Monday, January 7, 2013

The backlog, before the move...

Faculty-student interaction

After exploring the topic of overall student body size and its relation to class size, it seems most appropriate that we next examine faculty-student interaction; it is another aspect of your college search that can be significantly impacted by the number of students on campus and the average class size.  Notice, I say “can be.”  Never presume.  Please don’t judge a college or university by its outward appearance.  Give yourself the benefit of getting to know the colleges you encounter on your search.
So, what do we mean by faculty-student interaction?  Do we mean classroom experience, one-on-one meetings, chance encounters around campus?  Yes.  We mean any interaction that happens between students and faculty.
For a change, I’m going to keep this post short, at least compared to previous ones.
Here again I encourage you to look small.  A smaller overall student body size and smaller classes tend to create an atmosphere that encourages community.  Faculty and students interact regularly and meaningfully.  The more students and faculty interact, the stronger those relationships become, and those relationships affect your classroom experience, your happiness on campus, the extent to which you feel supported, etc.
Imagine yourself on a campus where all of your professors know your name.  You feel comfortable and encouraged to participate in class.  You seek out your professor outside of class, whether to continue a thrilling discussion or ask for help.  Sometimes you even get invited to dinner at a faculty home.  Does that sound like the college experience that would help you thrive?
Ask questions of current students.  What kind of relationships do you have with most of your professors?  Do you feel comfortable speaking to them?  How have your relationships with your faculty contributed to your overall experience on campus?  What kinds of encounters do you have with faculty outside of the classroom?
You want to find a college or university where great faculty-student interaction is the norm and not the exception.
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More on your college search: Student Body Size

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  I hope you were all able to spend a few days of pleasant rest with your families.  If you also took advantage of some of that free time to work on college applications or continue to explore your college options, all the better!
Today’s topic looks at how the total enrollment of a college or university could affect your experience there.  Specifically, it is important for you to consider how many physical people take courses (versus those who are only online students) and how many live on campus.  These two factors will have significant influence on average class sizes, your living arrangements, and the social atmosphere and activity level of the campus.  (It also pays to note how much of your learning would be done online, and if online learning works for you or not.)
Since you’ll be paying for an education and not a social life, let’s examine class size first.  While a large student body size doesn’t guarantee large class sizes on average, there is a high correlation.  Generally, the larger the school you’re looking at, the larger are the respective class sizes, and vice versa with smaller schools.  Large universities often use lecture halls to teach certain courses, generally those introductory level courses that everyone is required to take, but also courses that tend to be more popular and attract higher registration numbers.
Why does class size matter?  If you’ve ever been in a high school classroom with 25 or more students, you already know the answer to this question.  While most college courses are taught in a radically different style, you know that the more students there are, the less attention each student gets.  Yes, you’re expected to be responsible for your own learning (see our last post), but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefited by learning in a smaller classroom.  The smaller a class, the more likely that an instructor gets to know the names as well as strengths and weaknesses of his or her students, the more likely an instructor is to realize if the majority of the class is grasping or struggling with a concept, and the more likely to keep your fellow classmates and yourself engaged in the material.  Remember that when we talked about academic rigor, we talked about the importance of your investment level.  You are more likely to pay attention and stay invested in your learning when you are in a small classroom, especially if participation and/or discussion are regular components of that classroom.
Ask how many students are in the average class.  Ask about the average class size of upper level courses versus introductory and prerequisite courses.  Instead of asking if the faculty teach lecture-style, ask about the specific subjects you might study.  Do the professors in those subject areas rely on lecture-style learning, or do they engage students in discussion and hands-on learning?  Ask — again in specific subject areas — if professors teach the courses or if T.A.’s (teaching assistants, i.e. graduate students who are paid to teach you while they finish their own education) will be teaching the courses.  If you’re told that T.A.’s will be teaching some of the courses, ask which ones:  are they introductory courses or upper level?  (Why?  While some graduate students learn to become great teachers, they have not finished school yet themselves, and are not at the same level of expertise in the material as a faculty member would be.)
