Why choose a women’s college – Leadership and diversity

Smith College

My dear friend from high school attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has always spoken very highly of her college experience and its life-changing affect. In my visits to Smith over the years, I have come to realize as well that it is indeed a special place for many reasons.

Occasionally, I have talked with a female college-bound student about the benefits of a women’s college. A women’s college isn’t a fit for every female student. However, unfortunately, it can be a great fit for more female students than those who seriously consider what those campuses have to offer. The first response is “I won’t see any guys.” My myth-busting response is “Really? On the upper west side of NYC, next to Columbia University. . . no guys?” 🙂

If you are at least open to considering why women’s colleges are appealing for many young women each year, check out this interview with Barnard’s President, Debra Spar:

Q.What does the Barnard experience offer for women? To what extent is the experience of attending Barnard different for women when compared with other American colleges?

A.It’s both very different and not very different at all. You walk across Barnard and it feels like walking across Harvard, or Northwestern, or University of Chicago. It’s a big urban campus, very diverse, with men and women. They would look to be in equal proportions. But when you look more closely, what the Barnard students experience is really the best of both worlds. They get the big diverse co-ed environment when they want it but in terms of both their classes, and more importantly their extra-curricular activities, girls are the majority.Just by definition, the president of the student body is female. The leaders of all of the clubs are female. The young women really get an opportunity to be in a female environment and to develop intellectually, personally and academically, without always being conscious of being the woman in the room.The sense you get, even in the best universities in the U.S. is that women, even subconsciously, oftentimes feel that when they put their hand up they are giving the women’s point of view. You feel that you are somehow responsible for presenting a position, and that’s a burden. Whereas if you are in a Barnard class, you put your hand up and you are just being Deborah or Joanne, and I think that frees students to be themselves and discover themselves intellectually. By the same token, in terms of their social lives or the community life, it is this big diverse place.

Q.Does the college have specific programs to encourage woman leadership?

A.We do. We have a program that’s been in place for just two or three years now, so it’s very new, but its done amazingly well. It’s called the Athena Center for Leadership Studies. It is dedicated to helping young women think about their leadership potential, and more importantly what it has really done a great job of is actually giving young women leadership skills.There’s a lot of good talk in the U.S. and around the world about leadership, but a fair amount of it is hand waving and inspirational leadership. What we’ve tried to do is to think about what the skills are you need to run anything, a newspaper or a college or a Fortune 500 corporation. We hypothesize that there are certain skills you are going to need in any of those, and we teach those skills. We teach things like finance, negotiation, fund raising, and public speaking. So, it’s not specific to women – appropriately so because I don’t think there are women’s leadership skills, there are just leadership skills. But statistically, women seem less inclined to acquire these skills.

via Why Choose a Women’s College? – NYTimes.com.

There are 60 women’s colleges in 24 states in the US. (Massachusetts has 8 women’s colleges.) My hope is that more female college-bound students would be open to at least considering a campus visit at a women’s college. Here is a list of those colleges:

Judson College
Mills College
Mount St. Mary’s College
Scripps College
Woman’s College of the University of Denver
Hartford College for Women
St. Joseph College
Trinity University
Agnes Scott College
Brenau University  
Spelman College
Wesleyan College
Lexington College
St. Mary’s College
St. Mary-of-the-Woods College
Midway College
College of Notre Dame
Bay Path College
Lesley University
Mount Holyoke College

Pine Manor College
Regis College
Simmons College
Smith College

Wellesley College
College of St. Benedict
College of St. Catherine
Mississippi University for Women
Cottey College
Stephens College
College of St. Mary
College of St. Elizabeth
Douglas College of Rutgers University
Georgian Court College
Barnard College
College of New Rochelle
Russell Sage College
Wells College
Bennett College
Meredith College
Peace College
Salem College
Ursuline College
Bryn Mawr College
Carlow College
Cedar Crest College
Chatham College
Moore College of Art and Design
Rosemont College
Wilson College
Columbia College
Converse College
Texas Woman’s University
Hollins University
Mary Baldwin College
Sweet Briar College
Alverno College
Mount Mary College

via Women’s Colleges in the United States.

