There was a lot of thought put into this, so it?s going to be relatively long. I?m a mechie, so this review is generally geared towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematic) majors. Please note that most things here are based upon observation instead of fact. Since I just finished my second semester, my words probably don?t have that much weight as an alumni but I figured I?d try my best to give an unbiased review for prospective high school juniors and seniors who are wondering why their mailboxes are exploding due to some college called Case Western Reserve University (CWRU).
Getting In and Financial Aid
I was not a star student in high school and my GPA stayed around 3.72ish. My high school did not give a class rank and from talking to other freshman, I still don?t know how much rank factored into the application process. I did do science fairs and held a few lab jobs. Since CWRU is known as a major research university, it is a good idea to have some exposure to your potential field before applying. Thinking of premed? Volunteer at a local hospital. Want to fight cancer in the future? Get a small job at a lab. Like engineering? Try internships or shadowing. Like science, chemistry, and exploding stuff? Join the local area science fair. They like seeing that kind enthusiasm on your resume (you made one, right?). Of course, keeping your grades up is a priority and AP classes are a good idea to show you are challenging yourself.
I chose Case because it was the same price as a state school I would have gone to, but Case has a better academic reputation. Yes, CWRU has a shocking price tag, but the application (at least last year, I don?t know about now) is free. If you are accepted, you usually get a huge financial aid package; some value that cuts the tuition by at least a third or even less than half. How they calculate who gets what amount is anybody?s guess, but I have a hunch that this technique is used to reel in potential star students from Ivy Leagues; appear pricey, offer a free app, then rain scholarship money. In any case, it seemed to have worked since the Class of 2016 is the largest class CWRU ever had and word is that the Class of 2017 is about the same size if not bigger (about 1,400 kids). I?m not sure if this is true, but from my observation Ohio kids get a lot more full scholarships than out-of-staters.
At Case, if you are a STEM major, you?re going to be put to work. For freshman engineering, Calculus and Physics are probably going to be your heaviest courses; they move fast and demand understanding rather than memorization. I started with Calc II since AP credit covered Calc I and there weren?t any homework assignments, but there were quizzes every week and tests every two weeks. Physics I and II had homework almost every week and three exams throughout the semester. I don?t know much about biology and nursing majors, but I heard they get a lot of work as well. I spent a lot of nights working until 11 and some weekend nights I found myself at my desk. You definitely need to learn time management before coming here and a planner really helps when you are trying to remember and think of 12 things at once. They do offer help in learning how to manage your time, but it?s better to hit the ground running when you arrive.
I probably hated physics labs the most. The labs themselves aren?t too bad. It?s the lab write-up that?s the killer. While the physics department doesn?t specify a length they require, the amount of content you need to put in can run you to about 6 pages per lab on average. It hit me really hard since I never wrote that much for a lab in high school. Fortunately, you only need to write three or four labs per semester. Your grade also depends a lot on who your lab TA is; whether they?re nice, mean, or clueless, it?s really the luck of the draw. In addition, I picked an early lab because I thought it would jumpstart my day. Word of advice: don?t pick an early lab. Fumbling around with lab equipment at 8:30 in the morning is no fun. Late labs aren?t fun either, running from 6:30pm to 9:30pm for some people. If you can, enroll in a lab when you know your brain is fresh so you?re not dropping things and having to redo parts of the lab since you?re tired and overlooked something.
If I had to pick my favorite class/topic, it would be calculus. Others may have differing opinions, but I find the Math Department at CWRU to be fantastic. The math professors offer lots of office hours, are really approachable and helpful, and can refer you to SI?s when they are not available. If you don?t find some professors helpful, walking into another professor?s office who teaches the same topic is no problem. In addition, SI?s (Supplemental Instructors, basically TA?s) are awesome. They are usually undergrads and sometimes grad students who were picked by the department to have an SI position. In most cases, you?ll find the help you need by going to SI sessions, kind of a supplemental class. Word of advice: GO TO SI SESSIONS. If you still don?t understand things, SI?s also have hours themselves and many times you can have one-on-one help. The Physics Department also held SI sessions and cleared up a lot of confusion that the professor created in class.
CWRU advertises that it has a large percentage of small class sizes. But, the Calc II class had about 280 people. My Physics II had about 380. Of course, these are intro, level 100 classes so it?s expected. The initial small class sizes come from SAGES. I had difficulty understanding what SAGES was before coming to Case and it?s basically a variety of elective-style courses that require research reports and a variety of other essays. The purpose is to stimulate discussion in a small group although some professors forget that and lecture the entire time. They vary widely in topic: electronics, political science, environmental issues, medical controversies, film, etc. None of them really fit the English class mold, although it seems like that is what they try to do by hammering you with essays. Everyone has a different review for their SAGES; some hate it, some love it, and some are indifferent. A word of advice: if the SAGES class sounds really cool, it probably is, but it takes a lot of work.
CWRU has a ton of clubs. If you look at the club booklet they give you during orientation, it?s evident that Case is pretty crazy about clubs: Rocket Club, Asian American Alliance, Fencing, Dancing, religious groups, chess club, and the list goes on. It?s impossible not to find something that would spark your interest. Some are competitive, others are pretty relaxed.
Intramural sports are offered as well. If you get a pretty athletic group of friends to form a team, do you think you can beat every other team at Case in dodgeball, soccer, flag football, or basketball? If you do, you win a nifty looking Case Champion shirt for free. If not, just join for fun and use it as an excuse to leave your desk and get some exercise.
