College. This word brings about a multitude of emotions, especially for high school students.
Nervousness: for many, matriculating at a college correlates with being away from home and family for the first time. It might involve traveling or spending time in an unknown city or state, or living with strangers.
Excitement: depending on one's attitude, history, or past experiences, every scenario listed above could be viewed with eagerness and enthusiasm. These two emotions likely will happen simultaneously.
Worry: students may question their preparedness for collegiate-level study or their families' ability to fund higher education. This is even truer for first-generation college students.
On May 8, a mix of 28 sophomores and juniors from Groveton High School tested these emotions when they traveled to three Vermont colleges: Lyndon State College, Champlain College and the University of Vermont. Only seven participants reported visited Burlington before and a high percentage had never been to a college campus. The trip was organized by school counselor Colleen Clogston and was funded by the York Foundation. Students had the opportunity to tour each campus, eat at two dining halls, ask questions to student-panels and learn about the application process from admissions officers.
The three colleges were identified because they offer very different experiences, curriculum and opportunities for students. One of Clogston's goals for the trip was to expose students to a variety of types of colleges. Champlain College is a very small, private college with a select few majors (and, according to GHS students, an impressive dining plan). Lyndon State is able to offer unique majors, which New Hampshire students couldn't study at an in-state institution, and prides itself on its small class sizes, close student-professor relationships and unique internships. UVM is a large Division I university, with an expansive campus, strong pre-professional programming, and every extracurricular imaginable.
The day-long trip concluded on Church Street in Burlington where students had the opportunity to experience the shopping, food and culture the historic downtown offered. Students observed a peaceful protest about police brutality and racial tolerance. Before boarding the bus back to Groveton, students attended the play, "The Mountaintop" at the Flynn Center. The Mountaintop was presented by the Vermont Stage Company. A two-person show, the play depicted a fictional encounter (though based on actual historical events) between Martin Luther King Jr. and a chambermaid on the evening before his death.
Chaperones were pleased to hear students' reflections on the day. Many had positive comments about the city of Burlington and were open to considering colleges outside their initial comfort zone. One student, for example, had always assumed she'd attend the University of New Hampshire. However, after visiting these colleges she was persuaded to expand her search. Their awareness of the importance of the college essay in the application process was strengthened.
These 28 students from GHS are ever more ready to engage in the next step of their education -- even if they are nervous, excited, and a bit worried about what the process will involve.