Campus visits make lasting impressions


Story by Brenna Thompson, News Editor

After Kaysie Nielson left her visit at the University of Utah, she was devastated. The school she had dreamed of attending turned out to be a place she hated, and she could never see herself there. She felt lost and had no idea where to go to college.

She decided not give up, but instead she searched states and cities high and low to find the perfect niche she could call home. Leaving her home city in South Jordan, Utah, she boarded a plane bound for a state she had never visited. She was overwhelmed with fear and excitement about her visit to Baker University.

Now that she is a full-time BU student, 1,110 miles, 15 hours and an entire state stand between Nielson and her family.

Nielson, a freshman, is just one student drawn in by the admissions office, which provides tools for students so that they can envision their next four years in Baldwin City. She is one of approximately 200 students who, after visiting campus in 2014-15, eventually made Baker their home.

After a three-day visit , Nielson decided to play soccer at Baker. She had visited many other schools, but when she came to Baldwin City, she did not even know where Kansas was on a map.

She committed to Baker and its soccer team a week after visiting, and she hasn’t regretted it.

“Before visiting I was totally against coming here, but when I visited the staff was so amazing,” Nielson said. “I got to talk to a ton of administration, the head of the exercise science major. I got to see every aspect of the school. I got to see the whole life here.”

The admissions office hires students as admissions assistants to show visitors around campus. Junior Olivia Beins, a university admissions assistant, is one of those students.

“I give tours to prospective students, eat lunch with them and help them out on big campus visit days,” Beins said. “It’s my job to help convince students how great Baker is.”

Senior Director of Admissions Kevin Kropf emphasized the importance of visits as what can set Baker apart from other schools.

“We are fundamentally trying to provide an authentic experience,” Kropf said. “Our goal is that we can bring outsiders and treat them like insiders. We want to engage their senses and provide opportunities for those ‘aha’ moments where it just feels right.”

BU Preview, campus tours and specialized visits offer opportunities for potential students to envision themselves in the community and really focus on the pros and cons of each college.

“You create this own image of what you think the college is really like and you really have no idea unless you’ve been there,” Nielson said.

Beins thinks high school seniors should shop for colleges.

“It’s important to visit multiple colleges before you pick one,” she said. “That way you can compare, especially because you might like a college that you had never considered before after going to see it.”

Baker works to create a visit experience students will not receive at any other school.

“We try to do unique things to make students feel special,” Kropf said. “We put out the reserve parking signs that make people feel welcome, and the orange candy bar and let them take a picture with WOWzer. At the end of the day, we want students to feel comfortable here.”

Baker even sets aside two weekends for BU Preview, one in the fall and one in the spring, to invite prospective students to sleep over for a night.

“I really wanted to go to a small school, but after BU Preview it really solidified my attitude toward Baker and why I wanted to come here,” freshman Stephen Deveau said.

BU Preview is meant for students who are interested in coming to Baker and want more than just a 30-minute tour.

“Baker will really work with you with whatever you need,” freshman Sarah Herron said. “They want you to meet the professors and get a feel not only for the social but educational aspects of the school. I think BU Preview is a great way students can experience this all in one weekend.”

Not only does BU Preview offer high school students the chance to meet faculty and professors, they also get one-on-one time with current students.

“If I had to say there’s one most important thing, it’s the face time with students,” Kropf said. “No one student can represent us, so we want students to feel that not only are they wanted here and can achieve their goals here, but that they will be able to call this place home.”

Beins agreed, saying, “BU preview gives students a taste of what it would be like to actually live at Baker, whereas most college visits you just learn about statistics and buildings.”

Current Baker students have different stories and reasons for choosing to become a Wildcat. Some may have known the second they stepped on campus that this was the university for them, while others may have been unsure until the last month of their senior year. Meanwhile, other visitors decide being a Wildcat was not for them, and they chose another college. Either way, the Baker admissions staff continues to work toward making campus visits fun and informative.