As someone who spends a lot of time worrying about the future, I am obviously a great person to take college advice from. Recently, I began going on college visits (I saw Columbia College, Loyola, and Northwestern in Chicago over the weekend of February 7th) because I hear that’s what us juniors are supposed to be doing, and already I think I have learned a few things that I would like to share with my millions of dedicated readers. If you are also going on college tours or will start going on them soon, this J List is for you.
Choosing colleges. Google says there are approximately 5,300 colleges in the U.S, and we only have six college visit days, three each for Junior and Senior year. So how do you break it down? Make a spreadsheet. For each school on my list, I have the average GPA, SAT scores, student body size, acceptance rate and the region of the country. This has been helping me keep everything organized.
Take notes. Or least have your mom take notes – that’s what mine did for me. There will most likely be a tour guide rapid-fire spewing information at you about how magical and life-changing the school’s traditions are, but then they will start talking about something important like financial aid or required classes, so make sure you are paying attention and taking notes.
Ask Questions. I should have asked more questions. I had questions, but just didn’t want to be a bother. BUT THAT’S WHY YOU ARE ON A COLLEGE VISIT. Your tour guide knows everything there is to know about the school, so if you have any questions to ask just shout ’em out! Or go up to the guide at the end of the tour if you don’t want to talk over everyone else.
Take pictures. Maybe you have a better memory than me, but I was worried about mixing up the schools in my head, so I took lots of pictures. Yes, there are photos online, but it’s nice to have your own details from your visit, marking specific things you noticed and enjoyed.
Dress appropriately. Obviously, if it’s cold, dress for the cold; if it’s going to be hot, dress for that. You will be outside for most, if not all, of the visit, so make sure you’re comfortable. I kept warm in the windy streets of Chicago, but my error came with my choice of footwear. Stupidly, I decided to pack one pair of shoes, a pair that I had been meaning to break in for a while. So, after walking an average of 18,000 steps for 2 days straight, my feet were practically rubbed raw from the new shoes. Note to self: don’t do that again.
Schedule tours together. If you are interested in a specific city, I recommend seeing multiple schools there. I saw three colleges within 48 hours. It was nice to knock out three schools at once. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to get from school to school and maybe grab a bite between visits. Walking makes me hungry.
If you are interested in schools at opposite ends of the country, schedule your visits on long weekends and over spring break to stretch those six days as far as possible. I, for example, am heading northeast to visit Emmerson College, Syracuse University and a few others over spring break. If you don’t have time to visit every college on your list, make sure you see a big school, a small school, a rural school and an urban school just so you can get a feel for what other schools with similar specs would be like.
The school is important but, when you go on a visit take time to explore the city or town the school is situated in. You are going to be there for four+ years so you had better like the area. Chicago is obviously a big city and I had been there multiple times before my college visits, but I made sure to explore what Evanston (Northwestern) and the area around Loyola had to offer.