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Thread: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

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    summilux's Avatar
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    Default Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    I've got a 16-year old who has got some ambition in her and decided she wants to do the finance/investment banker thing. She has decided to try to get in to one of the North-eastern small liberal arts colleges. We've visited a bunch (Colby, Vassar, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Tufts) and she really digs Vassar and Colby. Her grades are pretty good, she's a jock (the soccer coaches have been very supportive) so she can probably get in. Thing is, as a Canadian I know exactly one person who has been to a college of this type. This colleague of mine went to Swarthmore and pretty much describes her years there as the defining part of her life. As a foreign student, my daughter is not going to get a whole lot of financial aid and we are looking somewhere between $150-200K for the whole deal. We can probably scrape this together but this is about double what we had planned to spend for her education.

    If you went there, did you feel that it was worth it?

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    Eric Estlund's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    "Worth" is a relative thing, and you'll get a range of opinions on this.

    Mine- as a guy who went to a small liberal arts school in the NW- if your kid loves it, is reasonably self motivated, and is looking for the college years to be a combination of rich education and defining life experiences, then that's what she'll get out of it. The value is directly proportional to what she puts in and what she wants to get out of it.

    If she is a go getter and excited about the opportunities available, then hell yes- it's worth it.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Eric,
    Those are good words. She is a go-getter so I expect she'd get a lot out of it. Much better, probably, that the equivalent Canadian experience where the classes are much bigger and the professors much less caring. I know about the un-caring bit because I am one of them.
    If we decide to send her though, I am NOT buying one of your stems.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Estlund View Post
    If she is a go getter and excited about the opportunities available, then hell yes- it's worth it.
    I think this could be said of almost any school. I very seriously considered going to a couple of the schools listed and ended up making a last minute decision to go to a larger university. It had more to do with loving the campus and surrounding area than anything negative about the smaller liberal arts colleges. After deciding exactly what I wanted to do career-wise upon graduating, then changing my mind a couple times, I subsequently built a career around nothing I studied. I feel that for most picking a school that excites and motivates, in an area that will allow you to explore and grow, is more important than knowing what you want to be when you grow up.

    A couple friends went to Tufts and I visited frequently during college. They had a great experience there and I always loved visiting Boston as a break from smaller town Central VA.

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    echelon_john is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Colby here. I view my time there as very formative, and loved every minute of it. If she is fairly self-motivated and focused (and it sounds like she is based on her expressed career direction) she will likely be successful there. Lots of opportunities beyond the core major to explore; to me, that would be one of the most compelling reasons to consider a school like Colby. Plenty of econ majors are able to do a fair amount of history, literature, art history, etc. The sciences are a bit more demanding of one's available time, and may allow less freedom, but econ still gives good access to the humanities.

    Sports are excellent; certainly very valued at the school, but I wouldn't say it's a jock culture. I was into cycling, so can't really comment on any of the team sports there, other than to say that the athletes (with the possible exception of varsity football) were totally present and integrated into the academic experience, including study abroad.

    I think that, given the current state of the economy and its impact on endowment, they are still pretty liberal with financial aid, so definitely dig in and explore that.

    Happy to answer any specific questions or address other areas of concern; shoot me a PM.

    Cheers,
    JC

    PS--Just editing to add that the Econ department itself at Colby is exemplary. Tom Tietenberg was my first advisor (I later switched to English) and is a brilliant person, and David Findlay is excellent as well.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    My philosophy (shared by my wife) is that the best thing you can give your child is an education. So we've continually put our resources there. You're getting good advice here, so let me just throw out a couple left-field suggestions:

    1. Gap Year. Taking a year off between HS and college is a fantastic, underutilized opportunity for growth. It's a break that can be enriching in many ways - stepping back from the yearly routine she's been with her whole life, embracing new experiences in new places that are literally mind-expanding, and deepening her maturity and self-reliance. My daughter did it and it was wonderful.

    2. Women's Colleges. As a male I don't completely get them, but they are clearly beloved by the women who go that route. Drop all your preconceptions (well, most of your preconceptions...) - they're full of a wide, wide variety of mentally healthy young woman. The single-sex environment seems to be tremendously empowering. Added bonus? Admission rates are much higher at Smith, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley and Barnard than at their co-ed equivalents. My daughter was extremely skeptical when she went to visit an older friend attending Smith. It ended up being the yardstick she used against every other school she looked at.
    GO!

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    nahtnoj is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Dickinson grad here.

    Worth it - hell yes. My current job has both nothing and everything to do with my undergrad years.

    She should look at Dickinson - International Business and Management is a pretty impressive program.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Have you visited Hamilton?

    Can't say enough about my time there. Truly a formative experience (though many college experiences are, regardless of the school). The small class sizes, stunning campus and high-caliber professors were inspiring.

    Both men's and women's soccer teams were quite good during my years there. If she's a soccer player, it may be worth a look.

    It was there I also got into road riding / racing. Some of the best roads in east are in and around the Mohawk valley.

    Wherever she goes, have her check out the ECCC. It's the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference and was one hell of a time!

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Just my $.02:

    I went to a large state university for undergrad, busted my behind and then went to a top 10 Economics PhD program. I thought that this was more cost effective than many of my friends who went to small universities that cost 3-4 times as much.

