Rice is known for its small, tree-filled campus, our baseball team, and its supposed "value" and generous financial aid program when compared to its Ivy League counterparts. In a side note, many students are upset at what they see as Rice's waning commitment to low tuition - something we were previously known for - and for the 2010-11 school year, it cost $48,000 to attend Rice. Administration is raising it (again) for 2011-2012. Before long, Rice is going to be the most expensive University in the US. The joke around campus is that Rice is the Harvard of the South (or Harvard is the Rice of the North), and to an extent that is true. Other than Vanderbilt University, Rice is the highest ranked school in the South, and students are very proud of that here. We're prestigious but not pretentious. We like it that way. And from a little more official standpoint, Princeton Review has ranked Rice as #1 in best quality of life and #10 in happiest students. I attribute a lot of this to our great weather - just last week (in February), our entire dorm went outside to tan or play frisbee because it was so nice out. One of the reviewers described Rice as a bubble. That is a great word to describe the University's students. Rice is a small piece of land right in the middle of Houston. Rice gives every student a free pass to everything around us (Houston's many Museums, Zoo, etc), but no one takes advantage of it. Not many people have automobiles here (parking costs are high) so true off-campus activity is rare, but Rice is surrounded by walkable (or Light Rail accessible) areas. Rice provides its students with a Metro-pass that allows us to use the Houston Metro and Houston Light Rail free (which conveniently has a stop at Rice) so we can explore the city of Houston. On Saturday night, the University closes its cafeterias to force kids to go out and try some off campus food. If you don't want to travel that far, Rice Village is a 5 minute bike ride away and has shops and tons of food options. Hermann Park which houses the Houston Zoo (free to Rice students!) is a small walk across the street. The Houston Galleria, a jumbo mall with stores ranging everywhere from Gucci and Neiman Marcus to Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie is a 15 minute bus ride (Rice has its own busing system too). If you need some snacks, Rice has a Target shuttle that runs daily. In Houston, everything is really at your fingertips. Houston is a really weird city. So many different sections make up Houston that it's kind of like a combination of 10 different cities. You've got the artsy Museum District (where Rice is at), hip Montrose area, high-end shopping in Highland Village, ritzy Bellaire, downtown, uptown, and everywhere in between. On the rare day you aren't swamped with homework, it's been really awesome to go explore the city even though I'm from here! I just wish more students would too. Facilities are top-notch but for dorms it really depends on what college you are in. All of the serveries are the same and food quality is better than you would expect (but certainly not great). Fresh fruit and tender meats can be difficult to get (I personally cannot eat the steak), but there desserts are always impressive (I had a tiramisu cake that was just as good as Houston's best Italian restaurant's). Once in awhile interesting options pop up to complement the Chicken Nuggets, french fries, and hot dogs. Just the other day, we we offered Octopus Soup and bacon-wrapped Rabbit. Rice landscapers are always working to clean up leaves/mow grass and our campus always looks great. We've also got wifi on 100% of the campus, and students take advantage of it when they want study outside. Rice also just opened up its new student center/rec which is the best gym I've seen on a college campus. All machines have a built in TV in them, there's a heated "relaxation" pool designed to make you feel like you're at a resort (complete with palm trees), and free equipment rentals for things like tennis, squash, or racquetball. We've also got a lot of "quads" for students just to lounge around and study. Just the other day, I witnessed a Yoga class by the student center. Students stop in the student center to buy a coffee or drink (we've got a Smoothie King and our Brochstein Pavilion restaurant on campus) and sit around Rice to study. Rice has thousands of trees all over campus (students say there is a tree for every student) including tons of old, massive live oaks. There are so many trees that you often forget you are in a city. Because Rice is so small and walkable, students are not allowed to drive to class (there's no parking spots anyway). We've also got some awesome buildings that personally remind me of old Europe.
