The reality hits with a suddenness and forcefulness that can be quite disconcerting! All that sweat, all those hours put into the application process, and then…the schools really want you! You actually have to CHOOSE where you want to be! The weeks immediately ahead are the period in which to visit campuses, likely for a second time. When students know they can attend, then they see the campus in new light. Sights and sounds that were initially overlooked or interpreted one way may appear quite different in that new light of acceptance. So, don’t be surprised at all if minds are changed.
Hit the Road Now!
With your personal set of criteria about college fit, visit campus and consider how your wish list is fulfilled in these areas:
Classes you want to take:
Before you visit, do your research, learning as much as you can about core requirements for graduation, specific courses in the major you’re considering, other courses of interest to you. When you get to campus, speak to students and professors in the academic fields you’re considering, visit a class or two. Ask questions that are meaningful about your own field of interest if you have one. Ask what it means to declare a major – and how hard or easy it is to change it. Look beyond the classroom to research and internship opportunities, extracurricular activities, and community service. Are you interested in engineering or biomedical research? Would you like to work part time with a psychologist? Do you want dance opportunities beyond the studio? Is there a Big Brothers/Big Sisters in the community? Is religion an important part of your life? Check out nearby houses of worships and on-campus religious organizations.
Living the Life:
Many schools will arrange overnight stays in a dorm. Check it out carefully. What’s your comfort level with dorm life – and the various eating options? Do you see yourself having a good time, or are you receiving discomfiting signals? The social scene is as important as the academic scene!
Your undergraduate years will extend beyond the campus. What’s out there for you? Walk or hop a bus to the center of the nearest town and scope it out: restaurants, clothing, art galleries, and clubs. What can the community offer? Check out the bulletin boards and “kiosks” with their ubiquitous plastering of posters. Look interesting?
You may have decided to attend a Div 1 school for the great hoopla that surrounds the school’s athletic team. Visit the venues! Get the vibe? Is it all overwhelming – or underwhelming?
On the other hand, you may be the type who also wants to scrutinize the on-campus art gallery or museum, visit music practice rooms, or smell the grease paint in the bowels of the university theater. Don’t be bashful – poke around and learn about how comprehensive the arts programs are on campus, and nearby.
Dollars & sense:
Finally, although you may have given it less thought in the run up to acceptance, the cost of school may play a decisive role in your final choice. Nothing has quite the clout dollars and cents. Do a simple spreadsheet analysis: weigh costs, financial and merit-based aid, as well as family resources. Every school has a Financial Aid Office that will be happy to talk to families.
Often away from home for an extended period for the first time in their lives, some students need emotional support beyond what a roommate supplies. That’s why virtually every school provides its students with considerable Student Support Services. Tutors, therapists, doctors, and nurses are on call to help undergraduates navigate whatever uncertainties accompany college life. Find out about the breadth and depth of those services.
Draw up your spreadsheet and compare each campus using your prepared criteria. You’ll make the choice easier and smoother for yourself and everyone else. Good luck!