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.