I think that CORE is the most representative aspect of the Whitman experience. CORE is a year-long course that all Whitman students take their first year. You have a class of 17 students on average (my class was much smaller) and one professor for the entire year. Together, you read texts that have contributed to the development of our society. First semester is Antiquity, second semester is Modernity. It is a fabulous class and one of the best things I ever did. You learn from your professor, from your classmates, and from the other first-year students who are reading the exact same thing as you are. The ideas and skills that you learn in CORE will help you not only at Whitman but later in life. This class teaches you to read closely, think critically, and to express your thoughts verbally and in writing. It is Whitman in a nutshell. For more info, check out the website: http://www.whitman.edu/content/index/acad/general-studies
As an academically challenging school with an overwhelming amount of activities and a student body of type A personalities, it's very easy to get too stressed out. I know many people who took a semester off or transferred due to stress and many seniors are very burned out by the time they graduate. It's easy to take on too many activities and not realize it until you are pulling all nighters on a regular basis just to get everything done. Having so much to do can also be very isolating and many students end up being lonely. It's hard to form deep relationships because everyone is so busy. It can also be isolating if you are a republican, minority, or lower class student, though they are trying to improve on this.
It really is worth it to come to Whitman to see the baby ducklings in the spring, if nothing else! It really is a beautiful campus! The town is super cool too, it just takes some creative exploring to find the awesome parks, wineries (if you're over 21 of course), the farmers market, lots of little restaurants that are awesome. The campus is also super small, everything is within walking distance (nothing over 10 minutes, even from the farthest corners). Cars are unnecessary, bikes are nice, but walking can get you almost anywhere you want to go (except the movie theater in town - borrow a car for that one).
You'll learn the most about Whitman by asking students here questions; we all love to talk about Whitman, so contact someone! We really do love talking about Whitman, and it's very different reading broad opinions and hearing specific answers to your specific questions. Visit if you can, particularly during the year-- as I said, it's the students that make the Whitman experience, and you can only get a small sense of the community by reading about it online.
Everybody is really relaxed and "chill" even though a lot of the students are generally really smart and hard workers - they don't stress out very much. Many if not all of the students were the "best of the best" in their respective high schools, so now that we're all together, it's like we're all equals. But, students aren't obsessed with just their studies, a large percentage of the campus volunteers in the community and are evironmentally conscious.
We are a small college. That means we stick together. Sure there may not be as many options as your average school of 20000 kids, but when you get right down to it, why would you want to be 1 out of 20000 when you can be part of a close knit college that cares about you? Call it "college atmosphere" or whatever you want, but there is no place I would rather be.
The only thing I wish I could change about Whitman would be adding more diversity of political thought. Not only are most Whitman students liberally-bent, they assume that everyone else around them is as well. But at the end of the day, Whitman students are conscious about being politically correct and encourage lively debate.
This school is incredibly friendly and happy, and therefore provides a strong environment to work in. The teacher's first priority are the students as oppose to their own research projects. Students will rarely be in a large class. Close friendships are formed due to the small and enclosed campus.
Whitman is very academically strong, but it is not for those who are interested in academics alone. Whitman pushes you to get involved in and off campus, and in things you have never found interest in before. Whitman students usually try a little bit of everything.
Whitman is self-sufficient - even though it's located in a small rural town, there is always a wide variety of student and school sponsored activities for all interests.