Q&A: College counselor gains insight on nine liberal arts schools during six-day Decemberfest tour

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Occidental College’s administration building. College counselor Jane Bauman visited Occidental on the first day of the tour.

College counselor Jane Bauman was invited to attend Decemberfest, a college tour in Southern California. She spent six days, Dec. 4-10, visiting nine colleges in the region.

Q: What  colleges did you visit?

A: On the first day we went to Caltech (University) and Occidental (College), and we stayed in Pasadena.

The second day, we went to Whittier College in the afternoon and then drove to Claremont. In Claremont, there are five schools – Scripps, Claremont, Pitzer, Pomona and Harvey Mudd –  that we visited. On one day we also went out to the University of Redlands, which wasn’t too far away.

Q: Who organized the trip?

A: It was organized by the nine colleges we visited. The nine schools invite a number of college counselors from schools; there were 48 on the trip. There was a variety of ages among the different counselors. We also had some from overseas; there was one from Botswana, one from Canada, one from Japan, one from Brazil and one from Argentina.

Over the past few years, these schools noticed that students who were applying to their school from (SCDS) were the kind of students they want to attract. As a result, they wanted me to see each of those schools and become more familiar with them.

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College counselor Jane Bauman ate at the Caltech Athenaeum. According to the Athenaeum’s website, in ancient Greece the Athenaeum was a temple in Athens where poets, philosophers, and orators gathered to read and discuss their work.

Q: What was something you liked about the colleges you visited?

A: What I really like is that most of these (colleges) are small liberal arts colleges. I just think that small liberal arts colleges are terrific. There are so many things you can do in a small liberal arts college even if you are a math (or) science person. You really get a well-rounded education there.

Q: What are some highlights from the schools you visited during the trips?

A: At Harvey Mudd we had a wonderful presentation called Mathemagics (where) the teacher, Arthur Benjamin, squared two-, three- and four-digit numbers in his head. The first thing he did was square two-digit numbers; three people came up, and somebody said something like “Square 52!” They did it on their calculators, and he did it before they even had the answer.

When we were at Redlands, we went on a bus tour of the city with a historian who gave us insight into the relationship between the college and the town.

Architecturally I loved Pitzer. I thought it was very modern and beautiful.

I also really liked the innovation at Whittier, where one class will be taught by professors in different domains. For example, a humanities class was taught by an English teacher and a history teacher together.

Q: How was the food?

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The dining hall at Pitzer College, which college counselor Jane Bauman said was architecturally modern and beautiful.

A: At Caltech, we ate in the beautiful Athenaeum, which was all decked out for the holidays. At Occidental, we had a lunch in the outdoor amphitheater where graduation is held. At some schools, we had lunch in the dining hall just like the students.

One night we went to the home of the president of Whittier College, where we were able to sit outside. The home, Wardman House, was used in the movie “Zorro.” The house and the view were spectacular.

On the final evening, we had dinner at Claremont McKenna, followed by a trivia game about the nine colleges!

Q: How do you keep track of the information about the nine colleges?

A: I use my iPad to take notes on each school. Then I add them to my database of notes. I find taking notes helps me remember, and then I always have them to refer to or share with students.

Q: How did this trip help improve your counseling?

A: Now when I’m advising a student I’ll have a better feel for why a particular school will be a better fit for that student.

Q: Do you have any other college tours planned?

A: I was invited to join the Ohio Six Tour, (which visits) six colleges in Ohio. (But) the timing is right after spring break, which is too close to APs, and I’d be away too long, so I have to reconsider that. There’s also one in Washington state that I really want to go on.

By David Situ

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