If learning can be both rigorous and laid-back at the same time, it happens at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. The “challenging” academics here are coupled with a “relaxed attitude” in order to give students “the best education possible without sacrificing all the fun one expects of college.” Populated mainly by “intelligent, ambitious liberals with far-reaching goals,” this somewhat idealistic school seeks to build critical thinking skills through “an earnest discourse about ’life, the universe, and everything.’”
So no one starts off with a blank slate, all first-year students are required to take a course referred to as “Encounters” which is a two semester introduction to the liberal arts and the academic construction of knowledge. Distribution requirements ensure that all students get a breadth of courses, and a lack of TAs ensures that they get all the attention they need. Professors are “genuinely brilliant and interesting people” and “love to spend time with students outside of class,” whether it be for academic help or just conversation. “It is not uncommon to have potlucks, classes, or movie night over at your professor ’s house with your class,” says one student.
Most people stay on campus for their fun, “especially first-years,” and throughout this “bubble” the “sense of closeness and comradeship is very evident through attendance at student-run concerts, art shows, etc.” Everything is within ten minutes’ walking distance. Thanks to the campus activities board, “there’s almost always something fun going on, such as Drive-In Movie Night and Casino Night. With “four beautiful seasons,” outdoor activities are also very popular, thanks to “a great gear rental program that gets people outside hiking, biking, kayaking, and rock-climbing,” and “Frisbees are everywhere when it’s warm.” In fact, there’s so much going on “if someone says they are bored, students laugh and wish they could relate.”