2014 College Counselor Bike Tour, Part I
By Nat, IvyWise Master Admissions Counselor
Touring colleges is an essential part of the college admissions process, but few get to experience from the seat of a bicycle.
I first participated in the College Counselor Bike Tour in 2009. Little did I know that this group of college counseling cyclists (or should I call them psychalists because they are just a tad bit crazy) would change my professional and personal life. In addition to being able to ride my bike for a week or two straight, I’m surrounded by some incredible college counseling colleagues and able to talk shop for hours on end as we pedal from one school to the next.
Often times it’s easy to rush through a school tour, then jump in the car and head off to the next school. The bike tour allows us enough time to absorb the school and surrounding area, while also sharing our individual thoughts with other counselors.
Here are the colleges we saw along the way, and some fun facts about each. This is some good information to keep in mind as you plan your own college visits this fall and continue to build your balanced college list!
The Ohio State University
Our tour began when a group of my closest friends and I left New York state and drove to Ohio. We stayed the night Columbus and checked out Ohio State University and the surrounding area.
There were a few pre-orientation programs going on and the excitement of attending the state flagship was tangible. We had a wonderful dinner at a local student hangout, Chumley’s, and we were able to see what is most apparent about OSU students; they love their school!
The next morning, we left on a 120-mile bike ride to meet the rest of the group of counselors at Oberlin College. The ride was incredibly beautiful and Ohio drivers were quite bike-friendly due to the large Amish population who travel via horse and buggy, which makes drivers accustomed to passing cyclists.
We arrived at Oberlin in time to catch a brief tour followed by dinner with the admissions staff in the dining hall.
We stayed in Asia House, one of the themed housing options on campus, and were treated to a private concert by three Oberlin music conservatory students in the courtyard! I want to thank the staff with the attention to detail in terms of welcoming a group of cyclist to campus. Oberlin was presented authentically – a group of intellectual, college students that are passionate about what they were doing. It’s no surprise that Oberlin sends one of the highest percentages of students on to PhD programs every year.
The opportunities to research with professors are plentiful, and many students take advantage of these opportunities. Oberlin’s Art Rental program was often a topic of conversation. Oberlin students can rent pieces of art for their dorm rooms for $5 per semester! The collection includes pieces by Picassos, Lichtenstein, Chagall, among others. Here is a list of the 20 most popular pieces. Nothing has ever happened to the art while in the possession of a student in the many years of this program, which is a testament to the student body’s understanding and respect for the arts!
The College of Wooster
The next day, four of us woke early and were treated to some time in the Oberlin pool before an awesome breakfast in the dining hall. We later left Oberlin for a nice 45-mile ride to The College of Wooster!
As we crested the hill towards campus, the first thing that came into view was a bike repair tent with an ace mechanic waiting to service our bicycles. The folks at the Ride On Bicycle shop were a great help to us, and the College of Wooster went well beyond their call of duty. The admissions officer in charge of coordinating our visit, Charlie, was also a cyclist. He took the time to anticipate our needs and we really appreciate his efforts to make our arrival unforgettable.
If The College of Wooster could do this well welcoming a group of counselors, imagine what the office can do with for prospective students!
Wooster’s curriculum is distinctive in that it requires every one of their students to complete a major research project of their choice before graduating. I encourage anyone interested in undergraduate research to give Wooster a serious look.
We were treated to fine accommodations at The Wooster Inn during our stay, which is a perfect place for a prospective family to stay when visiting Wooster. It’s close to campus and has everything one would need to feel comfortable when college touring!
We met a couple of Wooster students at our formal dinner and I was impressed with how they each went out of their way to thank the college catering/wait staff after our meal. This gave me a really nice indication of the type of community that Wooster has and I sincerely hope more students find this hidden gem of a school!
The next morning after breakfast in the dining hall, we embarked on our 37-mile ride to Kenyon College. Our route to Kenyon proved to be the toughest of the tour, and we were relieved to finally arrive on campus.
Kenyon holds a special place in my heart because I traveled extensively with the Dean of Admissions from Kenyon as part of a travel consortium through Asia and Hawaii, which included Skidmore (where I was a counselor), Kenyon, Colorado College, Colby College and St. John’s College of Santa Fe.
Jennifer, the Dean of Admissions, always made sure to talk about the aesthetic beauty of campus. It was only after being on Kenyon’s campus that I could truly appreciate how beautiful it really is! It is one of the most beautiful that I have seen, right alongside University of Washington and Furman College.
We had dinner with the admissions staff and a number of students at the Village Inn, which was absolutely delicious. I had a chance to get to know a few Kenyon students and I was really impressed with the spectrum of their interests. One was really passionate about educational advocacy, another student was an international studies major who had applied for the peace corps and a Fulbright scholarship, while others were busy conducting science research with professors on campus.
After dinner, we were treated to an ice cream at the legendary Kenyon Bookstore. I was really impressed with everything that was available for purchase there, and the ice cream was awesome!
When visiting a college – whether by car, foot, or bike – take time to absorb the campus culture. Learn not only about the academics, but also the student body and the campus itself. After all, you will be spending the next four years there!
Stay tuned for Part II featuring more colleges on the tour!