This is the third post in the College Search Series. For the rest of the series, click here.
Congratulations, now you have made it to the next (and one of the most exciting) parts of the college process-the visits! Visits are fun because you get to experience the daily life of each school, talk to different people and obtain unique perspectives. Visiting schools allows you to further discover what you like and don’t like in schools and helps you discover what fits you best.
After you have grouped the colleges together based on the areas that they are in, plan out when you will be going to those specific areas. School break times are a great option because school at the college will be in session and you will get a proper feel for what school life is actually like. Additionally, you can return to school after the break and discuss your trip with your college counselor (if you have one).
If you are unable to visit colleges during school break times, summer is another excellent option because you are more likely not to have a million other things going on in your life. Once you have decided which area and schools you are going to visit, pack a few things with you on your trip. Bring a journal and pen with you so that you can write down your thoughts and impressions of the school. Be sure to write down what you like and dislike about the school as well as vivid visuals, such as “big bluff overlooking the ocean” or “students on side streets advocating for causes with big, colorful signs.” These visuals will jog your memory and bring back specific memories and feelings that you had about each school.
Next, be sure to write about any striking/unique aspects of the school because it will help you distinguish the differences in culture and atmosphere of the schools. Additionally, bring a camera with you to take photos of the campus so that you can recall which school is which as well as recall the thoughts that you had about each of those schools. Finally, bring a list of questions with you to ask the tour guide. You probably won’t have time for all of them, so ask the questions most important to you. Some of these include:
- Why did you choose to come to this school?
- If you could describe this school in three words, what would they be?
- What unique programs does this school offer compared to other schools?
- How does the school aid the students in receiving internships?
- What is the process for selecting classes? Are you guaranteed to get the classes you want or is it difficult?
- What is the student-to-faculty ratio?
- What is the average class size?
- How diverse is the campus? Is there a specific breakdown of the diversity available?
- What percentages of students live on and off campus?
- Is four-year housing guaranteed?
- How big are the dorms? Are they noisy or quiet during the week?
- What is the process for selecting a roommate?
- How is the food?
- What is the social atmosphere like? What is a typical weekend like?
- What clubs / extracurricular activities does the school offer?
- Which athletics does the school offer? Which ones are most popular? What special requirements/challenges do student athletes face?
- What are the campus security measures taken at the school?
- Does the school offer financial aid? What are those requirements and what is that process like?
Ask any other questions that are important to you. Also, do not judge the school based on the tour guide because that is only one biased perspective. While you are there, be sure to talk to other students and ask them questions. Ask them questions like “Why did you choose this school?”, “What is the best thing about this school?”, “What is the worst thing about this school?” and “What is one thing you would change about this school?” Ask multiple students each of the questions so that you can get a variety of different perspectives. Also grab any student publications because it will give you a flavor of the unique life of the school. Also, try to sit in on a class, talk with professors, visit the library, eat in the school cafeteria, talk with an admissions counselor, talk with a financial aid counselor, and wander around the school while envisioning yourself going there. Be sure to collect the names and contact information of the people that you meet.
Take quality notes about as much as possible so that you can compare schools later on. As you visit, keep all of the questions in mind and see how much can be answered based on your observations and the responses from the other students / school reps. Remember to listen to your gut when trying to decide whether or not you think that the school fits you. You will best decide what you want and what you feel fits you. After your visit, sit somewhere on campus and write your reflection in your journal so that you can get the feel of what it is like to be on that campus and go to that school. Remember to be as descriptive and as detailed as possible.
I suggest only visiting one school per day because visits are very stressful. You will then be able to take the rest of the day to reflect on how you liked the school while you are away from it and have some much needed downtime. Seeing more than one school per day is possible, but I don’t recommend it because there is a greater possibility that the mind will not be fresh and the memories/thoughts about each school will mesh together. Have as much fun as you can while visiting the schools. Enjoy your visit!
Here is a link to books that might help you choose colleges to visit.
Meagan, Teen Advisory Group