For years, Wesleyan has been one of America’s best-kept educational secrets, but it
seems that the word is getting out. Increasing numbers of applicants are realizing that
Wesleyan’s unparalleled academics and unique student body make for a college experience
unsurpassed elsewhere. Its top-notch faculty includes some of the best in the country in both
research and teaching, and the students are driven by the inner desire to work hard and to
have fun. To add to this, Wesleyan is a college on the edge of the future, with an administration and a president, Michael Roth, committed to leading Wesleyan with vision, demonstrating the
value of a liberal arts education to the world.
Wesleyan students feel a unique bond with one another that goes beyond
school spirit. When you meet someone who went to Wes you feel like you know
them already, in the sense that you’ve both shared in the discovery of some
Three things set Wesleyan apart from the rest: size, academic intensity, and its student
body. Wesleyan is a small-to-medium liberal arts college (2,700 undergraduates) set on a beautiful
and spacious New England campus, comparable to schools like Amherst and Williams. But
as a thriving research university, with a small population of 150 graduate students, the productivity
and distinction of Wesleyan faculty in research rival that of faculty at much larger
institutions. Because of its unique size, undergraduate students make use of graduate
resources and enjoy small seminar-sized classes and opportunities to personally get to know
Many students choose Wesleyan over the Ivy League for its intellectual environment,
which differs from other competitive schools in one key quality: While students at other universities
are often encouraged to compete against others, Wesleyan students only compete to
do better than they did last week. Wes students feel comfortable helping each other with work,
and talking about intellectual ideas even (gasp!) outside the classroom.
You’re in a place where no one tells you how to live, how to dress, or
(heaven forbid) what to think—academically or otherwise. I tend to see it as a
Wesleyan fosters independence—its approach to liberal arts education encourages
undergraduates to invest deeply in their courses of study, without mandating a set of core
courses that every student must slog through. What students do have in common is passion—
they are passionate about their studies, passionate about their artistic and athletic endeavors,
and passionate about their politics. “The greatest thing that Wesleyan did for me was help me define my own education,” said one graduating senior. This might seem daunting to some, but
Wesleyan students rise to the occasion.
So, picture this: It’s fall in New England, the air is crisp, your ears are red from the slight
bite of the cold, and the leaves of the trees are slowly turning the bright color of fire. You walk
from the Campus Center to the steps of Olin Library, one of the oldest buildings on campus,
where students have gathered in the afternoon sun to chat and read. You enter the building
and follow the hall leading to the front face of the building, the north side of massive arched
windows overlooking the football field, and take a seat in the Information Commons.
From here, one has the best view of what Wesleyan has to offer. Across the football field
is the old Fayerweather Gymnasium, which has been transformed to house a ballroom and theater
and dance rehearsal studios. Beyond that (and beyond the Office of Admissions, which has to be seen to be believed), is the Center for the Arts, where generations of students have also
learned to play the Javanese Gamalon, an instrument so large it takes twenty people to play. To
the west is Foss Hill, a definite social center of campus, and to the east is the scenic and historic
college row, where it all began.
Here you can get a vision for Wesleyan’s future. The room you are in, the north room of
Olin Library, built in 1985, encompasses the original face of the historic building, designed by
Henry Bacon in 1831. The addition is more than an architectural element; it is a symbol of the
past and future of Wesleyan. Founded as a small Methodist college for men in the early nineteenth
century on the principles of community and the value of a liberal arts education,
Wesleyan has held fast to these values, at the same time that it has built on, renovated, and
transformed the school into a modern small university. It has seen coeducation, racial tension,
peace rallies, and firebombings—few American schools have seen as much change. But at the
same time, Wesleyan has still remained consistent—just as the old bricks of Olin Library have
always faced the football field, the school has always been leading the pack—a place where
high-quality students and top-notch faculty gather to learn and explore.
Wesleyan is unique because it attracts vibrant, open-minded, creative students, and
because it rewards these students for pursuing intellectual interests and outside pursuits
with vigor. At the same time that they engage students in the classroom, Wesleyan’s faculty
contributes high-level scholarship and is made up of dedicated and caring teachers. Wesleyan
has a small-college atmosphere, yet it is a place where students are challenged to make new
discoveries about themselves and others. Because of this, it will always be the special place,
the undiscovered secret, the definitive liberal arts education of the twenty-first century. Take
a moment to discover it for yourself.
Wesleyan has earned a reputation as one of the finest schools in the country for good
reason: its professors are top scholars and teachers, and its students take initiative and have a passion for learning. Wesleyan differs from other top-ranked institutions, however, in the depth
of its commitment to fostering the pursuit of individual intellectual interests.
