Hey everyone, it’s Alex again! Though it was only a year ago, college application time feels like a distant memory to me. That being said, I remember very distinctly what I was looking for and what I was thinking when I applied. Here’s a blog post about why I applied to Olin, and why maybe you should too!
When considering colleges, I had the mindset that whatever school I ended up at, it would give me a quality education that would give me a high chance of success in the future. And I would like to reassure you, reader, that wherever you end up the same will be true: if you’re looking at any kind of “top school”, or truly most schools, your education will be good. And at that point I had to think about more specific things than “What will I be able to learn?” I came to ask, “How will I learn?” and “With whom will I learn?” The culture of the schools I applied to was important.
First, I was seeking out a place that honored the relationship between arts, humanities, social sciences, and engineering together. I wanted someplace that would let me explore my artistic interests in and out of class.
Olin loves art! From the required arts, humanities, and social sciences classes, to the new artists- and creatives-in-residence, we have a lot of support for all kinds of art. And, because of the hands-on nature of classes, you get to use creative skills to your advantage. For example, one of the teachers of Design Nature is a graphic designer, and he is a core part of the class. I frequently employ my visual arts skills to organize information and communicate it with peers.
Also, I wanted a school with a culture of progressiveness and acceptance. As a gay transgender man, I did not want to go to a school where toxicity and bigotry were cultivated. To me, engineering is about helping people and building understanding--it’s about considering people’s needs. Hatred is antithetical to that goal. Being LGBT at Olin is pretty great, and it’s fairly progressive in regards to all forms of diversity. Though Olin still has some work to do, particularly in increasing racial diversity, Olin’s faculty encourage discussions of respect and empathy between different groups. Our culture encourages us to discuss the aspects of ourselves that are different from others and to create understanding. And, our curriculum emphasizes considering the ethics of engineering decisions so you can help as many people as possible.
Olin's small size concerns a lot of prospective students, but I enjoy it. It allows for closer connections with faculty and professors, which is really great--especially for getting involved in research. It also means we can afford to live a little nicer--something I wrote about in my other blog post about amenities. I’ve never been in a very large school before and I wasn’t about to start. I’m rather introverted and I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed by people. Despite what you might expect, you won’t know everyone at Olin immediately. There are plenty of people I could still get to know better, but being in a small enough population means I actually can interact with them--they won’t get lost. There is something to be said about the small size leading to some awkwardness, especially in regards to romantic relationships and disagreements between people, but Oliners are mature enough to deal with these.
One of my favorite things about Olin was the Honor Code value “Do Something”. When I applied to Olin, I was worried I hadn’t had enough work or life experience. I didn’t do advanced robotics or have any high-profile internships, and I knew many people who did. I wanted to do these kinds of things, but I didn’t have the connections to figure out how. Olin’s faculty help you turn your ideas into reality--they don’t just tolerate you changing things, asking questions, and “doing something”; they encourage and help you to actualize the things you’re passionate about. And, the essence of Olin’s experimental curriculum IS doing something. Though I had gone to a traditional high school, I found I could still learn easier (and better!) by actually getting my hands on real engineering problems. At Olin, you're not going to have a teacher stand in front of the class and explain what the Universal Law of Gravitation is, but you will have a professor who helps you work through making that physics formula into a computer program that can answer questions about how planets move.
If you’re interested in:
A flexible curriculum integrating engineering with other topics
A community of progressive and open-minded people
Ample opportunities for research and community involvement
A school that cares about your passions, and will support them
A small, close-knit community
Experimenting in order to learn
Olin could be a great fit for you!
Each person has different reasons to want to apply to a school, but I hope hearing about my reasoning helps you make your decision. In particular, now that I’m actually here I realize many of the things I looked forward to about Olin are better than I expected, and the things I worried about aren’t concerning.
Best of luck to everyone in your college search, and I hope you consider applying to Olin!