It goes without saying — but yes, I’m saying it anyway — that you have to decide what you want in your classroom experience in order to use the above questions to add or cross schools from your list.  I highly recommend you focus on schools that have smaller class sizes.
Moving on, overall enrollment will affect your access to and (to some extent) quality of living arrangements on campus.  Which students if any are required to live on campus?  How many dorms are available and how are they distributed?  Are first-year students guaranteed housing?  Are students guaranteed housing all four years, or are they expected to live in apartments, on- or off-campus, in their upper years?  How well is the temperature controlled in the dorms?  How much does room and board cost, and what exactly is included in that?  (Some schools have multiple meal plan options.)  Are there adequate, reliable, and accessible laundry facilities?  (No.  Your mother doesn’t want to continue to do your laundry.  She would love to cook for you if you drop by, but you are old enough to wash your own jeans.)  What dining services are available?  (This is especially important for those of you with dietary restrictions, whether they are medical, religious, or personal.  Is it easy to be vegetarian or Kosher, for example, on campus?)  How many people would you be sharing a dorm with?  How are roommates chosen?  If you and your roommate(s) cannot live together after several attempts at adult cooperation, how easy is it to be placed elsewhere with a new roommate?
Honestly, your living arrangements can have a huge impact on your quality of life and success in college.  You have a right to a decent night’s sleep.  Your dorm room should be a kind of haven for you, a place where you can retreat to study, rest, and relax in peace.  In essence, you want to be among people, both those you share a room with and those you share a hall with, whom you can get along with.  (Yes, it is unreasonable to expect your request for a non-snoring roommate will be honored.)
Finally, overall student body size affects the social atmosphere and activity level of a campus…to some extent.  Here’s where things can get a little more variable and it’s best not to make sweeping generalizations about either…which is why I’m going to pause here, and grant this item the attention it deserves in the next installment of this blog.  You’ve already got a lot of food for thought.
So we’ll be looking soon at some components which affect campus life.  In the meantime, I again encourage comments and questions, anything related to the college search and, of course, anything related to Sweet Briar College.
In the interest of being arbitrary for most of this post, I have been speaking about colleges in general.  It’s important for you to find the school that is right for you, and there are a lot of great schools out there.  However, ladies, if you’re curious about Sweet Briar College, I’ll save you some time and give you a few details here, related to today’s and previous posts.
Academic rigor:  Our students report feeling challenged and engaged by the material, as well as supported by their professors to further challenge themselves inside the classroom and outside of it.  (Click here to learn more about why faculty love to teach at Sweet Briar and here for some highlights on their accomplishments.)  The National Study of Student Engagement (NSSE) is a great tool for exploring academics at those colleges which participate in the study.  (We do, and results can be viewed here.)  Ask what institutional research is available for the colleges you’re exploring.
Average class size:  12.  In upper-level courses, it is not unusual to find yourself in classes with 8 or fewer students.
Courses taught by:  Professors, across the board, most of whom have earned the terminal degree in their fields.  Also, most courses are taught in a round-table, seminar-style format.  When you’re teaching a class with ten students, it doesn’t make sense to lecture.
Housing:  guaranteed all four years.
Remember, if I didn’t answer your specific question, all you have to do is ask.  At a Glance is a quick profile of Sweet Briar with answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Categories: College Admissions, College Search, Sweet Briar College | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hitting the books, or the value of academic rigor

In our continuing discussion of some of the criteria that should be integral to your scrutiny of colleges, today’s topic: academic rigor.  It seemed appropriate that after we talked about making sure the colleges you’re considering have plenty of programs that interest you, we should talk about the rigor of those academic programs.
