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Lees-McRae College Hosts Inaugural School Counselor Experience

More prospective students will learn what Lees-McRae has to offer after 12 counselors from schools in New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina participated in a multi-day tour of the college and surrounding area.  

With more than 50 academic programs, access to active research in the Elk Valley Preserve, an on-campus wildlife rehabilitation center, a partnership with the local Beech Mountain Resort, immersive art and theatre spaces, and a high-tech nursing school facility, among other offerings, Lees-McRae provides a truly one-of-a-kind educational experience to students who choose to attend. This year, the Office of Admissions wanted to show a select group of high school counselors what the college could do for their students with the first annual School Counselor Experience.  

“Counselors are a great resource for students and parents and can make a huge difference in their lives by referring them to the best fitting college or university,” said Kevin J. Phillips, the vice president for enrollment management. “The goal was to let more counselors know about Lees-McRae, as many do not. We hoped that counselors could start to picture particular students from their schools that they could see attending Lees-McRae.”  

The counselors arrived on campus on Monday, July 13, and stayed in the Cannon Honors College and Hemlock Village for the duration of the trip. The first day was spent exploring campus and learning about the various academic programs, including taking tours of the Whitesell Art Building, the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, and the Elk Valley Preserve and Field Station.  

Because the mission of Lees-McRae is so closely tied to its location, a large part of the trip involved showcasing the greater area. The group visited Grandfather Mountain, an important driver of revenue for the local economy and champion of conservation education, and two ski resorts on Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain. At the Beech Mountain Resort, the group saw the Brigham Classroom, the onsite home of the Outdoor Recreation Management major and the Ski Industry Business and Instruction minor.  

The trip concluded on Friday with an overview of the college’s athletics programs and a tour of the Dickerson Athletic Complex.

Matthew Spatz, a counselor at Northern Valley Regional High School in Bergen County, New Jersey, had never heard of Lees-McRae before being invited on the tour. He said, “It’s been lovely on a couple of different levels. I think you want to know about a school, and what the programs are—certainly there are some unique programs here—but also get a sense of the place. We’ve seen not just the school, but also the area, which is part of the experience the student will have.”  

Spatz specifically mentioned enjoying the trips to Grandfather Mountain and the Beech Mountain Resort, and said he was impressed with the Theatre Arts program. “It was good to see and hear how theatre went from a classroom into production,” he said. “We almost saw that whole process happen in our very short time here.”  

“It’s been an extraordinary week,” said Ann Fountain, a counselor at Galloway School in Atlanta, Georgia. “I didn’t have much of a sense of what Lees-McRae College was until this experience. It’s clear that at Lees-McRae the whole area really is the campus, in some ways. That’s something we don’t often see.”  

Fountain said that the level of support students receive from the faculty, staff, and administration of Lees-McRae and the focus on helping students succeed throughout their time at the college are also factors that set the institution apart.  

Justine Worthington, from Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington, North Carolina, pointed out that high school counselors go on many campus visits, but Lees-McRae stands out for her. “It’s important to say what a gem this school is,” she said. “I’m excited to help my students make a more targeted college plan by adding a school to their list.”  

After the positive reactions from both the counselors and the Lees-McRae community, the Office of Admissions plans to continue doing group visits in the future and will begin reaching out to potentially interested individuals starting next January or February.  

“This summer’s School Counselor Experience was a great success,” said Phillips. “Many of the counselors who attended hadn’t heard too much about Lees-McRae before. By providing this experience for them, the counselors were immersed in our campus, learned about the experiential educational opportunities that their students will receive here, and took trips off campus to see the amazing mountains, shopping, and restaurants in the High Country of North Carolina. The counselors can now really explain what students experience at Lees-McRae because they lived it for four days, even staying on campus in our residence halls. We look forward to working with the 12 counselors who attended in the future and are already excited about next year’s program.” 

The next School Counselor Experience is tentatively scheduled for July 11-14, 2022. Those interested in attending can reach out to Kevin Phillips at [email protected] or 828.898.8944. The Office of Admissions is also happy to visit various counselor groups set up virtual information sessions.