Texas Tech and Lubbock – A University City on the Texas Plains

Texas Tech and Lubbock – A University City on the Texas Plains

I’ve noticed when I’m visiting a college campus with an eye for finding what students like, I’m looking through a lens different than when I’ve visited the campus while conducting business. I’ve been to Texas Tech a dozen times over the last twenty years but never saw it quite like on my last visit.

Texas Tech is located in Lubbock, home of Texas music icons such as Buddy Holly, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely, and sits at the bottom of the lower plains, only a few miles north of sliding off the caprock into West Texas. It’s home to grapes, combines, and the tallest buildings outside of downtown are grain silos. I’ve always felt as if Tech and Lubbock got the short end of the Texas geography stick. It’s flat, arid, and hot. And when the winds come sweeping down the plains, as happened while I was visiting, it’s time to take cover. Picture a red dirt-out or conjure dust-bowl days; I hope that doesn’t happen often. What Lubbock lacks in scenery it makes up for in grit. Lubbock sits in the middle of the Texas Panhandle. It’s 300 miles from Dallas, Santa Fe, Austin, San Antonio, Albuquerque, and Oklahoma City. Students come from 50 states and more than 95 countries, and over 65% travel more than 300 miles to attend college there.

Slipping into an orientation meeting, I listened to a one-time student describe her campus as friendly and accommodating with activities and something for everyone.  I asked the admission’s rep what she had loved most about campus when she had been a student. She smiled. She said aside from all the friendly people, she loves the thousands of tulips planted for the spring. I hadn’t noticed the multi-colored flowers when rushing into orientation, but I did when I walked the campus. Beautiful!

Red-tiled roofs adorn art-deco buildings west of downtown. Picture wide walkways, tree-lined, and more greenery than the rest of the city, except that Lubbock boasts there are more than 75 parks and 262 days of sunshine. Tech even has a lazy river on campus. There are 550 student organizations, 18 resident halls, and 30+ dining venues. On the east side of campus, across from their Big 12 Football Stadium, are blocks of shops, eateries, and upscale living apartments/condos.

Assured admission is for top 10% with no minimum ACT or SAT. First quarter students need a 24 or 1180. Second quarter students need a 26 ACT or 1260, and third quarter students require a 27 or 1290. There’s a holistic review for student in fourth quarter or not meeting assured admission. http://www.depts.ttu.edu/admissions/admissions-finaid/first_freshmen/

Tech’s total enrollment is 35,859 and the student to faculty ratio is 22:1. There are twelve undergraduate fields of study, over 150 majors, and twelve pre-professional programs.

Cost of attending for Texas students as well as those from border counties in New Mexico and Oklahoma was $25,626/year for 2016-17. Tech gives other residents of OK and NM and cost break too; those students cost to attend was $26,525. Students outside of TX, NM, and OK paid $37,866 in 16-17. Tech has a host of scholarships that can be found www.scholarships.ttu.edu Non-resident students could qualify for Texas tuition and fees if they are awarded over $1000 in scholarships from Tech. That could be an affordable deal!

Students can apply at www.applytexas.org. Check for regular and priority deadlines. What did I like best about this visit to Texas Tech? The people were friendly and helpful. Parking was easy. They made me feel welcomed, glad I was there. I didn’t have an appointment, and by the time I’d parked after speaking with a guard, the admission’s staff knew who I was, and they were expecting me! That’s friendly security. I also like that Tech provides a great education at a reasonable price. Finally, among Texas’ leading research institutions, it feels less pretentious than other universities. It could be their grit, or that they are showing rather than telling.


West Texas A&M – A Charming Campus on Texas Plains

West Texas A&M – A Charming Campus on Texas Plains

I arrived in Canyon, at West Texas A&M University, after driving four hours from Trinidad, Colorado. I mention this because the mountains of Colorado and Northern New Mexico are certainly a manageable weekend trip, as is Palo Duro Canyon State Park less than twenty miles away. Palo Duro Canyon is second only to the Grand Canyon in size and a place of adventure and beauty mostly unknown to those outside of the area.