Yesterday I promised that college is vastly different from high school in good ways, as I am sure dozens of people have promised you.  One of the most beautiful aspects of college versus compulsory schooling is choice.  First, you choose to continue your education.  Second, you choose what you will study, and the attitudes of your classmates are noticeably different when they are in class because they want to be there.
What many people don’t realize is that challenge is a significant factor in whether or not you enjoy a class.  (If you do know this, you’re already ahead in terms of your understanding of learning and how you learn.)  Too little challenge leads to boredom, complacency, etc.  Too much challenge leads to frustration, poor self-esteem, etc.  A good teacher knows how to keep the challenge level at a moderate level.  Find a school with good faculty.
We come back to choice.  You are going to be choosing the college you attend.  That choice carries with it the professors who teach the subjects you want to study.  You don’t have to buy sight unseen.  In fact, if you are buying sight unseen, you’re not giving yourself or your education the respect they deserve.  Part of a good college search involves asking questions (and yes, some questions are better than others) and making instructive connections with faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the institutions you are considering.
First, make connections with the admissions counselors at the respective colleges/universities you are considering.  The job of admissions counselors is to be liaisons for you, helping answer your questions about the college and get the information you need to make an informed decision.  Often the best thing we counselors can do is put you in touch with faculty and current students.
Why might you want to connect with faculty?  They know what they teach.  They know how they teach.  They know the courses you would want to take to build a great resume for a job right out of college or for your application to graduate school.  They often keep up with former students and know the success stories of those students, where they have gained internships, where they have been accepted to graduate school, where they have accepted jobs.  They also know what resources are available to students outside of the classroom, such as tutoring.
Why might you want to connect with current students?  They are living what you can only imagine at this point.  They know exactly what it is like to live at a school, to pursue a certain major, to play on a team, to be active in clubs.  They can articulate better than anyone else the quality of being in class at that school.  (Do they spend the entire class taking notes from lecture?  Do they discuss the subject matter seminar-style?  Do they get hands-on experience in appropriate classes?  Do they have face-to-face interaction with their professors?  Do they feel challenged by and supported by their professors?  Do they know what resources are available should they need extra help, and do they feel comfortable taking advantage of those resources?  Can they speak one-on-one to their professors when they seek to?)  They are valuable first sources for your research, and as we continue our discussion of criteria you should be considering, we’ll come back to more questions you should ask them.
Unfortunately, academic rigor is often left out of the college search equation.  People want to know what programs are offered, what division the sports teams play in, whether or not freshman can have cars on campus.  All too often the question is asked, “How good is your [insert any major] program?”  Instead, the question should be, “What do your students have to say about [insert any major] program?  Do they feel appropriately challenged and supported by the faculty?  Do graduates report that the program adequately prepared them for their next move (i.e., further education or work)?  Could you put me in touch with a current student who I could talk to about the program?”
Rigor is a major component in your success both in college and beyond.  Remember that rigor affects your attention level and dedication and can have significant impact.  Too little challenge may bore you into failure.  Too much challenge may frustrate you into quitting.  The right challenge level is integral to your success.
Not a secret, but often forgotten:  Appropriate challenge level is not severed from effort.  The essence of challenge is that the task at hand is not easy and requires effort to make progress.  Sometimes when we think a task is too difficult, the problem is the task.  However, often the problem is us.  We have to remember that just because we’re trying doesn’t always mean that we’re trying the right way or working hard enough.  One of the greatest lessons and achievements students can make in their education is how to push themselves and take ownership of their educations.
If you’re struggling to understand, have you done the appropriate work to be in a position to understand?  Did you do the required reading?  If you didn’t understand it the first time, did you go back and re-read until you understood?  If no matter how hard you tried, you still couldn’t understand, did you seek outside help from an appropriate source to help build steps for you to understand?
