Lauren Winston is just a freshman at SM East, so the prospect of taking entrance exams and writing admissions essays is still a couple of years off. But there was no doubt that she and her mother Bernie would be attending the 53rd annual Shawnee Mission College Clinic at SM East on Monday.
With an interest in pre-med as a college major, Lauren wanted to ask representatives from some of her preferred colleges what admissions officials would be looking for in candidates. And her mother was totally behind her.
“I think it helps to see what you have to do going forward,” Bernie said. “The earlier you start, the more comfortable you are…We think that by connecting the dots with some colleges and finding out what you have to [start doing] in your freshman year, we’re getting a head start.”
And with representatives from more than 200 colleges in attendance, the Winstons and thousands of other families had plenty of opportunity to check out various campus experiences — from small regional universities to national powerhouses.
Of course, finding the right spot for any student is a negotiation. The Winstons moved to Johnson County from the east coast, so Bernie was hoping to expose Lauren to some of the schools she was most familiar with.
“I like Penn, Villanova. My husband went to Michigan,” Bernie said. “But she doesn’t want to go where the cold is.”
While the clinic represented a preliminary step in the eventual move away from home for most attendees, it was a homecoming of sorts for Lorne Robinson, now the dean of admissions at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. Raised in Leawood, Robinson graduated from SM South before embarking on his career in higher education administration. He said that while Macalester doesn’t participate in many college fairs, the Shawnee Mission event continued to prove attractive because participants came with serious questions about the schools.
“You don’t get quite as many people who are just shopping around, grabbing a pamphlet and heading to the next table,” Robinson said.
And the event provides an opportunity for highly selective schools like Macalester or the University of Virginia to connect with high-quality applicants.
Matt Reynolds, who was representing UVA with local alumni chapter president Eric Schoenberg, said the clinic gave the Virginia graduates the chance to make their case for the school over near competitors, like the University of North Carolina or Georgetown University.
“Why UVA versus some of our near peer competitors that are out there,” Reynolds said. “That’s the question you get a lot. And it just gives you the chance to talk about the great things about your school.”