Wittenberg offers much to students from near and far

A visit to Wittenberg University caught me by surprise. It’s located in Springfield Ohio and I’ve seen their campus signs along Interstate 70 countless times over the years without knowing all that this campus has to offer. Wittenberg is a small, liberal arts campus with 1,900 students and Lutheran-affiliated.

Special features of Wittenberg include:

Service Dog Program – Wittenberg students can participate in a community service project through 4 Paws for Ability. Through this program, volunteer students train a service dog for a semester.

Community Service requirement – The city of Springfield donated a building to Wittenberg. In exchange for that building, all students must volunteer 30 hours during their undergraduate years. What a great opportunity for students to support the surrounding community and for the Springfield community to have continued student involvement.

3-2 Nursing program – Nursing students can participate in a cooperative program, whereby three years are spent on the Wittenberg campus, then 2 years are spent on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Nursing students, therefore, finish with a Bachelors and Master’s Degree from two excellent institutions in less time!

Students from all over the US – Maybe I have “California” written on my forehead or something, but I always meet Californians wherever I go. However, I didn’t expect to meet a Californian in Springfield, Ohio. The first Wittenberg student I met hailed from Sacramento! We instantly connected and reminisced about the weather (of course, on a rainy afternoon).  Check out this quick video on why she chose Wittenberg University:

New president – Recent news from Wittenberg is that they just named their 14th and first female President, Dr. Laurie Joyner. Her tenure will be effective July 2012. A new president brings a new energy to campus. It will be exciting to see what those changes will be when I visit again. Perhaps the Sacramento student can share some tips with the new President Joyner, who’s moving from Rollins College in Florida!

Moishe House and Jewish identity in College and Beyond

Every day I speak with parents of college-bound students. They have questions and concerns about all things related to education. Through their questions,  I learn so much about what’s on their hearts and how I might be able to help them answer their question. I received an interesting question recently related to Jewish life on college campuses. This question led me on a search about not only Jewish life on a specific college campus but also the quality of Jewish life in that local community. For many college campuses, they are not necessarily an island onto themselves, but they are deeply embedded in the surrounding community. For example, a campus-like USC has a big enough footprint that perhaps it could operate as its own community. Instead, USC has taken a number of steps to introduce its student community to all that the greater Los Angeles area has to offer. Whether it’s through community service or the Arts, USC and Los Angeles are intertwined in the success of student life. Thus, for evaluating Jewish life on campus, I think it’s important to also consider Jewish life in the surrounding community.

Now 46 Moishe Houses around the world
Now 46 Moishe Houses around the world

Through my research on Jewish life on and off-campus, I learned about Moishe House. Moishe House is an international organization of home-based communities that promote and celebrate Jewish life for 20-somethings. In the podcast above, I interviewed David Cygielman, who is the co-founder and CEO of Moishe House. David shared with us what Moishe House is about, its start, future growth, and what it means to Jewish life on and off-campus. Prior to this role, David had more than 10 years of experience in non-profit management and won numerous awards. He’s a proud graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara. We were delighted to have David on The Education Doctor Radio Show.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Moishe House Background

Dr. Pamela:    David, we may have some listeners who are unfamiliar with Moishe House.  If you can just start out by telling us what it is and how you first came up with the idea to start it.

David Cygielman:     Moishe House is the largest organization now in the world for young adult Jewish life post-college, pre settling down.  We really work in the age range of 21 to 30 years old.  The way the program works is this:  There are actually 46 Moishe Houses around the world. We are in 14 countries now.  The model is that we found young adults were already yearning to have a Jewish community.  They were already living together in houses in addition to having their full-time jobs or graduate school. They were lacking Jewish involvement. They had been involved up through college and consider themselves to be getting re-involved once they settled down but for this growing time span of the 20s and early 30s, there was a real lack of Jewish life dedicated to this population.