    In today's world (speeking from my expereince from hiring people for companies that I worked for), graduate school is more important than undergraduate school.
    life is too short to drink bad wine....

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    That's a very valuable point. The downside is the larger undergrad environment with larger classes, TAs, etc. but economically it's a good way to get it done. I have 3 nieces who are all excellent students and could have had their choice of colleges. All went to VERY large state universities, and 2 have continued on to very good private grad programs.


    Quote Originally Posted by znfdl View Post
    Just my $.02:

    I went to a large state university for undergrad, busted my behind and then went to a top 10 Economics PhD program. I thought that this was more cost effective than many of my friends who went to small universities that cost 3-4 times as much.

    In today's world (speeking from my expereince from hiring people for companies that I worked for), graduate school is more important than undergraduate school.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Quote Originally Posted by echelon_john View Post
    The downside is the larger undergrad environment with larger classes, TAs, etc. but economically it's a good way to get it done.
    There are also plenty of schools that offer some of both experiences depending on programs they offer or even the specific chosen course of study. I went to the University of Virginia. Small compared to many state schools, but a large university by any standard. I was in programs that basically had me in classes of 10 students or so for most of my courses, but I still had the chance to participate in events and activities that would be hard for most small schools to pull off.

    I think davids is on to something with the gap year. I didn't take one, but I spent the entire summer after high school and before college traveling. That trip probably had more influence on me growing up than anything before or after.

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    echelon_john is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    I took a year off between hs and college. Worked as a go-fer in a very old-school Boston investment bank. Pretty much soured me on traditional/formal business environments. Made me appreciate the collegiate lifestyle a lot more than if I'd gone straight. In my case, I don't think I studied harder/more, but I really embraced the whole experience, after really not enjoying much about high school.



    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Strongin View Post
    There are also plenty of schools that offer some of both experiences depending on programs they offer or even the specific chosen course of study. I went to the University of Virginia. Small compared to many state schools, but a large university by any standard. I was in programs that basically had me in classes of 10 students or so for most of my courses, but I still had the chance to participate in events and activities that would be hard for most small schools to pull off.

    I think davids is on to something with the gap year. I didn't take one, but I spent the entire summer after high school and before college traveling. That trip probably had more influence on me growing up than anything before or after.

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    Eric Estlund's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    My comments were not meant to disparage larger schools or different types of formats. Instead I think the value is in the fit with the student.

    Before I picked a school I went ballistic and toured/ interviewed at 22 throughout the country, mostly split between small liberal arts and medium sized private with a couple juggernauts to see. I ended up going to the school I felt at home at (pretty much instantly on stepping out of the car). I had strong feelings about what I wanted, and how I wanted to get there. If she doesn't, or if she wants are a different path that is all fine and dandy- but the fit is really important.

    If the choice is between one of my stems and sending her to her dream school, I'll take one for the team.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Estlund View Post
    My comments were not meant to disparage larger schools or different types of formats. Instead I think the value is in the fit with the student.
    Not sure if this comment was for me, in part or in whole, but I certainly didn't take it that way. You've made great points and I, for one, 100% agree. The fit and what the student puts into the experience are more important than any specialty area, perceived prestige, or anything else that factors into the decision. Those are all important elements, for sure, but with the right fit it can be such a wonderful experience.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Nope- just continuing the conversation. I think you and I agree on most of what's been said.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Cool.

    summilux, one other thought since your daughter's a soccer player. If she wants to play collegiate ball, and one of those schools are going to give her a chance to do so, I'd say it's an important factor. I wish I had continued playing ball in college. My roommates at college and many of my closest friends from high school participated in their respective sports in college. Mostly track/cross-country and swimming, but some soccer and lacrosse as well. It adds another layer to the challenge of college, but I'm confident none of them would trade that experience.

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    summilux's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Good advice here. She wants and small college experience since that's something she can't find in Canada. Also, we liked the idea of a J-term, a short intensive winter semester where you take just one course or intern somewhere. We visited a bunch of Div 1 schools (Boston, UPenn and Maryland) and neither of us was impressed with the scholar-athlete atmosphere of the big schools. We can get that kind of experience in Canada.

    Hamilton and Dickinson are on our list to visit in the spring but she has expressly ruled out a women only college. I think we'll see Williams and Amherst. She also doesn't want a gap year.

    Grad school is on her list and was told that most Vassar and Colby students get into the grad school of their choice.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    I think Eric makes a great point about the "feel" your daughter gets from the schools.

    I urge you and her to be careful though, the "feel" of a campus is often tainted by various forms of cheerleading and distraction. It's very easy to present or see the best + fun side of any institution.

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    summilux's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    Quote Originally Posted by false_aesthetic View Post
    I think Eric makes a great point about the "feel" your daughter gets from the schools.
    That gut feeling is why she put Vassar and Colby on the top of the short list and Vassar on top of Colby. Funny thing was that the their soccer teams aren't the best.

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    Default Re: Any Colby, Vassar or other SLAC grads out there?

    summilux, my college pal is on faculty at Bowdoin. I can put you in touch with him if you are interested. It seems to be a similar school to what you have listed.

    I did college athletics for a while. Then I stopped. Between the significantly greater travel time for away meets and injuries, I just lost interest.

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