Is it Important to Attend College Tours?
Choosing which college to go to can be a daunting decision. Almost all colleges and universities in the United States are a multi-year commitment. Your college education is probably also one of the biggest expense that you will have as a young adult, so just as you would not buy a house unseen, you should not decide what school to go attend without visiting first.
With literally thousands of options throughout the country, you are going to find a place which has the academics, living arrangements, student life and overall culture that help you fit and feel at home.
It may seem like common sense to take academics into consideration when choosing a college, but academics means many things. The obvious, “Do they offer the major I want to pursue?”, is not the only factor to take into account. Some other questions to reflect on are: Is this a large institution where classes are mainly taught by graduate students? Or a small school where you will know everyone in your major? How many students are in each class, which can vary vastly from the Education or Business department to the Physics or Chemistry department? Are professors strict with their office hours, or are they more lenient with students showing up whenever they can? Does each department have their own library with students of the major populating it, making studying easier with peers? Do they offer academic support services? Do they offer research opportunities for undergraduates? What about internship opportunities? It is important to speak to both students in the major, or majors, you think you would like to pursue, as well as professors in that department.
Where are you going to live the next four years? Is there student housing on campus? How many students share the dorm room? Do they have private showers? Access to laundry facilities? Air conditioning? Cooking facilities? Will you feel safe and comfortable? A campus visit is a great opportunity to see the dorms in person, and also identify what off campus housing is available. It’s no secret that campus food is not always the best, so make sure you visit the various food courts that come with a campus meal plan and sample some of it. Additionally, you can see which food stores and restaurants are within walking distance of campus. Is the school urban, suburban or rural? How will you get around campus? In a city environment will you be comfortable walking or riding a subway? In a suburban or rural area, are you allowed to have a car on campus?
Student life is an aspect of college that is arguably almost as important as academics. What clubs does the school have? Sports? The arts? Does your major have a club? How do students spend their free time? A great deal of learning and growing comes from outside of the classroom, diversity in backgrounds, values, political views and religious beliefs is important, as well as having students with common interests. Does the school offer a complimentary mix of both?
In a future article I will go into being a successful student athlete, but some things to keep in mind as you make your campus visits: Are you a good fit athletically? Will you grow in your sport? Will you get playing time? Does the school offer academic support to help balance studies and sports? Don’t just base your decision only on the athletics, ask yourself, “If you are injured and can no longer play, is this the school you would want to attend?
When you do make a campus visit, make sure to ask tons of questions. Speak to both freshman students as well as juniors and seniors. Remember a first semester freshman will have a very different view of the school and campus life there than a seasoned junior, so ask plenty of questions to plenty of people. Don’t forget to speak to professors and grad students. Treat this as an important fact-finding expedition, because very soon you will be making one of the first major decisions of your life.