Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
WPI focuses on the STEM majors, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. 10% of the students major in management and the Interactive Media and Gaming Development (IMGD) is also popular. It is very collaborative, project-based environment and the kids are very friendly. There is a lot of opportunity to gain real world applications and they encourage students to take risks and experience a lot of different things. As a result, no student will receive less than a C in any class and if he does, the grade will not go onto the student’s transcript. There is no core curriculum and WPI runs on the quarter system, whereby students take three classes per quarter.
Students complete at least three major projects throughout their tenure at school, there is a major specific project, an interactive, interdisciplinary project, and global project (optional), and a senior project. The goal for students is to experience the tangible effects of the world, which is why students do not study abroad, but instead have the opportunity to participate in a global experience.
WPI has a very pretty, traditional, brick campus. We had the opportunity to tour the robotics lab and the fire safety labs (one of the only fire safety programs in the country, also offering a doctorate.) Enthusiasm and student interaction was pervasive among the faculty. Students are primarily clean-cut, clad in polo shirts, jeans, sneakers and fleece. However, there is also a ROTC contingent in addition to the disheveled, nerdy video gamer that spends his time holed up in his room playing video games. (We only saw a few of the latter perhaps because that type of student was not out and about!) The male to female ratio is 69:31, but the students did not feel the imbalance.
Greek life is strong representing 30% of the student body. We saw a sorority doing a “teeter-totter-athon” to raise money for diabetes research. WPI is located in the nice part of Worcester, across from a lovely park and down the street from the Worcester art museum. They are building a state-of-the art recreation center complete with a Robot Bots for competitions. The freshman dorms also house a small workout facility.
The average admitted student is an A-/B+ student with SAT/ACTs of 1780-2090/27-32, however WPI is test optional; students can submit an essay or other proof of academic engagement instead of standardized tests. WPI offers merit aid of $10-25K and valedictorians and salutatorians are guaranteed $17K per year, as are National Merit Scholarship finalists.