This weekend, some 75 high school juniors will get a taste of what it’s like to be a student at the University of Minnesota — while staying at an upscale hotel, rather than a dorm.
They’re the first class in a pilot project called the VIP Weekend, which the U is hosting as a way to entice top-flight minority students to consider applying, and enrolling, when the time comes.
“It’s the first overnight experience that we’ve offered to prospective students,” said Keyana Scales, the director of freshman recruitment and scholarships. University officials have gone out of their way to make it mirror the college experience — if you count having Keurig coffee makers and 42-inch flat-screen TVs in your room as typical.
The students, who arrive Friday from all across Minnesota, will be paired up in guest rooms at the Commons Hotel on the Minneapolis campus. After a brief opening ceremony, parents are expected to head home, leaving their teenagers to immerse themselves in lectures, “bonding activities” and a mini “freshman seminar,” where they’ll be asked to solve one of the world’s “grand challenges” in one day.
It’s “a very practical example of a study group,” explains Scales. On Saturday morning, they’ll to break into teams and brainstorm ideas about poverty, hunger, social justice or other social issues. By Saturday night, each team will get 5 to 10 minutes to present a creative solution, complete with research to back it up (“Wikipedia does not count,” says Scales).
The program, which is free of charge to students, will cost about $35,000. It’s part of a U initiative to increase the diversity of entering classes, and enhance its appeal to minority students. The participants were chosen based on their academic and other achievements, Scales said, and she hopes they will be inclined to apply as freshmen.
“Our goal is always to get the best and the brightest talent from Minnesota on our campus,” Scales said, and these students will likely have many choices. “We want to make sure that they’re not overlooking the gem that’s in their back yard.”