College visits make–or–break a student’s university choice


Maureen Schneider

Kate Schneider stands in front of the gate at Brown University.

If you were to take a poll of every senior, odds are that most of them went on at least one college visit over the summer. Personally, I have been “lucky” enough to fly across the country to look at campuses where I may or may not spend the next four years of my life. I’m talking from UCLA to Madison to Penn. While it maybe fun to visit your dream college, how helpful are these visits really?

For those of you who are younger and fortunate enough not to have had to worry about your future yet, let me explain what a typical campus visit is like. I am no expert, but if I received a stamp, passport–style, from each school I’ve visited, I would definitely be considered a frequent flyer.

The morning of campus visit number 14. The first problem? Figuring out what to wear. While the temptation to dress comfortably is strong, there are going to be a lot of prospective students there competing for spots in the freshmen class. Campus visits start with an information session conducted by some sort of admissions officer. If luck is on your side, that session will only last around 45 minutes. However, sometimes they can span for over an hour, which truly tests your focus, especially when the information given can be found on Google.

Information session continued: different colleges, major and course offerings, study abroad opportunities, application process and financial aid. They’ll go through all of this no matter where you go. This would all be considered helpful and interesting information if people did not have access to a computer. I can look up the admission rate and academic programs in a second. What I really want to know is the feel of the school, the environment. I want to know how the diversity of the students impacts the connections. I want to know what the students think of the food.

Colleges attempt to answer these questions during the campus tour. These tours usually run for about an hour and are led by students. Typical tours will take you to a dorm, a library, a food court, a classroom and a classic statue or fence that will be the highlight of pictures. Tour guides are usually pretty charismatic, who claim to have nothing bad to say about the school. While that is great, I think it would be more beneficial to know why they chose this school over other options, and what they wish they could change.

While college visits are very cookie–cutter, they do give you a feel for the school. Many counselors say not to visit the school in bad weather, and I actually believe this “myth.” It’s hard to get a feel for the school when it is rainy or cold and there are no students sitting around and hanging out. It can make or break your decision to apply, and eventually attend the school.

At BG, all of the freshman advisory classes are going on campus visits to schools around the area, such as DePaul University and Northern Illinois University. This offers a taste of what students will go through a couple years later when they try to cram in a multitude of visits.

Some may argue that it is too early for our freshies to have to stress about school, but college visits are inevitable, as are  applications, so why not start ‘em young?

Whether you visit two schools or 18, you will know the second you leave campus if it is a right fit for you. The importance of these information sessions and tours, while redundant, cannot be stressed enough. So put on a cute shirt, take notes, and take picture at the football field and Instagram it.