4.5 out of 5 Stars
Hands-on, project-based, design focused engineering education. Small class sizes. Amazing professors available for help, talk, fun, research, etc. Every accepted student is outstanding academically but once you arrive, grades are not often talked about. Cooperation and friendly competition. Focus on academic competencies and "learning how to learn" as opposed to memorization. Practical knowledge is more important than book knowledge. Allows for individual humanities focus. Senior capstone project in Engineering. Cross-registration at Babson, Wellesley, Brandeis.Quality of Life
Fabulous new dorms. Doubles with a bathroom or Suite of 6 singles and 2 bathrooms. Small campus. Fabulous library and librarians who go out of their way to help. Amazing dining hall food and friendly staff. Low crime. Felt incredibly safe. Everyone (students, faculty, staff) know each other. Happiest time of my life.Admissions
Application included essays about "Why Olin" and why I would be a good fit for the school. Candidate's Weekend for select applicants included team and individual interviews and a chance to get to know the school.
Tuition scholarship for all admitted students.Graduation Year
Unlike most engineering schools, Olin requires a liberal arts concentration in order to graduate, as well as participation in a intro business course, which allows students to create a running business for 3 weeks. Class size is about 20-1 in your freshman year, but quickly die down to 6-1.Quality of Life
The rooms are huge, and we all get private bathrooms. And you know everyone in your building. in a good way. The second week I came here, someone dropped a twenty on the ground of the lounge. and it was later taped onto a piece of paper that said "found here, claim if yours" The 20 is still hanging on the board. The dining hall staff is incredible, and the food is pretty good too, but it's a little difficult to eat veg and not eat carbs for life.Admissions
After the initial application process, Olin invites their top 250 choices to three weekends at the school. The candidates, we like to call them, are then welcome to experience the culture and community at Olin. Most of all the students participate, setting up activities for the candidates to do, as well as eat with them. The candidates are put into groups and participate in a design build, meant to be fun, and engaging. these same groups have group interviews as well as individual interviews at the end of the weekend.Level
Degree programs: Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE), Mechanical Engineering (ME), Engineering with a Concentration in
General requirements: vector calculus, intro biology, intro chemistry or another chemistry course, differential equations (most majors), linear algebra, one of several introductory writing courses, intro entrepreneurship, five or so additional arts/humanities/entrepreneurship courses
Go read the online student handbook for accurate, up-to-date information about requirements.
Advising varies widely depending on how much of it you want/need. I did not want/need much, so I met with my advisor only once per semester to review my schedule for the upcoming semester. Students who want more attention would not have trouble as long as they select an advisor with knowledge of their field and schedule meetings in advance to coordinate with the busy schedules of professors.
One entering or graduating class is typically around 80 +/- 10 students. One or two required first-year courses are offered once a year in one large section to the whole class at once. General requirement math classes tend to be offered in only one section per semester, meaning the average class size is around 80/2 = 40. Other general requirements, like biology and chemistry, are offered in two or three sections per semester, meaning the average class size is more like 80/5 = 16. Major requirements are typically of a similar size due to being offered in fewer sections per year and taken by a proportionally smaller number of students. Major electives are usually anywhere from 16 down to just a few students. 16-20 is typical for the vast majority of classes.
Professors are generally very accessible. Almost all professors are on a reciprocally first-name basis with all students from day one. Offices are publicly accessible at most hours, and professors are usually either in them or working elsewhere on campus. Many professors regularly eat lunch and sometimes dinner with students in the dining hall, and one or two live on campus with their families.
Olin students are very proud and protective of the non-competitive academic atmosphere. Sharing or asking about grades is taboo. Class members are not ranked at graduation or any other time.Quality of Life
Campus, housing, and facilities are new, spacious, and modern. Housing is in doubles with a private bathroom or in suites of six private bedrooms with two bathrooms among them. Buildings, floors, and suites are coed. After first year, students select their own roommates and rooms with preference given to more senior students and a random factor used to rank students within classes. Living cost is moderate, and/but dorm housing is mandatory for all students except in unusual circumstances.
Most meals are eaten at an on-campus dining hall and paid for with a flat-rate meal plan. The quality of the food is quite good, but the selection gets a little dull after three or four years of such constant exposure. Nearby restaurants are somewhat limited, but some good options do exist.
The Needham / Wellesley, MA area is very nice, however aside from the other colleges nearby (Wellesley, Babson), the atmosphere is small-town / suburban which is not what many college students are looking for. For example, most stores and restaurants in the immediate area close early, and neither Needham nor Wellesley allows bars.
Crime on campus is non-existent; even valuable possessions are safe in buildings and outside for extended periods.
If someone is unhappy at Olin it's usually not because of any of these factors but rather because he or she is working him- or herself too hard or have decided that engineering isn't for him or her.Admissions
Applicants complete a short addendum to the Common Application. A smaller group of candidates is selected from this applicant pool based on academic qualification and demonstrated fit. These candidates are invited to participate in one of three on-campus Candidates' Weekends where they will be evaluated by students, faculty, staff, and alumni through a series of group and individual interviews for their potential to fit into the community and work well with others. Academic qualification is not considered at this point. Candidates also have an extended opportunity to experience the culture of the school and learn more about the academic and other programs to inform their choice, should they be offered a spot in the incoming class. Many candidates are accepted outright following the conclusion of the last weekend, and those on the higher of two waiting lists are offered the option to defer one year and be placed in the next class without further application steps.