I had visited the campus twenty years earlier, when it was West Texas State University, and found the school had grown up. Approximately 9000 students attend WTAMU with 7100 being undergrads. Walking campus as the sun set, light filtered through trees and onto a golden buffalo statue in the middle of campus. As students stopped by the buffalo, I asked several about their experiences.

One girl was an international student from Africa who was studying dance. She loved the campus and her program and said that she felt as if she had found a family within her department. Another student told me she had applied to approximately ten other schools and WTAMU was the one place she didn’t plan on attending. She had high ACT scores and was accepted by what she felt were more prestigious colleges but decided on WTAMU because of the missionary work she had done with the Baptist Student group. She had attended high school in Canyon, TX, but lived on campus for the experience She felt as if she had found a family there. The third student I questioned came from the border area of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. Both of her parents were graduates and she hadn’t considered any other institution.

Everyone mentioned the friendly campus, the ability to interact with teachers, small class size, and ease of moving between dorms and campus. Safety was also ranked highly by the women I talked to. Canyon’s population is around 14,000 and Amarillo is less than 30 miles north while Lubbock (think Texas Tech) is 100 miles south. That’s not considered far by Texas driving standards.ost

Yearly attendance for Texas residents is approximately $20,700.00 and for out-of-state students an affordable $21,700. Admission is rolling. Average ACT score is 18 to 23 and SAT score is 860 to 1080. Most popular majors are liberal arts, teaching, and business. Student/faculty ratio is 20 to 1. Acceptance rate is 67%.

Students most likely to benefit from West Texas A&M would be those seeking an affordable education without lots of pretense. Students would need to appreciate life in a small town and seek entertainment predominantly from the campus community. Cars would be needed to access parts of town as well as trips to the larger community of Amarillo, Lubbock, or to experience the natural beauty close to this Lower Plains town.

University of Texas – Arlington

University of Texas – Arlington

Undergraduate enrollment 30,600. Total enrollment over 50,000. In-state tuition for 2017 $9700. Out of state $23,500. Total cost of attendance for in-state was 23,744 for 2016-17 and $37,048 for out-of-state. Rolling admission and $60.00 application fee. Acceptance rate was 64%.  http://www.uta.edu/admissions/

Arlington is located between Dallas and Ft. Worth and just a few miles from campus are the stadiums for both the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. A Six Flags Amusement park is within eyeshot of both stadiums. I parked on the east side of campus, in one of several multi-level garages which looked freshly built and housed eateries, apartment-style dorms, and shops. Across the street was a center for plays, lectures, and other activities. The area reminded me of a trendy, upscale shopping center with apartment living above the retail establishments.

The campus feel is one that is busy, with a central pedestrian walkway through the main academic area and housing on the east and west ends. While taking the tour, I felt as if we walked from one eating establishment to another. The buildings appeared modern, and the oldest building remaining was built in the early 20th century. There’s housing for approximately 5000 students so there’s a commuter feel and both of my tour guides commuted from home.

Students admitted from the top quarter of their high school class have no minimum ACT/SAT score while those in second quarter averaged 22 ACT/1130 SAT scores. Students applying from the bottom half of their class are admitted under individual review. UT-Arlington also offers a summer bridge program for students who are short of their admission requirements. Students must complete the FAFSA for financial aid and completing a supplemental UTA form puts the student in contention for all institutional scholarships. www.uta.academicworks.com.

