A Visit to Wellesley College

A host of colleges these days are marketing themselves as having a campus that resembles Hogwarts, the mythical castle where boy-wizard Harry Potter attends classes.  Though it wasn’t mentioned during my tour of Wellesley College, I have to say that I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to hear it.  Each of Wellesley’s buildings has a slightly Gothic and decidedly old-world academic feel to it and if I’d seen someone carrying a broom and headed for the Quidditch pitch, I probably wouldn’t have blinked.

(As Wellesley is an all-female institution and Harry Potter is a boy, however, perhaps that explains the omission.)

Wellesley’s entire campus spans 500 acres and they also have their own lake.  (Our guide – a bubbly young woman from California – told us eagerly about the tradition of “Lake Day,” when cotton candy, games, and other fair-like activities are brought onto the lake shore as a surprise study break for the students.  Three words:  Sign.  Me.  Up!)  The campus is incredibly hilly, which makes for great exercise on the tour and also gives a sense of insulation and privacy to the institution.  Despite its close proximity to downtown Wellesley (and to Boston as well), Wellesley really feels like it exists inside its own unique world.

The view from inside one of Wellesley’s residential quads. (See what I mean? Harry Potter.)

The newest building on campus is the student center, which has a very cool layout and the most unique and practical lockers for its student organizations that I’ve ever seen.  (They’re encased in a decorative wall.  It’s amazing!)  In addition, five libraries are spread across campus and the standard tour makes a point to show visitors all of them so that the breadth of available knowledge is made very apparent.

In the reading room of the main library, our guide also made a point of stopping to point out the framed portraits of Wellesley’s former presidents and asked our group if we noticed anything in particular about them.  The consensus?  They were all women.  That’s right – Wellesley has never had a male president (with the exception of one man who held the post in an interim capacity for period that was brief enough not to warrant having his portrait painted).

Girl power indeed!

In recent years, Wellesley (as well as several other top-tier schools) have become discussion fodder for their calculated approach to grade deflation, a concept which makes some prospective students (most of whom are at the top of their classes and used to getting A’s) and their parents apprehensive.  The idea is that grade inflation has the ability to cheapen or weaken the strength of a degree from a top college or university (e.g. if everyone gets A’s, then how hard can a school really be?), so by practicing grade deflation, the faculty at institutions like Wellesley can protect the integrity of the degrees granted by their schools.

Our guide was quick to point out, however, that, at Wellesley, if you deserve an A, you will get an A.

Challenging academic coursework (including requirements for foreign language and physical education) aside, however. what really stood out for me during the tour was the tremendous alumnae support that Wellesley has garnered over the years from the ranks of its highly accomplished graduates.  Such support has given the school a substantial endowment, along with a wealth of unique and supportive grants that help to make the Wellesley experience truly special to those women who attend.  (Want an example?  How about a grant that awards free ice cream at certain points during the semester?)

Bottom line:  If you’re intrigued by grade deflation – or up for free ice cream and Lake Day! – Wellesley might be a good fit for your college experience.  Contact me and let’s find out!

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