Nearly 300 high schoolers will visit BJU’s campus over five weeks of College Up Close this semester, staying in the residence halls, attending classes and eating in the dining common with current BJU students.
Reaching out to visitors and making them feel at home while on campus may be challenging at times, but the effort can make their visit more pleasant for both the high schoolers and their hosts.
Katarina Shafer, a junior health sciences major who works in the Welcome Center, said there is always a way you can make a connection with visiting high schoolers. “Invite them into your life for the few days that they’re here,” she said.
Shafer suggested stopping on the sidewalk to give them directions if they look lost or just to say hello. She also said inviting visitors to stop by your room, even if they aren’t staying the night there, helps them feel more connected.
“They might not take advantage of it,” she said. “But at least they know that they have a place to go if they need it.”
Max Burak, a junior Christian ministries major who also works in the Welcome Center, said simply remembering their name will make a visiting high schooler feel like they belong. He said they will enjoy their visit much more if you put them on equal standing with yourself.
“Don’t act like they’re high schoolers,” Burak said. “Treat them like other college students.”
Students in the Welcome Center give visitors campus tours and answer questions they may have about the University. Since they are often the first to greet visitors, these students give many high schoolers their first impression of the University.
Paige Elmer, a junior resident assistant in Margaret Mack women’s residence hall, encouraged college students to look for opportunities to minister to and encourage high school visitors. She said it helps to write personal notes telling your visitors you are happy to have them and to make themselves at home in your room. “That makes [their visit] more special,” Elmer said.
Elmer said just smiling at visiting high schoolers as you pass them on the sidewalk will make them feel like they are welcome and make them happy to be at BJU.
Danielle Messer, a junior resident assistant in Nell Sunday residence hall, said she gives her visitors a small gift, such as a candy bar, to help break down barriers and make them feel more at home.
Joshua DalPorto, a junior resident assistant in R.K. Johnson men’s residence hall, said anyone will feel special if someone expresses interest in them. “They all have a story,” DalPorto said. “Take time to find that story out.”
He tries to find similarities or shared interests, eat meals with them and show that he cares about their opinions. One way that DalPorto helps high schoolers feel like they are part of BJU residence hall life is to ask them questions or have them pray in discipleship group.
DalPorto said we should maintain a selfless, sacrificial attitude toward our visitors, keeping in mind that we are ambassadors for the University and for Christ. He said we should take advantage of the opportunities we have to witness to visitors who may be unsaved through our words and actions.
Since these high schoolers will soon be deciding where to attend college, DalPorto likes to point out how the faculty members at BJU are here because they want to be.
“You see their genuine love for the students,” DalPorto said. “They’re investing in us.”