With five colleges and universities circling its center, Midtown is a spring and summer hotspot for college tours.
It’s a time when family legacies take deeper root. Life-changing decisions are debated, and sometimes made. Minds are expanded, and sometimes changed. Eyes are opened. Futures zoom into focus.
Laura Barkley, a Broughton High School senior, chose N.C. State University after tours during her junior year to the Midtown campus, Clemson, the University of South Carolina, UNC-Chapel Hill and the College of Charleston.
An avid equestrian who wants to become an equine veterinarian, Barkley, 17, was admitted early.
The veteran college tourist offers this advice: tour schools that offer what you want to study; take note of grade requirements for admission; and ask lots of questions, especially about sports, student activities and Greek life.
“And I definitely looked at the city around each campus, the town and not just the college,” Barkley said. “We got a feel for what it would be like if I went to school there, what life would be like living there.”
That’s the formula Broughton junior Emily Brice followed on visits in March to the University of Georgia and Clemson, and during winter tours of UNC-Chapel Hill and Wake Forest.
At Wake Forest, she attended a mock class. At UGA, she toured by foot and by bus. At Clemson, she discovered offerings don’t fit her dream to be a pharmaceutical rep. At all four, she visited dorms, Greek housing and dining halls, and watched students mill about campus.
The tours also inspired Emily to visit smaller schools.
“I ruled that out in the beginning,” said Emily, who turns 17 tomorrow. “It was helpful to go there, see for myself, and now I know.”
Something similar happened when Emma Spurr toured Meredith College.
“I didn’t think I would like it,” said Spurr, 17, a Holly Springs High junior. “But the atmosphere was different from the other colleges. You could tell everyone was really close. It’s in my Top 3 now.”
Even so, Spurr, who wants to become a nurse, favors Appalachian State, which is the alma mater of her grandmother, who accompanied her family on a tour there. She’ll also tour UNC-Charlotte and UNC-Chapel Hill, where her mom works and both parents graduated.
“It’s really important to be able to picture yourself in a college,” Spurr said. “I knew when I could see myself at a school, and there were some that I knew right away I couldn’t. It makes applying a lot easier.”
‘A different perspective’
Tyreese McAllister spent her daughters’ spring break from Largo High School in Maryland touring Shaw University, her alma mater, and St. Augustine’s University, her husband’s alma mater. With them was McAllister’s cousin, Shamonique Young, 17, a New Jersey senior already accepted into Shaw.
Because the McAllisters are active in alumni and Greek organizations, their ninth- and 10th-grade daughters are familiar with Raleigh and both campuses.
“I was excited about them seeing it from a different perspective,” McAllister said. “This time, they were really looking at the schools as potential students.
“And the tour solidified these schools are good fits for them.”
In addition to a sneak peek at campus life, the girls got a firsthand look at the academic requirements to get there, and stay.
“The college tour was a reality check,” McAllister said. “They came back with a little more focus.”
Young, who’s hoping for enough financial aid to attend Shaw, applauds McAllister for sharing her own experience there and for taking her to tour the school.
“Websites only tell you so much,” Young said. “You’ll only know if you feel at home there once you’re there, in person. I now know I love Shaw.”
Willie Whitley brought his Metro Lady Celtics AAU basketball team from Fort Washington, Md., to tour Shaw last weekend. They also took a driving tour through N.C. State University’s campus.
It was an important trip for the eighth-graders. Now is when colleges start watching to recruit them, Whitley said.
“That means I need to start off early,” he said. “As their coach, it is my job to prepare and get these young ladies into college. I vow to do that.”
Whitley, a Virginia native and Virginia State University graduate, took his team to Shaw, an HBCU, and State, a Division I school, “two different schools within blocks of each other that have requirements that are both similar and different,” he said.
“It was interesting for the girls,” he said. “It was insightful for both the girls and their parents.”