Allow me an example to illustrate my point.  Let’s take Shakespeare, since he’s fairly standard required reading across America at some point in high school.  No one in our day and age understood every word and line of a Shakespearean sonnet the first time he or she read one.  Understanding all of the words — many of which are archaic, spelled differently than we spell them now, or made up (yes, Shakespeare brought a lot of words into the English language) — is impossible without outside resources.  Sometimes you need a dictionary.  Sometimes you need a footnote to help you figure out that that weird spelling is actually a word you know and love.  Sometimes you need a footnote to explain a connotation of the word, a double meaning it had in Shakespeare’s day and doesn’t necessarily carry still today.
Beyond the words are their order and that creates an entirely separate challenge.  Shakespeare was a poet.  The language is organized to be art, not only to rhyme as was custom of the day, but also to have a beauty in their arrangement.  Sometimes that means that the order of the words is all twisted and phrases get carried over several lines and it’s a game of “Hide the Object of the Verb!”  However, it’s English.  It’s not Latin or gibberish or Vulcan.  With a little dedication and effort, you can make sense of it.  (I’m sure many of you can also make sense of Latin and Vulcan, and being multilingual is phenomenal for the brain.)
A good teacher gives you some context with the sonnet, some footnotes for the language, some historical, cultural, political, or even biographical context as necessary, and then leaves you to do the rest.
Now, I get back to the discussion of challenge.  Having the tools listed above, you read the sonnet.  If you read the sonnet once and don’t understand it, you’re perfectly normal and human.  (If you understood everything the first time with those tools, smile, but don’t gloat.)  If you quit then, you’re the problem.  If you read it cursorily a few more times and still don’t understand it and you quit, you are still the problem.  Remember:  challenge isn’t supposed to be easy.
Read it several times.  Slow down and pick it apart.  Make notes.  Make guesses.  Read the footnotes.  Apply the background context given by your teacher.
Here’s the kicker:  if you slowed down and picked it apart and read it thoroughly a dozen times and you get some of it but not all of it, good job.  You have pushed yourself and made progress and you’re a good student.  Now continue to be a good student and ask questions until you understand all that the material requires.
You’re going to be challenged in college, far more than you were challenged in high school.  You’re going to be required to read much more on your own and come to class understanding that material, not anticipating your professor will break it down line-by-line.  You’re going to be expected to write much more — and before you turn that writing in to your professor, revise, rewrite, and proofread for a polished piece of work. You’re going to be expected to be able to contribute relevant, appropriate, thoughtful commentary to class discussions where you have classes that involve them.  In sports, you’re going to be expected to physically dish out far more than you have before and keep going.
In college, you get to be in charge of yourself, not just your own laundry, but also your own learning.
All of this comes back around to rigor.  Find a school where you will be challenged and supported and graduate prepared to do whatever comes next on your journey.  How do you find such a school?
Ask questions.
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Back from hiatus and back in the college search saddle

Back in the saddle…Get it?  Because we have an excellent Equestrian Program.  For those of you who are interested, you can check out more here.
All right, my attempts at humor aside, I apologize for the heinous lapse in posts.  I promise the cause was a result of dedicated work for you students.  We, like the counselors at every other college and university, have spent the fall traveling and meeting with incredible students and also reviewing the applications of some awesome students.  We have been happily busy.  Thankfully, most of us are home for the winter and able to focus on reading applications and getting admissions decisions to those awesome students.
So today I begin the first in a series I hope you will find interesting and enlightening:  Practical Advice on Your College Search.
This series will focus on topics, themes, and questions that concern your college search, topics to consider, themes (various topics that tend to influence each other), and questions you should be asking.
Topic One:  Academic Programs
Okay, so this should be a no-brainer, but you are narrowing down your choices by crossing off the schools that don’t offer programs that interest you?  Right?  Please say yes.
Here’s the thing, the schools that stay on your list should have several programs of study that interest you, not just one.  Even if you don’t end up changing your major 4-5 times (like the average college student and that’s okay), you still want to be able to study in more than one discipline, not only because you love knowledge and learning, but also because you want to build the well-rounded academic background you will need one day in the work arena.
Not a secret:  Employers do not care what you majored in.  They care that you gained skills in many specific areas integral to a line of work.  They care that you gained hands-on, authentic experience in the classroom and beyond.  They care that you participated in internships that further trained you to perform various tasks and work as a professional and as part of a professional team.
Further, employers care that you can communicate effectively, not only on paper per the needs of a specific job, but also with your coworkers, supervisors, and customers.  And remember, those of you who are going into non-profit work, “customers” is a general term intended to describe the people you serve.  “Customer service” ends up being applicable to every field and job, because everyone works for someone else and all jobs exist essentially because of a group that requires service.
One last thing on academic programs for today:  undergraduate versus graduate.  You may or may not be interested in pursuing a career that requires an advanced degree, and you may not even know yet if you need one.  That’s okay.  Part of the college search process is learning to better articulate your career aspirations.  As you communicate with your parents, teachers, guidance counselors, admissions counselors, and prospective faculty, you may be able to narrow down more specifically your career interests, from business to marketing, for example, or from pre-med to cardiology.  (And even if you don’t, you’ll have four years while you’re actually in college to do so.)  All of those people who help you with your college search will also help you figure out how much education you’ll need to achieve your aims.
My point is — yes, I’m getting to it — you’re not going to get an undergraduate degree in cardiology.  While there are plenty of career fields that you can enter with a strong undergraduate background, there are many which require advanced degrees, meaning you’ll have to go on to graduate school to earn a Masters (M.A., M.S., etc.) or even a Doctorate (Ph.D., M.D., D.V.M., etc.).
You don’t have to go the same school for all of your studies, and the quality of a school’s graduate programs is not necessarily comparable to the quality of its undergraduate programs.  Graduate school is vastly different from undergraduate school, just as college is vastly different from high school (in good ways, I promise).  While graduate school may be in your future, don’t worry about shopping for it yet.  Your first four years of college are highly correlated to your ability to get into graduate school.  When the time comes for you to apply to graduate school, the gatekeepers there are going to be interested in much of the same that would-be employers are interested in:  quality of coursework and academic success, internships and hands-on experience, recommendations from faculty and supervisors (ahem, internships again), and, in many cases, on requisite exam scores.  The quality of education you get in your first four years of college will have significant influence on all of those items:  on how successful you are in your studies; on your access to and success in field experiences and internships; and on how well on you do in those tests (i.e., how much of your important material did you retain and can you demonstrate?).
That’s a lot to digest, so I’m stopping there for today.  Please send me questions and comments.  Tomorrow’s topic:  overall size of the student body.
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Enter the Vixens!

This campus is humming, a hive of energy and excitement; tomorrow morning the Class of 2016 moves in!  While we have already had the chance to welcome onto campus our athletes and student leaders, the big rush is nigh.  Tomorrow our first years will arrive en masse, meet each other and our community, and settle in to their homes away from home for the next four years.
The entire Admissions staff will be on hand to greet the students we’ve been closely working with so that there will be some immediately familiar faces.  We can’t wait to see them again and welcome them to the next stage of their lives.  Also, the local football team will be here to help them move their belongings into their dorm rooms.
It’s going to be a busy week for first year students.  Orientation will last all week, and is scheduled full of opportunities to explore our campus and community — to feel more at home — before classes begin.
Very soon, our entire student body will be back on campus, making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, heading to class, hitting the books, and taking an active part in our tight-knit community.
Your admissions counselors here are eager to see our new and current students again so that we can share more about them with you when we head out on the road this fall.  As I’ve said before, we’ll be visiting high schools and college fairs, as well as sometimes having one-on-one meetings by appointment as we travel.  Please don’t hesitate to contact your admissions counselor for more details on her travel schedule so that you have every chance to make a connection and learn more about Sweet Briar.
