Wesleyan University


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 wonderful secret.

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 professors.

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 challenge.

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.

Information Summary

Ranks 1st in Connecticut and 8th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 99.1
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $72,669
Admission Success rate N/A
SAT 75%ile scores 1480
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 8 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 96% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 3,217


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.

Course Offerings

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.

FYI Classes

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.

Study Abroad

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 or year.

The Thesis

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


campus :: Wesleyan University
campus :: Wesleyan University


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.

Financial Aid

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 the loans.

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

Ranks 4678th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Connecticut.


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 Athenian Diner.

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

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. (We think.)


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 teachers.

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 jobs.

Prominent Grads

  • Dana Delany, Actress
  • Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Author
  • John Kickenlooper, Mayor of Denver, Colorado
  • Herb Kelleher, Executive Chairman and Former President and CEO, Southwest Airlines
  • Sebastian Junger, Author
  • Jay Levy, AIDS Researcher
  • Daphne Kwok, Executive Director, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation
  • Jonathan Schwartz, President and CEO, Sun Microsystems
  • Ted Shaw, Director-Counsel and President, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • Beverly Daniel Tatum, President, Spelman College
  • Laura Walker, President and CEO, WNYC Radio
  • Joss Whedon, Film and Television Director
  • 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.”

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