So, juniors. Spring break is coming up. And let us guess: you haven’t toured any colleges yet. You have two options: 1) tour some colleges or 2) visit some colleges. That was a trick because those two things are the same. This is the time to take advantage of your upcoming break and start visiting colleges, doing your research, forming opinions, and making decisions. If we’re being honest, it’s late for you to be starting the college visit process (you should have already visited at least a couple of schools by now), but here we are. You can do it.
It’s necessary to visit schools in order to avoid applying to the wrong ones. Indeed, you really do need to spend time at, walk around, and immerse yourself in a school’s environment for at least a couple of hours to get a sense of whether or not you like it. Believe it or not, when I visited Harvard, I didn’t love it. It just wasn’t for me. Had I not visited, I would have applied just because it was Harvard. I went, I saw, I experienced, and I saved that application fee for another school. US News knew nothing as far as I was concerned. There are a million things to do when you’re applying to college, and this is a very basic item on the agenda. If you start to let things pile up, they’re going to do exactly that very quickly and it’s going to get overwhelming. Our advice? Get on top of it now.
Choose a college and go, go, go
Truly just choose one. If it’s easy to go somewhere nearby, that’s great. In fact, if we’re talking about the importance of demonstrated interest, it will not look great if you live next to (or a 30-min train ride away from) a college and don’t ever tour it. If you’d rather hop a plane or a train and venture somewhere far, that’s also great. Don’t overthink it—just get to a college campus that you think you might reasonably enjoy. Ideally, you’ll visit a few places while you have multiple days off in a row. The college tour process is all about gathering data, and in order to do that you have to start visiting.
Take notes of the copious variety
When you visit your first college, take careful note of what you like and what you don’t like. Create a list of pros and cons and begin adding to it immediately. The more opinionated you are, the better, particularly at the beginning. There are thousands of schools in the U.S., so you need to start narrowing it down. Liked the size of the school but not the location? Great to know. Enjoyed accessibility to the outdoors? A wonderful consideration. Loved just how crowded and loud and abuzz the center of campus was? Us too. All of these things matter, so start thinking critically.
Rinse and repeat
When you tour that first college and figure out what you liked and what you didn’t like, consider the fact that there are so many others out there. You guessed it. Next step: choose another school to visit. Do the same thing all over again and don’t forget to ask questions. You’ll begin to see a trend earlier than you think in terms of what you like, what communities you gravitate towards. This is the type of thing that only you can do for yourself. It’s where you’ll be spending four years, so invest a bit of research time now. We promise it will pay off.
This is a tricky process, we aren’t going to lie. That said, you have to start somewhere, and the clock is ticking. We know that you can do it. Get out there. If you need our help, though, let us know via phone or email. A college tour schedule and various plans of attack that we recommend to our students deeply depend on the person: their preferences, goals, and background. It’s different for everyone. While the above is a quick guide, we’ve been doing this for years and we’re here to help.