The way we started this organization was this.  I was in Santa Barbara and had graduated from college at UC Santa Barbara. When I was back up in the Bay Area actually visiting my family, I went to dinner with four friends at their house.  They were four friends I had met on an Israel trip when we were in high school through the Jewish Federation here in the East Bay.  They were four guys and they were roommates.  Three were working and one was in graduate school.  When we were taking, they and I, noticed we had no real engagement in Jewish life even though we had up until this point in our life.  It seemed pretty easy in the sense that they already had a house. They had couches. They had a dining room. They had a lot of Jewish friends.  What they really needed was the structure or support to turn that into a real Jewish community.

I talked with a funder in Santa Barbara, who I already knew, Morris Squire, and gave them the opportunity to turn their house into a real vibrant center for Jewish life. They hosted a Shabbat dinner the following Friday night and 73 people came, which was “Wow”. This was in Oakland.  The next week we got an e-mail from someone saying, “I went to this Shabbat.  It was an amazing experience. I have three friends.  Could we do this in San Francisco?”  That’s how the program began.  Since then, we have been getting e-mails from all over the United States and then the World.  We have Moishe Houses on five continents.  I actually just got back this week from visiting for the first time Moishe House in Beijing.  We have Moishe House in the former Soviet Union, Europe, South Africa, and South America.  It has really grown as there has been this renaissance of Jewish life for this growing population of young adults who are too old for what exists or too young for what exists.  Now we are providing something that is really built for their age group.

How to start a new Moishe House

Dr. Pamela:  Here is a big question for you. I am based in Ohio now.  I know there is a significant Jewish population in the Cleveland area, like in my old neighborhood of Shaker Heights.  There are also several major colleges and universities in the area and you probably know where this going right?  There is no Moishe House in Cleveland.  How do you know where to open a new house?

David Cygielman:   Well, a house opens in one of two ways.  Either we get a set of applicants. We get a group who say, “Look, we live in Cleveland or we live in Columbus and we would like to open a Moishe House here.”  In that case, we would then start working with the local community to see if we are able to raise partner dollars in supporting that Moishe House. It is a really cost-effective program, so an entire Moishe House costs less than a staff person would. The other way a house opens is that a community reaches out and says, “It would really interesting and we would love to support having a Moishe House in our community.”  Then we go out and look to see if there are great applicants.  Columbus, Ohio is a great example where we are working with the Federation right now who has said, “We would love to explore opening a Moishe House.”  We are actually looking to see if the population exists to actually open one.

Kudos to the Harman PTO in Oakwood Schools

What a great group of parents who attended a March 13 presentation on “Summer’s almost here: How to keep your sanity and your kids’ grades.” Thanks to the Harman PTO, which is a grades 1-6 school in the Oakwood City Schools district, for inviting me to speak.

The. summer is an important time for families because many schools are closed or offer only limited summer classes. The other thing we know about summer is that

  • Students suffer a learning loss without educational activities during the summer months
    • In math computation skills, students lose on average 2.6 months of learning
  • There are more temptations for risky behavior when students are unsupervised. And there are many more unsupervised hours during the summer months!

During the talk, everyone had a chance to share a memorable summer experience from their childhood. I opened the discussion with those reflections because all of us may remember a summer of our youth whether it was completely free or structured. In sharing my own summer experiences, I mentioned that at age 5, I started spending my summers in Los Angeles. My siblings were teenagers then so we would get into all kinds of mischief for 8 weeks. As I got older into my teen years, I would work summer jobs then later in high school, I participated in more structured academic programs.

What’s so remarkable about these experiences is that they have shaped my college and career decisions in important ways. They’ve left such an indelible mark that my research today is informed by those summer experiences of my youth.

Now you know why I’m so passionate about the importance of a quality summer experience for all youth. As a parent who talks and writes to other parents every day, I’m also intimately familiar with this “summer anxiety”!

