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I Visited 20+ Colleges – Here’s What I Learned

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

In the foreground is a small body of water. In the background is a large school building. The walls are all glass windows, and the building seems to have three main wings that jut out.

Summer is the perfect time to check some college visits off your list. Figuring out which schools to visit along with the entire college application process can be stressful. I know it definitely was for me.

I’m Catherine, an incoming second-year at Northwestern University, and I visited over twenty schools (some of them twice).

In this article, I want to share some of my biggest takeaways from my experience so you don’t have to put yourself through as much stress as I did!

Do Your Research

I’ll start with one of my biggest tips, which is to do as much research and planning as you can before you visit a school.

With further research, you might rule out a school on your list without even having to visit. For example, it may not have the exact major you’re looking for or it might be too big or small.

There are also a million things to consider besides academics – location, campus culture, size, research opportunities, and much more that will affect your decision. Before visiting, consider all these factors and determine whether any of them is a dealbreaker for you.

If there’s something about the school you can’t overlook from that quantitative and qualitative data, then it might not even be worth visiting.

On the flip side, if you’re in the area visiting another school and it’s not too much extra effort to visit, why not take a look? A few of the schools I thought I wouldn’t like turned out to be my favorites. I thought I would dislike Northwestern, but I ended up getting in early decision!

How To Get Organized For College Visits

Ask Questions

Next, I also learned that every school you tour will try to sell you about how “quirky” and “different” it is from every other school. After hearing this same spiel for what felt like a million times, I came to realize that most schools are similar in many aspects. No school is that unique.

My biggest piece of advice is to ask your tour guide why they personally chose that school. I did this at every school I visited, and I’d always get a succinct snapshot of the best aspects of their school and how it is on a day-to-day basis.

A tour guide’s job is to show you around and give you interesting facts about their school, but by directly asking them how they personally feel, it can give you a better look into the reality of being a student there.

I usually received genuine, heartfelt answers, and it’s a huge green flag if their answer resonates with you and what you’re looking for.

After being at a school for a few minutes, I tended to get a gut feeling about whether I would like the school or not, and almost every single time, it ended up being correct.

A school could have the most amazing program for my intended major, but if it didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel right. Every school has a different vibe, and sometimes whether you match it or not becomes more important than the specific aspects that school has to offer. Always go with your gut!

However, if you’re having trouble finding that sense of intuition about a place, ask yourself this: Would I be comfortable calling this my home? Does the student body around campus seem like one I would fit in naturally with? Questions like this can help you determine if a place is right for you.

Keep A Healthy Mindset

My final piece of advice is to not get your heart set on one specific school! It can be easy to fixate on a “dream school” as you tour, but sadly, you’re not the one who ultimately decides where you are accepted.

After visiting Northwestern, I knew it was my “dream school,” but I refused to let myself obsess over it. What helped me keep a better mindset was reminding myself that everything happens for a reason and that I loved other schools I could see myself being happy at.

The admissions officers tend to understand what types of students do well at their school, so maybe they see something about you that tells them you might be a better fit somewhere else.

Keeping a healthy mindset and perspective will prevent you from being overly dejected if you don’t get into your top school, or even your top few choices. Maybe your safety school is really the best place for you, and there’s absolutely no shame in that.

 

I hope this helps your college search and visit process be less stressful than mine was! Good luck, stay positive. and happy hunting.

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