Guiding your student beyond the application.

College Visits

College visits.


Every year, Kristen visits 25-30 colleges, meeting with college admissions staff as they travel through Portland, and keeping up-to-date on college offerings and programs. Choosing to go and where to go to college is likely one of the biggest decisions and investments parents and their student will make. Kristen recognizes that not only do colleges need to be a good academic, social, and emotional fit, but families also need to consider the cost over the entire college experience and how that cost will be paid.

Copy of WPI

Acronyms abound at WPI and within Worcester’s (pronounced Woos-ter) unique “WPI Plan”. WPI’s 4,600 undergraduate students (and 2,200 graduate students) are always involved in at least one team-based project. Whether it’s working on their requirements called IQP’s, MQP’s, GPS, or HUA, students are collaborating and using their interdisciplinary skills both on campus and around the globe to try and solve the world’s complicated problems. 

Read more about Kristen’s trip to WPI here.


Among the seven colleges sprinkled throughout Rhode Island’s capital city, sits the pretty and spacious (105-acre) campus of Providence College. I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly, happy, and honest the students I met on campus were when I visited in June (2019) and asked them to share insights into their school.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Providence College here.

Rhode Island college visit, Summer 2019

Rhode Island college visit, Summer 2019

The Rhode Island School of Design’s campus is located in downtown Providence, just a short downhill walk from Brown University. The campus buildings blend pretty, red-brick New England-style exteriors with modern interior design and furniture. RISD (pronounced Riz-dee) offers Bachelor of Fine Arts majors to 2,000 students in Apparel Design, Graphic Design, Painting, Ceramics, Illustration, Photography, Film/Animation/Video, Industrial Design, Printmaking, Furniture, Interior Studies (Adaptive Reuse), Sculpture, Glass, Jewelry + Metalsmithing, Textiles and one Bachelor's Degree: Architecture (BArch).

Read more about Kristen’s trip to RISD here.

Rhode Island college visit, Summer 2019

Rhode Island college visit, Summer 2019

Brown University is known for being the most flexible and progressive of all the Ivies, with its signature open curriculum and embracement of intellectual “free-thinkers”. Students create their own path towards a concentration (Brown’s version of a major), but some concentrations require more structure than others (think engineering or computer science). Brown allows a two-week shopping period, giving intellectually curious students the opportunity to test out courses and professors before officially enrolling in classes. Students are further encouraged to explore subjects outside their concentration with the ability to take every fifth course pass/fail.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Brown University here.


The Claremont Colleges are five small liberal arts colleges in Claremont, California, each with their own distinct programs and personality, that share facilities, resources, athletics, and activities. The 5 C’s, as the consortium is nicknamed, include Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College, Pomona College, Scripps College, and Harvey Mudd College. There are also two graduate schools, Keck Graduate Institute and Claremont Graduate University, nearby. The five campuses fit together within one square mile, making it easy for students to take advantage of the option to take classes at any of the other consortium colleges.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Claremont Colleges here.

California College Visit, Spring 2017

California College Visit, Spring 2017

Chapman University is located in the “heart of Orange County”, minutes away from Laguna Beach and Disneyland, and an “hour-ish” away from LA and the center of the film and television industry. Thus it is ripe with hopeful Hollywood directors, producers, artists, and media stars. It is, in fact, best known for its top-ranked Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, but Chapman prides itself on being a comprehensive university, with many other strong programs including business, psychology, and undergraduate teaching.

Chapman’s mission is “to provide personalized education of distinction that leads to inquiring, ethical, and productive lives as global citizens.” To support this mission, Chapman requires all students to take classes from their “Global Citizen Cluster” (Global Studies, Community, Citizenship, Service, and Language Study), and half of the students study abroad with programs offered through their Center for Global Education. The core curriculum models their four pillars of providing for student’s spiritual, physical, intellectual, and social growth.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Chapman University here.

