College information sessions and tours? By now I might qualify as something of a minor expert. Having visited seven schools in five days with our eldest in April 2008 and another six between October 2009 and April 2010 I have some idea what to expect when I find myself sitting in another auditorium, gymnasium, or conference room at a college or university. Academics, student life, admissions, and financial aid. Variations on a theme.
Last weekend we had the opportunity to visit Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore has, from what I have been able to determine, gone through quite a renaissance in the last twenty years or so, and the JHU Homewood Campus seems to be right at, well, home there. Our eldest and I visited Hopkins two and a half years ago, our first ever college visit. Not knowing, really, what to expect at the time, JHU ended up setting the tone for the rest of our visits to the University of Mary Washington, George Washington, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Princeton, and Columbia.
The information session I heard last weekend didn’t sound all that different from what I heard two and a half years ago. Not surprising, but I haven’t gone back and checked my notes, either. One of the things that set JHU apart (from what, I have to ask, since we hadn’t gone on any other visits back in early 2008) was its lack of a “core curriculum”, instead using “distribution requirements.” Distribution requirements allow students to select from a range of courses to satisfy requirements in broad subject areas, rather than requiring all students in a given school to take specific “core” courses. I can see advantages and disadvantages to both, but it gave us something by which to compare all of the schools we were about to (or now, are about to) visit.
Our youngest came away from our visit to Johns Hopkins with a positive impression, so positive that she wanted to go to the bookstore and buy a t-shirt. Doesn’t sound like that much of a big deal but, at this point, a t-shirt you’re going to wear around your high school classmates is practically like going steady (do people even use that term anymore?).
Sunday, after a pretty full day in Washington, DC we took a little time to walk around the Georgetown University campus without the benefit of an official tour or information session. On our way home Monday we took a little side trip to visit the University of Pennsylvania. From Baltimore, on our way back to Maine, Philadelphia really is pretty much on the way. We found our way to College Hall easily enough, and the information session in Irvine Auditorium. The information session was more or less what I have come to expect, though I think they used the term “beautiful urban campus” thirty-seven times if they used it once to describe the school’s setting in West Philadelphia. And it was very nice though, by that time, I think we were all a little road-weary and ready to be home, so we were perhaps not quite as impressed as we might have been.
I’m not sure where our college search will lead from here, though we’ve been using the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator as one tool to sort things out. We’ll keep you posted.