4.5 out of 5 Stars
A small set of requirements for all students, with a set of Major requirements, and Humanities requirements (from which you can select either a traditional arts and sciences path, or an entrepreneurship concentration). Mechanical and Electrical engineering have rather rigid and set requirements, while the Engineering degree allows for the student to prescribe their own course of study with the approval of the faculty.Admissions
Very unique application, followed by a "Candidate's Weekend" where candidates are interviewed both individually and in a group setting, to see how they perform in a group environment.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
Unique application questions; all academically qualified candidates invited to campus for an in-person interview weekendGraduation Year
Core engineering classes, with specialized electives. Lots of encouragment to take arts and humanities class both at the school and at one of three sister colleges. Very project based classes, a lot of hands on work. Brilliant professors, to of the line labs accessible 24/7.Quality of Life
Housing is awesome, huge rooms, private bathrooms, open honor code atmosphere. Great dining.Admissions
Unique application, two essays, a weekend retreat at the college which included one on one interviews.Graduation 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
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
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
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
Only engineering, very difficult, but there is support all around. Project based learning -- most courses have large hands-on project component that is fantastic for developing a good engineering design, and implementation knowledge base.Quality of Life
Extremely safe, wonderful dorms, each room has its own bathroom.Admissions
1/2 tuition scholarship for all incoming students (full tuition when I attended). Essays and every candidate comes to visit the school and is interviewed over a period of 3 weekends.Graduation Year
The most unique part of Olin's admission process is the candidate's weekend experience. All potential students are required to attend where they not only are interviewed for potential admission but are given the opportunity to experience Olin culture and figure out if that is where they want to be. As I like to say, candidate's weekend not only gives Olin the opportunity to find the students that are right for it, but it gives the students the opportunity to figure out if Olin is right for them.Graduation Year