UTA is a leader in online coursework and over 50% of students take at least one class online.  UTA is a Level 1 Research institution and Hispanic-serving institution. One tour guide was majoring in engineering and said there were research opportunities for upper classmen. The university is organized into twelve colleges including an honors program. Freshmen enter into University College and branch into other colleges after their first year. Popular majors include health sciences and business. UTA graduated more nurses than any other institution in Texas. Tour guides also stated internships were plentiful with a wealth of businesses in Dallas and Ft. Worth. http://catalog.uta.edu/aboututa/programs/

My impression of the college is that it would be a good fit for a student not needing a collegiate vibe present at campuses with more student housing. There would be plenty of opportunities to take advantage of in the urban setting but students would need to seek out those experiences. Acceptance rate is 60%.

Undergraduate General Application Deadlines:

Fall Semester:                   June 1

Spring Semester:             December 1

Summer Semester:         April 1

For-profit vs. Non-profit Colleges: Are the Lines Blurring or is it Just Me?

For-profit vs. Non-profit Colleges: Are the Lines Blurring or is it Just Me?

I’m always on the lookout for innovations in higher education, and with technology changing all aspects of life as we used to know it, higher education will continue changing. For instance, many students take classes online. Some may take a course or two online while attending college as others complete their whole degree without ever setting foot onto a brick and mortar campus. In fact, two of my current favorites are Western Governor’s University (totally online and competency-based) and Arizona State University’s pay if you pass freshman year program.

I’ve worked in higher education a long time and have my bias. I’ll admit it. One of them is for-profit colleges. Overall, I don’t care for their model. Really! I would never send anyone to one. Their first business principal is to make money for shareholders. And many, while providing education, don’t seem to be placing much emphasis on the learning that takes place or the well-being of the student. In fact, as the federal government started withholding financial aid, colleges started closing.

So here’s a conundrum. Non-profit colleges are raking in money too. Hopefully they’re reinvesting in students and services, but with ever-rising tuition, it feels like a gouge. That’s why I urge students and parents to become wise consumers of higher education. Figure out their goals so they are better able to make wise choices.

Now there seems to be a hybrid model of for-profit colleges – those that unabashedly make money while providing an educational experience. Several that leave me scratching my head are Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix, and now Minerva Schools at KGI.

Let’s take them one at a time:

I’ve not really been a fan of University of Phoenix. Several friends have taught for them and the consensus was they paid low adjunct wages and students didn’t want to work as hard as the instructor thought they needed to for a grade. That said, they were one of the first out there filling the need of education that worked with adult schedules as opposed to traditional schools that wanted students to quit jobs to adhere to limited class offerings. Good thing that’s changed!

Now Grand Canyon University has a campus as well as online programs. Within their campus, they have Division II sports teams and are hoping to enter the WAC. That’s certainly not what one expects from a for-profit. They’re tuition for on-campus classes competes with non-profit colleges. They’re accredited. They make money via their online classes. But guess what? Non-profit colleges make money online too. Online is the latest cash cow. I know as I’ve paid out big bucks for online classes. I have a daily Google search on Grand Canyon because it’s one of my favorite places; I mean the real Grand Canyon – the hole in the ground. Consequently I receive notifications about GC University’s stock and growth projections. If they paid dividends, I might even invest as it seems to be poised for growth in 2017.

Minerva Schools at KGI looks like a new arena, a new concept – the world as the classroom. Students attend the first year at their San Fran campus and then travel to a new world city every semester with a small cohort of students. London, Berlin, Seoul, Buenos Aires – living in the culture and solving real-world issues via critical and creative thinking skills. Wow! Accredited! Detractors point to less than 2% acceptance rate in the first two classes and their saying they are a prestigious alternative to an Ivy League education. Saying it doesn’t make it so. I’m not even sure if they are for-profit or not-for-profit because their website say non-profit while reviews say they are for-profit.

Has the whole for-profit vs. non-profit argument run its course? I worked for a non-profit for 18 years, Let me tell you, there was a whole lot of talk about making money. For-profits often give tremendous amounts of money away too. Look at company foundations as an example. The lines feel as if they’re blurring in my mind.

