Allendale High School guidance officer Liz Pellegrom had an idea: she knew the best way to prepare students for the future…was to show it to them. That’s why this spring, the guidance office organized a college visitation day for all juniors desiring to visit Muskegon Community College and Baker, Western or Central Michigan.
Buses traveled to each of these three locations with roughly 150 kids—nearly the entire junior class. Students interested in other schools had the freedom to plan visits with their parents to those colleges, while those not wanting to miss class were able to stay behind to study.
This was AHS’ first year of doing a trip like this, but Ms. Pellegrom is certain it will become a junior year right of passage. In fact, staff is considering what college visits could mean for freshmen and sophomores, too. If it would help Allendale students start to consider college from an earlier age and then plan accordingly, it could be a “win” for everyone.
“We feel it’s important for students to see what’s out there and have the chance to see a college dorm room, hear what certain colleges have to offer, learn a little bit about financial aid and scholarships, and just be on the campus for something other than just a sports game,” said Ms. Pellegrom. She continued, “It’s really important to get on campus and not apply to schools you’ve never been to. You have to know if it’s the right fit for you.”
This is something that junior Shelbi Dyke confirmed after visiting MCC and Baker College. “I thought I wanted to go to MCC before the trip and then I was just going to transfer to Grand Valley. However, after visiting there, I actually decided against MCC because I didn’t like it. I didn’t see anyone smiling, and for some reason, this bothered me. On the other hand, I knew nothing about Baker. I was actually dreading it, but then we went there and I’m considering Baker now! I love their dorms and I think I’m going to schedule a visit.”
Olivia McClure also took note of the “happiness factor” when she visited Western Michigan. “That was my #1 thing. At Western, everyone was happy, everyone we passed said “hi”, everyone was really happy.”
She reported that the tour guide called Western a “Heads-Up” School, meaning that students aren’t walking around with the heads buried in their phones or other devices, they are interacting and engaging with each other. Also, everyone keeps their dorm room doors open as a way to meet other people which Olivia really liked.
Several students also shared how valuable it was to talk with admissions counselors about things like overnight guests, sports opportunities, family visits, roommates and other on-campus opportunities. They realized that tapping social media for information about colleges, a common practice for some, is not all that reliable when held up against conversations had with actual students in real dorms.
Nate Couturier enjoyed getting to see what Central Michigan had to offer. “I thought CMU was pretty cool. There are a lot of different activities to do, and there’s a big student rec. center, basketball courts and swimming pool—everything you’d need to keep yourself occupied on campus.” Nate still has plans to visit U of M and Indiana University.
Juniors appreciated the effort made by the school to visit the colleges, thanking guidance counselors and Mr. Rememap for the opportunity to make informed choices for the future.
“Mr. Remenap really cares about our education, more than the average principal, I would say. And I think I’m pretty prepared to go to college.”