Arizona College Trip, Spring 2017

Arizona College Trip, Spring 2017

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University leads the world in aviation and aerospace higher education. Their Aerospace Engineering is #1 in the country for colleges not offering doctorate programs, and 11th overall. Six alumni are current or former astronauts and ERAU is the FAA’s largest provider of air traffic controllers with bachelor’s degrees. All programs are direct entry, meaning applicants are evaluated based on their academic interests and admitted students jump right into their program. Primary fields of study are aviation, space, applied science, computers & technology, cyber security & intelligence, engineering, and business.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University here.

Wisconsin trip, Spring 2018.

Wisconsin trip, Spring 2018.

UW Madison is a hot destination right now even though my April 2018 visit required snow boots and a stocking cap. West coast students don’t seem to mind the snow, as it’s showing up on more and more of their radars for its top-ranked programs and strong school spirit. UW Madison welcomes 35% of students from out-of-state each year.

The energy on the college-town campus is palpable with its 43,800 students (30,000 of which are undergraduates). There seemed to be something for everyone with the state Capital down the street, 1 billion dollars in research spent per year, 13% of students in Greek life and popular athletic programs and fan support that breaks the 81,000-spectator mark.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to UW Madison here.

California stop #3. Spring 2019.

California stop #3. Spring 2019.

Competitive, motivated, liberal, and intelligent. That is how Cal Bears describe themselves and the UC Berkeley community. Berkeley is not for the shy student or late-bloomer but much better suited to the student who is motivated by being around other high-achievers. In fact, 98% of admitted students are ranked in the top 10% of their high school class (the admission process compares students to other applicants from the same high school). Students here are driven, and the buzzwords I heard during the admission presentation often included “(academic) achievement and (extracurricular) impact.” Out-of-state students have a 15% chance of being admitted (in-state admission is 17%), apply with a 3.94 GPA (recalculated to include only “a-g” courses), and 1390 SAT or 33 ACT.

With over 30,000 undergraduates on campus (and 11,600 graduates), students at Berkeley learn to be self-sufficient, persistent, and comfortable in large classes (there are just as many instructional graduate assistants as there are full-time faculty). But most students here don’t mind not getting to know their professors personally, and are just as happy listening to lectures from their “world class” instructors. Berkeley is known, after all, for its research and graduate programs, many of which rank among the best in the nation. Comments one student, “It is not unusual to walk into an entry-level class and have 300 to 400 students sitting along with you; however, the caliber of instruction is top notch and you can always make an appointment during your professor’s office hours if you need additional support.”

Read more about Kristen’s trip to UC Berkeley here.

California stop #2. Spring 2019.

California stop #2. Spring 2019.

The University of San Francisco definitely reflects the diversity of the city where it lives. The city itself is both old and new, rich and poor, beautiful and dirty, and USF students embrace it all. USF has a very diverse student body, ranking 3rd in ethnic diversity according to U.S. News & World Report, with 74% identifying as students of color. While it is a Jesuit university, less than 30% identify as Catholic and they welcome all religions, as well as no religion.

USF is also ranked 19th on the list of the nation’s most entrepreneurial universities, and USF graduates are ranked in the top 3% in the U.S. for earning potential--as the only private liberal arts college in SF, many companies recruit students from USF for jobs and internships. However, the biggest distinguishing factor about USF is that social impact is at the forefront of everything it does.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to USF here.


UC Santa Cruz’s 2,000 acre, forested campus is just a few miles from the Santa Cruz coastline, and is a haven for the environmentally-conscious, the social justice-minded, passionate free-thinkers, and the laidback sun and surf enthusiasts. UCSC Banana Slugs believe in having a sense of responsibility, and that you “change society by changing yourself first”.

UCSC is tied with UCLA for being the most diverse of the UC campuses, but less than 5% of their students come from outside of California. Biological Sciences are the most popular majors, followed by Social Sciences, Psychology, and Computer & Information Sciences. Only the computer science major requires higher admission standards and for students to enter the program with their initial applications.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to the UCSC here.

California stop #1. Spring 2019.


