The first week in July I discovered that touring colleges by bike with a group of college counselors is an ideal way to experience the warmth (both literally and figuratively) and charm of the South. Towels, box lunches, water bottles, granola bars and power gel greeted us at the schools. We dined like kings and queens during our stay and were treated to accommodations worthy of upper classmen students! Though campuses are quieter during the summer months with far fewer students, we took advantage of the trade-off: lots of face time with admission deans and directors, faculty and even a college president. A chance to hear what’s on the minds of the deans can give one an interesting perspective on a university, its mission and goals. It provides a different lens into the heart and soul of a college.
We started our tour at NC State in
Leaving NC State, we headed west to UNC Chapel Hill. One of the newcomers this year to the CommonApp, Chapel Hill is anticipating a 20% increase in applications, making this highly selective school all that more competitive, especially for out-of-state students for whom enrollment is capped at 18%. There is better news for transfers, however, where the cap does not apply. Despite the university’s selectivity, Steve Farmer, Associate Provost and Director of Undergraduate Admissions, emphasized that they do not seek out the highly competitive Type A personality students. “A lot of smart kids and a great heart” is how he would characterize the student body which has an especially high commitment to community service. UNC Chapel Hill is now encouraging students to take a gap year with its newly formed Global Gap Year Fellowship Program, made possible with an anonymous $1.5 million grant, giving 30 admitted students the opportunity to do a year of international service. At this most prestigious UNC, every student gets a liberal arts education, regardless of field of study. For financial assistance, the university describes itself as “need conscious,” meaning that it makes every effort to make UNC affordable to admitted students who would otherwise be unable to attend.
We arrived at Elon after a 40 mile ride and just ahead of sunset which meant we had to wait until the morning to explore this beautifully lush and expansive campus. A midsize university with just over 5,000 students, Elon has a clear mission, founded on five principles: leadership, research, internships, international and service. Like UNC Chapel Hill, Elon is also encouraging accepted students to consider a gap year with its newly formed program that includes a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) experience and a service learning component in
Towels and bottles of ice cold water never looked better than those that greeted us at
Our final destination day 2 was
A hilly route to
On my final full day we cycled to
There is no substitute for visiting college campuses, but nothing compares to a taking that journey on a bike, carrying one’s own gear and spending the night in the college’s dorms. It takes a little more effort and preparation, including the physical training, but the perspective that one gets on each school is unique and personal. I can’t think of a more enjoyable or enlightening way to visit colleges!