Visiting Brown, Amherst and Wesleyan: what to do, what to see, where to go
August 1, 2007 10:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm visiting Brown, Amherst, and Wesleyan next week. I'm about to start my senior year of high school. What should I do in my limited time at these colleges that will give me the best idea of what it's like to go to them?

I've seen this thread and it's very useful, especially for general advice on what to do when you visit a college, but I'd really appreciate advice specific to the schools I'm visiting. I'm visiting these three schools blitz style, three schools in about as many days, so I need to be economical.

I'll have some wandering around the campus time and I plan to take the campus tours, but what I really want are suggestions of places to eat or visit around the colleges, anything that will help me see what life would be like as a student there. Not that I'll resent general college visiting, college applying, college anything advice because I'm starting to develop a baseline level of mild panic about the whole business.
posted by MadamM to Education (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you staying over at these places? The best thing to do would be to find a house party at night and attend it.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:28 PM on August 1, 2007

Sit in on classes, if you can, and then see if you can talk to some students informally (as in, students who don't work for the admissions office), maybe grab a meal with them.

After all, the classes are what you're paying (at least in large part) for; you might as well sit in on a few and see what they're like. And the focus of your questions with the students later should be "was that a typical class?" and how it compares to the bulk of the classes they've taken.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:38 PM on August 1, 2007

Response by poster: ludwig_van, great suggestion and we are actually staying overnight in the different cities. The 'we', however, gets in the way as I'm traveling with my mother and I don't think she'd go for letting her precious daughter go party with a bunch of college students, not to mention I'm waay too awkward and shy for something like that to work. The embarrassment I'd feel might actually kill me.
posted by MadamM at 11:54 PM on August 1, 2007

By "Wesleyan" I sure hope you don't mean Kansas Wesleyan. I dropped out of that place after less than a semester. Ugh.

That being said, my advice would be to go to the Student Unions and hang around for a little bit, get a feel for the "vibe" of the students (do college kids still use the word vibe?)... Go to the cafeterias, go to a couple of dorms, go to the local restaurants and hangouts... Check out things that aren't necessary education-related because those are the things that will make or break your college experience.
posted by amyms at 11:58 PM on August 1, 2007

What are your interests? For me, besides the dorms and cafeterias and libraries (which you'd just want to see for the atmosphere and amenities), it was checking out the darkrooms, film editing rooms, art studios and radio station. But I didn't even glance at the gyms or arenas or science labs or Greek stuff.

I think the student center would be a good place to check out, to see the flyers for events and things, to get a sense for whether there are things you'd like to do. Although be aware that there won't be too much going on, as even summer school probably is finished or just ending.

I grew up near Middletown, but it was so long ago that the only thing I can tell you about Wesleyan is that "the tunnels" were something important to them.
posted by xo at 12:10 AM on August 2, 2007

I'm going to be entering my senior year in college, but I distinctly remember the whole process. I don't have experience with the specific schools you mention, but a few bits of advice I hope help you:

- I know it's much easier said than done, but don't panic. In a year and a half, you're probably going to be at one of these schools. (If you're not at one of these schools, it's because you found one you liked even better.) You're not in a miserable struggle to find the one school in the world that you'll like. You're bombarded with choices, most of which you'll love.

- Take notes! Back when I was visiting lots of schools, my mom and I would be talking later about our thoughts at various schools, and we wouldn't be able to remember which school it was that had the great cafeteria or whatever. Take lots of notes, right after (or while!) you visit, so that when you're mulling over the decision, you have all the facts right.

- Your first impressions are usually pretty accurate. (Although do remember that it's summer.) I visited a lot of colleges. Some of them just felt like home. Others made me miserable just walking around campus for a couple minutes. Don't rule a school out in the blink of an eye, but don't be afraid to trust your gut instinct.

