Many high school juniors and seniors are researching and choosing colleges to map out their futures. This process is very in-depth and requires a lot of time and energy in order to achieve the “perfect” fit of a college.
But actually visiting colleges is crucial when they are front-runners, as colleges can be very different in person from how they appear online.
I recently went on a four-day college tour in Texas to see a few of my front-runners, and I had previously toured another school in Nevada.
Touring these schools in person helped me determine which aspects of the schools I liked and didn’t like.
Yes, one can get an idea of what a school is like based on its numbers. X number of undergraduate students, Division X sports, X square miles, X ratio of the faculty to students, so on and so forth.
What one can’t fully appreciate from just the numbers is the student culture, the students’ emphasis on academics, and the campus.
The campus? What? I must be wrong.
Well, all colleges are, of course, going to put the most flattering pictures up on the internet, so, sometimes, the internet can be misleading when it comes to the look and feel of the campus.
Not only that, the area surrounding the college may not be anything like one expected, for better or for worse.
Before visiting the University of Texas at Austin (UT), I knew that there were approximately 50 thousand students and that the campus is 437 acres, but I couldn’t possibly process all of that until I stepped foot on campus.
It’s huge. I went knowing the size of the campus, but sometimes one can’t figure out how they truly feel about things like the campus’s size until they are a part of it.
Texas Christian University (TCU), on the other hand, gave me the impression online that it was very small — not even comparable to its neighbors of Baylor University and Southern Methodist University. This simply did not seem true; while it is smaller, the campus did not feel that way at all.
Another extremely important aspect of a college’s appeal is how serious students are when it comes to academics.
One could ask how visiting a campus would give anyone insight, but more often than not, at least an impression of this can be taken away from college tours. Are all the students in the library studying? What does the tour guide emphasize; the amazing Greek row they have or the convenient student study pods?
It’s about whether or not a potential student feels as though the academic climate suits them.
Most importantly, I would argue, is the overall “vibe” of a school. What kinds of people go to said school?
We often prematurely judge what a schools’ culture will be like.
For instance, I knew exactly what to expect when I toured the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). I would find laid-back and down-to-Earth people, which seemed true.
In contrast, before visiting UT, I definitely thought I would find cowboys there. Hilariously stereotypical, I know. I figured it was Texas, right? And cowboys and cowgirls are in Texas? My mom even changed out of her Birkenstocks, thinking she would stand out too much.
Nope. I believe that I saw maybe one person wearing boots on campus, and probably 100 wearing Birkenstocks. Not what I thought at all. These discrepancies are not necessarily bad; it all depends on one’s preferences.
Colleges are like jeans. They should feel comfortable, even after walking around for a while. If a college doesn’t feel right, then it’s probably not right.