Selecting a college is a process. In counseling, most things are processes; few things are simply “one time events”. In our work to help students find a “good fit” college, one in which they can not only learn, but grow, spread their wings and thrive, we need to take school cultures and climates into consideration. As a fan of experiential education, I feel that one of the best ways to do this is to visit college campuses. Feet on the ground, eyes and ears open and alert, umbrellas and sunscreen at the ready, all in an effort to absorb the “feel” of the campus.
Recently I had the pleasure of taking part in the SACAC Sweet Tea Tour, 2014. This year we explored colleges and universities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Some schools were large, some small, all were welcoming, interesting and exciting and they all laid out the red carpet for our visits.
Some of the big things included a police escort into the LSU campus (think C.H.I.P.S. for those of you old enough to remember that show), a night at Dat Dog in NOLA compliments of Tulane, a visit to the athletic facilities at Alabama (some did see the football coach but they closed the curtain on us) and cowbells in the baseball locker room at Mississippi State. These were all insights and opportunities to see what the schools have to offer and to highlight some of what they feel are their best assets.
Southern hospitality was in evidence and practice when Auburn let us go up the the Eagle’s Nest to see the campus and gave us umbrellas just in case it rained. Loyola provided a prayerful and delicious breakfast and had some of the most engaging faculty members on the tour. Xavier reminded and demonstrated to us that it is an honor to serve students. UAB arranged and created a special opportunity to see their campus on the final morning of the tour and even took us to the airport on their new buses.
Some of the small things included a tour of the beautiful chapel at Spring Hill (and a tour led by a delightful young lady); a wonderful, elegant dinner at the president’s mansion overlooking the Samford campus, and an afternoon of hospitality and “sporting activities” (a.k.a. hoola hooping, and lawn darts) at Birmingham Southern.
Some of the most subtle small things happened at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. The staff at Millsaps, especially Laura and Jonathan, Assistant Director and Director of Admissions, respectively, made each one of us feel at home, even though we were there for only one night. When we arrived at Millsaps, many of us were bus weary and knew we had to go to our rooms, make our beds and then get ready for a tour of the campus followed by a dinner at the president’s house.
It was such a pleasant surprise to get to our rooms and find that the double beds were already made, the blankets and towels were soft and fluffy, and we were each given a full bar of soap! These are small things but huge when you have been living out of a suitcase for a week. In addition they had decorated our desks with a vase of live flowers and put Millsaps mints on our pillows! You could hear the excitement as each person entered the room and found these little joys.
The little things do count and they are often what we remember the most.