Take a Look at Texas Lutheran University

Take a Look at Texas Lutheran University

Texas Lutheran University is a small, private liberal arts college located in the sleepy town of Seguin, Texas – 35 miles east of San Antonio and 50 miles south of Austin. Approximately 1300 students can choose from 28 majors and 37 minors. TLU participates in Division III sports and approximately a third of students participate in school athletics. Go Bulldogs! I think most students attending will find their entertainment on campus or in the big cities listed above or mid-sized adjacent towns of San Marcos and New Braunfels.

On the campus tour, we walked into a biology lab where the professor was setting up for an upcoming lab. He was open, approachable, engaging, and pleased with the work of his students. When asked what he enjoyed most about his lab, he replied with the great equipment and the small lab size that allowed for interaction with students. He followed us out into the hall to point out winning posters that students had created to showcase their field research from the previous year. Also catching my attention was a note on the door entering the science building that read a plant sale was taking place of plants used in experiments. Part of me thought how nice to recycle plants after their use, but I also couldn’t help but imagining Little Shop of Horrors.

Our tour guide was nice, polite, answered our questions, and seemed to be involved in lots of campus activities. As we moved from building to building, the campus grounds were pretty and well-maintained. I didn’t find the buildings visually exciting or ornate, but that could be keeping with Lutheran tradition.

What I found most interesting in their literature was a directness on the cost of attending along with an academic scholarship grid that is a great tool to guide families with information of approximate merit aid. I think it would be great and transparent if every college published this  Tuition and fees in 2016-17 were $28,910 and total cost for the year was $38,630. Their average SAT score was 1528 on the old 2400 scale.

TLU has a variety of application deadlines and will even accept a few students after their last deadline on a space-available basis. TLU has received national attention from a variety of college ranking systems. From their brochures:

No.2 “Best Regional College” in the West 2016 – U.S. News & World Report rankings

2015 “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” from Washington Monthly College Rankings

2015 Best Western College by The Princeton Review

President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll member since 2012

Great Colleges to Work for by The Chronicle of Higher Education since 2012

Check out all the good things happening at Texas Lutheran University at http://www.tlu.edu/. I think it’s one of those undervalued, hidden college gems providing a quality liberal arts education.

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/.

Tour St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas

Tour St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas


Undergraduate enrollment is 2309 and has a total enrollment of 3625. Tuition was $28,200.00 for 2016 – 17 while room and board averaged $9300.00. Acceptance rate was 55% and students were accepted on a rolling basis. Average ACT score was 22. SAT was 1042 for combined CR and Math. Student to faculty ration is 12:1 and 94% of faculty hold terminal degrees.

St. Mary’s University is located on 135 acres west-southwest of downtown San Antonio, Texas. Most students live on campus since there is limited rental housing within close proximity to campus although there are two city metro bus stops on campus so public transportation is available. Surrounding neighborhood looks working class with duplexes and single family dwellings. One of three Marianist universities worldwide, their commitment to service learning and servant leadership is evident in displays in their main administrative building as well as in other locations on campus.

The student guide plans graduating in December of 2017 and knew many students. She was a Resident Assistant (RA) too which made me curious about her work-study. Her work study had been in admissions her freshman year, and since RAs were ineligible for work-study, admission hired her outright for tours. Interesting! I’m always curious about who is conducting a tour since they are school ambassadors.

All students are required to take a core curriculum as well as something I’ll describe as a freshmen experience class. Core curriculum is taught by faculty within the four colleges and slanted toward that college. The example given was that algebra was taught within a nutrition focus by one professor within the humanities and social sciences college. This concept allows students to cluster within specific buildings for most of their academic content as well as learn in context in meaningful manner. The Science, Engineering, and Technology Program even has their own dorms that encourage a peer mentoring between upper and lower division students.

Ethics and research are stressed throughout the undergraduate experience. All students are required to undertake research projects with their professors during their career although multiple research projects are encouraged. All students are required to present one research project at a conference or symposium. Students complete a service learning project during their stay as well as a capstone course their senior year.

