By Albert Jimenez, AVID Student, Valley Center High School
Talking to my mother in September, I brushed off the topic of college visits—labeling them as an unnecessary waste of time. I felt that the only important factor in choosing schools was academic ranking. Nevertheless, I was dragged by mother’s intuition to the east coast to look at campuses. As soon as I set foot on the first campus, my opinion changed.
We began at NYU, the first school on my list. In a “New York minute” we were gone. Though I loved their scholastic reputation, I wasn’t able to distinguish the school from city buildings; I could not picture myself there for four years.
After that, the college-visit experience was very different. I fell in love with Boston University’s campus alongside the Charles River, Northwestern’s neighboring town of Evanston, and Columbia’s historic buildings.
From the 11 total tours I took, I realized what I liked: traditional campuses, accessibility to cities, and medium-sized schools. Likewise, I also learned what I didn’t like: anything having to do with NYU, city schools (except for Boston University), and schools that didn’t have that “it factor”. The “it factor” for me came from being comfortable on campus. Some schools made me feel like I could fit in for four years, whereas others did not.
I cannot stress enough how vital this trip was to my new opinion on my list of schools. Because of this trip, I removed five schools from my list and added three more that I didn’t even know about before my trip.
I understand that not everyone is able to travel to visit schools, but that should not discourage students from getting a layout of the campus. Most colleges offer virtual tours, which allow you to see everything the school has to offer without being there.
However, if you have the opportunity to visit a college, even one in your hometown—take it. A well planned tour can either make you fall in love with a school, or cause you to cross it off your list. To get the most out of a college visit, I recommend the following:
Sign up for a comprehensive tour: If you try to see everything without a tour guide, you may not be able capture the full essence of the campus. Tour guides can take you through different departments, talk about different traditions, and give personal opinions on certain things.
Talk to an admissions counselor: When the admissions panel reads your application, they have little insight into your personality aside from your essay. If you visit a campus, introduce yourself. It could be the difference between a rejection and acceptance letter.
Take your time: College is a big investment. Why not soak up as much as you can while there before making your decision?
Ask about extracurricular activities: College won’t be all studies. You’re going to need to have fun too! Inquire about clubs, activities, and events to see if you could enjoy life at that school outside of class.
Talk to a current student: Speaking with a student can give you an honest evaluation of the school. They can give you opinions on teachers, majors, and overall campus feel.
Ultimately, you will have to make the decision for yourself by weighing all of these factors. After touring, ask yourself: Do I want to be in the city, or in a more traditional campus layout? Do I want to live on campus? How important is enrollment total to me?
Spend the time to evaluate the school as a whole. There is only so much that pictures and statistics can show you. After all, you will be calling this home for four years.
There are thousands of colleges in the United States; one should fit you perfectly.
Albert is a senior at Valley Center High School and has been in AVID for two years. He has participated in AVID’s Summer Institute and is an aspiring journalist. Outside of the classroom, Albert has a dedication to service. He is a participant in Elizabeth Hospice’s teen volunteer program, which pairs youth with elderly patients, and is also an intern at Palomar Hospital. Albert’s involvement in STOP: an anti-bullying club, and The Best Buddies Club, a club pairing special education students with club members, has allowed him to further serve his community. After graduation, Albert hopes to attend Northwestern University and major in journalism.