Here’s the deal: I’m confused. I can’t make up my mind even though I read about colleges and college choices daily. Innovations in education or new wrinkle in scams? Sour grapes from tradition educators? And here’s a link to a news brief that came in on outcomes of student performance comparisons between for-profit school graduates vs. non-profit college graduates. http://www.educationdive.com/news/report-some-for-profit-students-outperform-peers-from-traditional-institut/433719/

I know for sure that higher education is one of many businesses that will continue to change as technology advances. Now, maybe more than ever, it’s up to students and parents to educate themselves on potential higher education choices. Start by deciding educational goals, needs, and affordability. The old adage, Buyer Beware, stays in play, whatever choices made.


Kira Janene Holt writes and blogs on college planning at www.CollegePlanCoach.com. Find her books on college planning at https://www.amazon.com/Kira-Janene-Holt/e/B006Q9ZCZ2/.


College Essay – You, the Hero, Take a Journey

College Essay – You, the Hero, Take a Journey

Haven’t started your college essay yet and it’s due soon. Oops! I know you meant start weeks ago, but life got in the way and now it seems like a daunting task. Let’s see if this helps.

What’s your favorite movie? What’s your favorite fictional story or book? Mine is Wizard of Oz. In fact, I have the DVD from Netflix and watched it five times over Christmas. What’s so great about this classic? It’s the same story with Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker – Hero Takes a Journey. In fact, the hero takes a journey and its cousin, stranger comes to town, are two themes that form the basis of most fictional books and movies. When hero’s bloom or stranger’s arrive, things start shaken.

From left to right, Clara Blandick, Judy Garland, Margaret Hamilton and Charley Grapewin star in the MGM film ‘The Wizard of Oz’, 1939. In this scene, Almira Gulch arrives to take Dorothy’s dog Toto away for termination, after he bit her. (Photo by MGM Studios/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

You’re the hero in your essay and you are called to action. Dorothy was called to action when Miss Gulch took Toto. Harry Potter was called when Hogwarts accepted him even when he didn’t know he’d applied. If neither had responded to the call, there wouldn’t have been a movie, right?

Heroes face obstacles and challenges that must be overcome. Dorothy had to find her way to Oz and take the broom away from the Wicked Witch. Harry had to keep himself safe from those who wanted to kill him. Each learned something during their adventure. Both had external as well as internal growth. Harry gained the confidence in his abilities to defeat the dark powers. Dorothy learned that home was where she belonged.

You get the idea, right? You, the hero, take a journey in your essay. You don’t have to land in Oz or fly to Hogwarts to be a hero. Let me demonstrate with a sentence outline:

I used to work at a fast food restaurant and ate there every time I worked.

We used to put dull pennies in the hot sauce for a few minutes until they turned shiny.

We joked about what it was doing to our stomachs. (Call to Action) I became concerned.

I researched information about fast food for a school paper I had to write. (Begin journey) Boy, was I surprised at what I learned.

I quit. It took a while but I found a job in a natural grocery store so I could learn healthier eating.

I haven’t eaten fast food since. I lost twenty pounds and my acne cleared.

People noticed. I started talking about food choices and its impact on weight and skin. Some people made joked but others listened. (obstacles)

A few of us started bringing lunches and then started a nutrition club at our high school. We are working toward healthier food choices in the cafeteria. The cooks weren’t interested at first because they were used to their style of cooking. People from the natural grocery store came and gave training on healthier cooking.

I want to major in nutrition in college so I can continue helping people with healthy food choices. (resolution) Boy, I’m happy I learned about pennies in hot sauce.

Do you see that one event, putting pennies into hot sauce, started a chain of events that led to both external and internal changes? Bonus points for starting a club and bringing people from the community into the school. That demonstrated leadership and communication skills without blatantly writing that you’re a leader who knows how to communicate (It’s show, don’t tell).

Okay, what have you got? Doesn’t have to be big. The truth is it’s often the small things that provide big lessons. Where have you been called to adventure?

Dorothy learned home was where she wanted to be. Harry learned he had the courage to meet his fears.

