Road Trip: "Aha! Moments" at Whitman College

Well over half the miles driven on my Washington / Oregon West Coast Road Trip were going to and from Walla Walla, Washington in order to see Whitman College.  I learned that everything about Whitman is intentional – from getting there, to the reasons students choose to attend, to the artwork throughout campus once you are there.

Aha! Whitman College is noticeably self-selective.  Students come, intentionally, for specific and personal reasons that range from being outdoorsy, offering research and a hands-on experience or the non-competitive environment being around people who just want to learn.  Academically, Whitman’s GPA and test score credentials are the highest among that rarified group of forty Colleges That Change Lives of which it is a member (middle 50% un-weighted GPA of 3.59-3.93 and average SAT section score of 710).

A tip-off of Whitman’s academic nature can be found by counting the pages of its college view book.  Over 50% are about academics; 35% on engaging in active lives and celebrating interesting lives; and 15% on the Pacific Northwest attitude.  That relaxed, comfortable vibe was palpable on campus as was the emphasis on learning.  In comparison to the other CTCL schools visited on this trip Whitman’s environment fell farther to the more traditional end than Reed, The Evergreen State College and the University of Puget Sound.

Another Aha! was conveyed by an Admissions Officer who explained that, in order to keep the school successful, Whitman simply can’t afford anything less that fully engaged students— at 1,500 students the actions and attitudes of a few can affect the entire campus culture. To help them identify “Whitties”, the college’s Common App supplement essay asks applicants to pick 3 words from a list they believe most reflect the college and write why they want the Whitman community and how they will contribute to it. Here’s the list of words that Whitman chooses to describe their school: Intellectually Curious - Northwest - Taco Trucks - Slam Poetry - Outdoorsy - Testostertones - Globally Engaged - Flag Football - Thesis Project - Wheat Fields - Intercultural - Encounters Program - One Acts - Organic Garden - 24/7 Library - Ultimate Frisbee - Collaborative Research - Playful - Semester in the West - Life of the Mind - Walla Walla - Whitman Undergraduate Conference - Interest House Community - Sweet Onions - Experiential Learning.

A few more tidbits about Whitman College: Environmental Studies is a signature program that can be paired with another discipline. Semester in the West travels over 1,000 miles and covers four classes focused on public lands and rural life. Encounters is the only required class setting the bar of “expectation for academic rigor” – sample freshman reading includes: Bacon, Darwin, Gandhi, Keats, Plato, Shakespeare, Shelley and more.

Consider Whitman College if you are a serious student interested in learning for the sake of learning and enjoy a slightly off-beat, relaxed, outdoorsy, Pacific Northwest community feel.