If you were unable to attend, please send me your email address to get the slides and our popular tip sheet “10 things college-bound students can do this summer.”

What are you doing this spring to plan for a productive summer?

Teens’ concussion risk higher among girls and not just football

One of my students recently returned home from school due to a concussion that occurred during wrestling practice. I was somewhat surprised to hear a) that a tall guy like him was wrestling and b) that he suffered a concussion in this sport, rather than football (his Fall sport)!

We often associate concussions with football, but a recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that students in other contact sports, such as girls’ soccer or basketball, ice hockey, and lacrosse are also at risk. As lacrosse season is about to begin, let’s take note…

Estimates of the number of Americans suffering sports-related concussions have been climbing in recent years. That’s partly because more people are playing contact sports, young athletes are training more aggressively at an earlier age, and doctors are more aggressive about diagnosing concussions. A recent study found that in 2008, there were five concussions for every 10,000 U.S. high school athletes who hit the playing field. That was up from just about one per 10,000 a decade earlier.  . . . .

The other interesting finding is that girls had a higher concussion risk than boys.

In “gender-comparable” sports, girls had a 70 percent higher concussion rate than boys.

via Teens’ concussion risk not limited to football | Reuters.

As a side note, a number of colleges are adding girls’ lacrosse, such as the University of Southern California and Furman.

As teens continue to participate in sports throughout their high school and college years, it’s incumbent on parents, coaches, school administrators, and the broader community to be aware of the symptoms of concussion. Those symptoms, which may occur many hours after a blow to the head, include:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

Let’s keep our teens safe!

Why apply to Antioch College

Why apply to Antioch College interview with Cezar Mesquita

Several months ago on The Education Doctor Radio Show, we met with the Executive Director of Colleges that Change Lives, Marty O’Connell.  The Colleges that Change Lives is an esteemed group of 40 colleges around the US known for their life-changing success with students.

During that interview, one of our listeners emailed a question about Antioch College. Please check out that podcast to hear what Marty had to say about Antioch’s membership in Colleges that Change Lives. Our listener from Chicago may have asked her question based on some of the happenings at Antioch over the past couple of years.

Well, now in 2012, just a short time since then, there is a different story streaming from the Yellow Springs Ohio campus. Cezar Mesquita, who is Antioch’s Dean of Admissions, joined us for The Education Doctor Radio Show to provide some insight on why Antioch is such a hot application. His leadership appointment was announced in the summer of 2011 after a nationwide search. Prior to this role, Cezar had served at College of Wooster (where I first met him), at Doane College and the University of Denver. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska and his master’s degree from the University of Alabama. We were delighted to have him share all the buzz at Antioch over this past year.

Below are excerpts from our show or you may listen at the link above:

Antioch History:

Dr. Pamela:     . . . I wanted to start out because we may have some listeners that are unfamiliar with the news that was coming from Antioch prior to when you joined seven months ago and I think that just hearing a little bit about the history of the campus will help them appreciate what is happening today.  If you can please share with us a little capsule about what was happening at Antioch College two years ago.

