A new installment in our Parent-to-Parent series
The idea of college and our first college visit seemed to be a bit more exciting to me than it did to my sleepy high school junior as we set off at 5am for the three and one-half hour drive to Kalamazoo, Michigan and Western Michigan University (WMU). Having a friend along seemed to perk him up and having another mom on the long drive was great for me.
As soon as we parked and started towards the building where we had been instructed to register, we were greeted by smiling faces of current students as well as staff members. My very first impression of WMU was one of positive students, and lots of them.
During the first 90 minutes of our program, we listened to 11 different speakers. These included admissions reps, the president of the university, a current professor, the director of parent and family programs, a rep promoting the city of Kalamazoo, and several student speakers.
My son's favorite parts of the program were the student speakers. He liked hearing why they chose WMU and also why they stayed. I loved listening to the students also, but there were other things about the presentation really made an impression on me.
The first was WMU's president, Mr. John Dunn. He spoke from his heart, stressed how his university helps develop students in several different ways. And then the best part: he gave us his email address and told us that he personally answers all his emails and loves to hear from parents and students. His sincerity truly touched me. I also appreciated the director of parent and family programs who said, "We want you to PLAN, not PANIC." That was priceless and because she spoke as a mom of a college and high school student, it made her even more personal and believable.
Next were the student led walking campus tours. Our happy tour guide was Emily. Emily had a nice loud clear voice and did a wonderful job showing us the campus. The WMU campus is beautiful, but very hilly and VERY large.
We toured a dorm and were invited into a room where the two residents were waiting for us and graciously answered our questions. At this point, parents were asking more questions than students, but our whole group seemed impressed and happy with the tour. We also were able to walk into different lecture halls, classrooms, a library, student rec center, and dining hall.
All throughout the tour, student ambassadors were stationed at different points, smiling and saying hello as we passed. There was an atmosphere of welcome the whole time we were on campus, with current students honking their car horns as they drove by and others yelling "Go Broncos!" from their dorm rooms as we walked and walked and walked.
By the time we got to the last stop, the dining hall, we were all pretty tired and definitely hungry. My son was practically drooling as he tried to wrap his mind around the "all you can eat" theme of most college dining halls. I loved how Emily found us seats together and sat down with us to enjoy her lunch. At this point, we were all pretty comfortable with each other and there were lots of questions asked by both parents and students. My son wanted to know about intermural sports. I wondered who cleaned the dorm bathrooms.
Our trip to WMU was definitely a great first college visit. We are planning to visit three more campuses before making any decisions, but I would fully support my son if he decided that Western Michigan University was his first choice for college. We were impressed with the campus, the students, the staff, and the warm atmosphere that we both felt.
As we took pictures to help us remember our visit, my son and his friend were talking non-stop and starting lots of sentences with "If we go here….", which I believe is the proof of a truly successful college visit.
Monica L. Matthews
Monica is founder of How To WIN Scholarships, a resource for the college-bound