Ahh, the joys of being a high school junior or senior. You feel like you're absolutely on top of the world, or you're about to be in the case of juniors. You're about to be a real live grown-up. Where I'm from, there's one true marker that proves you're almost to the adult stage of life: your first college visit.
I remember the thrills and fears of picking a place to spend the next four years of my life. I remember being timid and shy but also completely fascinated and excited.
Now, as a college student, I have a new perspective on the whole college visit phenomenon. I see things every single day that I know I did, and I cringe. There are so many things I wish I could change about my experience, but since I can't I hope I can at least help the next group of visitors with some well-intentioned tips.
1. Don't spend your day on your phone.
Your friends back home can wait a few hours for you to respond to their snaps. You probably traveled a good distance to get to the college you're visiting and you might not get to come back until move-in day if this ends up being your school of choice. Make an effort to take it all in.
2. Try not to roll your eyes too hard at the opening session.
Yes, they will sing school songs. Yes, they will try to get you to cheer with them. Yes, your mom will be excited. As weird as it may feel, try to go along with the welcome to campus event. Buried beneath the gimmicks the presenters use to get you interested in what the school has to offer lifestyle-wise, there will be valuable information about admissions and academics.
3. Make sure you or a parent take notes throughout the day.
You probably don't need to write absolutely everything down, but it may be helpful to keep a list of things like ACT/SAT scores, the cost, and the admissions timeline.
4. Don't let your parents ask all the questions.
While your parents are probably this excited and proud that they have a child ready for college, you can't let them baby you on this day. They're going to want to do everything for you, but don't let them. You need to take full advantage of this opportunity to learn and grow.
It is definitely intimidating to ask a question you think might be stupid in front of a bunch of people you never met. However, when you get home and reflect on the tour, you'll probably wish you had just gone ahead and asked so at least you would know.
6. Take advantage of the free stuff.
All sorts of people will be trying to give you free pens, shirts, etc. to get you excited about whatever group they're representing. Taking the stuff doesn't mean you're committed to what they're offering. You'll be glad that you picked up a bunch of pens when shopping for your dorm.
Yes, your tour guide will probably walk super fast and you'll probably have no idea where you're at at any given time. Nevertheless, you need to look at the campus in order to find out if you can picture yourself there. It's so important to like the style of campus.
8. Try the dining hall food.
If you choose this school, you'll inevitably end up eating the dining hall food for most meals. It's not going to be glamorous as the local restaurants, but you need to make sure you can tolerate eating the food. Honestly, the dining hall was one of the deciding factors in my school selection process.
9. You probably won't end up living in the fancy dorms they want you to tour.
At my school, they always encourage students to tour the dorm connected to the newest dining hall. It's newer and fancier than some of the others. Be aware that the school is trying to impress you. You probably won't end up in a super nice dorm as a freshman. Make sure you do your research before coming to campus so you can spend your time viewing dorms you're more likely to live in.
10. Don't be afraid to talk to the students.
The tour guides are paid to be super excited and optimistic about the college. To get a real perception of the school, ask them a question they probably don't have a rehearsed answer to. You can even talk to the students that aren't giving tours, and they'll probably help you out. We don't bite.
11. Use your day wisely.
Again, this may be your only opportunity to visit this school before you commit to attending. Make sure to explore everything you might need to know about the college in order to make your big decision.
12. Buy a shirt while you're on campus.
If you end up attending the school you're visiting, you'll be glad you started your school color collection. If you don't go to the school, oh well, it's a memory.
13. Talk to the advisors representing any major you're interested in.
Your advisors will get to know you better than any professor you'll have. They're the ones who will guide you through your college experience, so it's well worth your time to get to know them before you need them.
Because they're your parents, they'll have thoughts about any major decision you'll make in life. As much as you may (or may not) value their opinions, it's very important that you decide how you feel about each college you visit. You are the one that has to attend, not them.
15. Enjoy it!
It's so easy to get caught up in all the intimidating aspects of College with a captial C. But for one of the only times in your life, you have complete control over where you are going to spend the next four years. Soak it in.