In fact, soon we’ll be posting our fall college fair schedule, but until then, you can always get to know your admissions counselor by exploring our staff page:  Each of us works with a different area of the country (or world) and with different student groups, so that we have real opportunity to get to know you and work with you over time.  For example, Paula Ledbetter works with Transfer Students, Abigail Davis with Adult Turning Point Students and also International Students, and I work with Graduate Students.  The United States are divided among us, and you can see which counselors works with students in your area by viewing our staff page.
Summer is nearly over.  School is beginning again for high schools and colleges across the nation.  To every one of you reading this, I hope you had a fabulous and restful summer and are ready to return to school.  Keep in touch!
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New year on the horizon…

Things are certainly picking up here, all around campus.  Library renovations are underway, and Sweet Briar is excited to be welcoming the Class of 2016 in less than two weeks.  Holla holla!  That’s right, August 25 will be here before we know it and the Admissions Office (and everyone else on campus) cannot wait to welcome the students we’ve worked with over the last few years.  Congratulations again, Class of 2016.  We know you’re going to accomplish incredible feats.
And to those of you preparing for another high school year — or already back in class — we are eager for another year of working with you on your college search.  So I have a little homework for all of you:  get back to that college search.  Fall is prime time to investigate your options.  Here are some of the things you should be doing as you endeavor to find the college that fits your needs:
  • Explore college guides and websites.  There are a number of printed guides as well as online resources.  If you have no idea where to start, let me know.
  • Talk to family and friends about their experiences.  Where did they go to school?  Why did they choose those institutions?  Did their educations provide them with the tools they needed to find good jobs and succeed after graduation?
  • Chat with your high school guidance counselor about schools that might be right for you and local scholarships you can apply for.
  • Take (or re-take) your SATs and ACTs.  (We don’t have a preference over which test you take, but if you’ve narrowed down the list of schools you’re going to apply to, make sure that you have met the prerequisites for your chosen schools.)
  • Visit!  I cannot urge this enough.  The atmosphere of a campus can be the most significant factor in your decision.  Does the campus feel welcoming?  Do you like the setting (urban or rural)?  Do you feel safe there?  Do you feel like you could call a place home for the next four years of your life?  Visiting is essential.  Attend an open house, stay overnight, sit in on classes — we’ll be hosting two fall overnight open houses for juniors and seniors:  learn more and register here, and we’d love to see you here.
  • Ask questions.  Get in touch with admissions counselors, faculty, staff, and current students at any school you think could be the one.  Learn about the opportunities available — even if you have no idea what you want to major in or do for a career — and get the inside look from the people who know and can help you make an informed decision.
I think you have enough homework for now.  I’ll be back soon to give you some ideas for how to make this school year one of your best.
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Busy, happy times

First, let me apologize for the despicable gap in posts.  There were many factors involved, among them the derecho about a month ago that left a dent in several states, including Virginia.  Most of Central Virginia lost power for several days because the damage was so extensive, and here on campus, we were without power for about a week.  After that, I was busy for a while catching up from that outage and then – yay! – our summer visit schedule picked up and we’ve been happily busy meeting our prospective students as they tour campus and learn more about Sweet Briar College.
Paula Ledbetter and Grace Loughhead prepare to welcome new visitors for our afternoon VPCW session.
Second, here in the Admissions Office, we’re all excited about the number of visitors we’ve had so far this summer, and we’re hoping to meet even more incredible young women while you’re on summer vacation and have a little more time to travel and explore your college options.  Remember that if you schedule your visit ahead of time, there is a great deal you can enjoy while you’re on campus.  You can tour, meet with your admissions counselor, eat in our dining hall, and possibly meet with a professor or coach.  (And as soon as classes are back in session, you can attend those during your visit.)
Virginia Private College Week is going strong in its second day and we’ve met some fantastic young women already.  It’s wonderful that so many people know about this week and are taking advantage of it.  We’ve had young women from as far away as Connecticut and Texas and it’s only Tuesday.  If you haven’t yet added us to your travel itinerary, please do so.
