On the Road to College with Betsy Woolf – Worcester Polytechnic University (WPI)

A return visit to WPI found a campus and students just as impressive as in the past with women now constituting almost a third of the population and 13% of students hailing from outside the United States. Sixty percent of students study engineering, 20% study life sciences and math, and 13% study computer science and game development. Robotics and interactive media and game development are particularly popular. About a third of students double major or minor, often outside of STEM fields in business or the humanities.

WPI operates on a quarter system with four 7-week terms, three classes per term. Classes meet regularly four days a week and labs are scheduled on Wednesdays. Students are focused, and the retention rate is high – around 98%. But they don’t spend all of their time in the classroom – the school is about 45% Greek.

The curriculum is project oriented, and students must complete four projects in order to graduate. Students are encouraged to travel and can complete their projects abroad in places like London and Melbourne. In fact, WPI has 44 project centers around the world.

Admission criteria include either submission of standardized testing (for the SATs, WPI considers the math section and either writing or critical reading) or the Flex Path option: submission of examples of academic work or extracurricular projects, such as written descriptions of science projects or mechanical design concepts. Last year’s overall admission rate was 44%.

Copyright 2014. Betsy F. Woolf. All rights reserved.