Mount Holyoke College Visit Report by LostCoast
Admissions Interview: Yes - Didn't get much info from my daughter on how it went. She was pretty nervous.
Information Session: Yes - Led by an adcon and a student. Had some good information. Most of it is probably somewhere in their web pages, but not obvious. Getting the student's perspective was helpful.
Campus Tour: Yes - Saw a very good sampling of campus.
Campus Visit Notes for Mount Holyoke College
Originally, my daughter wasn't considering all-women's colleges. The rep from Mt. Holyoke, however, gave a very good sales pitch at a local college fair, and so it went on our list for an East coast tour.
We saw Smith the day before, and the contrasts between the two were very interesting. MHC felt smaller, though the student body has only 400 fewer students than Smith. It may actually be similar in size, but the large number of old trees means that you can't see too much of campus from any one location. The campus is overall more flat than Smith, though it slopes down in the back to a shallow valley with a creek. Also in the back of campus at the bottom is a small, but very pretty arboretum.
I was first struck at how "red" it is. The oldest buildings are red stone, and the newer ones are red brick, melding well with the older construction. The campus buildings felt much more massive than those at Smith, due at least in part to the style of their construction, rather than actual size differences.
The new science building was very nice, and has a number of neat design features. We saw the old building on our own. It's much less photogenic, but has that old, cluttered look that makes me want to explore its nooks and crannies. The Art building seemed to be of a similar vintage to the old science building. Not spectacularly beautiful, but not ugly, either. Really wonderful large reading room in the old library.
The student center is a dimensional anomaly. It looks bigger on the inside than from the outside. It packs all of the student services efficiently into the one space.
Academically, Smith and Mt. Holyoke seem comparable. Very similar in their rigor and range of majors and course offerings. The main exception is engineering. Smith has a general engineering major, while MHC has 3/2 agreements with some other colleges.
In general, Smith seems to put a stronger emphasis on science, while MHC seems big on what I would call "multi-ness" (multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-national...). They spent a lot of time touting their international programs, such as study abroad. The programs seem identical to those we've seen at other campuses--the main difference that I sense is in how strongly they're emphasized.
The emphasis seems to be reflected in the student body, at least as far as we could tell in the summer. The tour guides and the student helping at the info session were all international students of color, and the student who interviewed my daughter was African-American. Their latest student profile also indicates a very high proportion of international students (something like 25%).
A significant difference in the academics at Mt. Holyoke and Smith is in the core curriculum. Mt. Holyoke has one, whereas Smith has an open curriculum. The core curriculum at MHC actually doesn't seem to be onerous, and can be satisfied with relatively few classes. As a result, I don't think that it's a huge difference between the two schools.
We got a sense of a very good level of support for students, both academically as well as in other areas (such as help with computers). Again, I don't think that Mt. Holyoke is very different here from other liberal arts colleges, but it strongly differentiates them from large state universities.
The residence halls at MHC were large compared to the smaller houses at Smith. The rooms that we saw were the largest that we've seen anywhere. The single we saw was almost as large as most doubles, and the doubles would have been turned into quads on most campuses. There is also a newer residence hall, nearer to the athletic facilities. We didn't get to see that one, and so I don't know how its rooms compare to those in the older buildings.
While the social life at Smith seems to be organized at the house level, Mt. Holyoke appears to try and create more of a campus-wide "sisterhood." We heard about several traditions, and I gather that there are many more. The ones that we heard about include Mountain Day, the class rings that you reverse the direction of when you graduate, class colors, convocation, and the freshman plants (they give you one from the arboretum when you arrive that you're supposed to keep--our tour guide said that hers died within two weeks).
Access to classes at other schools in the Five College consortium looks easy on paper, but I'm not so sure about it in practice. Enrollment in classes at any of the other campuses sounds very straightforward, and students have free access to the PVTA buses to get to any of the other campuses. Travel times, though, can be 40 minutes, and so scheduling might be a concern. The student at the info session indicated that she had taken classes at Hampshire with no difficulty.
The college is a bit isolated. There is the Village Commons across the street, which you can explore in about 10 minutes. It has a nice coffee shop, restaurant, movie theater, and book store. Other than that, there's nothing right around campus. Again, though, you can catch a PVTA bus to Northampton or Amherst. They also run a shuttle to a large mall on Thursdays and Fridays. Our tour guide said that you have to buy tickets for the shuttle on Monday, because they sell out quickly. My daughter found that a bit off-putting, since she thinks a trip to the mall should be more spontaneous than that.
Overall, my daughter came away with a very good feeling about Mt. Holyoke. Her only concern is the need to take the bus to do much of anything off campus.
Hotel/Lodging Recommendations or Comments:
We stayed on campus at the Willits-Hallowell center. Made it very convenient to get to the tour and info session the next day, as well as giving us more opportunities to explore campus.