My New College Alumni survey:
  1. How did you first hear about NC? What made you decide to apply and what determined your decision to attend NC?
    NC, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and UCF were the schools my guidance counselor's database of schools returned when I queried it for schools on the East Coast which were cheap and intellectually challenging. After visiting the campi, I selected NC as the students I talked to seemed to be open-minded and intelligent. The other schools did not fare as well.

  2. What is your strongest impression of your first year at New College?
    Abject failure. I had coasted in high school, and I thought I could do the same in college. This was not the case.

    Doing well relative to the class curve was no longer the evaluation criterion. Now, I had to contend with the idea that I am always competing with myself.

    So I failed. But I got back up, and continued learning.

  3. What was one distinctive experience at New College that has affected your life?
    "How do you expect to learn anything if you don't read?"

    I got chewed out by another student at NC for asking uninformed questions about computers. The criticism definitely had merit, and I took it to heart. Why should I take someone's precious time when those intellectual burdens can be borne simply by reading documentation?

  4. Describe your favorite ISP (independent study project).
    "Exploring the valuation of options" was essentially an Independent Reading Project in which I started with the budding of modern derivative valuation, and watched it unfold and blossom over time. It broadened my understanding of modern financial instruments and provided many paths for future research.

  5. Any additional comments?
    NC gives you an astonishing amount of freedom. By the fall of my senior year, I finished all my major-related classwork. This happily left my spring semester wide open.

    Unfortunately, I believed that I would need a graduate degree in economics or foreign languages to make any money in my post-NC life, and I didn't want to immediately go back to school.

    Luckily, one of my classmates earned $10k working during the summer of '95 as a programmer. I resolved to take nothing but computer science classes in the spring and then after graduation, to work as a then-in-demand programmer.

    At other schools, I would have run into prerequisite hurdles, as I had not taken any computer science classes previously. But at NC, I was able take classes in Perl and Java, and create tutorials for Smalltalk, Linux System Administration, and TCL/TK.

    After graduating, I returned to my home state of Vermont, and immediately found a job as a entry-level Perl programmer and Linux system administrator.

    If you are considering other schools, I recommend comparing the academic strictures of other schools with the range of options available to you at New College. I believe you will find that other schools claim academic openness while silently stifling such notions in their departments and classrooms.