The Do's and Don'ts of College Visits

Lindsey Bell Features Editor ‘Tis the season of college visits for many Latin students this spring. Some juniors will be making their first trip this time of year, while many seniors are taking their last. But don’t you worry, future classes of 2013 and 2014—you’re time will come soon enough, so why not take a few notes now? I have been on two college trips, ten campus visits, five campus tours, and five information sessions. As I am sure there are people who have seen quadruple that number of schools, I have been able to conceive a few ideas about this whole process from my personal experience. Do make reservations for an information session and/or tour. Not all schools require a reservation, but check in advance. A drive through is a great way to see the buildings of the school, but you won’t really get a feel for student life. Don’t go into a college visit with any predetermined notions. Have an open mind. Just because your best friend visited a school and hated it, doesn’t mean you will. Similarly, just because you know someone who went to a school who you consider to be lame, doesn’t mean every person who goes to that school is lame. You might be pleasantly surprised. Do eat at a local restaurant. You will see a sample of the kind of kids you will be going to school with and what they are doing. Note places that look good and bad, and make sure you find a few restaurants that you might like. After all, this is where you will potentially be living for four years, and you might get sick of eating the dining hall food every day. Is there a place for a quick sandwich like Potash or inexpensive Tai, like Tiparos? Don’t go when the weather is bad. Honestly, speaking from experience, you will not be happy if you are walking through a campus and it starts slushing (a wet combination of rain and snow). Your hair will be wet. Your shoes might be ruined. There also probably won’t be a lot of kids walking around. Plan ahead, check your weather app. Do walk through the dining halls. Some tours will take you to one as part of the tour, but they often won’t take you inside, especially if it is a large group. If you have special dietary restrictions, anything from Kosher to peanut allergies to you just can’t stand processed meat, make sure there is a plethora of options. You can find the best school in the world, but if you can’t eat, you won’t last very long. Don’t plan your visit when the school is not in session. This isn’t always possible, especially with Latin students’ busy schedules, but try to plan accordingly. The difference is walking away from a campus that seemed full of life, and walking away feeling like everyone was playing a giant game of hide-and-go seek, and you were the seeker. Do take time to see the surrounding area. To some people, it doesn’t really matter if skyscrapers surround the campus, or there are rolling green fields. It is important to note what the community is like, and assess how well you could live in it. Is there a nearby picturesque college town? Most importantly, is it easy to get to the town and do kids actually go there. At some schools, the town is the center of student life outside of the classroom. At other schools, the students don’t really leave the campus, maybe because there isn’t anywhere to go. Don’t ask stupid questions. For those of you who have experienced a college counseling class, or read anything about college visits from one of those nifty college guide books, they all encourage you to ask questions. What they don’t clarify is to ask meaningful questions. Listen carefully on your tour, and don’t ask a question that has already been answered. Don’t be the person who makes everyone else not want to come to the school. If you have a question that is very specific to your interests, try to ask the tour guide one-on-one, or after the information session. Do stay at the front of the group when you are on a tour. It sounds annoying, but in a large tour group, it is easy to get distracted and lose interest. If you stay at the front of the group, it’s easier to stay engaged and hear what you the tour guide says. It also gives you the opportunity to ask those specific questions pertaining to your individual interests. Don’t base your decision on a school on one tour guide. Whether you have the most charismatic tour guide, or someone who seems like they are from another planet—not every student on that campus will be like them. Remember, even if you are going to a small school with only 1,600 kids—that is still four times the size of Latin’s whole high school! Do, however, get to know your tour guide. They are real kids who go to the school, and can share with you their experiences. They will also be the most knowledgeable about student life, seeing that, as I have mentioned, they are actual students. Don’t be afraid to ask other students about their experience. More than likely they will be happy to answer any questions you might have, or simply tell you what they like most about the school. The thought of your mother going up to a student, pen and paper in hand might mortify you. However, you might learn something that you didn’t pick up from the tour or information session. You will probably never see this student again, so who cares if they think you are weird? Do ask what students what they least like about the school. It is easy to get caught up in everything that is so great, often neglecting the cons. The administrator leading the information session is unlikely to answer this question as honestly as a student might. This is a great example of what to ask a student while you are out exploring the campus. Don’t let yourself be bogged down by note taking, however. Listen attentively and just absorb the school for all that it is. You will remember the things that stick out at you, and you can jot those down later. Do fill out the “Campus Visit Notes” sheet provided to you by your trusty college counselors. As aforementioned, don’t do this while you are on the campus, but maybe when you get home, or after talking it over with your parents.  Many of you probably disregarded this sheet as soon as it was given to you, or have no idea what I am talking about. But there is a great reflection sheet, available in the college counseling office and online. It forces you to really assess the school in a thorough way. This will also come in handy later when a supplement asks you why you want to attend that particular school. Do listen to your gut. All of these schools are great schools, as we have been told time and time again. It is true what they say though; there really is a school for everyone. Make the most of your college visit, and figure out if this is that school for you. Keep note of the details, but get a feel for the overall vibe. You will know when you find a good fit.]]>