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.

Baylor University – Feel Its Energy

Baylor University – Feel Its Energy

Baylor University (www.baylor.edu)  hosts the best Student Welcome Center I’ve ever visited. Those working at the center truly make students feel as if they’re glad potential students have arrived. https://www.baylor.edu/map/index.php?id=86844. There’s free parking in front, and the welcome center, located on campus, is convenient and easy to find. Open-air tour buses wait in the parking lot to take students deep into the 1,000 acre campus. Warm cookies, drinks – I felt like a valued client of a nice hotel. There were even admission reps sitting and chatting with students in the lobby. I watched and they looked as if they listened intently to the students’ words. All in all, the most vital admission office I’ve visited. And the young man who helped me was eager to please and his eyes shined with love for Baylor. He warmed my heart on a cold day.

I’ve walked within the campus many times. It’s Southern architecture and green lawns and abundance of trees combined with mild climate invite one to imagine students lounging on campus, discussing world events and reading great works. Undergraduate enrollment is 14,000+ so it’s a big campus with lots of students walking about. On past visits, I’ve had students stop and ask if they could help me find where I needed to go – I must have looked lost and everyone was polite.

I can’t say Baylor is for everyone. I’m old and remember when it was a big deal that Baylor announced campus dances would be allowed. It’s a Baptist College! I had a friend expelled in the way back when, as editor of the school paper, he spoke out in favor of Playboy’s Girls of the Southwest Conference edition. It’s a conservative college with conservative values. Students take chapel during their freshman year and attendance is mandatory. http://www.baylor.edu/about/?id=88782 for chapel information.  (As an aside, my dad attended OK Baptist Univ. for two semesters and when he transferred to Tulsa University, he had a negative credit balance for missing chapel so often.)

Located in Waco, Texas, the campus is close to Austin, Dallas, Houston, and College Station (TX A&M). Waco’s recent claim to fame it the HGTV reality television series Fixer Upper, and Chip and Joanna Gaines seem to have made Waco a destination spot- beyond it’s nationally recognized university. Waco is located along the Brazos River, as were the first buildings of Baylor, close to Independence, TX, making Baylor the oldest continually open college in Texas. Waco’s population is over 234,000, a mid-sized city by Texas standardized.

Baylor accepts about 55% of applicants. ACT Composite mid-range score was 24 to 30, and SAT Composite was 1200 to 1390. The student-faculty ratio is 15:1, and average class size is 26. 91% of undgraduate classes are taught by Baylor professors. 33% of freshmen class come from outside of Texas and 92 countries are represented.

A list of majors and minors can be found at http://www.baylor.edu/admissions/index.php?id=871985 and Baylor currently offers nine pre-professional programs although student must also declare a major. Baylor offers several honors programs  www.baylor.edu/honorscollege. 1/3 of students study abroad and global mission trips are also offered.

Baylor works to prepare students for life after college through their career and professional development, which also offers student internships. www.baylor.edu/cpd. The Paul L. Foster Success Center offers tutoring, instruction, advising, and learning accommodations for students needing assistance.

When it comes to sports, Baylor has much to offer by participating in seventeen Division 1 Athletics (7 men & 10 women). The new football stadium is on the north end of campus, and Baylor Bears have won the Big 12 Football Conference in recent years. I remember walking around campus one day and seeing the Baylor Bear mascot’s home. I know the bear doesn’t come to games any longer, but I don’t know if he still lives on campus. There are 26 club sports and 20 intramural sports. There’s an active Greek society. And if none of that’s of interest, there are over 300 clubs and organizations to join.

Tuition for 2017 -18 was $39,612. With fees and room & board, the total cost was $56,630. Check out the net price by using their need estimator at www.baylor.edu/estimator. Single Choice Application Deadline is December 1. Early Action Deadline is November 1. Regular Application Deadline is February 1.

What do others say about Baylor?

U.S. News & World Report ranks Baylor No. 71 on their annual review of national colleges and universities.

Kiplinger’s 2017 list of Best Values in Private Colleges ranks Baylor as No. 64 in the nation.

The Fiske Guide to Colleges lists Baylor University a “Best Buy” for 2017.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) recognized Baylor University as one of the top performing colleges and universities in 2015.

Visit http://www.baylor.edu/about/index.php?id=88794 for a list of accolades and awards.