It took me a while to get used to the demanding academic schedule at
Wesleyan. But when I did, I really came to realize what makes it so special. As
well as one-on-one attention from my professors, I really benefited from their
scholarship. I began to learn with my professors, rather than from them.
The breadth of offerings at Wesleyan is outstanding. Typical liberal arts disciplines such
as history, English, and physics exist side by side with such departments as molecular
biology and biochemistry (MB & B), East Asian studies, and film studies.
I was amazed when, in my senior year of high school, I found the
Wesleyan course catalog in our guidance center. I thought I might have to go to
a huge state university to take the range of courses I was interested in, but
Wesleyan had it all—from Oceanography to Linguistics, Archaeology to Film—
I felt that I’d finally found a school that would keep pace with my interests.
Wesleyan’s unique course offerings include “Commons, Alliances, and Shared
Resources,” “Politics of Terrorism,” “Tropical Ecology and the Environment,” and “The Past on
film.” Another of Wesleyan’s major strengths is its arts curriculum; introductory courses are
open to all and most graduating seniors, regardless of their majors, have taken at least one
dance, studio art, or music course. Popular choices include Introduction to Drawing, West
African Dance, and Worlds of Music.
The free and open aspect of the Wesleyan curriculum goes beyond the arts. Because
there are very few classes reserved only for majors, students can follow many interests and not
feel blocked out of classes. So how does a student decide which four or five classes a semester
to take from over 900 courses in 39 departments and programs and 45 major fields of study?
Upon arrival on the campus, each student is assigned a faculty advisor. The FA works with the student to define an academic mission and choose classes, all via Wesleyan’s high-tech and
student-friendly on-line course registration system.
From the very first semester, academic exploration at Wesleyan is encouraged.
Freshmen are prioritized for admittance to a host of small, intellectually rigorous seminars
known as First-Year Initiatives, or FYI classes. The first two years at Wesleyan are generally
reserved for exploration of the wide-ranging curriculum. To fulfill Wesleyan’s General
Education Expectations (GenEds), students must take at least three courses (from at least
two different departments) in each of three categories: humanities and arts, social and
behavioral sciences, and natural sciences and mathematics. The vast majority of Wesleyan
students fulfill these expectations without ever trying, though it is possible to opt out of the
Expectations with a valid academic reason.
Astudent’s final two years at Wesleyan are when he or she can truly delve into a chosen
course of study. Majors are declared at the end of the sophomore year. The most-declared
majors at Wesleyan are English, psychology, and government, but double-majoring is common,
and more students triple-major than one might imagine. Interdepartmental majors such as
neuroscience and behavior, African American studies, medieval studies, and East Asian studies
are popular, and the American studies department at Wes is considered to be one of the
finest undergraduate programs in the country—housed in the Center for the Americas with
Latin American studies. Students may also, with faculty approval, create a university major,
joining two or more areas of study not already conjoined under the auspices of an interdepartmental
major. Wesleyan also features two special interdisciplinary majors that must be
declared during freshman year, the College of Letters (COL), which combines literature, history,
philosophy, and foreign languages, and the College of Social Studies (CSS), combining
history, government, philosophy, and economics (sometimes called the “College of Suicidal
Sophomores,” in reference to its demanding sophomore year schedule of a ten-page paper a
week). Certificate Programs such as International Relations can be combined with Majors.
Many students (almost fifty percent) choose to augment their on-campus experience at
Wesleyan by taking one or two semesters abroad or away from campus. With the assistance
of the Office of International Affairs, students can study abroad in Wesleyan programs in France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Spain. Wesleyan also has special relationships with
programs in Japan and China, and students go to any of the other 140 programs approved
by the Office of International Studies. Wesleyan is also part of the Twelve College Exchange
Program, a group of prestigious New England colleges that offers exchanges for the semester
The grand finale of a student’s academic life at Wesleyan is often the completion of a thesis.
Though it is only through the optional thesis process that a student can earn university
honors (there is a separate Phi Beta Kappa selection process), many students
choose to do a thesis simply to fulfill personal intellectual goals. The most common theses
at Wesleyan are year-long research projects, producing papers that range in length from 30
to 45 pages in the sciences to 100 to 160 pages in English or history. Dance, theater, and
music majors perform their theses for the Wesleyan community, while studio arts majors
participate in a three-week gallery exhibition and the thesis films constitute a special slate
of screenings at the end of the semester.