If you want to explore your major outside of the classroom, there?s research. Getting a position might be difficult as a freshman since research professors usually prefer students with experience. But they are approachable and with some luck you might land a spot in the lab. For engineers, a lot of the labs are focused on biomedical engineering since Case is surrounded by hospitals: Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals.
The part of Cleveland that CWRU is located in is probably one of the best locations in the city. It?s actually really clean and well maintained. The transportation system, called RTA, is paid for through tuition, so you can travel pretty far without a taxi or car. There are museums free for Case kids. Little Italy is cool with good restaurants and cheap haircuts. There?s also Coventry if you want to shop or eat at other places as well.
If you?re worried about safety, Case and the University Circle have a huge police presence in the area, not saying that incidents don?t come up every now and then. They have emergency systems set up and can respond pretty quickly to a call. Some of the best hospitals in the world are two minutes away if you get sick or injured.
And yes, Cleveland weather sucks. Word of advice: don?t bring an umbrella; bring a very reliable rain jacket and a weatherproof backpack. Umbrellas get torn from the wind and aren?t going to help in most cases. It rains like crazy, once for five days straight, so expect some flooding. Winter brings tons of snow and cold. Class has never been cancelled in years; running joke is that if you can swim to class, the university is still open. There is a lot of overcast, so much so that I got a little sunburned during the spring semester because there were a few cloudless days.
The main places to get food are on opposite sides of campus: Leutner northside or Fribley southside. Both places have relatively the same quality of food. The food services are provided by ?Bon Appetit? if you want to look them up. Some people don?t like the food, but I don?t mind it. Much of it is healthy and if you want a greaser option they have burgers and fries every day. On the other hand, they can get pretty creative with tofu. In between the two dining halls are small places like Grab It and Einstein Bros as well as some restaurants in University Hospitals. Grab It is operated by Bon Appetit and gives out scandalously small portions for their meals (it?s not all you can eat, hence ?grab it?). It?s supposed to be ideal for the busy student on the run between classes, but the lines can get really long and sometimes they run out of food if you arrive too late. The meal plan options are okay, although most of them are based on a weekly meal plan rather than a semester plan, so the number of meals you are limited to are on a weekly basis, otherwise you have to pay $15 for dinner if you run out of meal swipes. Unlike most people, I eat all my meals and I usually run out of swipes at the end of the week, so I have to sneak out food every now and then so I don?t have to buy it.
At Case, you regulate your own social life. From what I?ve seen, most hermits stay hermits. If you really want to socialize and get to know people, there are others within your dorm or residential college who want to do the same. CWRU is perceived as a nerd school, but I found that there are also kids who are incredibly friendly and outgoing. One interesting thing I found was a lot of geek-looking kids were not all that bright while some athletic kids are outstanding academically. This was true for several Case athletes I met who sometimes gave up admission to a Division I school to come to Case (Division III).
I was particularly lucky that the dorm I chose freshman year had tons of social people. The common room usually had groups of people playing pool, watching a basketball game, or playing cards around dinner time or in the evening. You could walk into a room with an open door and start chatting with anyone. On the other hand, some kids on my floor I never had the opportunity to talk to. They holed themselves up in their room and only came out only to eat, visit the restroom, and go to class. International kids usually kept to themselves playing video games and swearing in Chinese together until 4 in the morning. There are a few exceptions, but most of them didn?t communicate with others unless that person was of the same citizenship. I was not aware of the social situation in other dorms, so in short, while the social situation I lived in was uniquely vibrant, it is not a concrete way of describing the rest of Case?s freshman dorms.
Saying ?there is nothing to do here? is a statement of a lazy individual waiting for something to happen. Nothing happening? GO LOOK FOR SOMETHING. It?s a big city, diverse campus, and there are tons of activities waiting for you. There are also a few clubs around. The CWRU Film Society holds movie nights every Friday and Saturday night with varying times, usually films that were recently release on DVD. As mentioned before, there is also Little Italy and Coventry to explore!
I am not a partier and I?m not involved in Greek life, but I usually heard of a party held by Greek house at least every other week. Case advertises that a third of its students join a frat or sorority and I believe it. There are dozens of kids wearing Greek Life shirts who call each other brother or sister. Some are nice, many are secretive, and some are nasty.
If you are lucky to have a social, active group of friends, you can ask Case Security to turn on the lights at the volleyball court at 10:30pm and play until whenever. In addition, the freshman dorms are close to the Village, which surrounds the awesome turf football field for nights (or days) of soccer, football, or ultimate Frisbee.
Some people really notice a difference in girl to guy ratio, but I didn?t see a huge discrepancy. It usually hovers around 4:6, but in most classes you can?t tell. From a guy?s perspective and my own opinion, I noticed that there is a gap in unattractive vs. attractive females if you put it on a scale. Most girls are usually not at all attractive or downright gorgeous, pretty, cute, etc. There seems to be very little middle ground.
If I had to choose again, I think I?d come back to Case rather than another university. It is definitely a place that one can fit it in you?re a social, smart, and friendly person. It?s on the small side, quiet for a city environment, and has tons of academic resources. If you want a big party school this isn?t the place, but if you really want to learn and be challenged, yet have a social life, this is the place for you.