Architecture is a blend of Victorian, 1920’s art deco, and mid-20th century. New dorms are currently under construction with suite concept. There is currently one suite-style dorm on campus and an over-21 dorm, although it is primarily inhabited by law students. Alcohol is permitted on campus and they have a pub on that also serves non-alcoholic beverages and acts as a hub for their Division II sports and San Antonio Spurs games.

It’s a pretty campus with lots of green space amid a sub-tropical landscape. What impressed me? Everyone was very friendly. I asked campus police for directions to visitor parking and he drove to the correct location. Nice! Upon leaving my car, I pulled out my phone for building name. A man wearing a Nolte Dame cap stopped and asked if I needed help. He taught there, and though retired, had been on faculty since the 1960s. A second professor walked up and the first said he had taught the second. An older woman walked past and the first professor had taught her too.

I inquired of his retirement. He’s in charge of a project on the Saint John Bible, the first fully-commissioned bible since the Guttenberg press that is hand-written and color-illustrated. There are under 300 copies and two are on campus. Others are in museums/churches around the world. I made a point of seeking out the bibles.

The campus feel was friendly and supportive. I asked if they were associated with Brothers of Holy Cross since the priest/professor wore a Notre Dame cap. That’s how I obtained a lesson on Marianist philosophy and its embedding throughout curriculum. I asked what was the most important admission piece for an aspiring student to St. Mary’s and told that beyond the academic work, a demonstration of service was valued. They seek well-rounded students. Admissions also seeks students with an academic spike who may be lacking in other areas with hopes of developing those non-academic skills.


US News & World Report Rankings: #21 in Regional Universities West; #12 in Best Colleges for Veterans; #3 in Best Value Schools.

With a score of 99 out of 100, the Brookings Institute awarded St. Mary’s the 17th-highest value-added score in the nation with respect to mid-career salary. This score is the highest in San Antonio and right behind Rice University for best in Texas. https://www.stmarytx.edu/


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/.

Natchitoches, LA – Northwestern State University: A Town and University Worth Visiting

Natchitoches, LA – Northwestern State University: A Town and University Worth Visiting

Leaving Shreveport after celebrating an uncle’s 92nd birthday, I headed an hour south to Natchitoches, LA on a tip from one of the party attendees that Northwestern State University was a campus not to miss. I like to visit college campuses. I like to feel the vibes of a campus and see how the university interacts with the community. I am glad I went and plan to return to Natchitoches to spend time in what I found to be one of the most charming small towns I’ve visited. Natchitoches was voted #1 Best Southern Small Town by USA Today.


Natchitoches is the oldest town within the Louisiana Purchase territory, established in 1714, and its intact downtown stretches out along the Cane River, reminding one of a stroll through New Orleans French Quarters. Complete with B&Bs, their Christmas celebration was in full swing; shops, a basilica, and even a French fort are within walking of both downtown and NSU. NSU grounds were first a catholic school and then became the state’s normal college – that’s an old name for teacher’s college. What I found intriguing about the grounds were the mix of old buildings with new. Some colleges don’t strive to have the new buildings mesh with the architectural style of the old, but NSU managed to finesse the process. Their team mascot for Division I sports is the Demons – a bit ironic considering the school’s beginnings.


Admission for all students requires students to meet the Regent’s Core Curriculum, have a 2.35 high school GPA, and with these criteria met, no minimum ACT score is needed. Students must also need not more than one developmental course. They can have a 2.0 GPA with an ACT composite of 20. Out-of-State students can qualify for in-state tuition if students have a 2.75 GPA and a composite ACT score of 21 or SAT score of 990.


NSU awards a variety of scholarships based upon standardized test scores (ACT/SAT) and high school GPA. Performance scholarships are also awarded by class rank, GPA, standardized test scores, and participation in extracurricular activities. Scholarships are awarded via completing the FAFSA. NSU is also a Louisiana Scholars’ College, a comprehensive interdisciplinary honors curriculum in liberal arts and sciences. Find out more at www.nsula.edu/scholars. There are multiple scholarship deadlines.

A Division I school, they compete in 14 sports. They have a new state-of-the-art wellness center. Dorms choices include on-campus apartment style residence halls and an on-campus apartment complex. Students under 21 are required to live on campus unless exempted, as are all students attending schools within the University of Louisiana system.