- How close are the schools to cities? Or just civilization? Some schools are in the middle of nowhere, others are literally in the middle of a bustling city. Which is the better option is entirely a matter of opinion, but in any case, give it some thought. See if the schools offer shuttles. While I've never heard of a college that didn't have lots of fun activities going on, I've also never heard of a college student that didn't want to get away from school for a weekend every now and again.

- My school didn't seem too eager to show us the dorms. Try to look around at housing options. Do you have to live on campus? Do most people? They're eager to show us the classrooms, but you're going to spend more time in the dorms than in the classrooms, so make sure to look around them.

- I don't know if people attending college over the summer are an accurate representation of the usual student body, but, if you have the guts (I didn't), try to talk to a few students. If they were choosing schools today, would they make the same choice? What do they do on weekends? Do they live on campus?
posted by fogster at 12:14 AM on August 2, 2007

Most important things are to know why you're going to college and to trust your gut.
posted by fshgrl at 12:18 AM on August 2, 2007

Contrarian view that I hope doesn't lead to flameouts and how-can-you-say-thats:

I don't know if it's possible to get a useful feel for what it would be like to be a student at a particular college on tours and visits, especially over the summer. I just don't think you'd get enough information (factual, emotional, etc) to help you make any better a decision in that rather nebulous area than you would have in the absence of a visit, given the limited number of people you can interact with in such a short time, few of whom you'll see again and none of whom you'll be living with!

You know, so many elements of our lives have been thrust into our control that were previously out of it - how fast you want your Amazon books delivered, what brand of soy milk you want in your coffee - that it's easy to think that a proportionally similar same level of intensity has to go into big decisions too, like where to go to college. But I really believe that the fact that you go, and finish eventually, is the most important part, regardless of the school on the diploma.

I'm not saying to cast your fate to the wind, or that it's wrong to be a little (OK, really) freaked out about the whole thing right now. But until you get acceptance letters and financial aid packages worked out, there's very little to actually do or worry about, and even then, people bargain with universities over their financial aid offers and defer admission and do all sorts of other things that perhaps don't seem possible at first. I mean, I was admitted on appeal, and I didn't even know an appeal process existed until I was rejected and called them to find out why.

And even the point you have to commit to a school, if you decide to go to a college that's not the most convenient or the cheapest or even the best of the places you got into, that's OK - because you're still going somewhere, and when you graduate, your success and happiness won't be measured against some imaginary scale of "what you would have done had you just gone to College X instead."

Now, were I in your position, I'd look at the whole picture - not just classes and dorms, but the area job market, getting around (and out of) town, clubs/bars/cafes, possible places to intern locally in fields of your interest. And remember that college isn't just about class size or the price of textbooks - it's also about networking and friendships and organizations and collectives and research and debate - things which are very hard to assess in the absence of students - as well as a huge number of things that are totally outside the control of the campus, regardless of how connected you are to it. So do be careful in your judgments - if you visit the day before the street-sweepers come through the neighborhood, for example, you might thing the campus is dirty, and then extrapolate from that that the area isn't safe, or has a problem with disrespectful litterers, when neither of those things might be true.

Good luck! They're all great places to go to school, so you can't really make a completely terrible choice.

And so much of college is outside the classroom - if you'll permit me, here's a list of things of life-changing things I did in college outside of class from a previous post, and I don't think my experience was atypical in that regard.
posted by mdonley at 12:29 AM on August 2, 2007

Will it be at all possible for you to return to visit these schools at a time when the students are actually there? and when classes are in session? A great deal of The College Experience depends on student life. Another fair-sized chunk of The College Experience depends on academic life. What you'll get to witness next week is mainly . . . plant life, I guess (empty lawns and quads).

That said—

Look for any traces of student life you can find—copies of the campus newspaper from last semester, bulletin board contents, literary magazines, student art, what-have-you. Check out the surrounding towns—have lunch somewhere cheap and nearby. Ask all kinds of questions of your tour guide (how many students go abroad for junior year? how many students bring cars to campus? what are the most active campus clubs and organizations?). If you have a special interest like photography or robot wars or rugby, ask whether the admissions office can hook you up by email with a student who is active in the relevant organization after school resumes in the fall.

