Young people, each accompanied by at least one parent sit in rows of chairs listening to marching band music play over unseen speakers. Pictures of a perfect college campus are projected onto a white screen in front of them. There is no doubt that this is yet another college visit.
As I continue my hunt for colleges, along with other upcoming high school juniors and seniors, the many campuses I've seen begin to blur together. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight. With a decision as important as which college to attend, every avenue must be explored, and that is exactly what I intend on doing.
Denison was the first school that I visited because I wanted to visit it. Previously my visits had always been preplanned or I had simply tagged along with a friend. It was an adorable little school, tucked into rolling hills literally in the middle of nowhere. The only thing to be seen for miles, aside from forest, was the charming little town of Granville.
Granville looked as if it were caught somewhere in the fifties, with little white houses and an abundance of flowers pouring out of window boxes. I immediately fell in love with the town. The only downside was that there would be little to do in a place that small, especially during the winter. I was content to just enjoy the nature and charm, but for students who need to keep themselves occupied, it wasn't necessarily ideal. Driving down the narrow roads with cars tucked on either side was also a bit of a hazard for someone who wasn't used to it.
After cruising around town for a little while, we ascended the long hill that led to the campus. With just over 2,000 students it was not a large place, but it was nice. The buildings looked neither new nor old, and there was plenty of green space and trees.
Admittedly, the dorm rooms were nothing special. They were standard two people rooms with community bathrooms and, sadly, no air conditioning. On the bright side they were close to all the academic buildings, which meant shorter walks, even if they were uphill.
We didn't get to see everything we'd hoped on the tour, but what we did see held some of the same simple charm of the town. Our tour guide kept us entertained with interesting stories of campus life and old legends.
My favorite feature of the campus, which was the least relevant, was the several hundred acre forest that was equipped with hiking, biking, and research areas, as well as wifi.
Denison remains a top choice of mine. The campus is pretty, and at three hours away from Warren it's not too far and not too close. Of course as a small private school it packs a price: $40,000 tuition plus additional room and board. That might be enough to drive me away from the quaint little town.
School Size: 2,270 students
Location: Granville, Ohio
Average ACT acceptance: 28
Average GPA acceptance: 3.5
Student retention rate: 89%
La Roche College
We made the two hour drive up to Pittsburg, over bridges and hills, to visit the tiny college of La Roche. It sat just outside of the city, tucked in behind the suburbs in its own little world. La Roche was by far the smallest campus I'd seen. All of their academic courses were housed in one large building, and they had three or four separate dorms.
Even though the small size of school nearly made me cringe-they had only 1200 students-it was easily the cleanest and best maintained school I'd seen. Everything was pristine and felt new, from the dorms to the dining hall and class rooms. There was a good distribution between large and small classes, and it was certainly a place where you could get to know your peers.
La Roche was a Catholic school, but they prided themselves on diversity. They had exchange programs and study abroad programs worked into their curriculum, and in addition to a Catholic chapel they offered worship spaces for other non-Christian religions.
For such a small school they offered a wide range of majors, from history to finance to dance and graphic design. What I found particularly interesting was that they had an affiliation with the Pittsburgh Film Institute, which allowed students from La Roche to take classes at the Institute once or twice a week.
While in Pittsburgh we stopped at the Film Institute as well. It was not nearly as clean as La Roche and was about as urban as it could get. The Film Institute was one building squished into the outskirts of the big city, but the opportunities that were available in that one building seemed endless. They had every type of film editing system imaginable, including long-outdated and retro equipment that offered students an experience hard to find these days. They also had new digital equipment for video editing, sound recording, and digital photography. Notably, the Film Institute also had affiliations with several other schools in or near Pittsburgh aside from La Roche.
As video was, and remains, one of the many majors I'm interested in (along with writing, graphic design, photography, and art) I found the Film Institute fascinating. My dad took a particular liking to La Roche, probably because every student is offered financial aid upon application, based on their SAT/ACT scores and their high school GPA.
The combination of La Roche and the Film Institute offered a diverse college experience. One could stay in the suburbs most of the time, while still traveling into the city for a different environment and the chance to meet more people who share similar interests. There was also a park nearby La Roche for all the nature lovers out there.
La Roche is definitely a good choice for any student who wants to stay at a small school. As for me, I'm not sure if La Roche will still be on my list when I start my applications. It does remain an option, as I've yet to find a school quite like it.
School Size: 1,200 students
Location: Pittsburg, Pa.
Average ACT acceptance: 19
Average GPA acceptance: 3.0
Student retention rate: 69%