Like many high school seniors, Eileen Hurley is both excited and nervous at the thought of graduation and heading off to college. To find the right schools for her, Hurley and her family are spending time visiting campuses.
Currently, Hurley’s favorite is Syracuse University; the Queensbury, New York, native says she’s drawn to the large school atmosphere. “A big thing for me is the sporting events,” says Hurley, who is also applying to High Point University in North Carolina and Skidmore College. “I would love to be at Syracuse basketball games that are completely sold out. ... And every day you would be able to meet new people.”
Much like with any successful shopping trip, it helps to know what to look for when visiting schools — a daunting task for most high school seniors.
“You have to think, ‘Where will I be the most happy?’” says Suzanne Luse, the founder of College Expert, a college consulting group.
Keep these questions in mind when visiting college campuses, Luse suggests:
Would you do best at a small college or a large university?
“The best way to see if you match up with a school is to go to the information session,” Luse says. “That’s when you will get an idea of the class sizes, what majors they have and do you fit in with the SAT score range and GPA.”
It’s also important to ask yourself what kind of learning environment works best for you. For example, are intimate classrooms more your thing, or do you prefer the impersonal quality of large lecture halls?
Do you see yourself fitting in?
Tours, each led by a current student who is extremely competent at walking backwards, will give you a good idea of the campus scene.
“This happens in most cases during the tour,” Luse says. “Is there a Greek system? Is this a rah-rah campus with sports? Is it more nerdy or preppy? Are these students you would want to spend the next four years with? That’s what the student needs to identify.”
Do you like big cities or small campuses?
“Drive around the area to get a feel for what it’s like,” Luse says. “For students coming from out of state, you have to think about how easy it will be to get there and where the airports are.” Some students love rural settings full of quiet and haystacks, while others thrive in the noise and pace of a city.
Avoid this mistake:
Whatever you do, don’t judge the entire student body by your tour guide. “You might have a tour guide who is having a bad day,” Luse says.
Don’t forget to consider the price tag:
“You have to think about whether your family can afford this college,” Luse says. “This is something parents pay more attention to, but students need to keep this in mind as well.”