Try to see lots, but at the same time, with your blitz schedule, don't overdo it. It's impossible to see every corner of a given campus in one day. When you find your energy flagging, pack it in for the day and rest up so you can get a good, clear impression of the next college on the next day. Take some quiet time in the evening to jot down notes and impressions of the college you've just seen—it all seems distinct at the time, but in a few weeks all those quads and ivy-covered walls and perky backwards-striding tour guides will start running together in your memory (unless you have uncommonly good powers of recollection).

Re: these schools specifically: the only one I have firsthand experience with is Amherst, and I can't really suggest anything about visiting there other than the general advice. (Well, OK, I'll mention Bueno y Sano for lunch, but really, in any college town I think you can do pretty well by buttonholing a couple studenty-looking passersby and asking where they recommend for a quick bite.)

Re: the "baseline level of mild panic"—totally normal. You'll ride it out just fine. mdonley has a point: it feels like you're facing this momentous decision that will DETERMINE THE COURSE OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!!!, and that's kind of true, but really, this is a decision where few if any of the possible choices are wrong.
posted by Orinda at 12:45 AM on August 2, 2007

Email the academic counselors before you go. They may have a sample freshman course guide. You can figure out what kinds of classes you'll be taking, and you can select which classes to sit-in accordingly.

It always helps to keep in touch with counselors, as college websites are often poorly organized. They're often your best source of info.

Basically, get down to the specifics. You want to walk out with a game plan of what your freshman year will be like, specific activities you can participate in, places you can study, how often you'll eat out, how much time you'll spend studying. Colleges feed you a lot of fluff in those big presentations, your best sources of info will be one-on-one conversations with people.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 12:48 AM on August 2, 2007

ludwig_van, great suggestion and we are actually staying overnight in the different cities. The 'we', however, gets in the way as I'm traveling with my mother and I don't think she'd go for letting her precious daughter go party with a bunch of college students, not to mention I'm waay too awkward and shy for something like that to work. The embarrassment I'd feel might actually kill me.

Great, so you have a perfect opportunity to practice being both independent and outgoing. Try to meet people during the day and ask them if anything cool is going on at night. Hopefully someone will tell you about a gathering of some kind. Don't tell your mom that you're going to go party, tell her you were invited to a get together by a friendly student that you met and you want to take the opportunity to ask some more questions about student life in a casual setting. Which is what you'll be doing, really. People will give you the straight dope when they're hanging out and drinking. And you really can't be shy when you're entering college, unless you love spending nights alone with your laptop.

That's how I decided where I wanted to go to school. I did very well and graduated last spring. YMMV.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:51 AM on August 2, 2007

talk to students!

Seriously. When you hang out in the student union (which you should do.), walk up to someone (there should be at least a few people up there for summer session or whatever.), tell them that you're here looking at the school and are really interested in the school, and then ask them this question:
"What are the things that the official tour guide didn't or wouldn't tell me, that I should really know about the school?"
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 1:06 AM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

(sorry for not putting this all in one comment) Specifically when you go visit Brown, go wander around at RISD too (the campuses are contiguous with one another, it won't be all that hard). It probably won't help you in your decision, but it is a really cool place. There will probably be a gallery open showing student work.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 1:08 AM on August 2, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions! I'm really interested in the life around the colleges as well as on the campuses themselves- actually most of my reason for posting this question was to get specific suggestions for the different colleges. This is my one shot at visiting these schools because I live far away from them (in Texas) and getting to go this time is a big deal, because my family can't really afford it right now. Hence the blitz schedule- less rental car time, less time for my mom off work. Anyway, thanks to everyone for their advice and please keep it coming! For me at this point, there's no such thing as too much reassurance. It's very much appreciated.
posted by MadamM at 1:21 AM on August 2, 2007

It was some time ago but I went from life in the Dallas area -> college at Amherst so I can help you there. Assuming my info is not completely outdated:

- first of all I don't know that much of anybody will be on campus in the second week of August – Amherst sticks to fall term, spring term, so there aren't summer classes. (I think they might do summer classes for high school students or something.) This is probably true of Wesleyan as well. There will be college students around, but they will be going to UMass.

