This past weekend Zuke and I flew down to Houston to explore Rice. He’s been accepted there and at Reed, so he must decide between the two. You would think, “Well, Rice is in Texas - the choice is clear,” but it’s really not so obvious. While, yes, it is in the South, you wouldn’t actually even realize you were in Texas. Half the student body is from in-state, but there aren’t really accents or guns or even too many evangelical republicans (that I ran across, at least - the campus is fairly politically neutral or even apolitical).

This is a good thing, I suppose, because the alternative is almost certainly rampant conservativism. But it’s a double-edged sword - the neutrality of the campus leads to a sense of uninvolvement. I didn’t get the feeling students were active and engaged in life.

To be fair, I think this was largely caused by two things: We had come on the Monday after the biggest week-long celebration of the year, and our dorm hosts were anything but vehement party types. So that must be taken into consideration.

Rice has an interesting dorm system - you break up into colleges that are purely residential, and you live with that college (i.e. dorm building) all the time you live on campus. So you get a sort of college rivalry going on. The college we saw was nice: of decent quality, although not as nice as, say, Amherst’s, and the rooms were spacious (a big plus). Our dorm host’s was on the eighth floor, and he had a view of the campus and a straight shot to the skyscrapers of Houston three or four miles away. It was gorgeous.

The entire campus is quite pretty. They claim there are as many trees as students, and I’m tempted to believe them; there’s green space everywhere. The buildings are fairly spread out, so somehow the campus feels bigger than it’s undergraduate population of about 2,000 students would warrant. Things are green all year round, and while it does get ungodly hot in the summer time, the average student goes home in the summer anyway. The architecture is beautiful, and coherent. A lot of red tile roofs and brick buildings, arranged in big courtyards. The green next to the main entrance is unreal - these tall trees that look sort of like cypress or some sort of tall, thin pine in rows along the edge of a sidewalk that goes down the middle of this absolutely beautiful, stunningly green area between pretty buildings.

We visited a couple of classes as well, both of which were all right. The computer programming class had a professor that seemed very interested and engaged, and the introductory physics with calculus class was both well attended and fairly well taught. No one asked any questions in the latter class, so either they all understood it or that isn’t the way it works. The CS class, which was 200 level, was more interactive, and smaller (8 people instead of 30).

With strong academics, nice weather, a pretty campus, decent dorms, and decent (but not extraordinary) food, and relatively low tuition costs, Rice certainly does look attractive. I’m still having a little bit of trouble actually seeing myself there, but I think for no reason other than I didn’t know much about it before a few weeks ago. Now that I have a good idea of what it’s like it may creep into my consciousness yet.

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