College Spotlight: Rice University

It’s not hard to see why Rice has been rated No. 1 in quality of life by the Princeton Review. With over 4,000 trees on campus, students are surrounded by peaceful greenery on this idyllic campus but are also close to city attractions and restaurants in Houston, where Rice students can get in free to museums and the Zoo and get discounts for the opera, ballet, symphony, and professional sports.

Unique to Rice, its 11 residential colleges form smaller, built-in living and learning communities for all students. Faculty mentors live in a house next to each residential college and two families live in each dorm. It’s a close-knit group in each college. Students get assigned to their college before they arrive. Each college has its own color, cheer, mascot, and flag. Friendly intramurals are organized through the residential college system. It’s somewhat like Hogwarts in that way.  Of the seven tour guides assigned to our large group visiting Rice, each student introduced themselves indicating where they were from, their year, major, and what residential college they lived in, which prompted cheers from the other tour guides in that residential college.

My tour guide, Sophie, a freshman Cognitive Sciences major from Houston, referred to her residential college as her family. Sophie lives in Martel, which shares a “servery” or cafeteria with another college. There are six serveries on campus and students can eat at any of them. They all serve different menus. Even though her actual family lives only a few minutes away, Sophie said she made a rule before her freshman year that they couldn’t just drop in to see her whenever they wanted. She wanted to feel like she was on her own. It worked.

“I probably see them about as much as my friends from out of Houston see their parents,” she says. She’s thrilled with her choice of Rice and has especially appreciated the flexible distribution requirements. Unlike most colleges, Rice does not have a foreign language requirement. And also unlike most colleges with engineering programs, you don’t have to declare engineering as your major when you apply. Just like every major, you can decide to major in engineering by the end of your sophomore year. The only schools at Rice that do require you to apply directly to are music and architecture.

Rice attracts motivated, intellectually curious, collaborative, helpful, proactive, and engaged students. During Hurricane Harvey, Rice students weren’t allowed to leave campus for their own safety. But that didn’t mean they sat around doing nothing. Together, they volunteered up to 8,000 hours to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Sophie says.

Students themselves run each of the residential colleges. So, for example, when students in one college decided they needed a swing set outside in their courtyard, they worked the system to make it happen. During our tour, a lone student pumped her legs, swinging higher and higher on the newly installed swing set, probably taking a much needed study break.