Southern Methodist University – Most Beautiful Campus

Southern Methodist University – Most Beautiful Campus

Walking within the Southern Methodist University campus, one can’t help but be impressed by the majestic and historic buildings, grand entrances, inviting fountains, and expansive manicured lawns. I’ve visited the campus a dozen times, and each time am left awestruck. It’s no wonder that Princeton Review ranked SMU the 2nd most beautiful campus in the country in 2016.  From the Blanton Student Services Building to Dallas Hall to Fondren Library Center with the Laura Bush Promenade, students and visitors can feel a calmness envelop them moving through SMU’s stunning campus. It’s the only private university housing a presidential library and the Meadows Museum of Art houses the most complete collection of Spanish art outside of Spain.

Beyond the architecture, SMU’s academic offerings impress visitors as much, if not more than the buildings. Seven colleges (five for undergrads) offer over 100 majors and 85 minors and more than half of students have double and even triple majors. Students can also develop individual graduation plans to fit their unique needs. Student study abroad options abound with 150 programs www.smu.edu/abroad, and students can even spend a summer or J-term at SMU-in-Taos www.smu.edu/taos. Research opportunities start the freshman year, and students can dive in deeper with SMU’s University Honors Program or Hilltop Scholars Program www.smu.edu/honors.

With an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio, students can interact their professors as well as with students from every state in the nation and an 8% international population. Undergraduate enrollment is just over 6400 with total enrollment over 11,600.


SMU has something for every student with 17 Division I sports, 15 club sports, and 18 intermural sports. There’s a large Greek population and over 200 student clubs. SMU offers individual communities through one of eleven Residential Commons programs providing multi-functional environments – eating, learning, mentoring. Each community possesses a unique identity, complete with its own crest.

Set in the heart of Dallas, the fourth largest metroplex in the nation, SMU’s proximity to the third largest home of Fortune 500 companies allows vast opportunities for internships and experiential learning. Close to downtown as well as Southwest Airline’s Love Field, students are never far from world class travel, restaurants, arts, professional sports teams, or shopping.

The middle 50% of student score between a 1290 and 1450 on the new SAT and they do superscore across multiple tests. The middle 50% ACT range was 29 to 32. Acceptance is 51% and the average GPA is 3.65. Annual estimated cost is $70,000/year, and 60% of student receive academic and need-based awards. Average award of scholarship and need-based aid was $26,877. www.smu.edu/value

Students can complete The Common App www.commonapp.org or Apply Texas www.applytexas.org. November 1 is the deadline for Early Action and Early Decision. January 15 is Regular Decision and Early Decision II deadline, and February 15 is priority financial aid deadline. FAFSA and CSS/Financial Aid Profile (College Board).

What do others say about SMU?

#56 (tie) National Universities – U.S. News & World Report

#14 among America’s Most Entrepreneurial Universities – Forbes

#11 for Best Quality of Life – Princeton Review

#10 in World Cox MBA Program – Financial Times

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

Minding the Gap Year – Part 2

Minding the Gap Year – Part 2



I thought I would make a list of gap year program websites after attending a recent college fair for gap year programs that was put on by USA GAP YEAR FAIRS www.USAGapYearFairs.org but have changed my mind on the list. I couldn’t believe what happened when I arrived at the gap year college fair. The parking lot at the school was full, and when I walked into the school’s library, the two levels were jammed with so many people I had to cut through book stacks to collect literature from every program. Every table have five to fifty parents and students surrounding it! I was shocked.

Thirty-five programs filled the library. There had to have hundreds of parents and students waiting to talk with representatives. What I learned was that instead of listing link after link to different programs, it would be better to list links to American Gap Association http://americangap.org/gap-year.php. Why? Because I’m a huge fan of professional associations that self-regulate members. After visiting American Gap Association’s website, I found they provide links to many different programs as well as they have continued accreditation system. That’s important because anytime a gap year program changes hands, new owners must seek accreditation.

When I visited American Gap Association’s website, sixteen programs were listed as current in their accreditation. http://americangap.org/gap-year-programs.php. I would rather provide a link to them so that those interested in gap years can find the latest programs that have been accredited as well as reviews of those programs They also shared the website of thirty-one programs that were not accredited. I found that interesting. Not all were gap programs, some links were to books.

I was interested in advice about taking a gap year. What I found helpful was that the site advocated for students taking care of college business – deferrals, deposits, and questions to determine how much time to devote to a gap experience as well as self-reflect on the reason for the experience. http://americangap.org/planning.php. It’s important to understand how to keep oneself safe while traveling and why it’s happening.

Want to read more about the benefits of taking a gap year? American Gap Association stays current and links to articles on the gap experience.




Attending the fair enlightened me as to how much there is to learn about gap years. It’s a growing movement for students to take a year off from college, but not for play although there’s fun to be had. Gap years afford students a time to learn outside of the straight academic trajectory, a time to inform the subsequent college years.