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SOMD CAN College Tour 2008 – PA Colleges/Universities
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SOMD CAN College Tour 2008 – PA Colleges/Universities

or … “Sisterhood of the Traveling College Advisors”

This morning, Sunday, Sept 7, four SoMD CAN staff members embarked on what will become a most memorable tour of 15 colleges across the mid- and eastern sections of Pennsylvania. We will conclude our touring on Thursday, Sept 11. The colleges we are visiting and touring by appointment are: Wilson College, Susquehanna University, Misericordia University, Muhlenberg College, Ursinus College, Villanova University, Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, Immaculata College, Albright College, Lebanon Valley College, Messiah College, Elizabethtown College, Franklin & Marshall College, Millersville University of PA, and York College.

A peaceful and uneventful 2 1/2 hour drive into Chambersburg, PA found us at the doorstep of Wilson College, where Kathy Baker, Assistant Director of Admissions, greeted us warmly. Upon first sight, we liked the “feel” of the all-women’s campus. The buildings were beautiful, in that sense you get from old buildings built during the earlier 1900’s. Lots of stone and brick on this rather small, quite open campus. The college is on the outskirts of Chambersburg – yet another quaint, small PA town. Quite, serene, a place where the college is the center of the student’s universe. Ms. Baker was very hospitable and made sure that we had a good idea of what made Wilson tick.

What really made Wilson College tick for us was their Women and Children’s Program. This residential program is designed to allow single women with small children the opportunity to learn in an environment that nurtures not only the student but the student’s child. Young, single mothers are invited to apply to Wilson College and have the same rigorous admissions standards as do traditional students. When the student is accepted and enrolls, the student and the child are assigned a dorm suite for living, the child is enrolled in the pre-school on the college campus, and the student’s children eat in the cafeteria on campus at no charge. The student must obtain financial aid through the regular methods of FAFSA application. Most single mothers take out student loan dollars to help pay for the full costs of tuition/fees and room/board at Wilson College.

The college reports an admission rate of 51% and enrolls 49% of those students admitted. The school has approximately 800 students, with about 250 of those students as adult continuing education students. Wilson College has a cost of approximately $32,000 per year. They have also become a test optional school, meaning that SAT/ACT test scores do not have to be reported; however, make no mistake their admissions requirements are not slack. Students who opt out of reporting test scores have to show academic success in high school and also have completed a host of required coursework. Health Sciences, Agriculture, and Education are the most popular majors offered at Wilson College. The college has a very successful Equestrian program, where not only students are admitted but their horses have to be admitted as well. The stables and paddocks were well maintained and quite picturesque.

We were very fortunate to have Jackie Valesquez as our student tour guide. Jackie is absolutely delightful, she is a single mother in the Women and Children’s Program, an RA (resident assistant) in one of the dorms, works in the Admissions Office for Kathy Baker, is majoring in Psychology and hopes to pursue a masters degree. She embodies the model for a Wilson student, with her aspirations clear and her love for learning apparent.

When our tour was over we were thinking, “which of our SoMD CAN participants will be a good fit here?” Ms. Baker was enthusiastic about our recommendations to come.

Robin, Betsy, Shelby and Sonia drove away knowing that the “Sisterhood of the Traveling College Advisors” was off to a good start!

We traveled no further than half an hour to reach Shippensburg University. Although we were not able to schedule a tour of the campus – state public colleges are closed for tours on Sunday – we did drive through. Our impression of the University from the windows of the car was that it was a college that really emphasizes sports, it is spread out, well maintained, and not very populated this particular weekend.

During a late lunch in town, we talked with our waitress who is a Senior majoring in Psychology, with a certificate in women’s studies. She too will pursue a masters degree after her graduation in May, 2009. She was 100% happy to be at Shippensburg. She revealed to us that the President of the college was very approachable and personable – that he and his wife make the University their main focus, giving their social time to the University as well as their careers. This young lady mentioned that the campus does slow down significantly on the weekends – commuters.

As Shippensburg is a Div II school with a price tag in the low $20,000, we felt that many of our students in SoMD would benefit by looking closer at the Universities standards for admissions.

Our next detour of the day was a side trip to Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. Dickinson College was not on our original list of schools to visit, but because we were “right there” we detoured long enough to drive through this pristine campus. This campus looked like the kind of place where “college themed” movies are made. Hefty tuition, but meets at least 97% of unmet need with about 80% in the form of grants/scholarships. Dickinson College shows stats of the mid-50% SAT at 600-690 for Critical Reading and Math, 91% retention of sophomores, and places an emphasis on recruiting academically qualified minority studnets. The words that come to mind as we drove through this absolutely beautiful campus were: venerable and legacy.

It’s so important that we emphasize the “college visit”. Would that we could bring all of our SoMD CAN participating students on this kind of intense tour of colleges … our budget barely allows four of us to do this! But the emphasis needs to remain on the students finding the right “fit” for their higher education experience. The SoMD CAN Pre College Advisors spend much of their time talking with students about the importance of finding a school that fits them academically, personally, and financially. And that’s what we are doing – taking some of the guess work out of stabbing at the dark.

Monday, Sept 8th, will see the four of us trapsing through Susquehanna University, Miseracordia University, and Muhlenberg College … unitl tomorrow, stay tuned and good night! Sonia

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