Using the College Visit to Make the Final Decision
Written by Lisa Bleich
The results are in and now you have to a make a decision. I often find that this stage of the process can be surprising to students, especially when the final contenders are not what they expected at the beginning of the process. This final stage of visiting colleges can be illuminating as several students say that they couldn’t really imagine themselves at a school until they were accepted. Once they knew that they had a real option of going to a school they were able to decide if this is where they wanted to be for the next four years.
Spring break is a great opportunity to visit schools to which you’ve been accepted and if possible attend the admitted student days. So as you visit or revisit schools, go in with an open mind and don’t be shocked if you change your mind and your expectations.
SENIORS: REALITY CHECK
You are in the driver’s seat, so use this opportunity to look at schools with much more precision and focus. Your needs should be very clear by now and you will know what lingering questions still need to be answered. If possible, focus again on the key areas specific to your needs.
Academics: Sit in on a class; speak with a student or professor in your intended major to get a feel for what you want. Review a course catalog and see if there are classes that excite you. How easy is it to double major? What sort of academic advising will you get to help you plan your classes and choose your major? What happens if you want to change majors? Do certain majors require a separate application?
Research: How easy is it for you do research as an undergraduate? What is the process? Can you speak with students or a professor in your area of interest to find out what opportunities are available to you?
Student Life: See if you can do an overnight. Go to a party or event. Do you feel comfortable with the kids? Sit in the cafeteria or student center and observe the interactions. What is a typical weekend like? Can you imagine yourself having fun here?
Campus: Pretend you are a student and take the transportation available. Walk to town. Drive to the nearest city. Figure out where the stores that you will be shopping at are located. Visit the student center, the gym, the dorms, the library, and any other common areas.
Athletics: How easy will it be for you to participate in sports at the level you desire? If possible, can you attend a game? How much school spirit is there? Does it match your criteria?
Visual and Performing Arts: If you participated in the arts in high school and want to continue, how easy is it to do so? How many shows, music rooms, art rooms are available for majors vs. non-majors. How many performances are there each year?
Financial: How much does it cost for tuition, room and board? Is the cost within your budget. The numbers are real now. Did you get any merit or financial aid? Take this opportunity to visit the Financial Aid office and speak with a financial aid counselor to see if you can make it work.
Learning/Mental Health Support: If you need learning support or counseling, make sure to visit the LD office and Counseling office to see how comfortable you feel there. Do they offer enough support for you? What will you need to do in advance to make for a seamless transition?
After your visit write down how each school made you feel and start to eliminate the possibilities. Create a Yes and No pile so you can narrow your choices. This is an exciting time and remember wherever you go, you can have an amazing experience.