Studying for exams and completing Eckerd’s four different writing style assignments isn’t quite so painful when you are living and learning in a tropical paradise. Eckerd College’s 1,900 undergraduates enjoy life on the #4 for “Most Beautiful Coastal College Campuses” (Best Value Schools), which is located in St. Petersburg, Florida and sits right on the coast of Tampa Bay and Boca Ciega Bay. Palm trees, white sandy beaches, kayaks, sailboats, and dolphin spotting come with the cost of attendance. They have their own boathouse and an Eckerd College Emergency Response Team, where students gain medical and emergency training by working with local paramedics and St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue, as well as an Eckerd College Search and Rescue team that pairs up with Coast Guard.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Eckerd College here.

Florida stop #2. March 2019.


University of Tampa

It was such a treat to visit the University of Tampa in February when back home in Portland, Oregon, it was 32 degrees and snowing. The 75-degree weather is nothing new to Tampa’s 9,000 students (7,588 full-time undergraduates) on this private, medium-sized university in the heart of Tampa.  On my tour, students who were not in class or lounging by the pool were studying in hammocks strung between palm trees alongside the adjacent Hillsborough River. The landmark building on campus is Plant Hall, formerly the Tampa Bay Hotel and famous for its Victorian style and signature minarets (which I climbed!)

Read more about Kristen’s trip to the University of Tampa here.

Florida stop #1. March 2019.

Rhodes College.jpg


Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee is striking with its red, yellow, and brown “collegiate gothic” sandstone buildings, thirteen of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, Rhodes is classified as an Arboretum and is located across the street from the Memphis Zoo. Rhodes, a nationally-ranked liberal arts and sciences college, is filled with collaborative and involved undergraduates (2,000), many of whom aspire to attend medical school, participate in research early and often, and who enjoy music and culture.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Rhodes College here.

Tennessee stop #7. February 2019.



“Driven by Doing” is the motto for the 17,000 undergraduates (of which 12,000 are full-time students), and they are doing a lot of things on and around the U of Memphis campus. A relatively new president (M. David Rudd, 2014) and new laws allowing for an independent governing board to be established have given U of M the freedom to control the University's strategic direction.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to the University of Memphis here.

Tennessee stop #6. February 2019.



Christian Brothers University, in Memphis, Tennessee is a Lasallian school with 1300 students and considers itself “really good at creating a home for the kid who didn’t quite fit in during high school”, as well as being the safest campus in Tennessee (it is close to downtown, but very secure and enclosed). Lasallian education centers on Catholic values and personal relationships, emphasizing academic excellence, faith formation, inclusion, respect for the individual, service and social justice.

At CBU, 29 states and 33 different faiths are represented on campus.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Christian Brothers University here.

Tennessee stop #5. February 2019.

Fisk University


Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennesee was founded in 1866 just after the Civil War. Fisk’s first students ranged in age from seven to seventy, but shared common experiences of slavery and poverty along with an “extraordinary thirst for learning.” In 1953, Fisk received a charter for the first chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society on a predominantly black campus. Today, Fisk’s 800 students enjoy a 12:1 student-to-teacher ratio and can take courses not offered on their campus at nearby Vanderbilt University. Top majors are Biology, Psychology, and Business; 78% go on to professional or graduate school, and students who qualify can be accepted into the School of Medicine or Dentistry at Meharry Medical College after three years at Fisk.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Fisk University here.

Tennessee stop #4. February 2019.



Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee, is a mid-sized residential research university focused on undergraduate teaching and research with around 6,800 undergraduates, 50% of whom participate in research as early as freshman/sophomore year (Vanderbilt also has 5,700 grad students).

Undergraduates are split between four undergraduate colleges: The College of Arts & Science, Blair School of Music, Peabody College of Education and Human Development, and the School of Engineering. Students apply to one of the four schools, but everyone takes their core liberal arts courses in the College of Arts and Science.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Vanderbilt University here.

Tennessee stop #3. February 2019.

Sewanee+University+Of+The+South 2019


Sewanee, The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee (50 miles from Chattanooga and 90 miles from Nashville) has 1,700 undergraduates, of which 80% are from out of state. The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee (50 miles from Chattanooga and 90 miles from Nashville) has 1,700 undergraduates, of which 80% are from out of state.

