WPI Wire, Vol. 10, No. 2 - Summer 1996

Student writers put viewbook in a new perspective

WPI recently achieved a unique "first" when it created an admissions viewbook written completely by its undergraduates, says Robert G. Voss, executive director of admissions and financial aid. "It is believed to be the only college in the country to have used such an approach."

Voss wonders why others haven't caught on to what he sees as a very simple concept. "If there's one thing college students are always willing to share, it's their opinions," says Voss. "If there's one thing prospective students most want to hear as they move through the college selection process, it's the opinions of students already attending the school they are interested in applying to."

WPI has been well served because the viewbook's authors "live" what they are talking about, says Voss. "What they say has a ring of believability that is sometimes absent in the marketing-oriented writing of someone unfamiliar with the campus."

Preparations for the viewbook began last October, when members of the Admissions Office staff put out an e-mail call for undergraduates who would be willing to tell curious high school students what WPI is really like. Seventy-five students (out of 100 respondents), representing all classes and majors, were invited to write the lion's share of the viewbook.

Admissions counselors met with the group and discussed the chapters in the viewbook. The students were then divided into small groups to tackle individual segments such as the WPI Plan, the faculty, academics, the campus, residential life, activities and students. The Admissions Office added a number of factual notes that are marked with an icon to differentiate them from the students' writings.

Utilizing student talent was not only innovative, it saved the university money. Because the glossy, oversize viewbook was written almost entirely by student volunteers instead of a high-priced marketing firm, WPI saved tens of thousands of dollars without sacrificing quality. "I think everyone will agree that the quality of the viewbook stands out against the competition," says Voss.

The new viewbook emphasizes the value of hands-on projects. "You're in control," the students write. "One of the best things about projects is that YOU get to decide WHAT you do, WHO you work with, and WHEN and WHERE you want to do your work. Want to go to Venice to do your IQP? Want to learn more about the writings of Charles Dickens? Interested in designing and building a hovercraft? Just do it!"

MQPs, the writers say, encourage students to work in teams and give them the solid professional experience so necessary in the "real world." IQPs are valuable because they teach how technology and society interact. "You can do projects on campus or halfway around the world. No other school has a program like it."

While WPI has no core curriculum, students are required to test the waters outside of their majors by participating in the Sufficiency. Chad Council '94 found his sidestep especially worthwhile. "Before I enrolled at WPI," he says, "I never dreamed that I would write a play or that it would get produced."

The student authors give good marks to WPI's facilities and equipment, which they applaud for their accessibility. "And as groups work on the MQPs, they are often assigned their own laboratory space for a year. At other colleges this doesn't happen until graduate school." The two-page spread includes photographs and descriptions of some of the students' favorite places to work and study, including Alden Memorial, Gordon Library, Fuller and Salisbury laboratories, the Unit Operations Lab in Goddard Hall, and the wind tunnel in Higgins Laboratories..

Faculty members win rave reviews. Mark Wright '97 comments, "At WPI {they} are like new coaches who turn good players into a championship team. Through intelligence, patience and perseverance they help every student become all that he or she can possibly be."

The authors reveal that the Career Development Center helps channel almost all WPI graduates into jobs or grad school within a year of graduation. They also talk about themselves, admissions procedures, campus activities, athletics and Worcester in general--"a cool place to go to school."

To any prospects who plan to enroll, Andrea Sturtevant '99 gives the following time-tested advice, "At WPI, time management ensures success. If you can balance work and play, you'll succeed. But if one outweighs the other, trouble lies ahead. Too much play and your grades will suffer; too much work leads to stress. It sounds obvious, but many overlook it!"

The concept of a student-written college viewbook is new and exciting and, says Voss, "an extremely honest publication." It's an odds-on bet that prospects thumbing a stack of cookie-cutter college brochures will appreciate the uniqueness of the 1996 WPI viewbook.

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