Olin is small. The entire school is just over half the size of my graduating class from high school. At about 370 students in total, you definitely get the intimate, close community vibe here. As an admitted student, the social environment was my biggest concern. I thought that the small size would be socially limiting, but I’ve found that while there are some drawbacks, they are manageable, and are worth it for the unique social benefits.
Despite going to a large public high school, I often felt limited by the number of people at my high school. Not limited as in fewer opportunities, but limited by the number of my peers I could relate to and be friends with. Despite not even knowing the names of everyone in my grade, I felt as though my friendship options were closed a couple weeks into freshman year. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great group of friends in high school, but I did not have a lot of social flexibility. With this in mind, I was very concerned about the size of Olin when making my college decision. If I already felt restrained in a class of about 600, how would I feel in a class size of 90 or fewer? I assumed that I would only be friends with about x% of people (as was my experience in high school), which would leave me with very few Olin friends...
In the end, my decision came down to whether or not I thought I would be happy socially at Olin. From Candidates’ Weekend, I saw the almost familial vibe among Oliners. I loved the way that they all were so comfortable both at Olin and with each other. However, I did question if my interests and personality would blend with all of theirs. Because I did not get to really see Olin outside of Candidates’ Weekend, I had no way of calming those nerves, and carried them with me even past when I made the decision.* But in the end, I decided to take a chance on Olin in hopes that the vibe I felt at Candidates’ Weekend would be a regular part of Olin’s culture (and it was!).
Soon after arriving at Olin I found that, unlike in high school, friend groups at Olin are not as heavily based around similar interests and personality types. While we Oliners are all very different, I do believe that because all of us chose Olin as our college, there is some thread that ties us together. For that reason, I feel like I could be friends with almost anyone here. And I really do mean that. When I’m bored, I can just walk in the lounge and sit with whomever is in there; I don’t have to seek out my closest friends. For meals, I just sit where I see an empty seat, as do the rest of my peers.
But yes, sometimes you just want to be anonymous, which is hard here. You cannot just go unseen because more often than not, when you encounter someone on campus you at least know their name or recognize their face. So in those moments where I need to be able to blend into the crowd, I walk the ten feet over to Babson and hang out over there. And sure, sometimes you just aren’t up for the conversations that ensue when your entire class eats breakfast at almost the same time, in which case you can sit at the counter instead of a table.
The small size just means we all get a better chance to get to know each other. You get to know what people like to eat for breakfast, and where to look if you cannot find them. We get to do things like have a class holiday party, take a school-wide trip to the movie theatre to watch Star Wars, and all get way too into school-wide events like SLACfest** and the SERV Auction.
Thinking back to a year ago when I was making this decision, I wish I could go back and tell myself that despite the occasional drawbacks, the size of Olin would end up being one of my favorite things about the school.
*Admitted students if you are also having any of these worries, do an overnight visit; everyone who did one says it made their decision so easy, and if you can’t- reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or any other student. We would be happy to talk to you!
**The best explanation for SLACfest that I have found is “a school wide celebration of creativity, community, and culture.” As phrased on the Facebook page: “Everyone in the community is invited to gather in the library for an entire day to engage together in projects, activities, tutorials, communal meals, and socializing.”