The Crown (Wilmette, Illinois)
College—a place that you will live for four whole years of your life. It goes without saying that you have to find a perfect fit—somewhere that you feel comfortable and are happy. The academic rigor of the school is of course a big factor, but if you really think about it, you perform best when you’re happy.
The first step that goes into the college process is obviously finding a school that you are interested in. The next step is the college visit. It is a daunting task, but it has to be done. It’s really the only way to know if you feel at home.
There is a conventional way to go about this visit. Usually, prior to the visit, students will sign up for a college tour. A tour usually consists of a 40 minute information session, which is basically like having the school’s pamphlets read to you. After the information session, depending on how large the campus is, there is a 60-100 minute walking tour of the campus. Tour guides, usually current students at the university, lead prospective students to recreation centers, libraries, residence halls, and classrooms. All the while, they feed you information that you, again, could have found in a pamphlet or right on the school’s website.
These tours can be long winded, and although they are valuable because you can get a real feel of the campus, you still don’t know much more than you did going into it. In my experience of college tours, I always got a better gauge of the campus and campus life not when I was on a tour, but when my friends were showing me around. You learn the most from people who actually go there. You can ask the tour guide any question, but they aren’t going to say anything that could potentially deter you from applying to their school. It is their job to paint a rosy picture.
I visited the University of Wisconsin-Madison on our last four-day weekend. I took a tour, which was nice, and after that I visited with two of my friends. They walked me around town and shown me all of the good restaurants, their favorite off-campus studying sites, and other things that would not have been showed to me on the tour. I also got the chance to ask them about classes they’re taking, if they were taught by a TA, or if the University gave them resources to help adjust to college. I also talked to them about campus life, what people like to do, what are the sporting events like, and just about everything in between.
When my friends gave me a tour, I found out things that I actually wanted to know. Not what the retention rate is, how many students take advantage of on campus residences, or what kind of debit card system the campus uses, although all of these are important. Sure, the burger joint in the campus student center might be good, but I am sure it’s not as good as The Old Fashioned (where they have the BEST cheese curds)! The campus library might be a great place to study, but I bet they don’t give free coffee to students like the Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel and Student Center. I had already fallen in love with the campus on my tour, but talking with my friends only reassured me that this school was a real fit for me.
I am not, by any means, suggesting that prospective students skip a tour all together. However, along with a tour, I think the best way to see if a university has the potential to be your home after high school is to talk to other students.
Photo Credit: The Crown