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Monday, June 8, 2015

College Touring: Do or Don't?

In the past 3 months, I have visited 13 different colleges and endured 13 different information sessions (mostly boring) and 13 different walking tours (always freezing). After these trips, I've been left with the same question: is college touring worth it?

There are several schools of thought about college touring. The first one involves visiting as many schools as possible, soaking up as much information as possible, searching for “a good fit” for you. Alternatively, you might apply to all the schools that pique your interest, and then only visit the schools to which you have been accepted.

Both strategies have their merit. By visiting before applying, you have the chance to learn what you like and what you dislike. This will help direct your search but also give you the chance to learn about different possibilities. For example, though I’ve always imagined myself at a small, East Coast college, I visited UC Davis and loved it. I had not previously considered a large, close to home school like Davis. Now, I feel confident that if I were to be admitted and enrolled at UC Davis, I would be very happy there.

By touring before application season, you also have the opportunity to do an on-campus interview. On-campus interviews are usually very casual, more like conversations with an admissions counselor than a formal dialogue. You can interview at schools regardless of whether or not you are even planning to apply. But if you do apply, they’ll consider the notes from your interview while making their decisions. I would recommend taking advantage of on-campus interviews (which is almost always a good thing!). Even if you don’t like that particular college, doing an interview anyway will be good practice for your top schools.

My last recommendation for those who choose to do the pre-application visits: take everything with a grain of salt. If you visit over spring, winter, or summer break, it’s likely that the campus will be emptier than during the year. If the vibe feels quiet or sullen, remember that it will probably be more lively and friendly when the students return. Also, remember to consider a school’s climate in every season. If you visit in the summer, don’t disregard the potential for sub-zero temperatures in the winter. If you visit in the winter, don’t get depressed by ubiquitous snowbanks and clouds. I know these pieces of advice are trivial, but they are easy to forget when you get caught up in the college frenzy. Remember, beyond being a bridge to the workforce, the college you choose will ultimately be your home for the next four years
Image result for wellesley college spring
Wellesley College in the spring...
...Wellesley Colleg in the winter. Bad example. It looks cool either way! 
On the other hand, if you wait to learn what your options are before visiting, you’ll be able to avoid a lot of the stress that accompanies touring as a junior or a first-semester Senior. It’s easy to fall in love with a certain school after an excellent visit and then have your heart broken by a rejection letter. By waiting to visit, you’ll avoid this sadness and be able to focus on choosing your favorite school out of your options.

And, of course, if college tours are not in the cards for you, don’t fret! You can learn almost as much about a school online as you do on a campus visit. You can look at campus pictures, learn about available majors, and read reviews on campus food, student life, and more! Honestly, researching online probably gives you more impartial information than you’d receive in an information session :).

If you’re looking for some tried-and-true resources for college research, I’ve compiled my two favorites below:

Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015- This book is the best. It offers clear, concise, and information-rich profiles of over 300 colleges and universities. It’s seriously so fun to read. Fifteen dollars well spent. (The Mountain View Public Library has 2013 edition available for checkout and the 2016 edition on order - place a hold now!)

Niche- It’s like College Confidential, but more streamlined. Niche creates a school profile by giving grades to different aspects of the school. Everything from Academics to Diversity to Health & Safety are more is given a letter grade. Beware, if you start using Nice, you won’t be able to stop! Looking at the various grades and reviews is addicting.

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant 

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