Just to point this out in case you didn’t notice: I didn’t start with the essay. I wrote sentences, sixteen sentences, that formed a story foundation. From those sentences, I’ll add information and images to flesh out the essay. Truth is, with sixteen sentences I’m almost halfway finished. Colleges don’t want a book.

Last tip. Writing is rewriting. Once you’ve written sentences and added to them, let the paper rest. Come back and you’ll be surprised what you will want to add (and delete). Repeat three or four times to build your essay into one that stands out from the students who rushed through their writing. The application reader will know! And once you have this basic story, you will find you can shape it to fit most college application essays.

Why? They want personal stories about what makes you a hero.

Kira Janene Holt writes and blogs on college planning at www.CollegePlanCoach.com. Find her books on college planning at https://www.amazon.com/Kira-Janene-Holt/e/B006Q9ZCZ2/. Ask her questions or suggest blog topics at KiraJaneneHolt@gmail.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirajaneneholt

Don’t Be Left in the Cold – College Admission Application Deadlines Fast Approaching

Don’t Be Left in the Cold – College Admission Application Deadlines Fast Approaching

Most Early Decision application deadlines have passed and even some colleges and universities regular deadlines are behind us, but there is still plenty of time to apply to most the nation’s colleges and universities. Applications may seem like a daunting task now that high school has started back after the winter break, especially if you are planning to apply to lots of colleges. Lucky for you technology has simplified the process, and you don’t have to find a typewriter (do they even make those anymore???) and fill out a paper application for each college. That’s like walking ten miles in snow to school.

The first application is the hardest since you must fill in everything. Save a copy so you can cut and paste to other applications. But, depending on the colleges of interest, there may be other ways to make this easier. There are several application consortiums where one application works for multiple schools. Here’s the list:

https://apply.commonapp.org/ The granddaddy of applications. It was even around in the pen and paper era. Almost 700 colleges and universities accept the Common Application. Many of the colleges are private, but there are public schools that accept it too. This year there are even 38 International colleges accepting one application. Note that in addition to the standard application, many colleges ask for additional information.

http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org/ This site is new competition to the Common Application (that’s my opinion). Over 90 colleges are participating and it’s growing every year, but the Coalition for Colleges doesn’t accept every school into their coalition. From their website, Coalition schools provide substantial support to lower–resourced and underrepresented students, offer responsible student financial aid support, and demonstrate a commitment to student graduation.

http://commonblackcollegeapp.com/ Interested in attending a Historically Black College (HBC)? One application works for 50 HBCs.

http://www.hacu.net/hacu/default.asp This isn’t an application sit. It’s Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and lists colleges where Hispanic students attend in substantial numbers.

https://www.applytexas.org/ Want to attend college in Texas? One application works for all two and four-year public colleges and some private universities accept it too.

http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/how-to-apply/apply-online/ Do University of California schools excite you? One application works for all the schools in their system

http://www.csumentor.edu/ Would you rather attend universities in the California State University system? They have their own application.

https://www.suny.edu/attend/apply-to-suny/how-to-apply/ State University of New York system has a common application.

Whew! That’s a list. There may be others. If you know of one that I’ve left off, please share it.

Here’s a tip when using any common application system: Change the Name of the College or University when cutting and pasting information for other schools. In other words, don’t tell one college you love it and get its name wrong. That’s a bad first date. Also, be sure to let you school counselor know all of the colleges you ‘re applying to.

If you’ve used one of these application systems, know of another state application system, or have experiences to share, please post so that others have that information too. Would love to know how these applications have worked for you, your students, or your kids.


Kira Janene Holt writes and blogs on college planning at www.CollegePlanCoach.com. Find her books on college planning at https://www.amazon.com/Kira-Janene-Holt/e/B006Q9ZCZ2/. Ask her questions or suggest blog topics at KiraJaneneHolt@gmail.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirajaneneholt