4.5 out of 5 Stars
cost for housing and dining hall is high, but the community is the best I've ever experienced.Admissions
unique application essays, optional interview; mandatory attendance of Candidates' Weekend, individual interview, group interviewLevel
Being such a new school, Olin's academics change quickly (or at least they did while I was there). Since I haven't attended Olin in almost 4 years, my comments about *my* academic experience there would mean very little to a student considering Olin now, except to say that the academics are likely still top-notch, energy-filled, and cooperative. "Competitiveness" in the sense of student versus student never entered into my educational experience; we were always working together.Quality of Life
The dorms, especially East Hall, are wonderful. Cost of living has changed quite a bit since my time there. The campus and facilities are all fairly new, so they're fairly state of the art, especially compared to Engineering programs at large universities. The library is small, but highly electronically connected. When I was there, the librarians were super helpful. The dining hall was better than can be imagined. Seriously, just drop by sometime for a meal. They win awards. There was an energy and a cooperativeness at Olin that made it a wonderfully happy place to struggle together and earn a degree. Laptops were left out in hallways, never stolen, people worked together on labs late into the night, never working "against" each other, and people would cooperate to do really great things.Admissions
One essay question that remained constant through my year, the year previous, and all the years I attended Olin College was something to the effect of "What is your passion?" I have heard since I applied that the school wanted to make sure its applicants were passionate about *something* other than just computers, engineering, math, etc. - something bigger-picture, applicable to life in general (even if it was "math, as applied to...").
Candidates' weekend is fairly unique to Olin College. If no one else describes it for you, I highly suggest you look it up on the Olin website, or you may contact me for more details at gjemmott at gmail.Graduation Year
Collaborative, hands-on group projects focused on understanding and exploring the fundamental principles behind Engineering and Engineering DesignQuality of Life
Amazing. It's like home.Admissions
Standard form app, with two unique essays. After that, Admissions selects the top applicants to all come back to the campus for interviews and group exercises in a Candidate's Weekend, after which final admission decisions are made.Graduation Year
Project-based learning from day one. Expect to work in groups on very cool projects. Classes are small, challenging and fun. There is a strong design component to the core curriculum. Professors are extremely accessible and available all the time. There is no competition between students -- just people working together to learn. The study abroad program is pretty good and it gets better every year.Quality of Life
The dorms are awesome and the food is pretty good. The campus is small and beautiful -- it is in a very nice suburban neighborhood. The town of Needham, where the school is based, is very nice; they are very welcoming of Olin students. The library is really nice and if they don't have a book, they will definitely get it for you. The study rooms in the library are great. The community is one of the core strengths of Olin; it really is a wonderful place.Admissions
Unique questions added to the common app. Strong students are invited to campus where they get to (i) meet current students and professors, (ii) meet potential classmates and (iii) go through an interview process. Only half of the people invited to Candidates' Weekend get accepted to the school.Graduation Year
Olin is an incredible school. The academics are mostly project based, which means students spend less time studying and more time working (and learning about) things they are interested in. There is also a do-learn mentality, meaning professors have students try things before they learn how to do them exactly, then they learn from their mistakes and learn better when the material is taught. In addition, the faculty are really inspiring, creative, wonderful people. They are literally on a first-name basis with all the students, and they are super open to feedback (Olin has a culture of change--it is always trying to improve its courses). Class size is generally tiny--you'll have plenty of time to talk with faculty because there aren't many other students with you. Huge lectures are almost non-existent. It's really common to work in groups at Olin--a valuable life skill--which keeps things interesting and makes school work seem less lonely. At Olin, the workload is pretty intense. People are working every day of the week late into the night. Olin is a super-competitive school--on par or above the ivy's and similar in caliber to engineering schools such as MIT, Stanford, and Harvey Mudd.Quality of Life
I have a great dorm room (very high 20 foot ceiling, extremely spacious, and really nice furniture. The lounges in the dorm are fantastic and a great place to socialize. The library is tiny, but it is a nice place to work and the library culture is very relaxed--you can walk around without shoes, eat food, and there are no late fees on books. The library, and all the other facilities on campus are open 24/7 to all students. Everyone is bound by an honor code, and the campus is so small (less than 350 students) that it is extremely safe (the safest place I've ever been in fact). People are trusting and helpful of each other. Every students knows every other student by name, which makes it comfortable to leave personal belongings out. Nothing is ever stolen. The first thing people generally do with their dorm rooms is disable the lock on their door. Honestly, when I graduate and move into the real world I'm going to be in big trouble because I'll probably end up being too trusting of others and getting robbed or something--I'm just so used to having a perfectly safe campus!Admissions
Olin has a special weekend for candidates during which they hang out, have fun, and do activities with other candidates and Olin students. This helps the candidates decide whether or not they wish to attend Olin, and it also helps the college decided which candidates are best suited for us. The college admits a certain percentage of these candidates based on interviews and recommendations from other students.Level
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 has much fewer core engineering requirements than other engineering programs (6 specific major classes as opposed to 12). However, Olin has very many interdisciplinary requirements- an integrated course block, controls, mechatronics, and a full design stream. We also have a senior capstone course that involves consulting for a company, and a required humanities or entrepreneurship capstone.
The course sizes are generally very small. The academic advising program matches each student to an advisor, but many students talk to lots of faculty about their course of study. Professors and research are always available.
Grades is not a strong factor at Olin. Olin is about LEARNING, and has pass/no record for the first semester. While students do strive for high academic achievement, some are more or less motivated by grades (moreso when they intend to go to a graduate program after Olin).
Oliners are not competitive. While they are all very capable and smart, the team nature of many projects and classes mean that Oliners help each other along with work. There is a strong honor code that means students do not cheat, but work together to help each other understand concepts and homework.Quality of Life
Everyone is required to live on campus and be on the meal plan. This is a bit pricier than at other schools because of the very high-quality, nice, well done dorms, and because having so few students makes it difficult to support a meal plan. Overall, there is a positive relationship between Needham and Olin students. The dorms are very sociable and many students like to live in them.Admissions
Olin has a two tiered admissions process- a standard paper application (I believe we now accept Common App or our own App.. when I applied it was just our own App)- that application includes essays, test scores, and the usual information one uses while applying for college. Evaluating that allows us to invite about 240 students to campus for a weekend of a design build exercise, and individual and group interviews. At this weekend we filter by how well we think students "fit" with Olin, and Olin "fits" with students.Graduation Year
Extremely hands-on and project-oriented.
Everything is done in teams. Everything.Quality of Life
The dorms are spacious and comfortable. The food is awesome. The library is small, but well-run and relevant to the school. There is no crime. The neighborhood is suburban, mostly wealthy, and very boring. Most students are very happy.Admissions
The school is on the common application with a number of unique essays.
Of all the applicants, a few hundred are selected to attend Candidates Weekend, where they participate in a round of team exercises and interviews. The final offers of admission are based on those interviews.Graduation Year
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
Academics are very unique at Olin compared to other schools. Core classes like "Calculus" and "English" are not found at Olin. While some classes are straightforward, many, including mandatory classes through all four years, focus on project-based learning that provides a practical application for everything you learn. In general, the curriculum is very challenging, and students working late hours is not an uncommon sight. However, it is type of challenge that makes us stronger and teaches us to think in new ways. We do the work because we love it; I have seen several examples of class projects turning into something much bigger.
During the first year, all students enroll in "ICB" (Integrated Course Block, I think), which integrates Calculus, Physics, and Engineering together, as well as in Design Nature, which focuses on designing to replicate animals in nature. The second year, students enroll in "UOCD" (User-Oriented Collaborative Design), where they learn how to design in iteration with the end-user. Senior year, students enroll in Olin Self Study, where they take on an independent project of their own choosing, an Arts/Humanities Capstone project designed as a culmination of related work over the rest of their time, and "SCOPE" (Senior Capstone Program in Engineering), a year-long team project done on behalf of a company partnered with Olin. The results of the SCOPE project are real, and may well be actually used by the company. At the end of every semester, all students are required to participate in the Olin Expo, where they present to their fellow students and to the community one project they are particularly proud of from the past semester. It is kind of a way to step back and admire what you and your peers have accomplished.
Students declare a major in their second year (if memory serves), which can be either Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or General Engineering with one of several concentrations including Computing, Bio-Engineering, Systems Engineering, or a custom concentration. Olin has agreements to cross-register with Babson College, Wellesley College, and Brandeis University; while Olin offers top-notch courses focusing on Engineering, these options allow the student to pursue an enormous variety of other opportunities.
At Olin, each student has an academic advisor they meet with about once a semester, or whenever they need something. As a very small school (~75 students per graduating class), there is a very strong rapport with professors, and they are always willing to help on a project, even if it isn't directly related to coursework with them. Class sizes are usually around 20-25 students, with tons of individual interaction. Research opportunities are generous and are offered for credit or for pay. Although it's a little rarer, students can pursue research opportunities at a cross-registered school as well.
Olin offers three types of study abroad. The first is with one of Olin's partner schools, where courses transfer directly. There are new programs like this all the time. The second is with certain study abroad organizations, where an expedited process allows for credit to be transfered easily. The third type is for unapproved programs, which have to go through the whole approval process.
As the classes are so challenging, grading is sometimes tough. But students (and faculty, for that matter), often don't take grades too seriously, considering them more of an arbitrary label they have to put on a student's work in order to be on the same standard with the rest of the world. Many other grading standards, including "Pass, No Pass, Mastery" have been proposed, but never implemented.
I would say that almost all the faculty are notable, or else they wouldn't be at Olin in the first place. Each faculty member brings something unique to the school, in and out of the classroom. In general, students love the faculty at Olin and frequently engage them in conversation about whatever interesting subject comes to mind. There are also Co-Curricular activities, led by faculty members, where students can blow off some steam while learning a new skill or engaging in an interesting conversation about a certain topic.
Competitiveness is greatly looked down upon at Olin. For one, you need to learn to work with your peers in order to make it through. But more importantly, there is a strong sense of camaraderie between all the students, regardless of class or major, and we each go out of our way to help one another out.
At least when I was there, the curriculum changed drastically with every year as the school incorporated student feedback, or just decided to try something new. What I have described is the curriculum at Olin as I remember it; it may well have changed since then.Quality of Life
At Olin, the quality of life is outstanding. For starters, almost all students live in one of two dormitories, both of which are spacious, comfortable, and highly modern. Except for special circumstances, all students live in either a double (with a roommate) or in a suite consisting of six single rooms, two bathrooms, and a common living area. Each dorm has four stories, and each floor has a large common area in it. Just down the road (you can cross the entire campus in about five minutes) is the dining hall, where a large spacious interior helps students enjoy some of the best campus food on this planet. Seriously, I wish I could re-enroll at Olin just for the food! There is a library on campus and while it is pretty well stocked, it does not have the same kind of selection as could be found at a major university library. WiFi and wired Ethernet are available throughout the campus, and for a nominal fee each room can be hooked up to cable TV as well. All students are issued a laptop, which is paid for in installments over the four years, after which they get to keep it. While tuition scholarships are generous, most students are still expected to pay for their own room and board. It isn't cheap, but I don't remember exactly how much it costs.
There isn't a whole lot to do in the immediate area around Olin, so students tend to stay on campus most of the time (we call it the "Olin Bubble"). The Needham community is nice, though, and Boston is fairly easy to get to. Crime at Olin is practically unheard of; all students adhere to a college-wide Honor Code emphasizing respect, honesty, and "doing something" if you see something is wrong.
I'd say that students are generally very happy at Olin. There are a lot of hard times due to the workload, but we band together and push through. I can honestly say that my four years at Olin were the best of my entire life, due in large part to the lifelong friendships I made there.Admissions
Unique application (no common app). Can't remember the questions very well, but I think they were largely aimed at getting at your personality and overall problem solving skills more than anything. All selected candidates are invited to attend a "Candidate's Weekend", where students get to see the campus, interact with current students and faculty, sample some of Olin's outstanding cuisine, watch presentations on the school, and participate in interviews. Some activities take place with parents, and others do not. The interviews consist of one competitive team challenge such as "build a tower as tall as you can using only slabs of foam and a 3-liter bottle of soda" (the challenge is technically not used as a criterion for admission), a team interview with questions such as "In ten minutes, prepare and give a presentation for or against the use of medical marijuana), and some individual interviews with faculty. All admitted students are entitled to generous financial aid, as it is in Olin's core values that financial status should not have an impact on one's education at Olin. Olin is a very unique school, and the whole process is designed as much for the student to decide if it is a fit for them as for the faculty to decide on the student.Graduation Year