Tiny School. Huge Community

Alex_Kessler_DSC_0753.jpgAlex Kessler  '15 - Andover,  MN

Andover High School


When I was in high school, my mom demanded I put together a list of schools that I wanted to visit. She meant well, but I had no idea what I wanted and the list grew and grew. I threw in big schools, small schools, rural schools, city schools, public, private, liberal arts, engineering - anything I could think of that seemed interesting to me in any way. After my junior year, we visited almost two dozen of them in a three week long whirlwind tour. Early in week two, I visited MIT, my longtime dream school, during the morning, and Olin in the afternoon. Immediately, I was hooked...


I filled out my application, made it to Candidates' Weekend, and was stoked a few weeks later when I received a letter telling me I'd made it...sort of. I was on the wait list and had the choice to defer my acceptance for a year. It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. I'd have been disappointed with a 'no.' A 'yes' would've put me over the moon, but the option to defer was neither. I started talking it through with my parents. What could I do for a year? Volunteer? Work? Classes?   After a week of mulling my options, I chose to put in my deposit to Olin, but also take classes at Ohio Wesleyan University and explore some of my other interests like English and politics.


This "gap year" turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. I had an excellent time in Ohio - I met tons of people, took some excellent classes, and really immersed myself in the campus life. I even had the great privilege of joining the fraternity Alpha Sigma Phi, an experience I never expected to have, let alone enjoy. In the end though, I made the hard choice to leave Ohio Wesleyan behind and start over as a freshman at Olin.


Initially I was worried. OWU was on the small end of schools with only 2400 students, how could Olin possibly have the vibrant campus culture I'd come to love? However, when I arrived I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, everyone here is an engineer and we tend to have very similar interests, but there's a kind of energy that I didn't expect. Almost everyone is incredibly passionate about what they're doing, and that shows. Whether it's people out practicing for OFAC (the Olin Fire Arts Club...they play with fire!) or working on a robotic plane, or just hanging out in the dorms and playing games, that passion comes through with a very exciting energy.


The cooperative culture also overcame one of my other worries about taking the gap year and transferring in. Before I arrived, I thought there might be some friction between the freshmen who had just graduated high school and those of us who had taken a gap year. However, by the end of the first semester, the shared experience of long nights in the design studios for Design Nature, tweaking Matlab code for Modeling and Simulation and hours spent debugging circuits in Modeling and Controls had pulled our class into a cohesive group - this year you'd have trouble picking out which of us took gap years and which didn't.


Now I count that deferral letter as one of the most fortunate coincidences in my life. I got the best of both worlds - I got to try liberal arts, and I get to be an engineer. I'm also still graduating in 5 years, which is pretty normal for engineering. Oh, and I still get Olin: a school that was specifically designed for and filled with people just like me. Can't argue with that.

Posted in: Life @ Olin