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Alright, pretty soon the SATs, college applications, admissions interviews, and the stressful Junior year workload will all be behind you, and man, will it feel glorious. There’s just one thing: now you have to make a decision. What college should you choose? It’s an overwhelming choice that can bring up all kinds of anxiety. What if the school‘s too big? What if it’s too far from home? What if it’s too close to home. See, we totally get it. That’s why we’ve created this handy guide so you can get the most out of your college visits, making it that much easier to make literally the biggest decision of your life (jk, it’s definitely not the biggest decision, just an exciting one). Here we go!
1. Do your research and then throw it away
OF COURSE you should do all kinds of research before you visit your potential universities. You’ll want to know if it’s a huge party or sports school, if it’s ranked highly in the field you want to pursue, the average class size, if it’s a town you love, and if the late night pizza sitch is up to par with your impeccable standards. But here’s the thing: no amount of facts will be as valuable as walking onto a campus with an open mind. If you’ve made up your mind about a school before you’ve visited it, you potentially could miss out on a great fit for you. Just because it’s a highly ranked football school, and you’re the artsy type, doesn’t mean it’s not right for you. Get what I’m saying?
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2. Sure, take the campus tour but make sure you take a departmental one too
General tours are a must, but remember, they are created through the admissions department and are a very curated view of the school. They’re basically showing you the Instagram version of the campus, all filtered up and ready to post. Still, I suggest going on these because you’ll understand the values and the tentpoles of the school quickly while learning some cool facts the college books might have left out. After your general tour, however, get to a departmental tour ASAP. If you know what you want to study, you’ll want to see what it’s like in the department where you’ll be spending all your time. And hopefully, it will make you feel all warm and tingly when you see it and its students. That’s a major sign you’re heading in the right direction. And even if you don’t know what you want to study, still, choose a few departments and take their tours. It’s a great way to see a more honest look at the school.
For both of these tours, don’t be shy. Get the names and emails of the tour guides at the end of the tour. As a former film school tour guide at Chapman University, I can vouch that we’re very responsive if you want to email us with questions about the school or could even get you in touch with a student or professor in your field.
3. Connect with a professor or student
While you’re on campus, set up a coffee or meeting with a current student or professor in the department you’d like to join. If you don’t know what you want to study yet, any student or professor in a broader area will still be beneficial. It’s actually super easy to get in touch with current students and professors. Simply email the admissions or department’s office and explain you’re a prospective student hoping to get more information. Ask if there’s a student or professor who would have the time to meet with you. They will most likely pass their information on. (Professors’ emails are also on the school’s website, fyi. Be sure to choose a full-time faculty member, however. They’ll be more likely to say yes).
PS: We love you Mom, Dad, Aunt, Big Sis, Whoever Came With You, but maybe consider doing this meet up just one on one. This way, your parents won’t take over the conversation with their concerns, and you can really ask the questions you’ve been burning to ask while being 100% yourself.
4. Just hang
We love a good tour, but make sure to save time to simply hang around the campus. Grab lunch there, take a good long walk to discover all the hidden corners, or even take a book and read on the lawn for a bit. It’s a great way to test out if it feels right for you.
5. Connect with an alum from your high school
Ask your high school’s office for the name of an alum that ended up going to a school you’re considering. Then, set up a coffee, phone date, or email thread to get their thoughts on the school and their experience. There’s nothing like getting some advice from someone from your hometown.
6. It’s all in the gut
Most likely, you’ll know what school you want to attend because “it just feels right.” This is a GREAT thing. At the end of the day, when you close your eyes and picture yourself in college, what’s the school that pops in your head and makes you smile? Yes, statistics are important but gut feelings are even more so. Just trust me on this one.
7. Let the acceptance letters do that work for you
When I got my acceptance letter to NYU and realized I was half jumping up and down half thinking about having to say no to Chapman, I knew my decision. I ordered Pad Thai and sadly ate it in front of the TV that night, which is NOT how you should feel after getting into NYU. If it’s not a HELL YES, it may be a no. All this is to say, pay attention to your gut reactions when the letters start to roll in.
You definitely should check out if the professors are hot at ratemyprofessor.com. JK!!! But truly, in all seriousness, it can’t hurt to click around ratemyprofessor.com and see what kind of feedback the students have. They’ll cover everything from the school in general, to the food, to the professors. Let’s just say, it’s a fun way to kill an hour.
All Gifs: Giphy