- within walking distance of the college there's pretty much the one main drag on Pleasant Street with restaurants and it's not that big. I am guessing you'll want to check out Antonio's Pizza (which is on Pleasant St.) which is a heavily frequented spot to grab a slice and odds are you'll be going there a number of times if you go to school up there. Amherst, MA is a tiny little college town dominated mainly by the UMass campus which is huge.

- nightlife is usually on-campus (just about everyone lives on-campus), in Northampton (at least drive through Northampton, it's great), or weekend trips to Boston. You can take a charter bus (I think) if you don't have a ride. There are some college-catering bars in Amherst proper but they will be crowded as hell on account of UMass. It's not completely out in nowhere but it's sure not a big city scene. Bands that come through often play venues on campus: in Amherst College that would be in a section of the dining hall or in the top floor of the student union building.

- snow! Magical at first, until you get to April and the damn stuff's still there. Maybe this isn't as bad anymore what with global warming destroying everything slowly, but the snow does get old eventually.

I'd look at the whole picture - not just classes and dorms, but the area job market, getting around (and out of) town, clubs/bars/cafes, possible places to intern locally in fields of your interest.

Yeah, okay, Amherst, MA is, again, a tiny college town. If you are working while studying at Amherst you are probably doing work-study jobs on campus. If you're doing that, your best gig in terms of regular money + ease is working in the library. Cafeteria = more regular work, but harder. There are even easier campus jobs but they are more intermittent. Internships? Boston or New York.

FWIW I spent maybe the better part of an afternoon there when I was touring colleges. Later that day I think we drove over to Williams. Massachusetts -> not that big. However, I went in the early fall, so there were students there, and the scenery was awesome.
posted by furiousthought at 3:41 AM on August 2, 2007

Antonio's Pizza in Amherst is mandatory.
posted by tom_g at 4:33 AM on August 2, 2007

If you're interested in learning what student life is like at these schools, I'd read this recent Gawker thread about that very subject. Quite a bit of information, especially on Wesleyan.
posted by saladin at 4:45 AM on August 2, 2007

When visiting Brown -- be sure to eat a hotdog at Spike's on Thayer Street. A healthier alternative may be a sandwich from Geoff's, but they're pricier. Thayer is sort of a little strip of food and goodies and is generally rife with students (although not so much, this time of year). If you walk south on Thayer, you will come to Wickenden, which is further away but usually more interesting. To just sort of see the general area you can get on a trolley and ride around. One thing you may want to check out is the Athenaeum, a small but nifty old library. And if you have time to kill -- you'll be 5-10 minutes walking distance from the train station, which allows you fairly quick/easy access to Boston via the commuter rail -- now even on weekends.

While I was a student at risd, I was frequently mistaken for a high schooler by other high schoolers, so I had a lot of conversations with prospective Brown and risd students. So don't be shy, ask a dirty artist type to show you around.

Oh, and about Amherst -- the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is there!

General college life questions to ask -- Find out how long it takes the average student to graduate. Find out what their policies are regarding housing -- is it guaranteed to you throughout your time as a student, not just as a freshman? Or on the other end, is living on campus mandatory until you're a senior? What are apartments in the area like? What kind of support do alumni get? Where exactly do they all end up?
posted by Marit at 4:54 AM on August 2, 2007

Just wondering - why aren't you visiting Williams. I didn't go there, but a few people I know did, and it's a really, really kickass school.