Cost of attendance is approximately $3400 a semester. Out-of-state not qualifying for in-state tuition can expect to add $8800/semester. An affordable education for students and parents!

Want to know more? Check them out at www.nsula.edu. The woman who sent me to NSU knew what she was talking about when she said I should go check out the campus. If you’ve been to Natchitoches or attended NSU, please share your experiences.


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

LSU – Shreveport: A Campus on the Rise

LSU – Shreveport: A Campus on the Rise

On a recent trip for my uncle’s 92nd birthday, I snuck away to tour the Louisiana State University – Shreveport campus. The students had finished their finals and left town as I walked the southern, landscaped lawns almost exclusively alone. A few students popped up and I found friendly staff members to answer questions.lsus1

LSU – Shreveport is a new relatively new campus – established in 1967, and the buildings are clustered together inside a road that circles campus with parking close to all buildings. That is except for dorms and LSUS Health Science Center. The dorms are located between the main campus and the hospital that houses the health sciences. Outside this loop road, as well as inside the ring, are magnificent, ancient trees with branches that stretch out almost touching the ground. Think southern, subtropical landscaping with trees lining walkways and lush, flowering plants even into early December.

LSU – Shreveport offers twenty-five undergraduate degrees and twelve graduate degrees, with several MBA specialties online. While touring, I stumbled into the Noel Memorial Library. Wow! The third floor had an exhibit on the magic of children’s books. What I found was the complete collection of James Smith Noel’s rare books on permanent loan to the library. The earliest book dated back to the 1400’s and people come from all over the world to look through the collection.

Admission and financial aid deadlines are generous. Tuition and fees for in-state students are affordable at approximately $3600/semester. Great news is students from out-of-state can qualify for in-state tuition with a 20 or higher on their ACT (or SAT equivalent), have a cumulative high school GPA of 2.0 or higher, and have no need for remedial coursework. That’s a bargain for freshmen, and students can transfer in with eighteen hours or more and receive the same deal. There are multiple scholarships available with deadlines of July 1, prior to fall enrollment.


I didn’t tour the dorms, but they looked nice from the outside and the literature about them looked good. 875 square feet for either two or four students! They even have spaces for individuals, and all the apartment-style living quarters have full kitchens.

LSU-Shreveport is close to Barksdale Air Force Base and waives fees for the military. They offer day, evening, and online classes to be flexible to meet all their students’ needs. The university even offers accelerated 8-week classes so students can complete their degrees faster.


Want to learn more about LSU – Shreveport?




If you’ve attended LSU-Shreveport, please share your experiences.


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/.

Trinity University Tour – Gem Overlooking Historic San Antonio

Trinity University Tour – Gem Overlooking Historic San Antonio


Have you ever stepped into a place that’s really special and didn’t realize its uniqueness until someone pointed it out? That’s how I felt visiting Trinity University in San Antonio. I’d been there a dozen times leading ACT workshops, but was always rushed and never been outside of the one building where the workshop was located. Trinity University is distinct and unique, and that’s exactly the educational experience they’re striving to give students. I’m usually not one for rankings but understand why U.S. News ranked it #1 in Regional Universities – West!

Perched on a hilltop close to San Antonio’s historic downtown, I heard my tour leader refer to campus as the Trinity bubble. I understand because it’s a calm space amid a busy city. Calm yet alive with creative energy and curiosity. Students reside on campus their first three years yet many live in dorms their fourth year too. It’s about the experience, and does the student want a landlord interaction while still in college or would the student rather not have to deal with those issues? Several times I heard mentioned the educational experience as the basis for making informed decisions about classes, clubs, majors, and study abroad programs.


There are 47 majors and 59 minors to choose from. 80% of students are involved in Trinity-sponsored community service and 53% play intramural sports. There are 20 varsity sports programs and 115 clubs and organizations.

Students are encouraged to participate in a variety of activities, and even if not currently enrolled in an art or music class may interact with those campus facilities informally. I saw my first 3D printer (there are 3 on campus) and all students may use them.

Trinity University is a Division III Liberal Arts and Sciences college with 2300 undergraduates. Recent classes arrived from 65 countries and 45 states. 40% study abroad and students have the opportunity to engage with professors on research projects. Why? Faculty ratio is 9 to 1 and 97% of faculty hold terminal degrees. There are no classes taught by teaching assistances and the average is class size is 20 students. As I toured, I counted one class with eight students and another with twelve.