It is nearly impossible for any single student to exhaust Wesleyan’s academic resources,
but it may be even more difficult to exhaust its physical resources. Wesleyan’s modern,
technologically adaptable classroom space is enhanced by several fine computer labs,
e-mail and Internet connections in each dorm room, and more lab space in the Science
Center per student than any other science research institution in the country. Olin Library,
the university’s largest library, has one million volumes including a music library and a rare
book collection (including a Shakespeare First Folio). The Smith Room on the first floor is
a popular place to meet friends in the evening, and the small, quiet study rooms on the second
and third floors are for those who prefer dead silence (many seniors who write honors
theses get their own thesis carrels, small private rooms, many with window views). The
Information Commons on the first floor is another popular place for students to gather
when they work together or individually on various academic projects. Students can use onsite
desktop computers and printers or bring their own laptops while having access in a
centralized area to library reference resources, information technology, and a network of
academic resources on campus. Across the street from Olin, the Science Library houses
science-oriented materials along with the Cutter Collection, an eclectic collection of one
family’s turn-of-the-century books, and a small natural history museum. Across campus in
the Center for the Arts (CFA), the Davison Art Center is a national landmark that houses
the art library and 10,000 prints by old masters and modern artists.
Most Popular Fields of Study
There is no question that Wesleyan is one of America’s “hot” schools. The Office of
Admissions has seen a forty-four percent increase in applications since 1998. Only twenty-eight
percent of those who applied in a recent year were admitted.
What students should apply? Make no mistake: Wesleyan is academically rigorous; in
general, applicants have performed extraordinarily well in high school. Of a recent class,
sixty-five percent ranked in the top ten percent of their high school class. Seventy-nine percent
took biology, chemistry, and physics in high school. As with many colleges, the high
school transcript is considered the most important element of the application, but Wesleyan
prides itself on taking the time to get to know each applicant as a person and not as a series
of numbers, weighing heavily the personal essay, recommendations, and interview. Median
SAT scores are Verbal—700, Math—700, Writing—700, ACT—31. The SAT with two Subject
Tests or ACT is required.
Students at Wesleyan are stellar beyond SAT scores, grades, and lists of activities. They
are intellectually curious, take initiative, and have proved that they will contribute to the
Wesleyan community. A recent freshman class included a student who was the first female
member of her high school football team, an award-winning playwright, a nationally ranked
chess player, and a student who started a midnight basketball program in his hometown. Every
year, there are many students who excel as starting players on varsity sports teams, leaders of
high school student bodies, and active volunteers in their communities. Applicants to Wesleyan
must prove that they have made use of the resources and options available in high school, and
plan to continue to be active and engaged in college.
For the student who is certain about Wesleyan, applying Early Decision provides a slight
edge in the application process. It is encouraged only for those who have selected Wesleyan as
the top choice. Admittance to Wesleyan ED is binding.
If you are applying to colleges and are also in need of financial aid, keep this in mind:
Wesleyan continues to hold firm to need-blind admissions, meaning that Wesleyan admits students
without knowledge of their financial need. Recently, when several schools around the
country gave up their need-blind programs, Wesleyan students led the country’s college students
in protest of this change in policy. Limited aid is available for international students.
Wesleyan awards aid to all admitted students to the full extent of demonstrated need.
Wesleyan is generous with financial aid; most students receiving aid from Wesleyan get a package
that includes a grant, student loans, and work-study jobs. However, the university reduced
total student-loan debt by thirty-five percent and eliminated loans for most families with a total
income of under $40,000 beginning with the class enrolling in 2008. Grants are substituted for
Tuition at Wesleyan is not cheap. To pay the full amount required—not to mention the
other costs in room, board, and personal expenses—about half of the student body receives
financial aid, the average package being $23,433 for 2005–2006.
Student Financial Aid Details
The variety of Wesleyan’s academic life is equaled, if not exceeded, by the variety of its
social life. There is a popular theory at Wesleyan that if you get any students into conversation,
you will find that they do something fascinating—from leading the Ultimate Frisbee team to
directing a short film. It is a place teeming with students who are interested in living in a
charged environment. Each week, the student body hosts a wide variety of activities ranging from dance performances to sports games to live music, and it is not uncommon to attend several
of such different events in one day.
Although Middletown is located thirty minutes from New Haven, thirty minutes from
Hartford, and two hours from New York City and Boston, Wesleyan students often don’t feel the
need to venture very far to have fun, and the focus of the social life is located on campus.
Middletown has a variety of restaurants popular with students (it can be difficult to get a table
at O’Rourke’s Diner on a Sunday morning, where students have entertained Clint Eastwood and
Allen Ginsberg), but for nightlife Wesleyan sticks close to home. Walk around the campus
grounds on a weekend night and you will see bands performing in the West Co Café, plays at
the Patricelli ’92 Theater, movies at the Goldsmith Family Cinema at the Center for Film
Studies, and hip-hop shows at student venues.
