Hi everyone! I’m about to be a high school senior. Yes, I am in the midst of getting ready for college. I took the SAT with Essay (thankfully I did well), and I’m enrolled in AP and college credit classes at my high school. While all of this academic prep work is important if you do want to go to college, I have quickly learned that visiting schools is also extremely important.
For those of you who don’t know, colleges offer tours and open houses for prospective students to come in, see how they like the school, and learn more about it in person. So far, I have visited a few schools, and with these visits, I’ve learned a lot about what I want to look for in a school. Since the whole college process is really stressful, I wanted to share some important information that I’ve learned from visiting colleges.
VISIT SCHOOLS THAT FIT YOUR CRITERIA
Don’t visit schools that don’t interest you. If it’s too far away, it doesn’t have any programs you’re interested in, or it doesn’t have the sport you want to play, you don’t need to visit it. However, if the school has one aspect that you like, it may be good to visit it to compare it to the schools that have everything you want. For me, I visited a school that was a little out of my location range, but had a program that I was interested in. I was really happy that I visited because I learned more about what I wanted (and didn’t want) my program to be like. But save the time and energy of visiting a school for colleges that have something you are interested in.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS
Though this may seem evident, you may get a little shy on your college tour. Most of the time, your tour guide is a student there, and they are the perfect person to ask questions. Not only do they know all the facts and statistics for the school, they can tell you about their own personal experiences and what they love to do. If you see something you want to know more about, just ask. You are there to learn more about the school and see if it is a good fit for you, and asking questions is a great way to get the most of your visit.
TAKE PICTURES AND NOTES
When you go on multiple tours, especially in a short period of time, the schools can begin to blur together. Taking notes of what you see, what you like, what you don’t like, and even the statistics they give can be very important when you are looking over everything again and trying to decide where you actually want to apply. Taking pictures is also helpful because it can help you add a visual to your notes. My notes consist of stats that are given out, as well as my own personal pros and cons of the school.
TAKE NOTE OF YOUR FEELINGS, NOT JUST THE FACTS
This kind of goes with the last bullet. When you’re looking around the school and writing your notes, try to capture how you feel when you’re on campus. While all the facts are important, if the school doesn’t feel right, it may not be the place for you. After all, you’ll be at your campus a lot (even if you’re commuting), so it’s important that you feel safe and comfortable while you’re on campus.
MEET WITH AN ADMISSIONS COUNSELOR
I went on one larger tour and was shocked to see that many of the other families chose not to meet with an admissions counselor. Admissions counselors can literally tell you what YOU need and what your chances of getting in are. They can also tell you more about specific programs and options that pertain to your interests. If you really want to learn about a school, meeting with an admissions counselor after your tour is the best way to go. They can really personalize your tour experience and answer any further questions you have about the school. They can even get you contact with specific department heads or coaches! The best part is the admissions counselor you meet is handling your application (and possibly interview) when you apply to the school. Talking to a counselor is another way to make a great first impression, help the counselor put a face to resume, and help the counselor get to know you better.
ASK ABOUT YOUR SPECIFIC ADMISSIONS REQUIREMENTS AND FINANCIAL AID
When you talk to your admissions counselor, be sure to ask them what you need to get in and pay. Some programs require additional application materials, or some colleges may like to see certain things submitted with an application, even if they aren’t required. For financial aid, you can ask about what kind of scholarships you could be looking at, and if the school has any ways to make paying even easier. If it applies to you, asking about AP, dual enrollment, or transfer credits is something that can effect both applications and financial aid.
LOOK AT CAMPUS LIVING
If you’re planning on living on campus, really be sure to look at the dorms. Are the close to classes? Are they in a safe area? Are they clean and look comfortable? If not, is there off-campus housing that is good for you? How much will your housing cost? When you’re going to be living on campus, you have to make sure that you’ll be happy where you are. After all, you will be spending a lot of there, and you don’t want to be living somewhere where you’ll be miserable.
TAKE NOTE OF CLUBS AND ADDITIONAL STUDENT SERVICES
Many colleges offer additional services to students, like physical therapists, personal trainers, wellness housing, and more. If there is a specific service you are looking for at a school, make sure to ask if you don’t see it. Even if you don’t necessarily need a specific service, it is really nice to know what kind of “extras” a school offers if something changes in the future, or if you just want to take advantage of what a school offers. In terms of clubs, it’s nice to see that a school has clubs you may be interested in, and it can give a better idea of what the social life at a school is like. Even if you do not see a club you like when you start at a school, many colleges allow students to create their own clubs.
LOOK AT THE SURROUNDING AREA AND SAFETY OF THE CAMPUS
When you go to college, you likely won’t want to be stuck on campus all the time. You also probably want to go to school in a safer area. When you look at the area of the campus, you can see if there are places to go and things to do off campus that interest you, or if the community your campus is in is safe. Looking at the surrounding can also give you a good idea of how easy it is to get to major roads or airports, so when you go to visit your family or your family comes to visit you, you can see how easy or hard it is to get to campus after traveling. By looking at the area around the campus, you can easily get a better idea of what your campus life will be like.
I hope this information can help you with your college visits and decision. As a to-be high school senior myself, these are the topics to look for that I would recommend to anyone who is looking at college. As I learn and experience more, I’ll be posting more about my college and high school experiences. If you have any more questions about college, I’ll be happy to answer them!