There are many universities around the U.S. that sport the name "Wesleyan", but there is only one original. Wesleyan University, founded in 1831, was named for John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Wesleyan dropped its religious affilitation in 1937, but still retains the name.
Located in Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan sprawls over a hilly patch of land wedged into the residential suburbs. The school owns several of the woodframe houses in the neighborhood adjacent to the campus, making it difficult to tell where Wesleyan stops and Middletown begins.
Wesleyan is often classified as a liberal arts college, though the "university" at the end of its name seems to contradict that fact. Technically, Wesleyan is a university in that it offers graduate (Ph.D and M.S.) degrees, primarily in the sciences. The graduate program is tiny (150 or so students) compared to the undergraduate enrollment, which is between 2700 and 2800 students. This makes Wesleyan a lot larger than the usual liberal arts school, but still smaller than most national universities.
Academically, Wesleyan is known for strong social sciences, as well as its biology and genetics departments. An unusually large amount of genetic research goes on, most of which involves undergraduate biology students. Wesleyan claims the odd statistic of having the most lab space per square foot per student of any institution of higher education in the country. The school also has the fairly unique "College of Social Studies" (CSS), known for being an especially rigorous hybrid of the various social science departments. Sometimes it is pejoratively referred to as the "college of suicidal sophomores", after its extremely intensive sophomore curriculum which concludes with comprehensive exams at the end of year totalling 40 pages to be written over the course of about one week. The other academic oddity of Wesleyan is its robust film production and criticism department (resembling NYU Tisch or USC film school), an unusually pre-professional program for a liberal arts college. The "Wesleyan mafia" in Hollywood is notorious for its loyalty to its alma mater, and supposedly Wesleyan film grads have no problem getting their foot in the door thanks to the active alumni network in the industry.
As you may have guessed, I'm rather fond of Wesleyan, as I am a student there. I believe it's a really open and extremely friendly place, and I've met all manner of different people who will be going there or who do go there. It has a reputation as an extremely politically active, drug imbibing, eclectic place. This is not undeserved, but there are plenty of people who are not especially politically active, don't do drugs, and aren't heinously unusual. Almost anyone, I believe, could fit in there. That said, there are a few groups who probably should avoid Wesleyan:
I say the last item in the list with certain degree of regret. Though I myself am about as far from republican
as possible, I do sometimes wish the campus were a little less politically hetereogeneous
than it is. However. the liberals
run the show at almost any college
in this country. Some places just have more or less of a conservative minority
. Wesleyan has almost none.
All in all, Wesleyan is a wonderful place to go to learn, be a weirdo, protest, and have a blast for four years and still appear to have been well-educated for the purpose of jobs or graduate school. (Almost 4% of Wesleyan grads go on to receive a Ph.D, much higher than the national average for schools). Cost is prohibitive, but financial aid is excellent if you qualify. Admission is becoming pretty difficult, however, with 21% of applicants being accepted this year. 83% were in the top 10% of their high school class, and the average SAT was 1410...so it's definitely not a place for those who don't take academics seriously.
Famous alumni include Joss Whedon, film graduate and creator of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer canon; Dar Williams, folk singer/songwriter; Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots; Alan Dachs, bigwig for Bechtel (oddly enough); Ted Fiske, author of The Fiske Guide to Colleges (which probably explains the glowing review of Wesleyan contained therein); Michael Bay, director of such Hollywood blockbusters as Pearl Harbor.
Some other facts about the school:
- Wesleyan is a member of the NESCAC, New England Small College Athletic Conference, along with 10 other small, selective liberal arts college in New England.
- Since about 1910, Wesleyan, Williams College, and Amherst College have declared a "Little Three" winner in all sports in which all three schools field a team.
- Wesleyan briefly admitted women from 1872 to 1912, before resuming all-male admissions due to pressure from alumni. Women displaced from Wesleyan founded Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut to fill the gap. The university resumed co-ed admissions in 1968.
- Wesleyan is one about 20 schools in the US to grant full-need aid to all qualifying students, in addition to admitting students without regard to their ability to pay (ie, without regard to how much they will "cost" the school in aid)