Cezar Mesquita:  Absolutely, the news coming out of Yellow Springs back in 2008 was not good.  It was when the University has effectively managed the college.  I feel like I need to even go back a little bit prior to that.  Antioch College actually was the starting institution in the 1950s established by a group of Christian abolitionists.  Eventually, the Antioch College model changed when we incorporated the very widely known cooperative education piece. This is now in the 1940s or so when they decided to incorporate learning theory to practice where students from Antioch would go and have full time working experiences incorporated during their learning.  That model took a whole lot of interest nationally and we fast forward now to the 1960s and 1970s where it grew up to several satellite campuses around the country.  Folks thought, “Hey, let’s propagate this model nationally.” So there were nearly 40 campuses nationwide in its peak, in what was then known, Antioch University.  Throw a couple of law schools in there and some graduate programs.  What happened was that model became unsustainable, so a series of mismanagement issues along the way caused the university of the College, which is now managing the entire institution, to focus more on graduate programs, adult learner programs, and degree completion programs and invest less in the traditional liberal arts residential college here in Yellow Springs.  In 2008, the decision came from the University that they would cease operation of the college altogether.  Now you have a group of alumni who are absolutely fervently passionate about their institution and who absolutely refused to let their alma mater die.  Between the year of 2008 and 2009, the alumni went on a huge fundraising campaign to raise millions and millions of dollars to buy back the campus from the University.  So in 2009, an exciting announcement came where Antioch College reopened its doors with the goal of enrolling and recruiting a class for the starting term of Fall 2011.  Last year, we greeted our first new inaugural class, again an institution that is 162 years old, a new inaugural class of 35 students who joined Antioch College for the first time since the closure in 2008.  It has been a very, very exciting time indeed.

Antioch’s Current Freshman

Dr. Pamela:. .Tell us about this current freshman class.  You have 35 students there now?

Cezar Mesquita:  We have 35 students and last year’s application season was very, very unique as you can imagine.  The college is starting anew. We do not yet have an accreditation from the higher learning commission. We are in the process of a multi-year, multi-phase accreditation process right now, so in many ways, we needed to provide an incredible experience for students with incredible incentives. So what happened was, we decided to come out with this campaign, which has now been extended where every admitted student at Antioch College for the first four inaugural classes will be given a free tuition fellowship.  What happened last year is that these students applied from everywhere. We had students and adult learners, students in their late 20s, students from outside Ohio from as far away as Florida and Seattle.  35 students selected Antioch College.  We made sure that we selected students who could do the academic work as well as we’re a social fit with our institutional values.  This was very, very important, talking about the element of fit.  These 35 students joined us and started the class anew.  Six full-time faculty members and a cadre of several administrators who are helping deliver the experience for this new class.

Free Tuition at Antioch – So what?

Dr. Pamela:     I want you to talk a little bit more about fit. That is something I am very passionate about sharing with my families.  I talk about in terms of three key areas, which you describes, the academic fit, the social fit, and the financial fit.  I think the financial fit for you is the fact that it is free for those students who are there.  Can you talk a little bit about those different areas of fit for the students that are there in terms of what their experience is like?


Cezar Mesquita:  Again, those things are so incredibly intertwined as a student and his or her support system, parents, mentors and peers will be going through this process.  At some point, they need to talk about those three things as well as others, but those three things will probably rise to the very top.  What is the academic experience like, what is the community experience like, and what is the value that we will be associating with our resources in order to make this experience a reality for students and for the family unit?  So that is huge.  From the financial side, in many ways, it was relatively an easy call, if you will, where the college and again this has been extended now for the next three years, where the colleges are to invest a significant amount of its resources to take the financial consideration out of the question, i.e., we want students to be looking at Antioch and take the consideration of financial affordability out of it so they know they will be investing in you.  Each college and university out there will have different resources in order to extend to prospective students, and each student, again with his family unit, will have to be discussed, okay, what are the expectations as far as our investment during school, after graduation. What kind of choices are we talking about when you speak of, perhaps an average indebtedness of $25,000 a year, which is the national average right now of graduating from your institution.  So families need to have that very conversation.  And they will be having that conversation somewhere along the way.  So at Antioch, we decided, at least for that side, we decided to move that to a second plane and focus on the first two, which is so incredibly important.  Again, the students over here are coming to an academic experience where they will be working with a very small student to faculty ratio. They will be very, very well nurtured and cared for as well as the preparation in the classroom. And a high level of expectation in a rigorous liberal arts environment, but in true Antioch College fashion, we will be pushing the envelope.

