4.5 out of 5 Stars
Multi and inter-disciplinary. Each student is exposed to the basic principles of mechanical, electrical and bio-engineering. There is also a set of entrepreneurship requirements as well as a required design curriculum that spans the traditional 4 years. Seniors are required to participate in a year long team-based consulting project with an outside sponsor who provides an objective and a budget.
The classes are collaborative and project based, with a "learn by doing" attitude. Class sizes are at most the size of your class - around 90 people, but can be as small as 2-3 students. Professors are extremely accessible, and each student is paired with a faculty adviser (of their choosing, if they wish). Olin maintains an active study abroad interchange with a number of academic institutions internationally, and students commonly choose to either study abroad or take their 3rd year off. The academic atmosphere is one of friendly competition where there is always room for collaboration. The workload is heavy, but peers and professors form a strong and understanding support network.Quality of Life
Spacious, clean dorms, containing doubles with private bathrooms or suites with 6 singles, 2 bathrooms and a common area. Superb facilities staff who are always willing to help out with odd requests. Librarians will go to the ends of the earth to track down publications for you. Excellent dining staff who are happy to accommodate food and event requests, and know you by name.
Not much interaction with the surrounding community except through community service outreach.Admissions
The process begins with a traditional paper or online application from which a group of 180 students are chosen for an invitation-only "candidate's weekend". During the weekend, the paper files for each applicant are closed, and the students are asked to participate in a series of group and individual activities and interviews. Students are evaluated on whether or not they would be a good fit culturally for Olin, and whether or not Olin would be a good fit for them. My incoming class was a group of around 78 students. A one-year deferral option is available.Graduation Year
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
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
Focus on engineering but includes relevant foundation courses. Opportunity to study at Brandeis University, Wellesley College, and Babson College for credit. Study abroad program lets you go anywhere, not just partner schools (I went to Hong Kong Polytechnic University). Small classes with lots of hands on projects. Few written finals, mostly projects and presentations.Quality of Life
Everyone knows each other and is very friendly. The Honor Code is strictly followed. Very safe campus in terms of crime, since it is so small and everyone keeps a community watch, and in a very good neighborhood. Dorms and food are great.Admissions
Unique essays and questions, personal interview and a group interview, on-campus design and build competitions, portfolio submission.Graduation Year
Very small classes with very accessible professors. I've had dinner at their houses, knew their kids, and always felt comfortable with them.
I really enjoyed the open-ended testing style - They managed to make the tests learning opportunities.Quality of Life
Housing provided was quite good.Admissions
Two stage admissions process: A standard first round selects people based on their essays etc to participate in the second round - Candidates Weekend. Invited applicants come to campus for interviews, team-building activities, personality assessment. The entire campus is involved in this process.Graduation Year
Hands-on, project oriented, and student directed. The faculty is excellent at taking student feedback, and there is a lot of opportunity for students to design their own majors and courses.Quality of Life
Dorms are really nice if a bit expensive, and allow a great student community. Campus is very small but well designed. Crime is non-existent.Admissions
Common app with supplemental essays, as well as an interview weekend.Level
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
Olin's application is unique in that selected applicants are invited to "Candidate's Weekend"-a weekend where they get to know the school and the school gets to know them better. This is important because of the strong culture at Olin-there may be many academically qualified applicants who would not be happy at Olin, and they deserve a chance to understand that before making their decisions (likewise, Olin needs to see whether the "fit" is there for those applicants as well).Level
There are basic required classes (Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, Modeling and Control, Design Nature, Modeling and Simulation, Real World Measurements, Principles of Engineering) and many many specialty classes. All academics are rigorous and done in small groups (10 to 40 students). All grading is private.Quality of Life
The campus is amazing and our dorms are ranked in the top ten palaces by the College Board.Admissions
Common app with separate essays, extensive interviews and group project challenges.Level