Seconding the talk-to-students thing. Heck, if someone asked, I would probably give them an unofficial tour of my college, it's just that nobody does.
posted by tmcw at 5:39 AM on August 2, 2007

Everyone's saying "talk to students", but as someone pointed out upthread: will there be any students to talk to? It's August, people. Early August. The only school (that I know of) that's going to have honest-to-god undergrads on campus at this time of year is Dartmouth, which is on the quarter system, and all sophomores spend the summer on campus taking classes.

If you can't possibly reschedule to visit when school is in full swing, ask to visit a dorm. You might end up living there - might as well see what it's like!
posted by rtha at 5:48 AM on August 2, 2007

Not many people are going to be around at Brown. While many students do stay in Providence over the summer, they live off campus and often work off campus as well. I notice that the Brown summer session ends August 3rd, which means all the summer students will have moved out. Brown campus tours never take people inside of dorms. You could try following some of the Pre-College Program high school students into the dorms, maybe.

Antonio's Pizza in Amherst is mandatory.
Brown also has Antonio's. It's on Thayer St, which is an obvious place to check out (restaurants, shops, movie theater, the Brown Bookstore), as well as both the main libraries (Rockefeller and the Sci Li). If you are interested in a certain subject you might want to check out that department. The main dining hall isn't open, but I believe the Vdub is (Verney-Wooley). It would be cool if you could eat there -- it would be slightly expensive, especially for dinner, but I think worth it. Also worth checking out the mini-eateries that are open (see here).

We don't really have a student center than people gravitate towards. During the school year when I wasn't in my room I mostly spent time on Main Green (if it's nice weather), eating the dining halls/eateries and studying in the libraries.

Walk around and have fun! And feel free to explore downtown Providence, which is a short walk from campus and small enough that you can't really get lost. What else. Prospect Park gives you a great view of downtown Providence and is just a few blocks from campus. Much of RISD's campus is also pretty impossible to miss.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me. I know people who both went to Amherst in the past and current students as well. It's too bad you can't visit during the school year, but I think you can still get a lot out of it -- as a transfer student I couldn't visit until senior week, when everyone else was gone -- but I still fell in love with Brown anyway.

As a once-frequent Amherst visitor, I would say you will easily cover the entire campus and town (including the aforementioned Antonio's) in a couple of hours. It is very small and compact. If you have extra time and a car, I would drive around and visit Northampton as well as some of the closer members of the 5 colleges -- Hampshire especially would be fun.
posted by puffin at 6:19 AM on August 2, 2007

2nd Antonio's in Amherst. Try the bacon potato and spicy chicken blue cheese. If you want a really fine dinner, try Pinocchio. Something a bit more casual, Judie's.

Also, I would definitely drive about 15 minutes over to Northampton. It's the "big" city to Amherst's quaint charm, connected to Amherst by bus and bike path. Go to Herrell's Ice Cream (8 Old South Street) while you're there. If you want a fine dinner, Spoleto is a "My parents are visiting and paying for dinner" favorite.

If you're outdoorsy, maybe take a hike up Mt. Norwottuck. Stop off at Atkin's Farm on the way back for a cider donut.

It's a lovely area.
posted by SampleSize at 7:17 AM on August 2, 2007

mdonley and Orinda are right to be skeptical about how much you can learn from a college tour, especially in the off-season.

However, since nobody's mentioned it, let me say: talk to some professors. Many of them will be around in the summer, working on research projects. Look them up on the college websites and drop them a line in advance; the odds are excellent you'll find someone who wants to talk to you. Even if you don't have any sense of what you'd like to major in, just choose subjects your curious about, or subjects you know based on previous experience that you don't hate.

