“I remember the community at Calvin,” said Bob Mulder ’85, now an engineer for 3M in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.
“There was a huge difference from my three years at Calvin and the time I spent at the University of Michigan finishing up my engineering degree,” he said. “The close relationships between students and faculty members—you just can’t have that at a big school.”
Mulder was on campus on a crisp October morning with his daughter, Rachel, and two other students from Rachel’s high school, Mattie Koppendrayer and Hannah DeVries. Mulder arranged to drive them from Minneapolis to Grand Rapids as part of a special “Fridays at Calvin Group Visit” program. (Another student was expected to join them, but was ill.)
The group visit program allows an adult—alumna/us, parent, school counselor, youth group leader—who takes four or more high school students to Calvin for a “Fridays at Calvin” experience to receive free travel and lodging at the college’s Prince Conference Center. The visiting students also get discounts on their travel expenses.
“We’ve had a big response to the group visit program,” said Vanessa Abreu, assistant director of admissions and the person responsible for Calvin visit programs. “So far this year, we’ve had four groups come to visit, and I anticipate that increasing now that we’ve changed the Group Visit Grant criteria to a minimum of four students.”
Travel incentives caught the eye of Bob Mulder.
“Being from Minnesota, we’re a little removed from hearing about Calvin regularly, and as a parent I want to make sure Rachel and her friends think about a variety of Christian education options beyond high school,” explained Mulder.
Rachel, Mattie and Hannah were having a good visit.
“I stayed with an older friend from my high school,” said Rachel, “and I checked in with others from my school to see what they thought. We joined a bunch of the girls on the dorm floor who went outside and serenaded the guys from another floor.”
Rachel was impressed with the faculty, the wide variety of course offerings, the urban setting of Calvin and all of the activities scheduled in the dorms and across campus.
Admissions staff members know the positive impact of getting students and families to see today’s Calvin through a scheduled visit program.
“Our visit programs are critical,” said Ben Arendt, associate director of admissions. “The data suggest that those students who take the time to get on campus have a much greater likelihood of applying, and ultimately enrolling, than those students who do not visit. The campus visit is also important to our prospective families as they try to make a selection among several colleges.”
Arendt cites a beautiful campus and excellent facilities, engaging faculty and staff members, an extensive academic program and a vibrant Christian atmosphere as key attributes that visitors routinely mention after seeing Calvin firsthand.
“Calvin is trying to present an authentic, hospitable experience for prospective families that allows them to consider everything this community has to offer. We really want to try to connect prospective student interests with Calvin opportunities. This happens formally throughout the day with presentations and sessions; however, we also rely heavily on the informal interactions that take place on sidewalks, after chapel, before class visits and in the residence halls. We invite families to engage with our community by asking questions, getting on the climbing wall, talking to professors and meeting students,” said Arendt.
Those visit-program features seemed to resonate with the Minnesotan young people.
“I am used to small classes and time with my teachers,” said Rachel. “I’ve been a part of a close Christian community and I see that here.”
After a weekend of class visits, chapel, conversations with students, time on Calvin’s new three-story climbing wall and other campus experiences, Rachel and her Minnesota classmates had an informative and entertaining look at the college.
One other thing: It doesn’t hurt to have a high school teacher who is an enthusiastic Calvin graduate.
“My teacher told me I’d get all A’s if I attend Calvin,” Rachel laughed.
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