XU Preview Day

For those who might not have been able to attend Xavier’s Preview Day this past Sunday, 3/18, I thought I’d share my thoughts about the event. (I’ve not been a big poster on the CC boards, but I’ve really appreciated the advice I’ve seen here, so I decided it’s my time to step up and contribute, too.) My son has narrowed down his choices to Xavier and Auburn–very different, I know :()

The day began in the Cintas Center with a warm welcome from several administrators. (They were clearly leveraging enthusiasm for Xavier’s prospects in the March Madness tournament; sadly, Xavier lost in the second round Sunday night.) Prospective students were then sent off with student ambassadors to attend a mock class and lunch in the cafeteria, while parents remained in the Cintas Center, rotating through various sessions that focused on practical aspects of the Xavier experience (residence hall life, the Success Coach process, financial aid, as well as Q&A panels with current students and parents). After lunch, students and parents reconnected and attended a presentation by whichever department the student had declared as a tentative major (in my son’s case, Business Undecided). Having just attended an Accepted Students day at Tulane the previous weekend (with my daughter–we have twins), I can honestly say Xavier’s was the more impressive program.

Here are my overall impressions:

  1. There’s a palpable sense of community; students and parents alike spoke about “the family environment,” “the sense of belonging,” and the lasting value of Manressa (the freshman orientation program). We’re Catholic, and from informal discussions with other prospective parents, it’s clear that the Jesuit affiliation is important for a lot of folks. However, my son isn’t keen on an overtly religious college environment (he’s a twice-a-year mass goer). He came away feeling that all faiths were welcome, and that the biggest emphasis is on values, rather than faith.

  2. There is a robust student support network. Each student is assigned an academic advisor (provides advice on majors and course selection, stays on top of major and core requirements), a financial aid advisor (monitors standards of economic progress, loans and grants, etc.), a career coach (guides internship search, career fairs, student employment) and a success coach (tracks faculty progress reports, works with student on time management and adjustment concerns, refers to campus Solution Centers if necessary). Reading about the success coach program ahead of time, I thought this seemed like a gimmick, but I came away believing this program is likely a big differentiator in terms of how well a young adult navigates college. (I found it interesting that the success coaches are staff rather than faculty, and thought it helped underscore that everyone at the school is invested in your young adult’s success.) In the Student Success session, the speaker (Laura Frazier–really impressive! I want her to be MY life coach!) said, “Success coaches make sure the wheels don’t fall off the bus.” She helps her students to be “doers rather than stewers” (a phrase I will hereby steal).

  3. The residence hall program is optimized to minimize issues. Every hall has RAs on each floor, a hall director (apparently a master’s level staff member who’s on call 24/7 to deal with big problems), and a Jesuit in residence. Future program goals include having a faculty member in residence in each hall. Students are required to live on campus the first two years, and the housing application opens May 1. The housing process is done entirely online. There are four dorms for freshman (although one is largely limited to honors students and athletes). Off-campus housing is very limited. Apparently, if you want to live off campus your junior year, you should secure a signed contract by the fall of your sophomore year! Freshman are allowed to have cars (parking permits are $100/year), but the woman giving the presentation (Lori Lambert, senior director for student affairs) urged parents to consider “whether your child will use their car for good or for evil.” There’s one main cafeteria and a couple of on-campus coffee and cafe spots. (During the student panel, one junior mentioned that there aren’t enough late dining options, but said he understood that was changing.) By 3:30 p.m., my son was ready to check out, so we didn’t take the optional dorm tour, but we had seen one dorm during an initial campus visit in June and it was fine; apparently, there are videos of each dorm online.

  4. The Williams College of Business really focuses on lining up internships. This session for “Business Undecideds” was hosted by Cynthia Stockwell, Assistant Dean. She was quite amusing (“Only do an internship if you want to get a J-O-B.”), and said that Biz Undecided is actually a great place to start, because you have a general sense of where you want to go, but are open to the paths that take you there. She noted that biz majors more typically study abroad their sophomore years so that they can take advantage of internship programs in their junior year. She also emphasized that the “Jesuit School network” is leveraged for study abroad opportunities and career fairs. Also, Xavier has a very strong entrepreneurship major.

  5. The campus is clean and well maintained. There’s a mixture of old and new buildings (some are surprisingly impressive, given Xavier’s small size), but the consistent use of light-colored brick and building materials lends the campus cohesion. Everyone is very excited about the new health center/campus rec building that is opening in 2019.

  6. Finally, Cincinnati itself. I’ve never spent any time here, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We stayed downtown, which is maybe a 10 minute drive from Xavier. There’s a lot to do downtown, although shopping options are limited (Tiffany’s and Macy’s are closing, and Saks Fifth Avenue is apparently being subsidized to stay open–not that students are shopping at these places anyway . . .). My son was really impressed by the commitment to public art–there are interesting murals everywhere. Eight Fortune 500 corporations call Cincinnati home, so the city’s future looks fairly bright. The Over-The-Rhine area (a drug wasteland 10 years ago, and now a quickly gentrifying area) appears to be the city’s most dynamic section. I loved Findlay Market, one of the oldest public markets in the country. However, parts of the city are, to quote my son,“definitely sketchy,” Having lived in New York, I’m comfortable with grime and glam co-existing, and I firmly believe it’s important to not insulate ourselves from the world around us, which isn’t always pretty. The area around Xavier seems middle class, but you’ll definitely pass through some unfortunate neighborhoods on your way downtown. Xavier has invested in a multi-use development close to campus that has both off-campus housing and some convenient food/shopping options. 6a) The city water is delicious! And really nice for one’s hair (we’re in Florida, the land of hard water).

I left the Preview Day believing that Xavier would be a great fit for my son. I’m pleased we had the chance to experience Xavier in depth and in person because we discovered it’s a school that is so much more than it appears on paper (namely, a small, solid mid-west institution). Xavier seems genuinely committed to providing a well-rounded liberal arts education and superior undergraduate experience that prepares its students for the real world. Will my son choose it? We’ll see. He acknowledges that the attractions of fall football and warm weather are strong, and Auburn has both in spades. But in a head over heart decision, Xavier should win.

Thanks for the nice write up. My D is visiting tomorrow and I’m interested to see what she thinks.

Excellent description of the day. My daughter and I visited on Sunday and you described the day exactly as I observed it. I felt the administration and faculty care about the students and their success.

One piece of info in case you are back in Cincinnatti, the Kenwood mall was very nice…Crate and Barrel next door and all the major stores…Macy’s, Dillards etc in the mall. This is about 10 to 15 minutes from Xavier.

My daughter and I have been to several Xavier events and I will say they really know how to put on the show! My daughter loves Xavier with all her heart but her brain (and pocketbook) say it is not the school for her financially. She can get the same degree across town for MUCH less out of pocket. She is going into a career that gets paid very little so she cannot graduate with 100k in debt and if she committed to four years at XU, that’s where she would be. That is my only complaint about Xavier, the price and lack of help Financial Aid offered when we had my meeting with them during XU Preview. My daughter was able to spend the night at Xavier that night and we went to UC the following day. During our visit at UC she said, “I don’t know why we’re doing this, I’m not going here, I’ve decided on XU.” Then we went for our meeting at financial aid and they were SO much nicer to us then we were treated at XU. They got her out of pocket down to a stupid low amount making it virtually impossible for her to say no. When we left there that say she said, “I’m going to UC.” I’ll commit by the end of the week.