There are as many different kinds of parties as there are kinds of people—gatherings
ranging from house parties to all-campus parties to dorm parties to parties sponsored
by student groups. Often parties have themes: a costume party in LoRise, an eighties dance
at Psi Upsilon fraternity, or a swing ball to celebrate the Senior Film Festival. Parties range
from small and intimate to large and loud, but they are never exclusive, and never focused
exclusively around drinking. Often a group such as the Black and Latino Brotherhood or the
women’s rugby team will sponsor a campus event that attracts a broad cross section of students.
Each year, two large musical events—Fall Ball and Spring Fling—attract big-name
bands to campus. Recently featured were Andrew WK, Talib Kweli, Saul Williams, Immortal
Technique, Cee-Lo, Welfare Poets, and GZA.
The first year at Wesleyan is the only year social activities are arranged; after orientation,
students plan their own social calendars. In general, the more adventurous students are,
the more events they will attend and the more people they will meet. Friendships grow out of
social events, residential life, classes, clubs, and sports teams. While Wesleyan students don’t
go on traditional “dates,” a couple might meet at Klekolo, a local cafe, or drive to the always open
I try to go to as many things I can and meet as many people I can, but
there’s always more—I’m always reluctant to go away for the weekend, because
I’m afraid I’ll miss something.
Dining on Campus
Dining on campus underwent a complete renaissance for the fall of 2007. Brand new
dining facilities are the anchors of the new 110,000-square-foot Usdan University
Center. Two new dining halls that seat more than 300 people each are adjacent to a stateof-
the-art dining marketplace with a brick oven pizza oven, a Mongolian grill, a deli, and a
salad bar, as well as kosher and vegan serving stations. Students have views of Foss Hill, a
popular student hangout, and Andrus Field, where the football and baseball teams play.
The University Center also houses a first floor café with soups, sandwiches, salads, and
coffee. The third floor features a more upscale dining room for lunches with faculty and
staff. Students can still use their meal plan elsewhere on campus at Summerfields and
Weswings, or at one of the eating clubs located in the fraternity houses. Always handy is
Weshop, the campus grocery store which stocks fresh produce, name-brand foods, and
organic and vegan choices; students can make purchases there using their dining points.
Wesleyan housing is prime real estate compared to some other schools. On-campus housing
is guaranteed all four years, and can range from traditional freshman residence
halls to small New England houses on tree-lined streets. All undergraduates live on campus.
Most first-year students live in residence halls in double rooms. Upperclassmen either elect
to stay in the residence halls or live in apartments, townhouses, New England clapboard
houses, or two dozen programs, which include everything from The Bayit to Earth House to
Well-being House. These houses sponsor educational and social events for the whole campus.
Wesleyan is one of the only schools I know of where freshmen can live in
a single if they want to; in fact, it’s one of the reasons I chose to go there. I value
that students are allowed that independence even from day one.
Fraternities and Sororities
Fraternities are an option for housing and also for social life: five percent of students are
involved in the six fraternities (some coed) and two sororities on campus. The Skull and Serpent, and secret society located on Wyllys Avenue at the gateway to the Center for
the Arts, dates from the early 1900s and is shrouded in mystery, but no one lives here.
Wesleyan students like to get involved. They serve on every university committee, organize
orientation and graduation, and independently allocate funds to more than 200
student organizations, which include groups devoted to politics, athletics, and artistic and
cultural interests. Fifteen student publications are sent to press at least once a semester,
ranging from the twice-weekly newspaper, the Argus, to magazines of fiction, humor,
women’s issues, activism, and poetry. Students are also responsible for the wide variety of
lecturers and artists who visit campus. WESU-FM, the campus radio station, is something to
be proud of, not just because it is the oldest continuously operating college radio station in
the country, but because it plays cool music and anyone can become a DJ.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Although many people do not know it until they visit campus, Wesleyan’s Freeman Athletic
Center (affectionately nicknamed “The Palace”) is one of the finest college athletic centers
in New England. Completed in 1990 at the cost of $22 million and recently upgraded with a $13
million addition, the athletic complex has the 1,200-seat Silloway Gymnasium, a fifty-meter
pool, a 200-meter indoor track (with four indoor tennis courts), the Spurrier-Snyder Rink for
ice skating activities, the eight-court Rosenbaum Squash Center, and campus also is home to
a 5,000-seat football stadium overlooked by Olin Library, a new synthetic turf field, sixteen
hard-surfaced indoor tennis courts, a 400-meter outdoor track, and many fields for practice and
play. The Macomber Boathouse on the Connecticut River is home for both men’s and women’s
crew. Athletics at the Wesleyan are first-rate and interest top athletes: fifteen men’s varsity and
fourteen women’s varsity athletic teams compete at the Division III level. About sixty percent
of students are involved in some sort of organized athletics with popular club and intramural
activities complementing varsity opportunities. In recent years teams in women’s basketball,
and men’s soccer and women’s volleyball have all qualified for NCAA tournament play.
