The college visit - one part of the lengthy college application process. For many people, it is the most important road trip they might take in their lives. The moment you begin visiting colleges is the moment you acknowledge the impending pressure of trying to get schools to like you and want to admit you.
It costs a lot to tour colleges and universities, from the money spent on lodging, transportation, and food, to the precious time taken. In order to make all the hassle worth it, it's necessary for student(s) to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity they have to check out their potential future home. Not everyone gets the chance. All the miles traveled would go to waste if they just shrug it off as another checklist item.
There are so many guides on how to visit campuses that I am sick of reading them. To be brutally honest, they're pretty much all the same:
"Ask thoughtful questions you wouldn't find the answers to on the website!"
"Go off the tour's beaten path!"
"Speak to students/professors on campus!"
"Look at campus bulletin boards for activities that are happening!"
"Be proactive, don't let your parents do the talking!"
and so on…
While these tips are true and very helpful, they neglect a key component of college life - the student body. Anyone can question the tour guide about their favorite class, professor, or memory. Anyone can walk to the secret quad they don't bring you to. Anyone can check out the activity boards to see the volunteer psychology research projects in need of undergraduate students. But if you want to be that 'one in a million', I suggest doing what I did.
In addition to following the advice of the counselors and college admission experts, I found a way to gauge my liking of a particular school by paying attention to what kind of students were visiting. This method helped me discover how well I "fit" the schools I visited, as finding a school that fits you is principally important in the admissions process. You can go to a college that has all the academic programs you desire, the clubs you want to join, the sorority/fraternity that's caught your eye, the beautiful campus you'd like to live on. But at the end of the day, if you don't feel like you'd fit in, it's not going to be a great choice.
After a few visits, you'll find yourself automatically scanning the crowd for people like yourself. Maybe there's an athlete but you're not into sports. Maybe the kids visiting seem nerdy, but you're not into books (or the passionate seeking of knowledge, for that matter). Maybe there are lots of extroverts but you're an introvert. Maybe they're all STEM kids, but you're pursuing something in the humanities or social sciences. Maybe you feel like you're the smartest person in the room, maybe you don't. Who knows the group you'll bump into?
Although I have written this article, I am not encouraging you to strictly stay with people who are "carbon copies" of you. After all, college is a time to meet people from different backgrounds and interests. By all means, choose the school that has the most diverse group of student visitors, or the one that makes you question your place there. This is just something a little quirky that I wanted to share about my college visit experiences.
I once heard of an admissions officer who supposedly looked at the types of shoes people wore when visiting colleges. I guess his "shoes" are my "visiting students".
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