With school right around the corner again, for many incoming juniors and seniors, thoughts of college loom on the horizon. And, if you are senior, we also know you are planning your senior pictures (remember some yearbook deadlines are as early as late August or September). Whether it’s your first or your seventh, you’re probably planning those college tours now more than ever. If you haven’t stepped foot on campus yet and aren’t sure what to expect or how to go about it, we’ve got some thoughts on what makes those experiences memorable and what to look for when you are in the thick of your college search.
Get Ahead of the Game
That old saying about the early bird and the worm? It holds true here. The sooner you get to looking, the more time you have to examine your top choices thoroughly and determine which schools might truly be your best fit. This also allows you more time to prepare essays for scholarships or look into what kind of financial aid opportunities might be available to you at different schools. Being proactive is always a plus, but it’s especially beneficial when it comes to your search for higher education.
Pay Attention to Programs
If you know what you want to be when you grow up (or even if you don’t), pay attention to the programs the colleges you’re visiting offers. Are they especially well known for one or two things? Are they focused on liberal arts and providing a variety of opportunities to find your passion or focus? All of these things and more will be important when it comes time to make your decision, and each offering from the colleges and universities you visit will weigh against your goals, needs, and hopes. On the surface, it might seem like most higher ed institutions are similar, but each has its own unique set of things to offer students hungry to learn more and finding the right set of things to nurture your love of learning is important.
Does it Feel Good?
Just like each higher ed institution has its own unique set of offerings, it also has its own unique fingerprint when it comes to personality. Each campus you visit will feel different, so make sure wherever you decide to go, you feel at home. Even though there will always be an adjustment period, you can often tell on a simple tour (we recommend doing overnight stays if you can when you start to narrow down to your top few choices!) whether or not you vibe with the kinds of people that seem to take up the school. While each university will have, ideally, a diverse student body with people from all walks of life, there’s no denying that different colleges offer different personality types more often. Choosing a place that can feel like your home away from home without too much effort is a big part of making sure you find the right fit.
Variety is Key
Of course, you’ll never know if you’ve found the right fit or not if you don’t tour a variety of colleges. We recommend seeing schools of different sizes of student bodies, that offer different emphases and community engagement programs. Talk to students on each tour about what they love best about the school, and what, if anything, they wish was different. Getting as many perspectives as possible on your tours will help you paint a more well-rounded picture of the environment you’re signing on to live in for the next four years, so it’s ok to ask a lot of questions. And seeing the different sizes and types of universities and colleges out there will help you paint a fuller picture of what exactly it is you want, whether or not that stacks up against what you thought you wanted.
Your next step in education is a big choice to make, it only makes sense that you would want to approach it with care, attention to detail, and an open mind. What are you most looking forward to when it comes to college tours?