How we are doing it this year is Antioch is delivering what we call the Global Seminars Series, where we are coming from the premise that the way in which we live in the world today is unsustainable and we will be prompting students and faculty members to take this five global seminar series, that will focus on the issues of food, water, energy, health, and government.  The idea here is to really propose that these students talk and discuss and break down misconceptions and barriers towards the designing of sustainable solutio0ns to address those five issues.  Again, Antioch has always been on the progressive front and now we decided to fast forward our element to the 21st century and again, having this cadre of students and professionals and teachers and professors to help devise the solutions. That is on the academic side.

Ohio University: A tale of Parties and Poverty

Last year, Ohio University was ranked as the number one Party school by Princeton. There was little evidence of the party atmosphere during my visit:

The town of Athens was quite charming, filled with restaurants and shops. Even though I visited during the summer, there were many students on campus, current undergraduates as well as high schoolers. The campus and curriculum seemed to have a lot to offer.

via Top 3 Concerns when applying to a Party School.

Interestingly, the latest news from Athens is that the town is the poorest city in Ohio with a 16.6% unemployment rate, as reported in the Dayton Business Journal.

Ohio University is located in Athens, Ohio
Ohio University is located in Athens, Ohio

This announcement may cause some discomfort for families planning to enroll, which is understandable. As students consider their decision to enroll, there is still a lot that the university has to offer given its size and facilities. Perhaps this awareness of the town’s employment context may open more opportunities for students to serve in the community and for the university to seek ways that they can collaborate and bolster the community.

What Kelly Clarkson says to Boarding School Applicants

Today there were thousands of families gathering around their computers to learn the admissions decisions from boarding schools. Some went to a website with their login information, while others checked email accounts to see the opening line. If your letter began with “Congratulations” then you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done. A number of boarding schools, such as Hotchkiss, saw a record number of applicants, so this application season was quite competitive.

In a competitive application season, there are many more well-qualified students who opened their admissions notices to learn that they were either “Waitlisted” or “Denied” admissions. Ouch!

Now what? if you were Waitlisted or Denied to Boarding School

For students who were waitlisted or denied to boarding school, keep in mind the words of Kelly Clarkson, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” You can even “stand a little taller” even though you’re disappointed in the results. Here are 3 ways that you can indeed stand taller if you plan to submit a stronger application next year:

  • Continue to do well in the classroom – If you’re not understanding the content, ask for help from your teacher or work with a tutor. Sometimes, it’s not so much the content as it is a student’s organizational skills. You can improve your organizational skills by having a study routine or using a planner or other tool that helps you keep track of assignments.
  • Manage your teacher relationships from the start – Many boarding school applications require that students submit recommendations from current teachers. Students are surprised by this every year, especially when they haven’t developed a relationship with their new teacher!
  • Set a study plan for the SSAT – Taking any standardized test without prior review is risky. For the SSAT, plan to spend about 3-4 weeks of prep time.

These decisions provide good information, so you can use it as such. Keep on hanging in there!

College-bound families discover that Harvard is cheaper than UC, Cal State and other Public colleges


In our recent posting on “Why Scholarships searches are a waste of time,” we mentioned that families shouldn’t fear the sticker shock of private colleges. The hidden truth is that many of these colleges have more scholarship support than other colleges, particularly your public colleges with a lower price tag.

In the last several years, college-bound families have discovered this fact in March of senior year. (March is the most popular month for admissions/financial award notifications.) When families compare award packages and calculate the figures, it’s been less expensive for their teen to enroll at a private college that offered merit aid than to attend an in-state college close to home.

This recent article confirms what college-bound families often discover too late in the process:

Top private schools, with their generous aid, have been among the most affordable options for students for a few years, but rising tuition has only recently sent California State University and University of California prices shooting past the Harvards and Yales for middle-class students.

The revelation comes as thousands of college and university students on Monday march to protest budget cuts in Sacramento that have forced up tuition and shaken campuses.

It’s almost unthinkable in a state that once practically gave away college educations.

“We are coming close to pricing out many of our middle-class students,” said Rhonda Johnson, Cal State East Bay’s financial-aid director. “Now we’re seeing a disadvantaged middle class.” . . . .

