Making the Right Choice

Q&A – Making the right choice

By Gremlyn Bradley-Waddell

Jo Wilson

Jo Wilson

The quest to find the college that “fits” you can be daunting. With the options available today, like traditional classroom instruction, online learning and a multitude of degree programs, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Asking questions and understanding what works for you or your student, however, are simple but effective ways to find a school tailored to your needs.

Hillarie Price, regional director of enrollment for the Mesa campus of Westminster College , and Jo Wilson, senior administrator and special assistant to the executive vice president for Benedictine University at Mesa, offer answers to some common questions students and parents might have about the city’s newest higher-education offerings.

Q: What is a liberal arts college?

Hillarie Price: A liberal arts education spans multiple disciplines, requiring coursework in a number of subject areas. Students specialize in one area, but emphasis is placed on a student’s ability to see and make connections among multiple fields and across disciplines

Q: Why choose a private, liberal arts college over a larger university?

HP: Smaller class sizes mean more opportunity for interaction and discovery. Personal attention from the professor provides students an interactive setting in which the instructor gets to know you and your goals and becomes a mentor, resource and advocate to help you achieve those goals. Leadership opportunities are plentiful, so students get involved in leadership roles.

Hillarie Price

Jo Wilson: For many students, a larger institution is very daunting with large classes and thousands of students. Frequently, lower-level classes are taught by teaching assistants and there is little opportunity to interact with a tenured professor in the first few semesters. A private, liberal arts college has a smaller, more personal environment where faculty focus on teaching and class sizes are usually very small. Also, a private liberal arts college often has a set of values that emphasize the development of the whole person, and that process is typically more achievable in a small school environment.

Q: So, what’s the advantage to a larger college or university?

JW: There are many characteristics of a large institution that attract students. Larger research institutions often bring professors, such as Nobel Prize winners, that you may not experience at a smaller institution. Also, at a large state institution, tuition is usually less than at a private liberal arts college. Students also choose larger institutions because of degree programs, scholarships or extracurricular activities available to them.

Q: Is a liberal arts education affordable

HP: Liberal arts colleges can be as affordable as public institutions for higher education. Along with traditional financial aid options, they offer opportunities for scholarships, grants and institutional awards.

Q: How do I know if a college is the right “fit” for me?

HP: Do some preliminary research on the college’s website but also contact the admissions department, a current faculty member, coach, alumni or even current students to find out more. Insight from these groups is valuable. Also, try to visit the campus or surrounding area to see if you can envision yourself in that community. If the college is making the grade so far, schedule an appointment with an admissions representative.

JW: There are so many factors that make a college a “right fit” for a student.  For the student, those could include such things as the availability of a particular program, the campus culture, the location of school, the cost, etc.  A student usually feels that a college is a good fit when there’s a “connection.” That connection may come from the recruiter, a college advisor or even a friend. Each student may find that connection in a different way.