I can't imagine anybody not thoroughly enjoying their experience at Rice. The uniqueness of this university is what really appeals to me. The most significant contributing factor of this is the residential college system. The absence of greek life replaced by a family culture, long-standing traditions, amicable competition, and an overwhelming love for your college make it an experience like no other. The professors are incredibly easy to interact with and you know several on a personal level within your freshman year. They're always willing to spend an extra hour if you need help and the relationship that you have with the Masters and Residential Associates, who are often professors as well, are ones that you will remember long after you graduate. In terms of location, Rice is a little bubble in the middle of downtown Houston. When you're inside the hedges that surround the campus, you feel like you are isolated in a little paradise. However, as soon as you step out you're right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of one of the largest cities in the US. If you ever get bored with the countless activities and events happening on campus, there's an equally endless number of opportunities right outside. Something every Rice student remembers the entire time they're at Rice and after as well is their first week on campus: Orientation week. I can say without a shred of doubt that it is the most unique orientation week in the entire world. The amount of effort, planning, and emphasis Rice places on "O-Week" is testament to why so many students still say that O-week was the most fun week of their entire lives. The only complaint I would have about Rice is the weather. Houston weather is unpredictable and often unpleasant. Humidity is prevalent throughout the year and sometimes exacerbates the already high temperature. However, during late spring and autumn the weather is fantastic so it's a give an take. Many people like the weather year-round, mostly because they come from cold environments and enjoy the warm weather without condition.
First of all, as a recent graduate, I can tell you that at least in my limited experience, every time I tell someone I'm a Rice graduate, they're impressed. Rice has a strong reputation as "the Ivy League of the south". Personally, I don't think that does justice to the quality of Rice's education or experience, but then again I will openly admit that I loved virtually every aspect of my time there, so I'm probably biased. The school is both big and small. In that I mean that the undergraduate population is in the low thousands, but we have a Residential College system that makes it so that, in many ways, you are part of a well-defined and closely nit community of only a few hundred. Rice is an extremely tolerant, and in many ways apolitical campus. Everyone has their views -- and usually has them quite strongly, but if you got in to Rice, you're probably pretty smart, and so everyone recognizes that you have a right to that opinion. There are debates and arguments, but for the most part they're respectful, not argumentative per se. Probably my biggest praise of Rice comes from the fact that everyone on campus realizes that everyone else is smart. That is, there's very little academic competition. I can honestly say I don't know what my friend's GPAs were, and they certainly didn't know mine. I've heard horror stories about the competition at other schools over grades, and not once at Rice did I hear of any such issue coming up. I think that if someone at Rice acted like they cared about such things they'd get laughed at. Overall, it's an easy-going atmosphere, with lots of opportunities to learn, grow, and have fun. I recommend it to anyone who will listen.
One of the best things about Rice is the Residential College system. There are currently 9 colleges (though there will soon be 11), and there is a lot of college pride. In fact, there are many more cheers (and anti-cheers) for specific residential colleges than for Rice as a whole. Most people have a lot of college pride, which comes out the most certain times of the year: O-week and Beer Bike. O-week is our orientation week that freshmen have the week before classes start. Everyone gets put in a group of about 8 people and basically learns why their college is the best. Beer Bike is the biggest social event of the year - it involves a huge, campus-wide water balloon fight, bike relay races (that used to involve chugging beer, thus the name), and pranks (college vs. college). The college system is great because it provides a community within the university that is diverse in terms of majors, ages, and everything else. Whereas at a lot of schools, upperclassmen tend to move off campus, most people at Rice try to stay on campus all four years. Many people get kicked off each year, which is one of the downsides of the housing system, but it is nice to have a strong community on campus that people fight to be a part of. Rice is in the middle of Houston, so there is always plenty to do. Every student gets a pass to use the lightrail for free, so even if you don't have a car, you can still get around. There are always performances, shows, and concerts going on, and often free tickets are given out to Rice students. However, Rice still maintains a beautiful campus in the midst of the busy city.
Rice University is a small campus, but the size is actually quite big compared to the population; it's the perfect size for me. Everyone finds their own niche at Rice, and the fantastic residential college system helps with this. The colleges are also great because they really get the student body active and involved-- they organize so many great study breaks and fun parties for everyone to gather at. We spend the majority of our time on campus, but Houston is all around us! The city is a great resource whether you want to shop (with Rice Village a 10 minutes walk and the galleria about 15 minutes by car), eat (a plethora of restaurants EVERYWHERE), or experience the arts (Rice is a stop on the metrorail, which goes downtown in mere minutes to theaters, museums, or cinemas). The administration is very open to student input and there are many ways for you to get your voice heard here. If you make the effort, you can definitely put your ideas into work! Although you may be from the northeast where Rice University is still gaining stature, I can tell you that when I go around Houston or Texas and I tell them I go to Rice, everyone is impressed and recognizes our school with frequent sarcastic comments like "oh, so you couldn't get into a better school?"
