College Tours in the Mid South

By Howard Clemens

Since publishing an article about college tours of Southern universities and state colleges in Virginia I have fielded several inquiries about college tours for the Mid-south.  In response, I recently developed an itinerary designed for college bound high school juniors and seniors that focuses on colleges in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.  There are some excellent universities in each of these states. Students come from all over the United States and across the world to attend these well-known colleges.

A trip leader, usually a teacher or guidance counselor, brings a group of high school juniors and seniors on this type of tour. The student group has a chance to tour the campus, see residence halls, classrooms and student centers and speak to other students about the experience of attending college there. In the evenings, students usually have an opportunity to explore the town or city. This includes dining, shopping and entertainment near the university. It’s important that college bound students have a better feel for the town they will live in for four years or more.

University of Memphis, Memphis, TN

Established in 1912 as the West Tennessee Normal School, the University of Memphis is now affectionately known as U of M and is the flagship school in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.  U of M enrolls about 22,000 students and is situated in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee.  Academic programs range from African & African American Studies to Banking and Financial Services and Correctional Administration, Dance, Environmental Engineering and Technology Management Services.  The campus is characterized by contemporary architecture, with the most recent building spurt occurring in the 1990s. 

University of Tennessee, Knoxville TN

Situated in the Appalachian city of Knoxville, University of Tennessee is the flagship school of the state university system. In 2012 Forbes magazine cited University of Tennessee as one of “America’s Best Colleges.”  The Princeton Review also listed UT as one of the “150 Best Value Colleges.”  UT is well known for the College of Arts and the Sciences and colleges of:  Business, Engineering and Law.    Approximately 25,000 students are enrolled full-time at the University of Tennessee.  The campus sits on a hill -offering a nice perspective of the Smoky Mountains and the City of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Named after the main benefactor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt University was funded with an initial $1,000,000 donation in 1873.  The university serves approximately 12,000 full-time undergraduate and graduate students. Nearly 90% of all undergraduate students live on campus, creating a fun, community atmosphere in a picturesque setting. Undergraduate tuition in 2011/2012 is $40,000, reflecting the university’s private status.  Vanderbilt is best known for the MBA program and the School of Medicine. Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine and business programs have employed five Nobel Laureates.  U.S. News and World Report has ranked Vanderbilt University as 17th among the best national universities.

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

The University of Alabama was founded in 1831 and is the state’s first public university, serving over 31,000 students annually. It has been cited by Kiplinger’s annual list of colleges and universities as one of the top 100 schools that offers “great academics and affordable tuition.” UA has been ranked in the top 50 in U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings for 10 years.  In the last 9 years, over 40 new facilities have been added or upgraded, giving the campus a contemporary look and feel, while retaining the original buildings from the 19th Century.  UA is known for the School of Law and Engineering and the debate and forensics programs have won 16 national debate championships.  Tuscaloosa was formerly the capital of Alabama and is a city of approximately 90,000 people with much to offer the college student who resides there.

Auburn University, Auburn AL

Founded in 1856 as an all male school, Auburn University is now co-ed.  There are approximately 25,000 students enrolled and 140 degree programs to choose from.  The university is known for its agricultural studies, Teacher Education and Wildlife Sciences programs.  The town of Auburn has a population of approximately 40,000 people and is only 50 miles from Montgomery, Alabama and 115 miles from Atlanta, Georgia.  Auburn  is bike friendly and offers a wide variety of places to eat and things to do.

University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

The University of Kentucky is located in Lexington, a bustling mid-sized Southern city of just under 300,000 people.  The university currently has 28,000 students enrolled and is the flagship land-grant institution of Kentucky.  Known for the college athletics football and basketball teams, the Wildcats, UK’s colors are blue and white and the student body and community enthusiastically support their beloved teams.  UK’s most popular fields of study are: Arts and Sciences, Business and Economics and Agriculture.  For in-state students, the tuition is still very affordable, at approximately $8,000 for undergraduates for one academic year.

This is the suggested itinerary for the Mid South College Tour. Trip leaders can request variations of this tour, which can be easily modified. For example, when a student group visits University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a trip leader may want to exercise the option to visit Alabama State University in Montgomery. Or, when groups visit Vanderbilt University in Nashville, they may also want to visit Fisk and Tennessee State Universities.

College tours are a great way to inspire college bound high school students to begin thinking about and planning where they want to obtain their degrees.

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