A couple weeks ago, I visited Loyola University Maryland for their fall open house event.
The event began with a welcome session on the floor of the basketball court, and the group was huge.
The school’s priest spoke, as did admissions directors (Loyola is a Jesuit university). Then (the weird part), a student who’s an alum of my rival high school. Listening to him, I heard a story similar to mine. He had had his sights set on an athletic scholarship, walking onto a track team and playing football at Ole Miss or Penn State. Following an injury in his first game senior year, a torn ACL, he had to mourn, refocus, and re-evaluate to figure out what it is he truly wanted.
My mom kept giving me looks, whispering “He’s just like you!” and she’s right. I’m no longer an athlete going through the recruitment process, I’m a spoonie looking for an environment that would be safe, accessible, and teach me to flourish despite my challenges.
The plan for the day was to attend three sessions, return to the basketball court for lunch, and then go out for a tour of the campus. My mom and I decided to focus on learning about the school itself, as opposed to pitches from various departments.
The first session we went to was about the honors program. Loyola’s honors program is a bit different than the honors programs at the other schools I’ve visited. It’s insanely small, 45 students per class, and focused on reading and writing. All students in the honors program take four interdisciplinary courses in which they analyze texts from a given time period, starting with the ancient world, moving to medieval, and eventually they reach the modern era. These courses focus on broad knowledge, critical thinking, and the ability to make connections. What I found most interesting about these classes is that they can be taught by any professor, who will give their academic view on the text or idea being studied, and bring in guest speakers to offer alternative insight.
“Lots of laughter… as well as lots of serious study” was how Professor McGlamory described honors classes. Going through your required courses with your own community, and learning to be a flexible, open, and adaptive thinker. There are lots of trips, parties, and opportunities for leadership – fall of your freshman year you’ll take a trip to New York to visit the Met and spend the afternoon in the city! There seems to be a focus on getting out of the classroom and exploring the real world; while applying the skills learned in the classroom.
Perks of being a part of the honors college includes early orientation and early move-in, which definitely sounds good to me. The professor finished her pitch by describing the program in three words.
Interesting, stimulating, and preparing.
The honors program has its own application, separate from the university application; if you’re planning on applying check out the honors portion of Loyola’s website! You can apply before or after you submit an application to the university, and it only requires two short essays. A disclaimer they gave at the end of the session was that this is not a typical honors program, if you don’t like to read or write this is not for you as it requires intense reading; they want “interested interesting smart people” who will enjoy the courses and opportunities, and learn to flourish.
The next session we attended was on financial aid. I will be writing another post soon entirely on financial aid and what I learned in this session will be a part of it. One key thing worth mentioning now is that some universities require both the FAFSA (which became available on October first and is to be filled out with your 2015 tax information, if you haven’t submitted your FAFSA you should do so as soon as possible as some grants are given on a first come first served basis) and a CSS profile (found through the college board) in order to receive financial aid and Loyola is one of those universities. Also, scholarships are not financial aid; financial aid is need based.
The last session my mom and I attended was about the Messina program. Messina is a first year program that every student takes part in. When you make the decision to attend Loyola and all of your paperwork is in, you choose a “pairing of interests” that’s your Messina. It could be French and history, statistics and art, there are all sorts of pairings that will be available to you. Each Messina is made up of 15 students, one Evergreen (current student), a mentor faculty member, and two professors who will teach the courses you choose. You will take one of your Messina courses first semester, and your other the second semester. The program has four themes:
- the good life
- stories we tell
- Self and other
- the visionary
These themes are connected to the residence halls. Each Messina will have one to two outings per semester and there are honors Messinas! This is something that everyone does their first year at Loyola, so it’s not something extra or an added expense.
The above photo is from the Messina presentation, and I just had to share it. Why? There’s a student in a wheelchair! That’s me! This definitely gave Loyola major points for me, even if it is just a slide from a presentation. It verified my thoughts that this school is disability aware, which is super important to me.
