10 March 2008

Simon's Rock asks interesting admissions questions

A friend of mine went to Simon's Rock College of Bard, which is a college that admits all its students "early", i. e. directly from tenth or eleventh grade, for the first two years of her undergraduate degree. Somehow I got to wondering, "what do you have to do to get into this college?"

From their application, the following question:

A young student has twenty-four 6” x 6” beautifully decorated, ceramic squares, which were given to her by her grandfather who made them when he himself was a young student. The young woman wishes to arrange the tiles on her floor in such a way as to cover as large a circular area as possible. How should she arrange the tiles to accomplish this? (Note that the tiles will not form a circle themselves, but must completely cover the circular area.) Write a two to four page essay explaining in detail the reasoning by which you arrived at your proposed arrangement and why it is a good one. You may include a description of some of your “first guesses,” as well as diagrams showing your arrangements and the equations used to justify your claims. (Diagrams and equations may be hand drawn.) We are interested in your reasoning and your ability to communicate that reasoning rather than a “correct” answer.

Applicants are asked to either answer this question or to critically analyze a passage from Aristotle which is given in the application. In addition, they are also asked the more "personal" question that basically boils down to "why do you want to come to our school?"

But I think this is an interesting concept, that they're asking people to answer a question like this on a college application. It says something about the sort of person they're looking for. I applied to some good, but conventional, colleges and I don't recall being asked anything like this.

Compare, for example, the application at my current institution, Penn, which asks (p. 12) for answers to the standard "why do you want to come here?" question and one of the following:
6a. You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.
6b. First experiences can be defining. Cite a first experience that you have had and explain its impact on you.
6c. Recall an occasion when you took a risk that you now know was the right thing to do.

(I wanted to put MIT's questions as well -- that's where I went for undergrad -- but their application can't be downloaded outside of admissions season.)

I explicitly ask you not to answer the Simon's Rock question -- this blog does well enough on Google that someone filling out the application could easily find the question,and if they found answers to it that would essentially defeat the purpose.

9 comments:

Ben Webster said...

I actually went to SR too. What's your friend's name (you can email if you don't want to reveal their name on the internet, or not if you can't be bothered)? The Rock is pretty small, so it's likely I know them.

Ben Webster said...

Oh, and the answer for what you have to do to get in: nothing all that special. It's MUCH harder to get into MIT. There's a ton of smart people there, but I suspect that margin between admitted and not is lower than many better publicized liberal arts colleges.

unapologetic said...

Ben: I knew a guy who went there too. Kyle Smith. Would have started 1997, I think.

Aaron said...

Hehe... I know exactly how I would answer Simon Rock's question, but I doubt the answer I'd give would get me accepted. :)

Aaron said...

... On second thought, this problem is a lot harder than it looks! :) Thanks for finding me a brand new time sink...

dunv-i said...

I found this via google. I'm applying right now and can I just say that this little question that looked so easy took me three months to figure out to my satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is a Rocker, and I remember she opted to respond to another application question. The tile question is pretty dumb, so it would be best to avoid it. If I had several beautiful tiles, the last thing I would want to do is create as large a circular area as possible. This sounds to me like a math problem, not a real situation. If, in fact, you were the owner of several nice tiles, especially tiles that were your grandfather's, the last thing you would want to do is use them on a floor, as they will be scratched and possibly broken. Not that I mean to answer the question, but I do know that Simon's Rock prizes independent thinkers, and not all students would be inclined to say something like, you know what? this is a dumb question. I wouldn't want to put such precious things on a floor.

Aurora said...

I'm a sophomore at the Rock, and I can say that the admissions questions are 97% of the reason I'm here. I wasn't going to apply, and then I suddenly got the urge to write an essay (actually several), and I thought, god, someplace that makes me WANT to write essays?!? I felt that that wasn't something I wanted to miss out on.

Tip said...

I want to go here with a passion but im trying to convince my parents. They want me to enjoy my high school life but what they dont under stand is that i am advancing to a point where my teachers cant keep me focused.Many times end up explaining concepts to my classmates so they can understand what is going on.I lead my AP Bio class in our labs and our class project (I have to explain and sometimes tell thIem what to do inorder to finish the project. Can anyone think of an excelnt reason why this could be better than my senior year in High school.