Too much of the time when adults talk to students about college, they talk about college in general. They talk about what the students need to do to fit into a college. They rarely, if ever, discuss what factors students need to consider when choosing what colleges will fit them. After all, a student will spend four years (and a significant amount of money, energy, and time) at a college. It might as well be the perfect one.
It is incredibly important to determine what needs a student has before driving across the country to go on a college tour.
If someone is adamant about staying close to home, it’s probably safe to say there’s no need to check out the University of Hawaii (although going just to make sure might not be a bad idea…). Similarly, if a student refuses to spend another moment in a state with brutal winters, the University of Maine might be somewhere you check out online, and that’s about it.
The list of important factors changes from person to person, and once a student goes on a few college tours, those factors may change.
Senior Collette Gillaspie was completely set on going to Purdue University in Indiana. That is, until she heard from the University of Notre Dame, also in Indiana. Appropriately enough for the Fighting Irish, she heard from them the day after St. Patrick’s Day. “I got an email from Notre Dame saying the admission decisions had been released. I had to make an account to see whether I got in or not. I was shaking the whole time. The first thing I saw was ‘Congratulations!’ and that’s all I needed. I ran downstairs to tell my family.” Gillaspie will be attending Notre Dame next fall.
Her advice to students preparing to apply for colleges is for them to find their passions and pursue them in as many ways as possible. Her passion is space. It’s something she has always been interested in, and it shows. She had an internship at the SAC museum, is a member of the Omaha Astronomy Club, and her Honors Independent Research project was related to space. She also recommends trying out for leadership positions and getting involved in a variety
of different activities.
College visits might seem intimidating, but a little preparation can ease a lot of anxieties. If possible, ask your tour guide questions about his or her personal experience. His or her answers can give an honest look into everyday life on campus. Although a bad tour guide might leave a sour taste, try not to let it impact your overall opinion of the school.
Underclassmen may sigh in relief when they realize they have two whole years before they have to worry. Unfortunately, stressing sooner may be helpful in the long run. College applications can be a lengthy process, and depending on your schedule for the fall of your senior year, it may be worthwhile to get college visits out of the way early.
Freshman Mary Neppl has not gone on any tours of her own yet, but seeing her two older sisters go through the college search has helped relieve some anxieties. “The process was stressful, but [knowing what to expect] makes me feel a little better.” Neppl’s priorities include the quality of professors, quality of campus life, and success statistics of graduating students. Both of Neppl’s siblings are happy with where they ended up (Columbia College Chicago and Creighton University), which she finds to be reassuring.
College visits can often be awesome experiences. In sixth grade, junior Janna Whited accompanied her older brother on a tour of Boston University. During this tour, she saw celebrity doctor Dr. Drew. “He was on the phone the whole time. Only his daughter was paying attention,” she said. She recalls saying hi to Dr. Drew, but as Dr. Drew and sixth-grade Janna Whited had little in common, the conversation quickly fizzled out. Although this experience would leave anyone star-struck, Whited still remembers her experience at Boston University. “I loved it. It’s definitely one of my top schools.”
Whited considers location (preferably a college on the East Coast), feel of the students, and quality of the tour guide to be important factor
s when looking at schools. She has toured at least eight schools, including Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern, New York University, and Texas Christian University. By getting a feel of all these colleges, she has more information and experiences that will assist her in making a well-informed decision.
Throughout the entire process, stress and worry will be bombarding you from all fronts. It’s like a war zone. Every once in a while, it’s okay to take some time for yourself. Last summer, my mom put my grandma in charge of taking me on a tour for a certain Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island. I wasn’t particularly excited to go, and honestly, neither was my grandma. Long story short, one of the most stressful moments of my life was calling my mom and telling her I was going to “Water Wizz,” a mediocre waterpark, instead of going on the tour. The five seconds of deafening silence was tormenting, but Water Wizz was pretty fun, so it’s all good. It’s all about priorities.
Some students may be waiting for a “Say Yes to the Dress” moment when they just know they found the perfect college. When the gates open and they step in, they may expect a magical tour of a chocolate factory or a Disney’s Hercules-esque musical number describing exactly how they are where they are meant to be. Unfortunately, this is usually not quite the case. When it comes down to it, a lot of deliberation, spreadsheets, and pros and cons lists go into making the final college decision.
No matter where a student ends up, she can prosper. Colleges are about preparing for the future, and Marian girls have futures so bright, they’re going to need to wear shades.