The campus ground are beautiful – filled with trees, green spaces, and sub-tropical plants. Just across Highway 281 are beautiful parks and San Antonio’s zoo. I visited the student center and was surprised by the multitude of healthy food choices. What impressed me most about the campus architecture was their use of glass. In each building, I felt as if attention had been directed toward bringing the outside in. Even the spacious dorm I visited had large windows on two sides of the room (not to mention cleaning service every two weeks). trinity-university1


I could tell my guide loved her college. Several times she excused herself for geeking out describing an attribute that conveyed her intellectual curiosity. I had to laugh when she said someone had made her a mini-Oscar with the 3D printer after she delivered a freshman presentation. That’s clever! There’s even an academic weekend challenge for incoming freshmen to secure scholarships. 300 students invited, divided by academic areas into groups of 15, and one in each group receives full tuition. Wow!


Total cost for a year is $54,714. They have two Early Decision deadlines (binding), two Early Action deadlines, and a regular decision. SAT Middle 50%: Math – 580 to 660; Critical Reading – 580 to 690; and Writing – 560 – 660. ACT Middle 50% is 27 to 32. This data is based upon the class graduating of 2019.

According to White House Scorecard, Trinity graduates 81% of students. Average debt at graduation is just under $23,000. https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/

What would you like to know about Trinity? If you’re an alum, please share an experience.


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

Dental Hygiene at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas

Dental Hygiene at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas



Ever think about becoming a dental hygienist? If so, Blinn College may be a choice for you!

Not everyone needs a bachelor’s degree. High skills = high wages! There are many roads to successful careers through certificate programs and associate degrees, and the new wave in higher education is career education. The key to deciding which path to take – certificate, associate, bachelor, or advanced degrees – is it’s you, the student, who makes the decision of your college path. See, in the way back, when I was in high school, educators often told students if they were college material or not.

Truth is I haven’t visited Blinn College. I’ve listened to people talk about the college, especially a transition program from Blinn to Texas A&M University. In recent travels, I sat down to dinner with a woman I’ve known since second grade. She lives in College Station and runs the Dental Hygiene at Blinn College in Bryan, TX, a town adjacent to College Station. There’s also a Blinn College campus in Brenham, Texas, but I wanted to focus on Dental Hygiene.


What does a dental hygienist do besides put her hands in your mouth? According to Occupational Outlook Handbook online, dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm Did you know that dental hygienists median pay is over $72,000/year. Median means that half of dental hygienists make more than that and half less.

Dental hygiene at Blinn College is a 68 hour program that allows students to sit for National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and regional/state clinical board exams.  Licensing is based upon successful completion of exams.

Students must complete 15 hours of prerequisite courses including chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology I and II, and English prior to enrollment. They can take microbiology during the program. The rest of the program is a combination of class theory and clinical rotations. Students must maintain a grade of 75 or they are dismissed from the program and can reapply.

In addition to satisfying Texas Success Initiative, they must also take TEAS-V Allied Health. I didn’t know what that was and had to look it up. Test of Essential Academic Skills V for Allied Health (formally known as the HOBET) covers basic math, grammar, science, and critical thinking skills. Students at Blinn, and other community colleges (always good to check with each college), won’t need an ACT/SAT, but will need this test to gain admission. When I checked online, lots of specific health programs require this test prior to admission. Just so you know there were practice books you can buy as well as free test questions available online.


So what does it cost to become a dental hygienist at Blinn College? Would you believe the cost of the whole program is under $15,000.00? That’s right. That’s why I love community colleges. That doesn’t include the costs of national exams and licensing fees. Those costs add up to about $3000.00.

Would dental hygiene at Blinn College be a choice for you? Here’s the caution – I didn’t say it would be easy. Health profession fields at community colleges are rigorous enough to prepare students for national exams. They’re highly competitive! That’s right. Programs limit the number of students based on clinical experiences and facilities.

I think they’re worth it. What do you think? Have you been part of a clinical program at a community college like Blinn? Would you like to?  If so, please share. If you’re a dental hygienist, please share your work experience with us.