Recently Visited: Haverford College

Dr. Lisa Ransdell is an independent educational consultant and college counselor who helps students and their families stay on top of college planning. Lisa’s practice is grounded in 27 years of college teaching and 20 years in higher education administration. She constantly tours, reads, and does professional development in order to give clients the most up-to-date info.

One of the schools I visited on my recent Philadelphia college-touring trip was Haverford College, located in Haverford, PA, a suburb of Philly. Haverford is a lovely, leafy, historic gem of a school, with many attractive features.

First a few factoids: Haverford is on the small side, with 1190 students, and it’s in the pricey range characteristic of highly selective private liberal arts colleges, at a total cost of attendance of $52, 970 for 2010-11. The most popular majors are biology, political science, economics, English, and psychology. This would be a place to receive a high-quality education in a unique environment and be well positioned for graduate or professional school afterwards. The nearly 96% freshman retention rate speaks well to student attachment to the place.

Two things in particular stood out to me during my visit, one being the student run, character-based honor code. The code harkens back to the Quaker origins of the school, and is so strongly honored that exams can be taken unproctored nearly anywhere on campus (even in students’ dorm rooms!).  One testament to the code that I observed while visiting was that students are comfortable (and apparently safe) in leaving possessions like backpacks, laptops and bikes unattended and unlocked while eating in the dining commons and doing other things.  Apparently theft is not a problem on this campus.

Secondly, the school is a member of the “Quaker Consortium,” a grouping of four nearby colleges founded by the historic sect that involves a reciprocal agreement to share course enrollments and activities.  The schools involved include Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and the University of Pennsylvania, along with Haverford. A student at ‘Ford who begins to chafe at it’s size would be free to take a class downtown at Penn, and join a club at Bryn Mawr, for example. Shuttle buses regularly ferry students amongst the campuses.

Haverford isn’t cheap, but for those who can negotiate its cost (lots of financial aid is distributed, btw), this would be one fine educational experience.

The photo is of Founders Hall, a historic campus building.  On the day of my tour Korean students were hosting a barbecue in front.  The smell made me want to get in line!

Recently Visited: Seven PA Colleges

Dr. Lisa Ransdell is an independent educational consultant and college counselor who helps students and their families stay on top of college planning. Lisa’s practice is grounded in 27 years of college teaching and 20 years in higher education administration. She constantly tours, reads, and does professional development in order to give clients the most up-to-date info.

I’m just back from a trip to the Philadelphia area where I toured seven great colleges: Bryn Mawr, Franklin and Marshall, Haverford, Penn, Princeton, Swarthmore, and Villanova. Each is a standout and has much to offer students. One very special aspect of the trip was that a former client who is just wrapping up her first year provided my Villanova tour personally.  Soon Lara will be back in Colorado to visit with family and friends, and then she heads off to Spain for an internship-study abroad program arranged through the college. Not a bad way to spend the summer!

I will likely write a blog about each tour in order to share special features of each institution, several of which were established in the early 1800s by the Quakers. For now here is a peek at one of Princeton’s fierce tigers

A Princeton Tiger



RECENTLY VISITED: The University of Kansas

A recent visit to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS, definitely put KU solidly on my personal “schools of interest” list.

Those who have driven cross-country on I-70 may have a sense of Kansas as one long, flat, endless, monochromatic prairie.  Not so the northeastern part of the state, which is green with lovely rolling hills. The 1000-acre KU campus is perched on an enormous granite rise, giving it more interesting and varied terrain than your average institution. The architecture is amazing, especially the stunning red tile roofs that crown many of the historic campus buildings. One picture I noted from a university promotional piece featuring a fall scene makes the campus look a bit like something out of Tuscany.

For Colorado students with an interest in excellent out-of-state universities within a short flight or daylong drive, KU could be a superb choice. It features many highly ranked academic programs, among them education, social welfare, business, music, and engineering. Also noteworthy is the degree of participation among the student body in volunteering; more than one-third of the 19,000+ undergraduate students take part, a well-deserved point of pride.

Additionally, tuition and fees are a bargain, both for residents of Kansas (who paid under $9000 for tuition and fees for 2010-11), and for those from elsewhere; out-of-state students enrolled for this academic year received a $21,539 bill, according to the university. Even better, KU has a Tuition Compact that locks in tuition charges for four years.

Finally, for those looking for a school with strong athletic traditions and lots of school spirit KU will be a strong draw. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!

Dr. Lisa Ransdell is a comprehensive educational consultant and college planning professional with 27 years of college teaching and 20 years in higher education administration forming the foundation of her practice:

RECENTLY VISITED: Introducing a Blog “Column,” If You Will

Something I particularly love about my profession of independent educational consulting is the chance to tour many schools over the course of the year in order to be able to give my clients first-hand reports and up-to-date info.  The expectation and necessity of touring and attending campus information sessions is no burden for me; it has long been true in my case, even before I became an IEC, that one of my favorite settings/places to hang in the world is a college campus.

I believe it is very important, although not absolutely essential, for students to conceptually and experientially connect with a college. To my mind, a felt connection with an institution isn’t unlike the “chemistry” of a one-on-one love match.  Social science data show that arranged marriages appear to work, and have statistically better success rates than the passionate “love matches” favored in western nations. Being a social scientist myself, but also being a somewhat typical westerner, I will advocate for both: a college that fits on paper, but also in the heart.

How many students have I known who said something like, “From the moment I set foot on campus, I knew this was the place for me”? And yet I’ve known some, like my friend Seth, who applied as a resident of northern California to Denison University, in rural Ohio (where I then worked), site unseen. Seth’s interest was based solely on the avid recommendation of a fellow employee at the video shop where he worked as a high school student. It proved to be a beautiful match-up, and by the time he graduated with his degree in philosophy, Seth was distinguished as a Denison Presidential Scholar. He followed his success at Denison by becoming a personal assistant to the playwright Tony Kushner in New York City, and eventually became an employee of the New York Times. At present he is completing his MBA at Tuck, the Dartmouth College School of Business.

I digress. Competitive colleges fall all over themselves to make an impression on prospective students. Some even suck up to folks like me, with some degree of IEC “bling” – like the lovely bag of stuff I received from Washington University-St. Louis last November. It even included an oversized pennant … how did they know I collect pennants from the colleges I visit??

Most all colleges offer regular tours and information sessions that profile key institutional factoids. Really enterprising and/or classy colleges offer additional opportunities, like the chance to sit in on a class, stay overnight in a dorm, or meet with a professor or admission staff member one-on-one.

Whatever route you choose, tour as much as possible, and make sure your visits are “official” (noted by the Admissions Office): many colleges view a campus visit as a sign of sincere interest on the part of applicants, and count a visit as a positive element of an application package.

Next Recently Visited: University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Lisa Ransdell, Ph.D., is an independent educational consultant in Denver, CO, a 27-year higher education professional, and head of Pinnacle Education Consulting, LLC: