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The Road to College: Turnout Matters

Among the delights of my job are chances to travel and learn; another is that some days bring surprises. This past week I experienced both: I started the week at Lafayette College, finished up Wednesday at nearby Lehigh University, then topped it off with a much-appreciated phone call from Stanford University.
All of it reminded me yet again that accepting invitations to turn out to meet college representatives really does matter on The Road to College.
Back in the summer, Lafayette and Lehigh invited me to the National Counselors Workshop—at their expense. I accepted. Between Sunday evening and Wednesday afternoon, we toured both campuses; met with students, faculty and administrators; attended classes and had a great chance to ask every question we could muster.
The visits were extremely valuable, because these two institutions—while neighbors and archrivals—are indeed quite different. That they’ve been playing football against one another in the longest continuous rivalry in the country makes for quite an annual battle. That one’s a true College, and the other a University, makes for an essential difference.
A College focuses all of its resources on undergraduate education, granting only bachelors’ degrees in arts or sciences. Lafayette is such a place. The 2,400 students enrolled there are fortunate to have bright, creative professors whose primary purpose is developing the potential of the young people in their classes, often in open-ended inquiry in seminars that are truly imbued with a liberal arts sensibility.
I found the Lafayette professors smart, funny, and engaging. I found the students very glad to be there. To find engineering in such a setting is rare. You can learn more at www.lafayette.edu
By way of comparison, a University offers not only undergraduate education, but also graduate study, with students earning bachelor’s degrees, and also master’s and even doctorates. Lehigh is such a place. The 4,800 undergraduates at Lehigh thus benefit, if they so choose, from faculty who spend time on the next level of academic scholarship, in a setting with quite remarkable facilities for research.
Special programs provide all sorts of unusual combinations between engineering, computer science, business, and environmental studies. I found energized, focused, happy students. www.lehigh.edu
My point, for this week, is that I wouldn’t be as clear on the different strengths of these two places had I declined their invitation—which brings me to one Virgin Islanders should consider, brought to my attention by the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Stanford University, Richard Shaw. I met Rick five years ago at a conference in Santa Fe, N.M., when he was the Dean at Yale.
Put up to the stunt by Harvard’s Dean, Bill Fitzsimmons, I delivered the Annual Dateline College Report in Saturday Night Live style, as anchorperson Stoned Phillips (yes, I added that “d” on purpose), making fun of Yale while reporting my group’s admissions decisions from a mock committee exercise. We laughed a lot.
Rick apparently remembered where to find me because he called to say that very few Virgin Islanders had yet registered for the Exploring College Options program on Sept. 30 at 7:30 pm in Prior Jollek Hall at Antilles School.
Any high school student and parents or guardians from any school in the territory would be most welcome to attend, and students are urged to register, in advance, at www.exploringcollegeoptions.org
The bottom line is that I wouldn’t know as much about Lafayette and Lehigh if I hadn’t shown up, and our best students won’t know much about Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Penn and Stanford if they miss this chance to attend the event coming up next week. To learn more about it, listen to Radio One, AM 1000, this Wednesday at 4 pm, when my scheduled guest is Rick Shaw.
Chris Teare is the college counselor at Antilles School on St. Thomas. He has reason to believe his scheduled guest this week on Radio One has forgiven him for his parody of anchorperson Stoned Phillips.

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