College visit report. Grinnell, Oberlin with informal visit

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: College visit report. Grinnell, Oberlin with informal visit
By Texdad (Texdad) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 06:12 pm: Edit

Week before last as ds had two days off.

Grinnel: remarkably just as advertised. Kids were so uniformly friendly it was amazing. We showed up at 10:00 pm on a Wednesday night without an appointment, though we had an appt the next day. Wondered around the campus for 2 hrs till midnite. All buildings were open and we wondered around without anyone even approaching us. A lot of students studying hard all over. A few at the student center relaxing. No adults around, just kids. Otherwordly safe.

Next day a tour with only 1 other student. An interview was part of the process. Free tickets to dining hall for lunch. Sat with random students. Again everyone friendly and liked Grinnel. Campus was bigger than I expected. Seems like they have plenty of money. They are building a new student center and another gym,though the present gym seems pretty new. Lots of posters around for events, that some freshman said were surprisingly well attended by the student body. Son really loved Grinnel,but somewhat concerned about the small town, which was a prosperous farming community with some industry about three miles from busy I -80.

Oberlin. seemed like they had more money in the past than Grinnel who has it now. 20 students with parents in a herd type tour. Students not as friendly, more of a sort of East Coast "edge" not Midwest friendly like Grinnel. Better book store. More overtly political. Cuter town than Grinnel, but that may only be possible in a "town" which draws off a major metropolitan area (Cleveland 35 miles away.)

Parents liked Oberlin better. It seemed like a small slice of the big time; Grinnel like a small LAC, despite 1500 at Grinnel; 2200 at Oberlin plus 700 conservatory students. Son preferred Grinnel by a lot.

Oberlin interview was much more pointed about what were his goals and left son somewhat disturbed. This led to a great family discussion re interviewing and goals. This got kid to admit that he was thinking about pre-med,(surprise to his parents) though he had thought he had probably lost his chance since he hadn't taken AP in sciences, but in all other subjects. Kids think the darndest things. Kid has the highest score in a competitive Calc class at a good public and really hasn't really worked that hard. No reason he can't do science if he now wants to.

U of Chicago and Northwestern on the weekend in Chicago that was really part vacation. We ate lunch at local hangouts at both universities. Northwestern campus is incredible. Actually goes down to Lake Michigan with ponds and walking paths and cliffs to look back at the Chicago skyline. Evanston is very nice. Beautiful fall football weekend with all the alumni and pomp and circumstances. Left the son in the library for a few hours while he worked on his NM essay.

Son liked Chicago better. He doesn't like football and the students seemed less preppy and more interesting. Chicago was sort of like a bigger Oberlin. Son liked the extremely gothic older quadrangles and might have been overly influenced by a friendly student from California that we had a good talk with at Chicago. This didn't happen at Northwestern. It was freshman orentation so everyone was more approachable at Chicago.

Pumping gas a block South of Chicago and a half block from some of the dorms at noon was an adventure, much theatrics at the gas station beyond the usual pan handling in a poor neighborhood. You can see why Chicago is having to hustle to keep up with Northwestern.
If it was me, I would explore Northwestern more to see if it more than the preppiness we saw in our informal tour.

By Pattykk (Pattykk) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 06:20 pm: Edit

Texdad: Hey, thank you for sharing your visits. My daughter is considering Chicago, Oberlin, and Grinnell, and I'll share your report with her.

By Monydad (Monydad) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 06:38 pm: Edit

Really wanted my D to like UC last year, but her hangup was the required courses. She didn't want to be told what to take. I thought their program was great, but she didn't.

So that could be one decision point for you guys, either way.

I think she said Northwestern had too much frat influence for her tastes.

It would be good if they can think things through before they start having serious interviews, or choosing schools for that matter, but I guess that's part of growing up.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 07:07 pm: Edit

Did you see my son studying at Grinnell? Really, so far so good in his freshman year. He missed one class in his freshman seminar (with his advisor) and the professor gave him an extra 2 page paper to write! No messing around (my husband thinks this is so great he is ready to send the professor a bonus!)..When I went to orientation I thought the students remarkably and earnestly friendly and unpretentious. Son has found it easy to make friends, and easy to get involved with things he enjoyed in the past, or is learning to enjoy now!

He also had been accepted at Oberlin and the decison came down to those 2 ultimately. I liked the size and location of Oberlin more than Grinnell. I think it came down to his sense that Grinnell was a place he could really be himself, and many versions of himself over time- if he wanted. Lots of support (financial and otherwise) for kids to explore, try, be...Both school have fairly big international populations, which was important to him.

By Cruella (Cruella) on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 11:14 pm: Edit

We also loved Grinnell. My son considered going there but the girl who did our tour said something that really stuck in his mind. She said most of the students there go on to very prestigious universities for their graduate work. We've had kids go to Harvard, Michigan, etc. She was really hoping she would be accepted to Michigan. Well, my son started to think, why not just skip Grinnell completely and go right to Michigan? That is exactly what he did, so if the people doing the tours wonder if the kids are paying attention, I have to say that mine was that day. Grinnell is really a wonderful school.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 12:04 am: Edit

>> why not just skip Grinnell completely and go right to Michigan?

That answer to that is that some institutions focus resources on undergraduate education and others focus resources on graduate schools and related research business units.

There are many experts in higher education who believe that four years at a small undergrad college followed by professional training at large research university is an excellent academic path, taking full advantage of the strengths inherent in each type of institution.

The viability approach is confirmed by the very high per capita PhD, Med School, Law School, and Biz School placements from the top four-year undergrad colleges.

Many college applicants don't fully understand that a large research university is comprised of many, largely unrelated business units. The fact that Acme University has a $200 million Defense Department research contract or a prestigious School of Government PhD program has little or nothing to do with the quality of their undergrad business unit.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 12:46 am: Edit

Michigan focuses on undergrad education. Just because a school is large doesn't mean it doesn't.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 01:19 am: Edit

I'm sure that U Michigan does an excellent job of focusing on 24,517 undergraduate students.

I wasn't suggesting that they don't. Just that it is perfectly logical for a student to go to Grinnell (1500 undergrads) and then to Michigan for grad or professional school.

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