When deciding which college to attend, don’t just rely on word of mouth, reputation, college rankings, where your parents want you to go, or where your friends are going. The best way to get a feel for schools yourself is going on college visits. They will give you a chance to feel out what you can’t get from a website—the campus vibe, student body energy, and general ambiance.
After all, this will be the next four years of your life. Where you decide to spend them can be just as important as what you choose to study or who you connect with. So we’ve put together some ideas for how to help you get the most out of this important part of the college admissions process.
Determine your criteria
It’s important to remember that while there are certain admissions requirements you must fulfill, the school you attend must also meet your own criteria. Colleges and universities are businesses, and they know their own success depends on the success and satisfaction of their students.
So when you sit down with an admissions officer, don’t just passively let them interview you. Interview them at the same time. This is your opportunity to get your questions answered and determine if this is the place you want to be for the next four or more years. Here is a College Fair Checklist with some questions you can ask during college visits.
Make your own decision
Your first year away from home is when you really begin to figure out who you are as an individual. Where you go to school will play a big role in developing your character, talents, career, relationships, and future. Don’t let what others are doing or have done make the college decision for you—even if your parents are pushing you to attend their alma mater or your guidance counselor says you should go for the biggest financial aid package.
Instead, be honest with yourself about which factors matter most to you during college visits. At the same time, keep an open mind toward those who have been through this process before, try to think as long-term as possible, and don’t ignore the financial factor as you will eventually have to pay back student debt.
Stress can take away the excitement of the college admission process. Sure, there are admissions requirements, and it’s true not everyone gets in, but the stress you are feeling will end up stifling your journey of selecting the right school. So it’s important that you relax, and take it all in.
College is the chance to not only develop yourself academically, but also explore outside interests and build relationships. These things are just as important to your education and preparation for the rest of your life. Thus, don’t be afraid to let fun be a factor in your decision. College is four or more years of your life, so it’s important to choose a school you’ll enjoy attending.
For example, you’ll want to know what the best late night pizza spot is or which cafe serves the best coffee—especially when it comes to finals. You’ll also want to know what it’s like to attend those college football games or what it feels like to walk around campus in February. College visits will help you experience these things firsthand.