Colleges Off the Beaten Path
October 18th, 2006
There are many things to look for in a college: a beautiful campus, comfortable dorms, prestigious professors and an extensive choice of classes. While considering these factors to choose colleges from, many Stuy students overlook some schools that are not as well known. However, these colleges have unique aspects which, for some, may be the perfect match. Three of these “out of the norm” schools are:
Imagine getting charged at by bulls—not an everyday occurrence at your typical college. Deep Springs, however, is far from typical. A private, all-male college nestled in the heart of California near the Yosemite valley, Deep Springs has a total number of 26 students. Do not be fooled by the small number—students at Deep Springs are not Ivy League castoffs; rather, the small percentage who are accepted are the ones who have shunned the Ivies. After two years, most students transfer to highly selective colleges, and 70 percent eventually earn a doctorate. Established in 1917, Deep Springs College was founded on three principles: academics, labor and self-governance. Unique to Deep Springs, this college is a two-year institute that also doubles as a working ranch; a typical schedule includes harvesting alfalfa. The courses are rigorous, as are the required minimum of 20 hours of labor on the ranch farm attached to the college. Nearly every class is discussion-based, and students’ decisions are taken seriously at this college; they decide what faculty they hire, what classes they take, whom they admit as students for the coming year and whether or not students will be invited back for a second year. Unlike most colleges, tuition, room and board are free because they are covered by scholarships; students only pay for occasional expenses, such as textbooks. Classes consist of two to 14 students, and to add to the tight-knit atmosphere, the students live next door to the faculty.
It is rather difficult to get into this school. Applicants must complete a two-stage application, which includes a total of seven essays and an on-campus interview. Of the two who applied from the Stuyvesant class of 2006, neither was accepted.
“As I was touring Olin college, I asked my tour guide to tell me some [of] the coolest things he had ever built,” said senior Ben Alter. “He replied that his favorite was a machine that used insane amounts of energy to shrink a quarter to the size of a nickel.” A relatively new face in the crowd, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, or Olin for short, was chartered in 1997 and officially opened in 2002 with the class of 2006 as its first graduating class. It is unlike any other engineering college in the nation. Deep Springs, Webb and Olin are all tuition-free, as Olin currently awards the full tuition Olin-Scholarship to each admitted student. It is known for its new program, dubbed “Invention 2000,” in which students have a say in what the curriculum should be like. Currently, Olin is a school of only 300 students, with a student faculty ratio of nine to one. Students who enjoy hands-on designing and desire an extraordinarily advanced engineering experience will find that Olin might be the school of their choice. The aspect that sets this college apart from the rest is their honor code. Tests are taken during students’ own time, and they are allowed to use textbooks and notes to aid them. Although the idea of taking tests without a proctor may sound promising, violation of the honor code may yield serious consequences.
Olin was ranked number one in quality of life by the Princeton review because it was ranked high in the different sections making this up such as “dorms like palaces—ranked #5,” “best food—ranked #6” and “happiest students—ranked #9.” It is not easy to get into—none out of the six applicants of the class of 2006 were accepted, as it generally looks for previous engineering accomplishment.
For students who are interested in the art of shipbuilding, Webb Institute may be the perfect match. Like Deep Springs, Webb does not require a tuition fee; however, students are charged for room and board, books and miscellaneous fees. Located in the alcoves of Glenn Cove in New York, with a 26-acre beach front on the Long Island Sound as a campus, Webb Institute is a truly unique college. It only has an undergraduate program with one major—Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. The small student population, which ranges around 80, leads to the eight to one ratio of students to faculty. According to the college site, “During Winter Work Term, students work in the maritime industry—making us the only private college of naval architecture that provides a salaried work experience during each of the four years of study.”
No one from the class of 2006 applied to Webb.
Come November, a flurry of activities will ensue—students will be busy studying for exams such as the SAT’s, or putting the finishing touches on their college essays. However, instead of following the hype of applying to the “big” colleges, such as Harvard or Yale, why not consider a lesser known college th at is still on the same academic levels as the Ivies, but has features that set it apart from the rest, like the ones described above?