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The College Visit Survival Guide
This post was written by Radhika, a member of Acceptional’s High School Journalism Program. After visiting several colleges so far this summer, she shares some tips on how to survive the college visit circuit and get the most out of the experience
Many rising seniors dread the impending summer college visits. Info sessions can be tedious if you have already obsessively researched the colleges you’re visiting, and the summer’s heat tends to make one wilt in July. However, college visits do have several important purposes that students should keep in mind to make it through the lists of statistics and the sweltering heat.
1. College visits give you the opportunity to talk to students at the colleges you’re considering. Students can almost certainly give you the best accounts of what campus life is like beyond just the demographics of the school. You may already know whether the school has Greek life, if it’s considered a “party school”, what clubs and organizations the school has, and so on. But only a student at the school can tell you what the fraternities and sororities are like, whether students stay on campus on weekends, and which clubs and organizations are most enjoyable and well known.
2. Seeing the campus in reality (not just photographs) is important. It’s easy for schools to make their campuses appear nicer than they really are through photo editing and selective angles. If the campus’s appearance matters to you, then going on a college visit is a good way to see if the campus suits your tastes. (Getting to look at pretty campuses even if you choose not to attend the school is a nice bonus.)
3. Visiting schools gives you a better idea of their location. Driving to the college gives you a better feel for the distance from the school to the nearest city or town, which can help you decide what your primary mode of transportation will be. Additionally, staying in town helps you better understand the demographics and atmosphere of the place you’ll be living for four years or more. Traveling to Maine to visit Bowdoin was an eye-opening experience for me, for instance, as at least 90% of the population of Brunswick was white — something I was completely unprepared for.
4. Information sessions help you get a feel for what the school’s administration is like. There’s a distinct difference between stern, rule-enforcing schools and more lenient, forgiving schools. You can usually get a pretty good idea of which kind of school the one you’re visiting is by the info session.
5. Getting to visit a school’s dorms lets you see how livable they are. Some people can easily live in tiny rooms but some require a lot of closet or floor space, be it for musical equipment, athletic gear, shoes, or just feng shui. It’s helpful to see how much space you’ll have. It also helps to talk to students to find out how likely it is that you’ll be living in a double or a triple. Some schools (like Bowdoin) have a lot of single dorms while others (like Vassar) have mostly doubles.
6. Ask students why they personally chose the college you’re visiting. Many college students you talk to will have shared the same concerns as you during their college application process; you can find out whether their expectations were met or not simply by asking. Often your tour guides will tell you why they chose the college even without being asked.
Exploring colleges is much easier if you have some idea of why you’re doing so and some visits can even turn out to be enjoyable. More importantly, college visits can profoundly affect your decision about whether or not to apply to a college. Prepare to be surprised — colleges that seem to cater to people completely different from you could turn out to be perfect for you.
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