The College of Wooster is known for its senior independent study projects, which they call “mentored undergraduate research.” Wooster students engage in a year-long research project, guided and mentored by a faculty member, with the goal of answering a question related to their field of study. IS projects, as they are known, can come in the form of a poster presentation, a 15-minute oral presentation accompanied by a written report, or an artistic performance or display. On the Friday in April when seniors present their research (this was the day I visited), Wooster cancels all classes, and many seniors’ parents come to campus to share in the excitement and pride each student has for his/her work.
Through the unique independent study program – EVERY Wooster student engages in this independent research project – students learn initiative, self-confidence, independent judgment, and creative problem solving, all while finely tuning their oral and written communication skills. In fact, these are the very skills that employers are looking for, which is why Wooster students have very successful employment and grad school outcomes.
Because of the research-heavy nature of the curriculum, the College of Wooster naturally attracts hard science majors. When I visited in spring, 2018, I toured a not-yet-open science center under construction in the heart of campus. But the social sciences and visual arts are strong as well, with internship opportunities in the very entrepreneurial region.
Impressions of the College of Wooster
In an environment in which liberal arts colleges struggle to distinguish themselves from each other, Wooster is really unique and doesn’t struggle with its identity at all.
I was fortunate to be able to speak personally with Dr. Sarah Bolton, president of the College of Wooster, who emphasized that Wooster students use their college experience as a way to grow and develop not only their academic interests, but also their research and presentation skills. Wooster students may not have been at the top of their class in high school; they may have been A/B students. But here, they grow academically as they are given the freedom to explore and the tools and support to be successful. All of the students and professors I spoke with expressed the same sentiment: the independent study program is truly the centerpiece of the Wooster experience.
Admission to the College of Wooster
Wooster is a selective institution; about half of the 6,200 students who apply are admitted. “We look for reasons to admit and not reasons to deny,” says Jenn Winge, Director of Admissions. Those who fit well here are a little on the quirky side, open minded and interested in learning about others. The College of Wooster is very diverse; only about a third of students are from Ohio, and students from 120 countries attend! Wooster is also very generous with merit aid, with about 2/3 of admitted students offered the Dean’s scholarship. And if you happen to play the bagpipes…well, the Fighting Scots have a special scholarship just for you!
Evelyn visited the College of Wooster in Spring, 2018. You can scroll through all of her photos below.