04 Dec Why Are College Visits Important?
Janice Caine’s article on the importance of college visits
It is important before even talking about how to prepare for college visits to take some time to understand why these visits are so important.
When you go through the college search process, you should do so with the idea that you are looking for an institution where you will spend as much time as needed to earn your degree. Think of the college that you ultimately choose as your home away from home. And like your home, you want that to be a place that will be comfortable for you. Comfortable in the sense that your basic needs are taken care of, but comfortable also as a place where you feel confident enough to explore and discover new knowledge about yourself and the community around you. The college that you choose should also be a place where the study environment and facilities allow you to accomplish your goals, both short and long-term. And what are the activities that you like to do? Does the college offer those activities? How do the students at each of the institutions on your list like these activities?
More than printed materials, websites, virtual tours and visits from admissions counselors, college visits allow you to get a true feel for the campus environment and the students that attend. It is your opportunity to evaluate an institution first hand, the academics, the living arrangements, the athletics and more. It is not uncommon for a student to think that, based on promotional literature, a college is the right place yet after a visit, decide that it is not the right fit.
When it comes to deciding on that right fit, there are multiple factors to consider. For instance, perhaps you think you want a big school. But what does that mean? Big in terms of the number of students that attend? Or big meaning the size of the school? Is 125 acres big? How about 800 acres? It is hard to get a feeling for the size of a campus without actually visiting it. A campus visit allows you to determine if you are best suited to a campus where you can walk or bike from one end to the other in 15 minutes, or perhaps you would prefer a campus where you might need to take a shuttle to get from your dorm to one of your classes. Do you want a campus in the middle of a city? Perhaps you enjoy the fast pace and all of the activities that happen in a city. But is New York too big for you? How about Washington DC? And while some universities, like Columbia University and American University have true campuses within a city, others like George Washington University and New York University do not. Even if you begin your visits not knowing what you’re looking for, university visits will help you narrow down your criteria.
College Visits are Helpful
Did you know that college visits can be very helpful when it comes to writing application essays? Once you have become familiar with a college campus, it is easier to answer the question of why you want to attend that institution, or how you can contribute to the community. There might also be something that you’ve seen, or someone you have met on campus that will motivate you to write an inspiring essay.
Did you know that some (not all) colleges look favorably upon those students that have visited their campuses? In fact, some colleges ask on their applications if you have paid them a visit.? While visiting these colleges does not guarantee that you will be accepted, it does help to show your level of interest.
Overnight visits are an excellent way for you to learn more about the culture of a college. You will be hosted by a current student and you will not only attend a class or two, but depending upon the interests of that student you may attend an event on campus, you will see what life is like in the dorms, sample the food and spend time with other current students.
What other factors might influence where you choose to attend college? How about the weather? If you currently live in a temperate climate and you’re considering in colder weather, you might want to try to visit during the wintertime so you can get an idea of what life will be like during those colder months.
The Bottom Line
Whether you are hoping to attend a college close to home or somewhere around the world, it is important to visit the campuses before making your final decision. College visits are an integral part of the college search process as aptly stated by Brian Rosenberg, President of Macalester College in a recent New York Times article. Few people would even consider buying a house or a car sight unseen. Selecting a college is a financial decision of comparable or greater weight, and a life decision of far more consequence.