Rice is an amazing place where all types of people can fit in. The school is just the right size, although they are enlarging it significantly with the addition of two new residential colleges. Rice is great because of the diversity and quality of it's academic offerings given it's size. Undergraduates have great opportunities to get involved with research (I did, and I'm shy). The residential college system is really great, and builds a really strong community. Some kids like to be a part of that community, while others don't. People in Texas and people in certain areas (like Computer Science) are wowed when you tell then you went to Rice. Most people have never heard of it, which is intensely frustrating. Almost all of my time on campus when I wasn't working was spent at my college, Brown (named after Margaret Root Brown, not the color). Houston is not a college town, but there is lots to do, especially if you like to try lots of different kinds of cheap ethnic food. There is tons of cheap food, and I love eating. Rice's administration is good overall. School pride is often eclipsed by residential college pride during your time there, but Rice pride starts to take over as an alumni.
People react in two different ways when I tell them I go to Rice. Some will simply stare and say "Rice what?" or ask if that's an agricultural school. Others will be sincerely impressed; the difference is due to geography. Often called the "Harvard of the South", Rice is locally very well known, but where I come from (Ohio), Rice could just as well not exist. A better school there could hardly be, however. Located in Houston's Medical Center, it's in the center of one of the largest cities, although you rarely have to leave campus anyways. It's really easy to get involved at Rice, and there's tons of school pride (although there's arguably more College Pride-think Harry Potter houses...). It's relatively small, with 3,000 undergraduates, and guys: the food is actually pretty good here! Chef Roger's cinnamon rolls are divine! The best thing about Rice are the people; there are no cliques, no expectations. You are allowed to be who you want to be, no questions asked. It's a very low-pressure school where you are not judged. I also love the plethora of events and activities; there is never a dull moment at this university! I'll always remember....BEEEER BIKE!
The best thing about Rice is the residential college system. Everything is unusual about Rice. Take, for example, the context of Rice. Rice is located in the city of Houston. Houston is a privatized society in a market-driven economy. Rice is generally free, open, embracing, and somewhat... socialist. Nevertheless, Rice and Houston have similar positive attributes. Houston has great sports teams (Rockets, Astros, etc). Rice has been consistently strong in baseball, tennis and track/field. Both Houston and Rice embrace progressive action. Houston is rapidly growing, as it has always been, and with support from community development corporations, many grassroots movements have emerged to tackle issues such as poverty, environmental degradation, and social housing. With ongoing construction activities and President Leebron's Vision for the Second Century, the Rice administration visibly promotes growth and wants to expand Rice internally and expand its influence externally through support for campus organizations and social and environmental justice clubs that work with the broader Houston community.
I love Rice because you get the benefits of a large college at a small school. Rice is actually smaller than my large, public high school, but I love the intimacy. Though we miss out on some of the perks of a big school (like support of athletics), the benefits are overwhelming. The class size is smaller (average 15-30), so professors usually know your name. They are open for questions and help and are generally really understanding of college life. If you want to do research, there is always someone to do research with and the resources to do it. Rice is full of motivated, driven, smart people, so everyone is interesting. My favorite part is the residential college system - aparently something like Harry Potter. You get placed into a residential college at random and they end up being diverse in class year, major, specialty, ethnicity, hometown, etc. Then, each college has their own government (with $40,000 or more) and all sorts of committees and sports teams. In stead of an exclusive Greek system, we have an all-inclusive college system. It is truly my favorite part of Rice!
Rice is perfect. Its small student population provides for small classes and interactivity with professors (professors even invite students over for dinner). The campus is simply gorgeous and spaceful, and its location near downtown Houston provides accessibility to a variety of attractions. Its academic programs are very strong, and Rice has the status of "The Ivy League of Texas", meaning it is famous for its academic excellence, especially in the South (but elsewhere as well). Rice is also very socially attractive. The college system makes it very easy for even the most reserved person to make lots of friends, and most people here are very friendly. There is a lot of collaboration, as opposed to the cutthroat atmosphere you might experience at other top schools. Houston is an amazing city, a lot different from stereotypical Texas, and Rice is also very unique. You almost forget what state you're in. Rice is also considerably cheaper than its rivals, making it an all around bargain.