Due to Olin's small size, narrow academic curriculum, and unique approach to engineering education, prompts in both the written application and the interview process seek enthusiasm for these and other defining aspects of the school, which are valued highly.
Because the Olin curriculum requires and encourages teamwork, all candidates participate in a group activity exercise to help the interview team evaluate their aptitude for such cooperation. As might be expected, it is not necessary to lead the group to be considered a good team player, and in fact those candidates who are most perceptive of and responsive to the group dynamic as a whole are easy to recognize whether they are leading the discussion or merely contributing.
A merit-based scholarship which covers half of the cost of tuition is awarded to each student who enrolls. The school is committed to meeting demonstrated need beyond this amount up to the full cost of attendance, but like similar offers at many schools, demonstrated need is calibrated by FAFSA with the assumption of significant sacrifices on the part of the student and his or her family.Graduation Year
There are general requirements as well as major degree requirements, but we can design our own major. Each student is grouped with 5-10 others and assigned an academic advisor. Academic advisors are groups with 3-4 others into an extended advising family. Class sizes range from around 5 to around 90. Most classes are 20-30 people. Research opportunities are easy to obtain because the faculty is very accessible, the faculty are all well-versed in their fields and often others. Grading ranges from traditional to experimental. Study abroad is recommended. Work load seems to be higher than average.Quality of Life
It's awesome! Housing, dining and community are great. Safety is very high. I don't have to worry about cost.Admissions
Unique application, first cut goes to a Candidates' Weekend where interviews and group activities are done, and from those a final cut are selectedLevel
Unique application questions; all academically qualified candidates invited to campus for an in-person interview weekendGraduation Year
General requirements include AHSE (Arts, Humanities, Society, and Entreprenuership) which requires you to take the equivalent of 7 of these classes. You must also take 30 credits worth of math and science. You can take any class you want at any time in your career as long as you are on track to graduate.Quality of Life
Everyone hangs out in the lounges and in each other's rooms. Virtually no student works alone because everyone helps each other. The library is not huge but generally sufficient. The dorms are the best I've ever seen. Each dorm room has its own bathroom and the rest of the room is very large. There is no crime on campus-students leave their laptops and money lying around without fear.Admissions
Prospective students fill out Olin's application around December, and if they are an excellent candidate, they will be invited to Olin for "Candidate's Weekend" During this time, students will participate in design builds, interview, and just getting to know about the school. The admissions department uses the results of this weekend to select the admitted students. Furthermore, wait listed students can agree to come to Olin the next year.Level
It's as much work as MIT, if not more. However, the work is more fun than MIT's and the professors (tend to be) extremely helpful and accessible. I was able to do things as an undergrad that most people in my major don't do until grad school. It was a wonderful, but stressful experience. If I had to do college all over again I would pick Olin in a heartbeat.Quality of Life
Food wasn't as good when I graduated as when I started, but it is still better than pretty much every other college dining hall I have been in. The dorms are wonderful, and they are easily the best dorms I've seen at a college. Needham is a sleep town though, and I recommend using the Wellesley shuttle or the T to get into Boston/Cambridge as much as you can. Boston has wonderful opportunities for not only fun, but you can also do research at places like MIT.Admissions
You're applying to Olin alongside the best of the best engineering candidates. Olin doesn't just want the best candidates on paper. They want the best all-around people for the school. The plus-side for them is they have such stellar candidates that they can pick who they like and still have an amazing class on paper. Their candidates weekend was one of the best experiences of my life, and was the reason why I decided to go to Olin.Graduation Year
Olin dining is superb, very safe, in a college town, and overall very easy to live in.Admissions
At the time, there was no common application for Olin (I believe they have changed it in the last year). There is only regular decision, and admission staff pick "candidates" for admission. These candidates are then put through a rigorous evaluation program for two days on campus, and then some are offered admission. All students are offered a half-tuition scholarship on top of generous financial aid.Level
The workload is heavy, and the classes are constantly in a state of experimentation; I don't think the freshman curriculum has ever been repeated, and I've walked into classes where the professor explained he'd be making up the course as we went along. I loved this - it was part of the grand Olin experiment to reinvent engineering education, and it was great to be able to see behind the scenes of the design of our courses, why our teachers taught the way they did, instead of being told to accept the material as gospel.Quality of Life
Olin's the kind of place where you can leave your laptop in the dining hall, library, or dorm lounge and not even think about whether it's going to be there several hours later. Once, a student from another college visiting his Olin friend wagered that a $20 bill placed on the ground would be gone within hours. It stayed there for several days, then was replaced by a note: "I have your $20 bill, please come to room XYZ to get it back."Admissions
Olin has a two-round admissions process; a regular application process (grades, recommendations, essays, scores, etc) for the first round, and "Candidates' Weekend" for the second round, where all candidates spend a weekend at the college and are evaluated for "cultural fit" through group exercises, interviews, and interactions with students and professors. The final class is admitted from this candidate pool. All admitted students receive a half-tuition scholarship (it used to be full tuition) and anyone on waitlist has the option of deferring a year and entering with a guaranteed slot in the following year's class.Graduation Year