The road to a liberal arts education

College tours are important in the decision process for higher education, so many students travel to visit colleges in which they are interested.

Junior+Hallie+O%27Rourke+sits+with+a+statue+of+the+Davidson+College+mascot%2C+the+wildcat.+Visits+to+colleges+such+as+this+one+can+help+students+decide+where+they+may+want+to+attend+or+apply.

Hallie O'Rourke

Junior Hallie O'Rourke sits with a statue of the Davidson College mascot, the wildcat. Visits to colleges such as this one can help students decide where they may want to attend or apply.

School seems to be an endless amount of work, in and out of the classroom. There’s studying for tests, completing projects and then also studying for standardized tests. All for the ultimate goal of many students: college.

One of the first steps in determining where one may want to go to college is doing research about different schools and visiting the campuses, if possible. Spring break is a very popular time to begin this process. “Every college has tours and programs, and a lot of times the tours are led by students. They can tell you really what it would be like to go there,” English teacher Martha Verbanic said.

We all know about big state schools, but many wonder about some of the smaller liberal arts schools. I visited the following schools  over spring break and hope my findings can be helpful to interested students.

Washington and Lee University

Although concerned about the university’s humble, small-town location, I found myself pleasantly surprised by Washington and Lee. This school is a small, private university located in Lexington, Va. with an average tuition of $61,235. The campus was stunning, and although the weather was cold and windy during our tour, we were able to enjoy the landscape and all that W&L had to offer.

My parents, my younger brother and I first toured campus with a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide, who was a also a sophomore at the school. Then, we attended an informational session led by an admissions counselor. Both the tour guide and the woman running the session knew much about the school, and I left with a very positive impression.

Additionally, although the location is a bit rural, the university offers an outdoors club, which provides students with equipment for camping, hiking, skiing and much more, along with guides and trips to explore the nature surrounding the campus.

Also, W&L offers three semesters: two 12-week fall and winter semesters, then a four-week spring semester, in which students can delve into one topic. They also have an extensive study abroad program.

Davidson College

Davidson College is another small school nestled in the quaint town of Davidson, N.C. This is another private liberal arts school, and the tuition is around $62,894. The campus is breathtaking, and the small town felt a bit more comfortable than Lexington, with a more open and welcoming appearance. Similar to W&L, Davidson offers many study abroad programs in addition to great academics. Even though Davidson is a small school, they are Division I for athletics, and NBA MVP Steph Curry even played basketball for them. Although the campus was well-kept with nice, brick buildings, tasteful gardening and numerous paved paths, I was disappointed by a lackluster student tour guide. This shows that although you may love how the school sounds on paper, you may discover that the “vibe” of the school, as presented by a current student, may not be suited for you.

Wake Forest University

Wake forest is a medium-sized private liberal arts school, with a cost of tuition around $62,538. When we arrived, we were immediately struck by the beautiful welcome center and the extensive materials that admissions counselors gave us.

The information session before the tour was short, as an admissions worker quickly gave some details about the school and how to apply. However, the rest of the pre-tour session was unique, as a professor then gave us a mock-lesson, in order to simulate the classroom experience at Wake Forest.

We then went on a tour, which was led by a very enthusiastic and happy senior who not only seemed thrilled to be a student, but was also able to answer any and all questions about the school. Unlike most other schools, Wake Forest encourages prospective students to do an interview with admissions officers or alumni.

“At Wake Forest, they really encourage you to interview there, so I did that in August,” senior Ruvini Athauda, who committed to attend the school next year, said. “Just [from] being there and learning more about it, I definitely knew I could see myself there. The interview was a huge thing that made me want to go there.”

Duke University

Duke University is much larger than the previous schools I visited on this trip. They are a private research and liberal arts school with tuition costs of about $67,000. They only have around 6,600 undergraduate students, but their campus is a whopping 8,709 acres.

Designed with gorgeous Collegiate Gothic architecture and a large garden area, Duke is a very pretty sight to see.

Duke stressed not only its academic programs, but  sports as well, and the school especially played on its rivalry with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The tour was very informative, and on a sunny day, it was no chore to walk around the amazing campus.

Also unique to Duke is their summer service opportunity, a fully-funded program in which students can travel either domestically or abroad to volunteer.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Duke was a large campus, and UNC-Chapel Hill boasts a large North Carolinian campus environment as well. UNC-Chapel Hill is a large, public school with out of state tuition costs around $50,000. The tours and information session were jam-packed as they were at Duke, but my family and I were still able to receive helpful information. In addition to the great academics and large, manicured campus, UNC is very close to the town of Chapel Hill and the idyllic Franklin Street. Stores and restaurants on this street seem to paint the ideal picture of what a “college town” is, and I was lucky to eat dinner at some of the restaurants there. Similarly to Duke, students here seemed very enthusiastic about sports, especially games against Duke. They also spoke of rich traditions, many stemming from the famous well that has been on campus since the founding of the school.