Worcester, MA: After the routine information forms were filled out, and a brief wait, my tour at Worcester Polytech began with the Dean of Admissions giving the tour group a description and history of the school.
His first words were, "If you are not a creative person, or a hard worker, Worcester Polytech is probably not the school for you."
As I found, he spoke the truth. WPI has a totally different grading and teaching system than most other colleges. Rather than having a traditional grading system, WPI uses an A, B, C, NR (no record) system, which means that you cannot fail; you either get an A, B, or C, or the class is not counted on your record, as if you had never taken it.
The way your grade is determined also differs from the norm. Students are not required to take a final exam. Instead, qualifying projects that show your competency in a given subject make up the bulk of your grade. This way, students use hands-on experience to show what they have learned, and are not just absorbing theory, but getting practice as well.
One option at WPI is the Co-op program, which allows students to work in businesses and corporations while still learning at school. Not only does this "put the student's foot in the door" as far as getting a job after college, but it also gives valuable work experience. Above all, students earn money which can help pay for college.
All students are also required to take a multitude of humanities courses, such as art or theatre, in order to round out their education at WPI. These classes require qualifying projects as well, and can include everything from reproducing a great work of art, to writing and directing a theatre production.
After the introduction to WPI, we went on a tour of the campus. Athough quite small (62 acres) compared to other colleges, it contains everything that many of the larger schools have: an extensive library, computer "clusters" located at various locations around the campus, a full-sized gymnasium, and facilities for the many different art and science departments. The one thing I found lacking at WPI was a major Student Center, where students could relax when not in class. The tour guide did mention that the students and faculty were in the process of having one constructed, hopefully before the 1993 school year. WPI's Greek system (fraternities and sororities) is quite extensive as well.
The campus is located right outside of Worcester, a large city (second only to Boston in Massachusetts) which boasts many places to go, and things to do for the college student, including the Worcester Centrum (where numerous concerts and sports events take place), and many restaurants and places to shop.
I believe that anyone who appreciates a small campus, but wants an education that can usually only be found at the bigger schools, would enjoy going to Worcester Polytech. n
Reviewed in 1992
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.