Numerous other individuals have earned spots at NCAA Championships in swimming, track
and field, and wrestling with a handful of All-Americans.
Education at Wesleyan is more about learning to live your life than memorizing the
vagaries of some obscure academic discipline. Wesleyan is the definitive liberal arts college—
here, students learn how to think critically, write clearly, and make informed decisions.
Graduates can succeed in any situation; they are flexible, creative, and roll with the punches.
It is not uncommon for English majors to become computer programmers, psychology majors
to go to law school, economics majors to go to film school, and music majors to become math
There is no single field of endeavor pursued by the majority of Wesleyan grads. Of a
recent class, thirty-five percent of students are in business, thirteen percent are in law school
or law-related fields, twelve percent are in education, thirteen percent are in grad school, thirteen
percent in medicine or health, and twelve percent in the arts. While Wesleyan had the
country’s second highest number of seniors applying to the Peace Corps, the top three employers
hiring students from the class of 2006 were Morgan Stanley, Mitchell Madison Group, and
Teach for America.
As for continuing education after Wesleyan, about fifteen percent of students go to graduate
school immediately after graduation. Five years after graduation, about seventy-five percent
will have gone to some kind of graduate school, and acceptance rates to professional schools remain close to ninety percent. In addition to
formal schooling, Wesleyan graduates have also won
more Watson Fellowships for self-designed student
projects than any other school in the country.
Graduates have recently pursued such topics as
“The Practice of Movement: Nomadic Domestic
Architecture” and “Understanding Cross-Cultural
Health Care for Refugees.”
Wesleyan students spend plenty of time visiting
the excellent library and friendly staff of the
Career Resource Center (CRC), which helps students
plan ahead for leaving campus, even in the
first year of college. With help from the CRC, many
students opt for internships over January break
and in the summer, often with Wesleyan alumni or
parents in their field of interest. Wesleyan has a
tight network of alumni and parents in the field
who can also help in the latter years at Wesleyan by
providing informational interviews and even offering
- Dana Delany, Actress
- Daniel Handler (aka Lemony
- John Kickenlooper, Mayor of
- Herb Kelleher, Executive Chairman
and Former President and CEO,
- Sebastian Junger, Author
- Jay Levy, AIDS Researcher
- Daphne Kwok, Executive Director,
Angel Island Immigration Station
- Jonathan Schwartz, President and
CEO, Sun Microsystems
- Ted Shaw, Director-Counsel and
President, NAACP Legal Defense
and Educational Fund
- Beverly Daniel Tatum, President,
- Laura Walker, President and CEO,
- Joss Whedon, Film and Television
- Dar Williams, Folksinger
The Wesleyan faculty is outstanding and engaging. In recent studies, Wesleyan professors
have tipped the scales in scholarship—the science faculty has received more outside
funding from prestigious sources such as NSF and NIH than their peers at any comparable
institution, and the economics department is renowned as one of the best in the country.
Unlike many larger institutions, however, the most productive scholars at Wesleyan are often
highly regarded as the best teachers. All of the more than 320 full-time faculty members
teach undergraduates. Professors frequently structure classes around their current interests
and research, allowing for timely, engaging classroom discussion. Students frequently
become involved in helping professors with research and have often co-authored papers with
their professors. Professors are generally accessible and meet with their students informally
outside of class. The faculty includes jazz musician and MacArthur Fellowship winner,
Anthony Braxton; film authority, Jeanine Basinger; 2007 Nobel economist Bary Yohe, who
shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as lead author on climate change; former Art Bulletin
editor, John Paoletti; award-winning American studies scholar, Richard Slotkin,; experimental
music composer, Alvin Lucier; prominent DNA researcher, David Beveridge; noted
historian of China, Vera Schwarcz; and noted environmental scientist and former field
Museum Curator, Barry Chernoff.
Despite the depth and breadth of the curriculum, students may find they wish to explore
a subject not covered by any class offered. In that event, they may, in consultation with a faculty
member, design a tutorial to study the subject they are interested in. Recent student-organized
tutorials have included topics in Native American studies, literature seminars focusing
on American novelists Don DeLillo and Anne Rice, and a survey of “Complexity Theory.”