From the third session we returned to the basketball court for lunch. They had sandwiches, wraps, chips, cookies, and lettuce and tomato to add to your sandwich. My mom said the wraps were really good, and I made a makeshift sandwich from the lettuce and tomatoes. It really wasn’t too bad, and the chips were super salty (they obviously know the way to my heart).
As we finished our meal and people began to head out on tours, I approached a man in a suit to ask if there was anywhere specific I should go to join a tour as I was in my wheelchair. He was incredibly kind and sent over another man and a student, who ushered us out of the building and made sure we were all set and having an easy time negotiating the campus. They even stopped for me to get my photo taken with the Baltimore Oriole!
Having a one on one tour guide would be fantastic anywhere, but this student felt as though she were hand selected for me. Not only was she great about making sure I could get into all of the buildings, she was able to answer every single one of our questions. Even about the disability department and 504 plans!
She told me about her personal favorite dairy free meals that are offered, and all about dining with dietary restrictions. The dorms even have little stores where you can get snacks after the dining halls are closed!
Speaking of dorms, Loyola has both apartment style and suite style dorms; you get to choose what you want! Seniors and freshman live on one side of campus, and sophomores and juniors on the other; however the campus is so compact that they aren’t more than a ten minute walk from each other! We visited a suite style dorm and it felt huge. In each room you get your own closet, dresser, desk, and bed. You are connected to another double by a spacious bathroom, which you share. I did not take any pictures in the rooms for the privacy of the girls who are living there but let me tell you there was a ton of storage. Only one sink but the counter was large, and there were cabinets and drawers beneath it. There was a door separating this area from the toilet and shower, and the girls said they usually leave the doors between their rooms open to make it feel even bigger. When you factor in the 12 foot ceilings, you can start to see how these rooms felt ginormous. Each floor has large “living room” areas also, with couches and chairs and coffee tables, and in the building we visited, floor to ceiling windows.
The library is shared with Notre Dame of Maryland, which is across a stream from Loyola. They decided that it would benefit all students of both universities to pull their resources together, definite perk if I do say so myself.
The church on campus holds a daily mass, and there are free shuttles to religious services at churches, synagogues, and mosques nearby. If you attend Loyola, you can get married in this beautiful cathedral! The stained glass was magnificent.
All of the academic buildings are close together, situated around a nice open green space. Some are older, some newer, and believe it or not each building we wanted to see was fully accessible! They had ramps that were easy to manage, even on the inside, and there was plenty of space – you could fit two wheelchairs side by side comfortably if needed on all but one of the ramps we encountered.
The above photo is from the business building, and I thought the architecture was simply beautiful. There is a wide variety of architectural style on campus, but it all blends together well with similar benches and foliage found throughout.
And finally, the one thing that will make or break my college decision: what did I learn about the disability department? I did not meet with anyone specifically about this on my visit but I have a feeling I’ll be heading back to Loyola and this will be the number one thing on my mind.
My tour guide shared with us that she has difficulty with concentration, and that her experiences with the disability personnel have been outstanding. Once she was aware that her 504 plan had been sent to her teachers her first semester freshman year, four of them had already contacted her requesting a meeting to ensure that she was given all she needed to be able to succeed. In her experience there are many places throughout the academic buildings which are well suited for an alternative testing environment, and everyone is always willing to work with her.
Walking (and wheeling) through campus, students were friendly and welcoming. The kindness shown to us on this college visit is something on it’s own level entirely in comparison to my previous college visits.
And to bring this to a close, check out the awesome Loyola swag prospective students received! A plethora of information about the school and finances, but also a small book about Baltimore, a pen, notepad with card stock quality paper, a drawstring bag, and a screen cleaner that sticks to your phone! All high quality and definitely the best swag I’ve gotten at a college visit.
I hope you enjoyed this review of my Loyola University Maryland college visit and the photos I took while I was there! Stay tuned for more visits and college updates as I continue my application process.