As schools close for the summer vacation, rising high school seniors and their families may be considering taking one more road trip to gather more information in order to ‘finalize’ the list of colleges they will be applying to.
But what exactly should you be looking for on these visits? A college’s website provides you with a plethora of information, from the majors it offers, to how much it will cost you, to its professors’ resumes, and so much more. But there are other factors that can determine whether a college will be a good ‘fit’ and a happy experience for you, and this information is not always found so readily on a website.
So, if you are heading off this summer on such a mission, be sure to pay attention to the following things that can contribute to your comfort and wellbeing during the four years you will spend on the campus, and make your college years happier ones!
The general environment – how does it make you feel?
Park yourself right in the center of the campus for an hour or so, and watch and listen to the world go by. Do you feel overwhelmed or lost or do you feel that you could find your ‘place’ here? Do you think you could find your ‘people’ or would you feel lonely?
On the flip side, does the place feel small and cliquey or claustrophobic to you? Do you feel that your selection of friends and opportunities would be limited by a small place? Does the campus seem diverse enough for you or does everyone seem to ‘look’ like each other?
The surrounding area – would you want to ‘escape’ there?
Spend some time exploring the area around the college. Everyone needs to escape at times – is there a pleasant place to go to if you want to get away from books and the pressures of exams? This is especially important if home is too far for you to visit when you need a break. Are there things to do that interest you? Will you be bored if you’re in a rural area, do you want somewhere where you can attend a classical music concert or visit an art museum? Do you like skiing to decompress, does the sea calm you?
The cafeteria – would you eat well?
You are going to need food to fuel yourself through those long days and nights of hitting the books and so it is important to know what options will be available, and how accessible they are. Visit the cafeteria(s) – they could be your only option, especially if the campus is remote. What are the dining plans and do you understand them? Which food options are the most affordable? If you have special dietary requirements, would they be easily accommodated? How healthy is the food? Is there variety?
Student Resource Centers – would you feel looked after?
College is a huge life change for young people and it is often the first time that they have been away from home and the comfort of their family. It’s reassuring to know what resources are available and easily accessible, so that you don’t feel completely alone. Many colleges have student resource centers on campus so you don’t have to go far to get the care and support you need – seek them out on your tour. Where do you go if you get sick or hurt? What if you need to talk to a counselor? Where do you go if you are struggling with your academics and need tutoring? Other centers to look for include women’s centers, services available for LGBT+ students, and technology and IT support services.
Security & Safety – would you feel safe?
A major concern for students (and their parents) is whether you are safe on campus, and also whether you feel safe. The Clery Act of 1990 seeks to protect students from on-campus crime. Under the Act, all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs are obligated to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their campuses. When visiting a campus, drop into the campus’ safety office to check out its report. At the safety office, you can also learn about campus safety services, such as the number of security officers on campus, the availability of Blue light emergency phone stations, campus escort services, safety maps with suggested secure routes, and any safety apps available. If you happen to be on the campus as it gets dark, pay attention to how safe you feel.
So, if your plans this summer include in-person college visits, take advantage of being on campus to go beyond the facts available on the website and get a more personal look at what life would be like for you if you were a student there.
Emma Hoffman was born in New Zealand and has been living in the United States since 1996. A true ‘Third Culture Kid,” she grew up and was educated in six countries, including Hong Kong, Western Samoa, and Gibraltar. Emma, therefore, has first-hand experience of, and is particularly sensitive to, the educational and cultural challenges faced by children and families who are moving internationally. After graduating from King’s College, University of London, with a degree in law, Emma followed her true passion and earned a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the University of London, specializing in elementary education. She has dedicated the past twenty years to educating children in a number of capacities and has taught in public and private schools in the U.K. and the U.S. She currently tutors children across grade levels and subjects, and also prepares students for U.S. standardized tests, including the S.S.A.T. and the S.A.T. Emma has a particular ardor and knack for getting kids to discover themselves through the writing of epic personal statements.
We honor the respect and the trust that our student clients and their families place in us, and we’re dedicated to helping them identify and gain admission to institutions that will be the best fit for them academically, socially, and culturally. We believe in the uniqueness of each student and are committed to providing professional and personalized guidance to each one we serve.