Finally, I graduated from Amherst awfully recently and would be glad to try to answer any questions about the place, or put you in touch with current students. E-mail's in profile.
posted by grobstein at 7:32 AM on August 2, 2007

Maybe check out a copy of College Prowler, started by Pittsburgh-area students. They produce small books (about the size of CliffsNotes but 200 pages long) on 230 schools. Every book is edited by a student and has information on each university based on what real students say. They're $12 each from Amazon, or you can subscribe to the online version and get every book for $40 a year. It's way more in depth then a numerical rating or ranking from the Princeton Review. Take a look at one in your bookstore or library and see if the information is helpful.
posted by ALongDecember at 7:57 AM on August 2, 2007

I live in Northampton and I'm a Hampshire alumna. You should go to Antonio's for a slice, definitely; if you end up going to Amherst you'll eat there once a week at least. There's even a "campus cam" trained on the sidewalk right outside. (Not very exciting in the summer, but funny things happen at 1:30 a.m. on a Friday night during the school year.)

Talking to actual students would be best, though. Some of them will be spending the summer in Amherst, slinging ice cream and such. Ask your tour person if they know any students in town, and try to get in touch with them while you're there. Maybe you can do that before you even leave, to see if you can set up a coffee meeting with the student or something. I would have jumped at the chance to tell a prospective student about my school, but I'm one of those weird people who loves being asked for directions.
posted by chowflap at 8:56 AM on August 2, 2007

Ok, biased Williams alum here, but I'm seconding tmcw: if you're going to go all the way to Amherst, I definitely recommend making the trip to Williamstown too. Even if you're not that interested in going to Williams, the drive over Route 2 itself is beautiful, and you'll be afforded the opportunity to visit two on New England's best art museums -- MassMoCA and The Clark Art Institute -- or go to the famous Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Definitely try to talk to professors in programs you might like to pursue. You're not going to find too many students on some of these campuses (although all three schools have active summer research programs, so they won't be empty either), but the professors can help you get sense of the school just as much as the students.

Spend some time just walking around the campuses and seeing what they're like. After all, you'll be living in these places for four years, and being surrounded by environs you like can make or break the journey. Does Amherst's isolation bother you? Is Brown too urban? You won't know unless you spend some time -- away from the regular tour -- walking and looking and observing. If you have a digital camera, take pictures so you remember what you liked and didn't like. All these trips end up blending together, so it's really to your benefit to do whatever you can to help you remember what each place was like.

Last thing, don't get too stressed about the trip or the decision. All of these are good schools, and all of them offer something special. No matter what you end up deciding, you'll probably be very happy with your choice, even if you life is very different at one school than it would have been at another. The point is, there's no wrong decision here, so just try to enjoy the process of looking.
posted by dseaton at 8:56 AM on August 2, 2007

Feel free to ignore saladin's advice re: Gawker. (Nothing personal, saladin.) These are all smaller, well-endowed liberal arts schools -- they are, unavoidably, breeding grounds for entitlement. But anybody posting their inferiority complex about the quality of the education received from one of those places probably wasted four years and a lot of tuition.

If you are unable to visit campus during the regular school term, pick up some copies of the school newspaper or read through recent archives online. The newspaper is an internal conversation among students, not directed at outsiders like yourself. You'll gather a lot about the general voice of the student body, the issues that are on the campus mind, and the noteworthy moments of daily life.

Go Wes!
posted by sonofslim at 9:04 AM on August 2, 2007

Call ahead to Brown's admissions office and ask what time Robby is giving a tour, then go on that tour. He's the best summer guide.

Unfurl a blanket on the Main Green and pretend that all your friends are there. If necessary, bring a book that you can pretend to read (pretend, because you're really talking to your pretend friends instead of getting any work done).

Definitely visit Thayer; in addition to Geoff's and Antonio's I recommend the Meeting Street Cafe, off of Thayer and Meeting.
posted by awesomebrad at 9:45 AM on August 2, 2007

Hi Madam M. Welcome to the panic. You seem to be holding up OK so far! When you get bogged down in the selection process, try to remind yourself that these are all fantastic schools, and that you can be happy and productive at any one of them. It's true.

