College is a huge transition in a student’s life. Being 4 years away from home in an academically challenging and new environment can be tough and choosing what college to attend is perhaps one of the most important decisions to make in life as it has a profound impact on one’s career and future. Choosing the college that is right for you is beyond important and that decision is based on a myriad of factors. The most important thing to do when choosing a college is to tour as many colleges as possible as your "dream school" may end up not being the school for you.
First of all, consider which colleges to visit. Selecting a college that is within your academic reach is important, but keep an open mind and tour a few colleges that are below and above your academic profile. Don’t let any negative predispositions prevent you from visiting a college as you may end up falling in love with a school you thought you might not like. Visiting during the school year is also a great idea as you get a better picture of the day-to-day atmosphere rather than encountering an empty summer campus.
Before you visit, do some research on the school to ensure that it offers programs and majors that fit your goals and interests. Remember that each college has a different atmosphere and feel, and choosing a college that best fits your needs is dependent on many unique factors. A student looking for a school with a large Greek culture will fall in love with a variety of schools than a student who is looking for specific research opportunities. You must understand what you're looking to gain out of your college experience and create a list of colleges accordingly.
Once you're on tour, it is important that both you and your parents ask questions relevant to your concerns. Financial aid, programs offered, and personal opinions are all important things to ask a student tour guide. The tour guide has been a student at the school and may offer some valuable insight that you may not find online.
In an article “36 questions to ask on a college visit” by US News, the author highlights some key categories that every student should ask about such as academics, academic perks, financial aid, graduation track record, academic support, outside opportunities, and student life. Asking questions like, “What is the average class size of upper-division courses” and “How widely used are teaching assistants on your campus” can give you a good sense of many things that aren’t shown during the tour.
While colleges do their best, you will not be able to see everything a college has to offer during a single one hour tour. Preparing insightful questions to ask will give you a bigger picture of the school and allow you to understand what the tour guides are unable to show. Since choosing which college to attend is one of the most important decisions you'll make in life, touring a variety of schools is essential to making the right choice, so do your research beforehand, come prepared, and keep an open mind.
Written by Matthew Kim ‘17