. . . Worth Your Time and Money.
By Rebecca Hasegawa
How many times have we gone into a mall looking for something specific and walked out with a bunch of random things we had no intention of buying? This may be pleasing if the random purchases were great deals, or this may be upsetting if we spent money that we did not have. The same could be true when visiting a college campus. If you do not go in to a campus visit prepared, you may walk away with an experience you did not intend to get.
This may be pleasing if the random purchases were great deals, or this may be upsetting if we spent money that we did not have. The same could be true when visiting a college campus
This very problem happened to me when I was shopping for a graduate school. After months of researching programs and schools online, I finally found a graduate school that I wanted to attend. It was in Denver. I lived in Orlando. However, this school offered extended visits to their campus where prospective students could stay in the on-campus apartments, get a tour, talk with a program director, get more details about admission, and have fun in the Rocky Mountains. If I was going to attend this extended visit then I did not want to do it alone, so I invited my parents to come with me. Instead of merely seeing the school, we made it a memorable vacation by playing in the mountains, enjoying the energy of the city, and visiting nearby relatives. It was great, expect for one major issue. After arriving at the school and taking the tour, I was told that they were cutting the program I was interested in. What?! You couldn’t have told me this over the phone or in an email? I spent all this time and money to come out here! As you may tell, this was a very irritating revelation. At least the rest of the vacation was awesome.
Based on my experience, here are my tips on how to make your campus visit worth the time and money, especially if irritating and unexpected revelations happen to you too.
1. Keep your priorities in mind
For me, graduate school was all about the program and the education. But for you who are going to college for the first time, you may not know yet what you want to study. That’s okay. I never knew what I wanted to do with my life during my time in college, but that’s a different story. Even if you do not know exactly what you want to study, think about what you want out of college. Before you spend the time and money visiting a campus, make a list of your top three priorities for a college experience. Use those priorities as a compass during your campus visit. Nevertheless, I will also encourage you to stay open-minded because some unexpected revelations are really good and may be exactly what you need.
Before you spend the time and money visiting a campus, make a list of your top three priorities for a college experience.
2. Count the cost of a visit
Hopefully this one is obvious: do the math for a campus visit and for going to the colleges you are exploring. No two colleges cost the same. If a campus is close to home and the cost of visiting is only a few hours and a few dollars, then do not hesitate. It is good to experience as many campus visits as you can afford. But if a campus visit is going to cost you a plane ticket or several tanks of gas, make sure the school has the priorities you are wanting. Also, do your homework on the cost of the school you are looking at attending. Do not just look at tuition; look at the fees and cost of living too.
3. Extend your stay on campus
Having the opportunity to stay a day or two on campus will give you more time to observe the classroom culture, to speak with professors and students, to experience campus amenities, and to gauge the culture of the college. Read my previous post about “Three Aspects of Campus Culture that You Need to Observe for Yourself” to learn more about how to gauge a campus culture.
4. Go at the right time
When I visited the school in Denver, I did not go at the right time. I visited on a summer break, so I did not get to experience classes or campus culture. I knew this would be the case going in, but what I did not realize until I was touring the lifeless halls was just how important visiting during the school year is. Visiting a campus when no students are present is like visiting a dog park when there are no dogs to enjoy – it is pointless! The students make the school. No students, no school. When you plan your campus visit, keep this in mind. If you visit during a break, you only experience the buildings, not the culture. It only gives you a smidgen of information.
The students make the school. No students, no school. When you plan your campus visit, keep this in mind.
5. Prepare questions beforehand and interview college constituents
Before your visit, write as many questions as you need answers. Sure, write questions about your curiosities, but focus on preparing questions that relate to your priorities, your needs, and your expectations. Then, evaluate the answers you receive – are they actually answering your questions? While you are visiting the campus, try to talk to as many professors and students as you can. Ask them what they think of the academics, the student life, and the spiritual aspect of the college. Are these the type of people you want influencing your most transformational years?
6. Have a back-up plan
Do not be like me – my only plan was the school in Denver, and when that failed I was lost. I went back to square one, which later caused me to make an impulsive choice toward another graduate school that did not satisfy me. Having a back-up plan can mean having a back-up college to explore, or it can mean having a back-up program to consider. Disappointment happens. It is just a part of life. The best we can do is to plan for it. Having a back-up plan may save you from disillusionment or discouragement later on.
If you have to go out of town, state, or country to visit a campus then go big! Milk the trip for what you can. See the sights. Visit friends or family. Eat the cuisine. Do what you can afford to do, but have fun while you do it. For me, the trip to Denver would have been a sore and bitter disappointment if I hadn’t made the most of traveling. Soaking up the sights around the campus will also help you to realize whether or not you want to live in that area for the next one to four (or five) years.
Rebecca Hasegawa is a speaker, writer, and professor at Boise Bible College. She has been teaching freshmen writing courses and a few literature courses at BBC since 2014.