Consider a family of four — married parents, a high-school senior and a 14-year-old child — making $130,000 a year.

With typical aid, the family should expect to pay nearly $24,000 for a Cal State freshman’s tuition, on-campus room and board, supplies and other expenses. At Harvard? Just $17,000, even though its stated annual tuition is $36,305.

The same family would pay about $33,000 for a freshman year at UC Santa Cruz.

UC Berkeley, which recently followed the lead of private colleges by boosting aid for middle-class families, would cost $19,500. . . .

Add to the equation that students at smaller private colleges often can graduate sooner, saving thousands of dollars over California’s public universities, where cuts have made it difficult to get all required classes in four years.

via Believe it: Harvard cheaper than Cal State – San Jose Mercury News.

Again, college graduation in four years is a great way to save on college investment. However, families must remember that college graduation begins in high school preparation, and the application process proceeds with a focus on fit – academic, social, and financial – for each college on the list. Please contact us if you have more questions about “fit” and why it matters. We love talking (and writing) about it! 🙂


Olin College’s application process reflects teamwork needed for college success

When I visited Olin College of Engineering a few years as, I was struck by the close-knit, creative community on this small campus adjacent to Babson College. The focus is engineering but the creative, out-of-the-box thinking seemed different from your typical engineering school. The opportunities for students to engage in research projects infused the campus culture and even extends to other research institutions.

It’s no wonder then that teamwork and collaboration are an important feature of Olin. Unlike most engineering programs that rely on high GPAs, strong SAT scores to determine admissions, Olin’s application process includes in-person observations, as this “fly-on-the-wall” viewpoint shares:

Dozens of high school seniors gather at the Olin College of Engineering for an innovative admissions process designed to determine something tests and essays cannot – the ability to work with others and fit in at a campus that prizes social skills and collaboration. The method is unusual – candidates are divided into teams of four or five that receive direction from Olin students, who woke up at 8 o’clock that morning to prepare for the all-day event.Olin students donned neon sunglasses and matching blue T-shirts as they walked – or rollerbladed – around the candidates working furiously to finish their towers, which had to be strong enough to hold a 2-pound weight for 20 seconds, but weak enough to fall over when placed in front of a blowing fan. One Olin student decided to rattle a group by singing them songs from “The Little Mermaid’’ and goading them into doing the chicken dance.That kind of interaction can bring a group closer together, said Allie Duncan, an 18-year-old freshman.“They bonded. They dealt with the singing, and they have moved on as a team,’’ she said. “Either that or they’re just scarred for life [and] will go home and say ‘Olin is so weird.’ ’’

More than 780 high school students have applied to the 2012 freshman class, but only about 130 will be accepted at the tiny college off Route 135, which has become a respected engineering school since opening in 2002. . . Only 245 of the initial applicants were invited to come to the college for three “candidates weekends’’ that begin in February.

Needham-03/03/12- At Olin College, "Candidates Weekend" was held in which on Saturday, applicants to the school worked in group projects in a design exercise in which they built small structures testing their durability with strength and wind resistance. Diego Guerrero from Mcallen Texas works on designing his teams entry. Boston Globe staff photo by John Tlumacki (metro)
Diego Guerrero from Mcallen Texas works on designing his team’s entry during Olin’s “Candidate’s Weekend.” Boston Globe staff photo by John Tlumacki

The candidates invited to visit the colleges “are really gifted students on paper,’’ said Charles Nolan, dean of admission. “We’re looking for evidence of leadership and collaboration. We pay attention to . . . communication skills.’’

via Olin College’s application process stresses teamwork – Boston.com.

This process speaks volumes about what will make a difference in student success during their years at Olin. While it make take a lot more time on the part of admissions personnel to select the best-matched students, this approach is a win-win for the institution and enrolled students. The institution has a stronger chance of selecting those students who will make the most of their Olin experience. Students on the other hand can better set expectations for their Olin experience and may be more likely to graduate on time and give back to the college.