08 November 2014

Colleges in Review, Part 2

After visiting UMF and Plymouth, we went to hang out with my sister-in-law for a few days and visit a couple of colleges in Vermont. We had a bunch of fun with my 3 year old nephew but on the agenda was Green Mountain College and Johnson State College.

First up was Green Mountain College. It was in a really, really small town in a flat valley near New York. You could actually see NY from the campus, it was just past the farm and on the other side of the river. The town (Poultney) had three churches, a couple of cafe-type places, a grocery store and hardware store and not much else. It was about 20 minutes from Rutland which is a much larger town. You drive through this really small town, down Main Street, and the campus is in front of you on the edge of town. We went in and there was a welcome sign for Whitney. We took the tour and there were some pretty interesting things about the campus. For one, most of the buildings have classrooms on the main floor and dorm rooms on the second and third (if there's a third floor). The basements hold different things - in one building there's a bike shop where you can work on your bike or have someone help you with it, in another there's a dance/yoga studio.  The library was really nice and I liked their tutor system. There's a farm on the edge of campus where they grow food (produce, pigs, and chickens for eggs) that's used in the dining hall. The tour guide said that a lot of the food was locally sourced, which would be easy in that area. Whitney also spent some time talking with the guy in the Green MAP office, the outdoor club. They have skis to rent/borrow and lead all sorts of adventures hiking, skiing, etc. Sounds like it was really active and a great opportunity for Whitney to do stuff and get into leadership there. The down side to the college is the Vermont-y vibe we both were getting and Whitney didn't like that much.

When we were done the tour, she met with the director of admissions for about 10 minutes then I went up to talk with them. They had a good conversation, Whitney talked about her outdoor experience both with the family and working. When I went up we talked a bit about the school and also finances. Overall we left with a good impression but felt it wasn't the school for her.

The next day we went up to Johnson State College. We drove through lots of small towns to get there including Stowe, passed Ben & Jerry's but didn't stop. The college is again in a small town but this time there was no bigger town nearby. We did find an area outside of town/next town over that had a couple of fast food places, big grocery store, drug store, etc. Johnson is bigger than Poultney but to get to the college you go into town, turn right over the river then go up the hill and the college is pretty much the only thing up there. Again we did the tour and saw the campus. It's nice, a newer college; nothing seemed much older than the 1980s. Whitney went in thinking she wasn't going to like the school and ended up liking it enough to keep it on the list as #3. The built up part of the campus is small but they own a lot of land, enough that they have their own terrain park. Too bad Whitney isn't interested in riding the rails.

After we finished the tour, an assistant director of admissions happened to walk in behind us. We had a nice chat with her, got some more information about the college, and I asked some questions about Whitney applying as a homeschooler which really seemed like no big deal to them. Whitney had planned to wait to apply until after we got home to see if she liked the college enough to apply, which she's done.

So that was our grand tour of colleges, the Open House at UMF, a drive/walk through again at Plymouth, and tours at Green Mountain and Johnson State. Now the waiting game begins, all her applications are in, she took notes right after each visit, she's reranked the schools, and now we see where she gets in before the real angst starts and she has to make a decision.

05 November 2014

Colleges in Review, Part 1

We're back from our trip to New England visiting colleges and it seems just in time. There was a big Nor'easter on Sunday and they got snow, at least in Maine. We had a good trip and visiting the colleges definitely helped provide some clarity.

First up was University of Maine at Farmington. We got to the hotel late Friday night but it was pretty easy to find. In the morning we went into Farmington and found where we needed to go on campus. The open house started in Merrill Hall and included a welcome from the Director of Admissions, the President of the college, and a student. The president is a hoot! From everything we saw and heard about her, she's well liked by the students and very involved in campus life. After we finished there we went to one of the other buildings to meet with some of the professors from the business program. Whitney is interested in ORBA - Outdoor Recreation Business Administration. There were only three students there including Whitney, one was also interested in ORBA, the other was looking at business psychology. Since it was a small group it made for some pretty good discussion and we learned a lot. There was quite a bit of discussion about the required internship and we found out that with some coordination with the director of Camp Highroad she'd be able to do her internship there if she wanted. They'd have to have her do more than camp counselor or leading groups on the ropes course but it could be done. Whitney had a better feel for the program and the requirements when we finished talking with them. We stayed to hear what the social science professors had to say during the next session, which was interesting.

We had lunch in the dining hall, actually brunch since it was a Saturday. They had a sandwich bar, salad bar, looked liked an area for soups, and a buffet line set up with hot breakfast stuff and more lunch/dinner type food. The food was good and the dining hall was nice. We happened to sit at a table with a man who works at the college and had a really good conversation with him, mostly about what Whitney was interested in and how much snow they get in Farmington. After lunch we took a tour of the campus. We weren't with the best group (most of the kids were younger high school students) but the campus is nice. When we finished the tour, we made a quick stop at the bookstore then walked around the town some before meeting my aunt and uncle for an early dinner. The town is small, the campus is small, but it sounds like it's a pretty active campus if you like getting out and going - hiking, on the river, skiing/snowboarding, anything outside. There really isn't too much in town but there is a small movie theater, a few stores and cafes, enough for a small town.

We also had a chance to talk with the student that spoke in the morning. She's on the basketball team and was the point of contact for any prospective students that weren't able to make it to the sports discussion in the morning. The athletic director and a few of the coaches were only available in the morning because they had to be at a soccer game in the afternoon so Whitney didn't have a chance to talk to them. It sounds like the ski/snowboard team is pretty active and they'd welcome Whitney onto it to work out and train. It also sounds like they'd be willing to work with her so she'd be able to keep competing.

We stayed overnight in Farmington then drove over to Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. As we crossed the river and went around the traffic circle, Whitney commented that she forgot how pretty it is there. I'd agree that Plymouth probably has the prettiest campus of the ones she's looked at but UMF was nice as well. We parked and walked around campus and around the town a bit since it was Sunday and she'd already taken a tour there. We stopped in an artists co-op and bought a couple of things. Since this was the first non-snowy time that we'd been to Plymouth, it was nice to walk around and see the campus and town as well as some of the surrounding area.

Verdict so far -

UMF - Nice campus, probably the best program (it integrates outdoor learning well with the business), sounds like it offers her the best chance to keep competing in snowboarding while studying

Plymouth - prettiest campus, good program in outdoor education where she could get a minor in business

Both schools are within an hour of several good ski areas where she can snowboard and also work. Both have ski/snowboard teams or clubs as well as an outdoor club for her to get involved with to do things other than snowboarding.