Case Western Reserve University
Freshman Year Update
By Paul Jokinen
Two years ago, I had basically no idea about what I wanted to do for college. Though I had toured many schools with my older sister during her college search, I didn’t have answers to simple questions like “what do you want to study?” or “would you prefer to go to school in a rural or an urban area?” and so found it difficult to search for colleges that would work well for me.
Despite my uncertainties, Sue and I compiled a list of schools for me to research. From the start, she highly recommended Case Western Reserve University as a school she believed would be a good fit for me. Armed with this list, I scheduled a trip to tour several of the colleges on the list that summer.
To be honest, I don’t remember many details about that first visit. After seeing seven schools in as many days my memory had become a haze of statistics and buzzwords interspersed with images of both sharply modern and comfortingly classical buildings. However, one fact that stood out to me on this tour was Case’s flexibility in admissions. When you apply to Case, you do not apply to a specific college. Though you state your intended major, this is non-binding and is only used to ensure that the student body has diversity in its interests. Once you are accepted to Case, you are automatically accepted to all of its colleges, and switching between them and taking classes outside of your own college is not only easy, it’s encouraged. Though my first impression wasn’t incredibly memorable, I decided that I liked the school enough to apply early action in the fall of 2014.
In December of that year, I was elated to receive an acceptance from Case. They responded first out of all the schools I applied to and even included a personal note regarding my common application essay. Needless to say, I was impressed by the level of individual attention that had been paid to my application. Included in my acceptance was a generous offer of merit-based scholarships. Unlike many other colleges, Case awards merit-based aid fairly freely, and many students benefit from these scholarships. The discounted tuition often makes the private school tuition much more manageable for students and their families. With this acceptance under my belt, I waited to hear back from my other schools.
After several months and a mixture of acceptances, rejections, and waitlistings I had my final list of schools. It came time to decide which deserved a second visit, and I decided that Case was on that list. I saw they had an admitted students’ weekend in the near future and signed up, hoping to learn more about this school and its students.
My mother and I flew to Cleveland and, after arriving at campus, attended a number of different events detailing the campus and the programs offered at the school. At the end of the evening, I was to meet with a student who had volunteered to host me for the night. I met with this student and was immediately impressed. He was very friendly, but not in an excessive or artificial manner. Once we met up with the second student he was to host we left to walk around campus.
On our tour the student was sure to not only point out landmarks and tell stories about his experiences on campus, he also was sure to stop and introduce us to his friends as we encountered them around campus. It turned out that he was very well-connected in the school due to his involvement with several different student leadership groups. Even though he had to leave for a few hours to attend meetings of these groups, some of his friends were more than happy to hang out with us and tell us more about their experiences with their classes, activities, professors, and friends. I loved spending time with these people, and for the first time I started to picture going to school at Case.
The next day came with department-specific presentations to introduce us to the different divisions of the Case School of Engineering. Most of these sessions were informative, but one caught my attention. The chair of the Department of Macromolecular engineering gave a short talk followed by an in-depth conversation about his department, their research, and the advantages to pursuing a Polymer Science and Engineering degree. Not only did he take the time to thoughtfully and thoroughly answer all the questions asked to him in the session, he was also willing to stay after to talk more with me about Case. I was growing more comfortable with the school by the minute, and the relatable and accessible faculty was a huge plus of choosing this institution.
After another month of deliberation, I had made my decision. I spent the summer physically and mentally preparing for my first semester of college, greatly aided by materials provided by the school. In mid-August I arrived at Case for orientation week, a fun whirlwind of introductions, activities, and information. Once O-Week was done, it was time for me to finally start classes.
My most notable class of my first day was my freshman seminar, a small class discussing architecture and its effects on people. Though the subject matter was interesting enough, what made this class truly incredible was the professor. This man was one of the most genuinely friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and caring people I have ever met. Immediately, it became clear that he wanted to know each of us in the class on a personal as well as an academic level. At Case, your freshman seminar professor also serves as your adviser until you declare a major. Because of this, we met several times throughout the semester to talk about both academic and personal matters. He made me feel important and in control in a very chaotic time in my life. Without a doubt, he was one of the best teachers I have ever had, and he is a shining example of all the faculty at Case.
Though some professors at the school seem awkward or intimidating, they all want what is best for their students. There is not a single professor on campus who does not want their students to succeed and who will not help their students reach their goals. In my experience, every professor is more than happy to meet with students outside of class in order to ensure that the material is being understood. They are even more enthusiastic to discuss their research and new topics in their field after hours. If you make an effort to get to know them, the faculty are by far the school’s most valuable resources.
As the year has gone on I have become close with a number of amazing people on campus. The student body at Case is truly incredible, with a collection of some of the smartest and kindest kids I have met to date. Though classes are crazy and the workload is nuts, the friends you make at Case will help you weather any storm that comes your way. This goes not only for people in your class, but upperclassmen as well. Once I declared as a Polymer Science and Engineering major in the Department of Macromolecular Engineering I was introduced to the Undergraduate Macromolecular Student Organization, a group of students from the department who organize social events, hold informational sessions, and mentor younger students in the department. Case is a difficult school and is more work than many other institutions, but the social support in place reflects this and is always there to help you along.
Coming from a place when I wasn’t even sure what size I wanted my school to be, it is clear to me now that I made the right choice. I love Case Western, I believe that it is the right school for me, and I would absolutely recommend it to any student who wants to be a part not only of a great school, but a great community as well.