Finally, I had a fabulous Friday last week, when a few young ladies stopped by our Admissions Office after wrapping up their Summer Engineering Design Course on our campus.  It made my day getting to chat with such intelligent and hardworking young women, after spending the morning interviewing a community-oriented and driven young woman from North Carolina.  And, just to top it off, I spent close to 45 minutes on the phone with another such young lady from Colorado, discussing her interests, activities, and fit for Sweet Briar.  Thank you, Friday.
Summer Engineering Design Course, bright young ladies in action.
So here’s to a week just as wonderful as last Friday.  I know I speak for everyone in our office when I say that having inspiring young women visit our campus is the best part of our day — (at this time of year; in the fall, when we get to call you and be the first to announce your acceptance to Sweet Briar, that’s even better.)  We love the energy that fills our team when we meet the potential next generation of Sweet Briar women.  Here’s to you, girls.  Holla holla!
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Sweet Summer

Some wonderful shade on my daily walk around campus.
Ah, summer.  The heat is finally on in Virginia and we’re enjoying our air-conditioned office.  If you were hoping for a new post before now, I apologize for the delay, but summer doesn’t involve quite as much read-worthy material as the rest of the year, at least not for a typical admissions office.  While we’re busy here, we’re not busy with glamorous or spicy items that will enthrall you, so I’m focusing mainly on our summer programs and events.
However, all of the counselors in our office are excitedly busy planning fall travel that will bring us out to schools and college fairs to visit you!  Stay tuned for more information on that as we near August — and we will be posting some schedules for college fairs on our website as well as sending you notifications.  Rest assured that Sweet Briar will be represented at many schools and college fairs all around the States throughout September, October, and November.
In the meantime, we’re hoping you’ll come to us if you’re able.  Summer is one of the best times to travel and visit college campuses.  You won’t have to miss school and make up work.  While there won’t be college classes in session to attend, there’s still the opportunity to meet with faculty, coaches, and staff if you plan ahead.  We’ve had rain so everything is green and beautiful here, and we promise to give you frequent breaks into the air-conditioning if it’s hot.  If you haven’t been receiving any information from us yet, here’s one way how.  You can also feel welcome to call our office directly at 1.800.381.6142.
So what are we doing this summer?  Everything.
We’re touring families who visit and talking with them about anything and everything.
We’re planning our fall travel and looking forward to opportunities to meet with you and get to know you better.
We’re cleaning our offices and sorting our files and reorganizing while we can.  I know, boring.  See, I told you so.
Abigail and Kerri eating lunch outside, enjoying the fine weather.
Some of us are even braving the heat on a regular basis to talk a walk around campus at lunch and stretch the legs.  I had the joy a couple of days ago of watching Professor Kirkwood taking her Corgis out for some exercise.  The dogs were adorable.  One of them wanted nothing more than to investigate me, while the other one was fully occupied with the ball Professor Kirkwood had brought, and it was playing ball quite well all by itself, punting the ball with its snout, chasing it, and punting again.  It was almost as if it was playing Keep-Away with Professor Kirkwood.
Our faculty and staff are taking advantage of the summer to travel and rest on vacation, so I see different people different weeks, and the campus will shortly be crowded as the many sports camps we host here bring a multitude of younger students to campus for weeks at a time.
What are you doing this summer?  No, I’m not assigning an essay, but perhaps some work.  Whether you’re just starting on your college search or you’re already narrowing down your top choices, take advantage of this time to delve deeper.  Visit campuses if you haven’t had a chance yet.  If you’re struggling to narrow down your top choices, visit those again if you’re able.  While you’re on campus, ask lots of questions.  Ask about the types of classes you’ll take in a major, about the interaction between faculty and students, about the academic support available on campus.  Ask about internship opportunities, about what current students are doing during the summer — like us on Facebook to see what ours are doing, about what graduates are doing and the acceptance rates into graduate school.  Ask about social life on campus, about clubs you might join, about the safety of the overall campus.  Soon, I’ll be posting a list of questions to ask that were all suggested by the counselors in our office.