The Fiske Guide notes “it can easily be mistaken for an Oxford or a Cambridge plunked down in the highlands of Tennessee”, and I definitely felt a unique level of respect and academic ambition on campus.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Sewanee, The University Of The South here.

Tennessee stop #2. February 2019.

Belmont University 2019


In February 2019, Kristen did her first college visit trip of the year. Her first stop? Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. It is the largest Christian University in Tennessee and is ranked #5 in the Regional Universities South (USNWR), but is mostly known for its music programs and helping students get their start in the music business. The campus is located next to the world famous music row and is just two miles from downtown Nashville.

Read more about Kristen’s trip to Belmont University here.

Tennessee stop #1. February 2019.

Syracuse University


Energetic students dressed in bright Syracuse orange move about this hillside campus filled with interesting architectural styles, including the Hall of Languages that inspired the Addams Family Home. Incoming students apply to one of nine colleges or schools, or to one of 10 dual-degree programs, including the prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communications, the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, the School of Architecture and the College of Visual & Performing Arts. There are lots of interesting majors in the “I-school” (College of Information Studies) and the Whitman School of Management offers popular programs like Supply Chain Management and Real Estate along with the usual biz majors. It had exactly what you would expect a college to offer, and then some...including lots of snow!

New York stop #8. October 2018.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

HWS is the result of joining two single-sex colleges, with students identifying as female receiving a diploma from William Smith and male-identified students receiving one from Hobart. All students can choose from the same courses, majors, and even joint residence halls. Known for strong study abroad, as top fulbright and peacecorp producers, guaranteed internships as part of their Pathways Curriculum and a 95% Med School placement rate. Another gorgeous campus with happy students!

New York stop #7. October 2018.

Hobart William Smith.jpg



Happy, friendly, and engaged students enjoy strong professional programs in media, arts, business, occupational and physical therapy. Students get to be hands-on in their field of interest on day one. Ithaca is another “gorges” campus, but with a better view of Cayuga Lake than Cornell. Aside from participating in or watching one of the 27 Ithaca-produced TV shows, 8 theatre productions, or 300 concerts each year, students enjoy festivals and activities in the town of Ithaca.

New York stop #6. October 2018.


Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Cornell’s campus is “gorges”, a play on how beautiful it is and the waterways splitting the campus. It’s 7 colleges offer over 4000 courses, including its world famous Hotel Administration, Industrial and Labor Relations, Architecture and Engineering.

New York stop #5. October 2018.




Colgate University in Hamilton, NY (yes, Colgate is in Hamilton and Hamilton is in Clinton). Colgate is a destination college, as its beautiful campus is out in the middle of farmland. Students choose to come here because they are ready to maximize the liberal arts feel with large university opportunities, plenty of hands-on experience, and mentoring by professors. If you are looking for strong Greek life, sports culture, plus a work hard/play hard mentality, this fits!

New York stop #4. October 2018.



Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. No, Lin-Manuel Miranda hasn’t visited campus yet, but plenty of prominent figures have. The traditional liberal arts college wants to enroll students passionate about “discovering who they truly are”, and give students plenty of beautiful acreage (over 3000 for less than 2000 students), a very open curriculum, and a strong alumni network to explore.

New York stop #3. October 2018.



Rochester Institute of Technology is full of techies and engineers, but also creative students that like technology. Their Packaging Science & Design Program can’t get enough graduates in the market to meet demand. Students here embrace the gray & cold weather with community service, ice skating classes for beginners and studying for tests in the hot tubs with laminated notes!

New York stop #2. October 2018.

University of Rochester.jpg


University of Rochester in Rochester, NY. Rochester students are able to explore their interests with limited core requirements on the diverse “river” campus as well as pursue majors, take classes or simply enjoy performances from students at their Eastman School of Music. The “Rochester Effect” means students learn by doing (77% are involved in research) and are afforded an individualized education, with opportunities to apply for a free 5th year to explore interests outside their major. Underground tunnels and strong outdoor and skiing clubs help cope with the gray and snow.

New York stop #1. October 2018.