The Real Deal about Candidates’ Weekend

Olin’s application deadline is coming up on January 1, and around this time of year, we get lots of questions from people wanting to learn more about our Candidates’ Weekend events before deciding whether or not to apply. If you might be in that boat, please keep reading! Different people have different questions about Candidates’ Weekend, so we’ve broken it up for you:

What is Candidates' Weekend?

Why do we have Candidates’ Weekend?

What Candidates’ Weekend is not

Logistics of Candidates’ Weekend (How do I get there? Who pays for it?)

What is Candidates' Weekend?

 Candidates’ Weekend is the second phase of Olin’s two-phase admission process. Before students get to that point, they complete the first phase, which looks pretty similar to many other colleges’ admission processes. We’ll review their application, transcript, recommendations, essays, test scores, etc. We then invite about 225-250 applicants to attend one of three Candidates’ Weekends held on Olin’s campus (the dates for our 2019 Candidates’ Weekends are February 22-23, March 1-2, and March 8-9). Generally speaking, students are required to attend a Candidates’ Weekend in order to be considered for admission, although we can offer a Skype alternative for international students. During Candidates’ Weekend, students are evaluated on two things (an interview and a group exercise), and they also have the opportunity to participate in several non-evaluated activities to get to know Olin better. These could include fun interactive activities, time to chat with professors, social events with current Olin students, campus tours, and more.

Why do we have Candidates’ Weekend?

Students spend a lot of time on their applications, so why do we ask them to do more, especially when they might not even get admitted in the end? Simply put, it’s because Olin is a unique school. We’re a small community where students learn engineering through a collaborative, project-based curriculum with a specific focus on engineering for the good of the world. While an Olin experience can encompass endless possibilities, this approach is pretty specific! One of our goals during Candidates’ Weekend is to get a feel for your potential to both contribute to and grow from the unique experience and community that is Olin, and we simply can’t do that on paper.

In addition to helping us make our decision, though, there’s a second, equally important goal of Candidates’ Weekend, one that is easy to lose sight of. You already know that the colleges you apply to have to make a decision about your application. But here’s the thing: you also have to decide on them. It’s in everyone’s best interest for this process to truly be a two-way street, and we want to give you as complete a picture as possible of what Olin is (and what it’s not) so that you can make the best decision for yourself. And please understand that when I say “the best decision for yourself,” I do not mean, “the decision to come to Olin.” We do not want to convince you to come to Olin. Rather, we invite you to explore all aspects of Olin during Candidates’ Weekend so that you can decide whether or not Olin is the place you want to learn and grow for the next four years.

Oh, and one more thing: Candidates’ Weekend is fun. Every student will experience it in their own way, but many Oliners remember it as a time when the possibility of coming to Olin clicked for them, after which Olin was no longer just an idea or a college on their list but a community they could see themselves being excited to join. Stay tuned for Serna ’21’s upcoming blog post about her own Candidates’ Weekend to hear more about one student's experience!

What Candidates’ Weekend is not

It’s totally understandable to be confused or even intimidated by the idea of Candidates’ Weekend when you first hear about it. After all, it’s pretty different from what other colleges are doing, and it would be a disservice to you to invalidate the very normal nerves that someone might have about being interviewed, entering a new situation with new people, and putting themselves out there, knowing that they might not get what they want in the end. But I think when I first learned about Candidates’ Weekend, I was picturing something very different from how it actually is! So I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions here:

        We are not testing your technical skills. We will not ask you to build a robot, work through a complicated math problem, or solve a Rubik’s Cube. We’re trying to gauge your potential for Olin’s unique approach, not how much prior experience you’ve had with hands-on engineering or whether you have a makerspace in your basement. In fact, we have already vetted every student whom we invite to Candidates’ Weekend, and we are confident that if admitted, they all have the academic preparation to be successful here.

        Candidates’ Weekend is not a cutthroat competition where only a few students will be chosen and you need to prove that you’re the best. Again, we have already reviewed your applications, and we think you’re all great and have the potential to succeed here. Of the students who attend Candidates’ Weekend, a good portion of them will ultimately be admitted.

        We are not here to decide whether you’re right for Olin or wrong for Olin. It’s not black and white like that. There are many ways to be an Oliner, and at Candidates’ Weekend, we’re drafting a team, not just a bunch of individuals. You can’t have a football team of all quarterbacks, right? We need students who bring different strengths, interests, and perspectives to the table. So it’s less about whether you’re right or wrong and more about whether there’s a place for you on this year’s team.

Logistics of Candidates’ Weekend (How do I get there? Who pays for it?)

It’s natural to wonder how Candidates’ Weekend actually comes together logistically. Some people may be concerned about having the time or resources to attend Candidates’ Weekend. We have carefully considered these potential challenges, and we work hard to make it as feasible as possible for all invited students to attend. Here are some of the ways we do this:

        Finances: All students receive funding to help offset some of their travel costs. For some students this will come in the form of a reimbursement based on how far they’re traveling. For any student who applies to Olin using an application fee waiver or for whom coming to Candidates’ Weekend would otherwise be a financial barrier, we work with them to fund their travel and lodging costs upfront.

        Traveling alone: For students attending Candidates’ Weekend without a parent or guardian, we check in with them about their travel plans. For example, if a student flies into Boston Logan Airport, we arrange their transportation to campus. These students all stay overnight at the Babson Executive Conference Center, which is located on Babson College’s campus just a short walk away (we don’t have students stay overnight at Olin because we’re too small!).

        Parents and guardians: For students whose parent(s) or guardian(s) attend Candidates’ Weekend with them, we offer optional activities and sessions to keep them engaged and help them get to know Olin. These students and their parent(s)/guardian(s) are responsible for arranging their own transportation and lodging (we provide a list of hotels in the area).

        Food: We provide all meals during Candidates’ Weekend at no cost.

        Scheduling: There are three different Candidates’ Weekends, and we do our best to work with students on a case-by-case basis to accommodate scheduling conflicts they may have with a specific Candidates’ Weekend.

        Communication: We’ll be in touch frequently, and we’re ready and excited to answer your questions! I welcome you to reach out to me anytime at


Posted in: All Admission Staff Blogs, Alia