This could be your view, leaving New Student Check-In.
And one more thing…We at Sweet Briar College are looking for brave, curious, thoughtful, involved, well-rounded students.  Colleges want you to explore all kinds of activities because you want to, not because they might look good on an application.  So, yes, please take advantage of time to volunteer, but choose to volunteer in an area where you truly want to make a difference or gain experience.  If you’re interested in veterinary medicine, volunteering at an animal shelter or veterinary hospital is a perfect opportunity to give back to a cause you care about while gaining insight and perspective.  If you’re an aspiring artist, consider volunteering at a gallery or even with a nursing home, teaching art to residents.  There are many ways to give.  VolunteerMatch is a great site that matches your interests with volunteer opportunities near you.
And don’t forget that volunteering is only one way to branch out and grow.  Play community sports.  Take on a summer job — again, whenever possible, work somewhere that will give you perspective and insight into what your career aspirations might involve.  Read.  Travel.  Practice your hobbies and talents, whether you play the piano or cook.  Essentially, branch out and immerse yourself while you have that bit of extra time.  Explore all that might interest you and discover yourself.
We’re looking forward to meeting you to the power of ten because we want you to spend four valuable years of your life at Sweet Briar doing just that, growing exponentially, in terms of knowledge, skills, experience, and depth.
Categories: College Admissions, Sweet Briar College | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Holla from Sweet Briar College!

Greetings, readers, whomever you may be, from sunny Sweet Briar College!  Let me introduce myself.   I’m an admissions counselor here and I work with a number of students, as well as their parents, teachers, and guidance counselors.  Specifically, I am your counselor if you attend school in any of the following states or areas:  Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Southside Virginia.  I also work with students interested in applying to our graduate programs, specializing in education, our M.A. in Teaching and M.Ed. programs.
Morning Tree on Campus
I hope you’re enjoying your summer.   That means taking advantage of time to explore your college options, visit schools, play, travel, volunteer and otherwise expand your horizons.  And rest.  For rising seniors, congratulations on making it this far!  Make it a year to remember and be proud of.  For all of you underclass ladies, your senior year will be here before you know it, so try to plan ahead.
This blog is here for a few reasons, to help you with your college search — with information on how to search, what to ask, applications, etc.  — as well as give you some behind the scenes information on what happens during the application process, and, just as importantly, to give prospective Sweet Briar students another window into what’s happening on our campus and with our community.
It’s summer now, a perfect time to plan your visit to campus.  We’re open Monday through Friday from 9 until 5.  Call (1.800.381.6142) or email ( to begin setting up your campus visit.  Even in the summer when there are no classes to attend, students regularly meet with faculty, staff, and coaches in addition to touring the campus and talking with their admissions counselors.
Endstation prepares for Comedy of Errors
Love to sing, dance, act, perform?  We have a special BLUR/Performing Arts Open House coming up specifically for you on June 29.  Check it out and register online here.
And for those of you who don’t want to be onstage but love theater, there’s always something dramatic happening onstage at Sweet Briar.  In the summer, Endstation is our resident theater company.  This year they’re performing outdoors again on our spacious, green campus.  You can attend performances of Big River and Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.  Learn more here.
Summer Engineering Camp
But there’s more!  Interested in engineering?  Want to explore the opportunities in the engineering field?  Once again Sweet Briar is holding our summer engineering camp.  The week-long course, July 22-27, is a great opportunity to explore engineering and earn college credit.  Want more info?  Check it out:  Exploring Engineering Design at Sweet Briar.
I think that’s enough for now, but I promise I’ll be back soon with more.  Until then, savor your summer and use it wisely.