That said, I had a wonderful experience at the college I chose, which was Wesleyan. I graduated a few years ago and now interview prospective students for them on a volunteer basis (I am based in New York, but they will certainly have someone in your area too).

With all due respect to Saladin, I would take that Gawker article with a huge grain of salt. What you're getting there are the opinions of a few vocal New York-based Alums. A much better idea would be to talk to current students, both freshman (fresh from the college-choosing experience) and upperclassmen (who will have more perspective on the arc of college life). Since you're visiting in the summer and won't be able to just walk up to people, you could ask your high school guidance counselor to put you in touch with students from your school who are now at your prospective colleges, or ask the admissions departments at the colleges to give you some email addresses. I will add my email address to my profile in case you would like to contact me.

Some Wesleyan specifics:

-You will need to eat something. Off-campus, there is some great food on Main Street, including several Thai restaurants, a Tibetan restaurant, and an ice cream shop that makes its own (excellent) ice cream. Just walk down Main and look for something appealing. On campus there is a sandwich shop called Neon Deli, and it is good, so good that my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Ask anyone where that is.

-Check out the Long Lane Farm, which is student-run. Check out WESU (88.1), which is a radio station developed as a partnership between the campus and the surrounding community.

-Look for copies of the Argus (school newspaper), the extensive film series schedule, any literary magazines, and the several academic journals that are pulished at Wes. (On preview, what Awesomebrad said).

-If for some reason you have a ton of time to spare, you can take a little trip to Wadsworth Falls, Lyman Orchards, or one of the community theaters in the area. These places may not be part of Wesleyan proper, but I spent plenty of time there nonetheless. Ask at the admissions office for directions.

It really is tough to get a sense of the place when you visit in the summer, but with a little extra detective work you should be fine. Best of luck, have a wonderful trip.
posted by Mender at 9:48 AM on August 2, 2007

It may be a bit late, but if this trip is going to be a financial burden for your family, it sounds like you should try to get the most out of it. There is no way it can be rescheduled for fall, once classes have been in session for a month or so?

I really believe in the importance of the off campus environment. I chose a school in Portland, Oregon in part because I really liked the feel of the city I got from spending a couple nights there on a family vacation when I was 15, and getting off campus ended up being an important balance to campus life. I also strongly considered doing a semester at NYU or another very urban school.

On the other hand, I'd never seen campus before I arrived to start my first year there. The only students I met was a friend from high school who was a few years ahead of me. It all worked out great, I even got a wife out of the whole deal.

I'm sure you'll get something good out of the visits if you go in summer, but you'll get even more if you go during the school year where you can talk to students and get a feel for the academic and social life of the campus (and maybe you want to know what winter is like in the NE).
posted by Good Brain at 10:25 AM on August 2, 2007

i'm a Wesleyan alum.

talk to students. read the paper ( and the blog ( and the lj community (i forget, you can find it though). get a sense for student vibe. amherst and brown probably have similar stuff on the internet, somewhere.

what do you want? know what you want and how to look for it. wesleyan is a contentious place with lots of dischord. and it's got an administration that's continuously jacking up the prices on everything. it's really hard to get outside of the meal or housing plan, so they have a forced monopoly on the service, and they charge ludicrous rates - and that's on top of raising the tuition 5 or 6 percent every year. that really fucking pissed me off.

get to know the towns a little bit. my advice to you as a college student would be, get off campus as much as you can. do things that take you outside of the restrictive world of the student. so, when you're visiting, learn about the towns.
posted by entropone at 11:30 AM on August 2, 2007

Another Williams alum here, chiming in to recommend a visit to Billsville.

I did a talk at Wesleyan last fall and got a good vibe - one interesting detail is that they employ Anthony Braxton and Alvin Lucier in the music department. Those guys are titans of modern American music from two very different lineages.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:52 PM on August 2, 2007

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