission to Olin College of Engineering, and we hope you are excited too, because Olin is all abuzz about the upcoming class of 2021!

You are now ready for the next step in your grand college adventure—DECISIONS!

College decisions are hard. Some people think they are even harder than college applications. How is someone supposed to decide the course of the rest of their life from a college tour and a website? How do you jump on board with the uncertainty of, say, a small school designed as an experiment in engineering education, when you may be looking at more established options?

As you all brave the weeks preceding May 1st with your head spinning with statistics, reviews, and everyone else’s opinions, know that college is about what is the best fit for you and not whoever is giving you their opinion at any given moment.

I remember very clearly the weeks preceding decision day: the hours of internet research, the back-to-back flights across the country, and the stress of indecision. That being said, hopefully I can aid in your decision process by sharing some of the things that went into mine.

For me, in the end it really boiled down to 3 things:

Oliners: Prior to committing to Olin, I did two overnight visits to the school, plus Candidates' Weekend (Hi, nice too meet you. You can call me “Excessively Informed and Incredibly Indecisive”). Every time I came to campus I was absolutely blown away by the student body. No group of students could possibly be this passionate, brilliant, and friendly! I was certain that it had to be an act. During my first semester I learned the truth. This was no act. Oliners are actually that friendly. On my overnight visits I was impressed by how invested students were in one another, how much they cared about each other, and especially by how they seemed to care about me, a random prospective student. This past year I learned firsthand how close the Olin community is. I rely on my fellow classmates for everything. I know the name of every person in my grade and feel comfortable asking anyone for help on a homework assignment. It’s an amazingly comfortable environment where people are genuine. On top of all that, everyone is interesting and excited about something!

Classroom Experience: Name a university in the United States that has a curriculum quite like Olin’s. I’ll wait, but I bet you can’t. Olin is special. It was the prospect of an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum that made me fall in love. Now that I am here, I can honestly say I have never learned so much or had as much fun as I am in my classes right now. Learn linear algebra by writing a facial recognition program? Check. Understand the design cycle by creating and fabricating an immersive alpaca-themed play experience for fourth graders? Check. Determine the optimal conditions to high five someone while bungee jumping? Check. That’s the Olin curriculum. But the curriculum is nothing without the professors. One of the biggest draws to Olin for me was and still is the professors. They are honestly some of the most engaging people I have ever met. Because Olin is a solely undergraduate institution where the professors’ primary purpose is to teach, not do research or publish, you get one-on-one attention from these professors all of the time. I remember during my first semester when a professor came up to me at the start of class and said something like“...so I was discussing your project with my husband last night and...”. I was amazed by how invested and excited she was about our work.

Alpacas

Many late nights in the Design Studio led to the creation of the "Alpaca Pack"!

Resources: During every college visit, I repeated my series of questions: “Is there a makerspace? What are the hours? How much do you have to pay?” Then I stepped into Olin’s library, a place with five free-to-use 3D printers and a vinyl cutter, hand tool and photo equipment checkouts, workbenches, and silk screening tools, and I knew that I didn’t have to ask my questions here. Olin itself is a makerspace. Along those lines, the activation energy needed to do just about anything is next to nothing. Start a club. Do some research. Spin some fire (really a thing. Check out Olin Fire Arts!). It feels like nothing is beyond reach.

Vinyl Stickers

My first weekend at Olin we took advantage of "The Workroom" and made our own vinyl laptop stickers!

With all these awesome things about Olin, what prevented me from pushing the button as soon as I got accepted? I was a little worried about making the wrong the decision. Since my freshman year I had been planning on the “typical college experience”: lots of new people, big sports, steeped traditions, being a part of something bigger... Let me settle this: if you want Big Ten football games, Olin is not your place. But if the college experience you want is making a ton of great friends, staying up late, and having fun, then you have nothing to worry about. There is no such thing as a wrong decision.

For me, in the end, it boiled down to the fit.

It took a while for me to realize it (sorry, Mom, for causing you all that stress). At Olin I just felt at home with the crazy shenanigans of Oliners, new learning styles, and being surrounded by professors who valued me and dedicated classmates I could trust.

But enough about me. My final advice to you is let go of what your guidance counselor expects you to do, what your teammates expect you to do, what your parents expect you to do, and for a while really think about what you want. What feels good to you? Where do you fit?

And that might not be Olin. But then again, it just might be.

I hope to see you next year. Wherever you end up, Learn lots! Do crazy things! Staple Jello to a tree! I don’t know. Live it up! But most of all, be true to who you really are and have the best four years of your life. I know I am.

Posted in: Samantha '20