New Jersey Student and Family Research Small Colleges and Choose Highlands
Choosing a college can be a difficult, stressful decision for students and their parents. For Lauren Tillman’s family of Willingboro, N.J., selecting New Mexico Highlands University was made easier by the responsiveness of faculty and staff and the affordability of the university.
Lauren Tillman, 18, was one of the new freshman who started fall semester Aug. 23 at Highlands. She is majoring in biology with the goal of becoming a veterinarian.
“Ever since I was little, I loved caring for my own pets, and watching Animal Planet,” Lauren said. “The research on the show was so interesting, and that’s what got me interested in becoming a vet. Then I researched what it takes to be a vet and learned that biology is one of the best majors.”
Lauren started volunteering with their family veterinarian at his clinic when she was 12, cementing her desire to be a vet herself.
The Tillman family researched colleges nationwide, looking for a small college where Lauren could study biology, and not be just a number.
“My husband, Anthony, found the Highlands’ Web site and easily found the biology program,” said Lauren’s mother, Sheila. “He used the online e-mail link to send a question to biology professor Carol Linder, and she responded immediately.
“No other colleges responded this way. We left a lot of voicemail messages and sent a lot of e-mails with either no replies or long delays. That’s a big turnoff when you’re researching colleges with your child,” Sheila said.
Anthony then talked with Carol Linder on the phone, along with various Highlands University staff.
Affordability was also a big concern for the Tillmans, who have two younger children at home, Jennifer, 16, and Brandon, 15.
“We wanted to prevent Lauren from going into debt, and us as well because we want to retire debt free,” said Sheila ,who is a hemodialysis nurse. Anthony is a financial manager at Verizon. “Anthony called someone in the Highlands’ business office and talked to them for a half hour. By the time he hung up, he knew we could afford Highlands.”
When Lauren and her parents visited Highlands in July for an orientation, it reinforced their decision.
“We were very impressed with the school during new student orientation,” Anthony said.
“We feel like Lauren will be successful here at Highlands,” Sheila said. “For one thing, mentors are important to us and we got the feeling that this is the type of college that mentors young minds, and helps students grow and develop.”
“We have small classrooms at Highlands, and we spend a great deal of time working individually with our biology students to help them set and meet their long-term career goals,” Linder said. “We stay in touch with our students and celebrate their successes, whether it’s in veterinary or medical school or as a research scientist.”
Lauren said she’s settling into her new dorm room, taking delight in her room with a view. She can see the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains from her new home in Archuleta Hall.
“I’m a little nervous but excited to be here,” Lauren said. “I feel ready for college life.”
Back in New Jersey, her parents can breathe a little easier knowing their daughter is going to a college where she won’t get lost in the crowd.