How Campus Visits Helped Me Pick the Right College
In high school, the one thing that is the most glamorized yet fearful is one’s next adventure, looming right around the corner: college.
Whether it’s taking AP exams, deciding on extracurricular activities, setting up your course schedule, or hoping that you pass your SAT or ACT exams with flying colors – there is one thing that your teachers, advisors, and coaches are always stressing:
“You have to do well on this for your college applications.”
But amidst all this pressure of how to get admitted into the college you want to attend and the place you will call your home for the next four years of your life, how do you figure out WHERE that seemingly magical abode is?
The one way I was able to figure this out was by means of a college visit.
What exactly is a college visit and what does it entail?
Colleges have set days where they provide campus tours and in some cases let you sit in on an ongoing class to gain a better understanding of what it is like to be a student at that particular institution.
They have student ambassadors available at your beck and call to best answer your questions about dorms, meals, commuting, the college experience, parties, Greek life, classes, you name it!
Being able to just visit a campus location on its own can provide you with so much additional perspective and insight on what it is like to be a part of the community within that specific institution.
As a first generation college student, I had very little guidance when it came to the college application process. I didn’t even think I had a chance at getting accepted into an out of state college, much less being able to afford the tuition and dorm costs of one.
When I decided to apply to college, I tried to keep costs at the forefront of my mind. I focused on applying to schools that were in state and seemingly close enough to my residence so that commuting would be a possibility for me.
Due to the proximity of the institutions, I was able to visit each one, which really facilitated my decision to choose the right school for me, one that truly felt like a second home.
I applied to and visited the following 5 campuses:
I loved the Middlesex County College campus, and this was one of the schools I had narrowed down my decision to due to affordability and proximity to my home.
The campus was clean and open. All the buildings were easy to navigate and the facilities were quite nice. The bathrooms were clean and the advisors I met with were friendly and courteous.
Overall, I loved the ambiance on campus and thought it felt like a comfortable place to spend the next two years after high school. Fun fact: the college I ultimately ended up attending had a program through my major where I was able to attend some of my university courses on the Middlesex County campus rather than having to commute all the way to the university’s main campus.
This option of flexibility ended up being a life saver as it allowed me to save time and money on commute and travel expenses, while also allowing me to enjoy the beautiful campus facilities that Middlesex County College had to offer.
When I was in middle school, I was able to apply to and get selected for a program that allowed me the opportunity to attend a Rutgers University summer session course for biochemistry. It was a research course and a great experience and opportunity to learn more about the Green Fluorescent Protein found in jellyfish and in some bacterias.
This experience created a soft spot in my heart for Rutgers University, and to some degree I will always be a Scarlet Knight. I really wanted to attend Rutgers due to its proximity to my home, and it is a prestigious 4 year university that was comparable to Ivy League institutions.
I was able to tour the various locations that made up the Rutgers New Brunswick campus and was in awe of how large it was. It truly felt like a mini city on its own.
I felt like it was a pretty university with so many cool features such as its own movie theater where students can get reduced price movie tickets (as low as $5) and with various places to hang out with friends and grab food on campus.
During my tour, it felt homey and a great place to grow as a person; however, I could not afford the out of pocket costs for tuition which led me to explore other options.
New Jersey Institute of Technology offered me a great financial aid package with a merit based scholarship that covered a lot of my tuition costs and I had an informative tour which included a session with the Dean of the school I wanted to attend – the Ying Wu College of Computing.
As an incoming freshman, I wanted to pursue computer science, and NJIT was ranked quite highly for their research and computer science education opportunities. Currently, I am a professor for the Information Technology Department at NJIT and I absolutely love the community that NJIT affords.
When I visited the NJIT campus, one of the things I found to be most helpful was the feedback from current students regarding the courses they were taking and the topic of class sizes. NJIT is proud of their small class sizes and how that affords students the ability to connect more with their professors and peers.
This is something that prior to my college visit I had not considered, and it made me realize that I would want to be in an institution where I could have more opportunities to connect with my professors to ensure that I was able to grasp all the material I needed to succeed.
Bloomfield College was one of two colleges that provided me with a full tuition scholarship and Honors College acceptance. I actually visited Bloomfield College twice with my parents when attempting to make my decision due to the amazing financial aid package they provided me with.
When applying to Bloomfield College, I was able to meet with college admissions officers for an onsite decision day at my high school. Two admissions representatives came to my high school and I was able to answer a few questions as to why I thought the university was a good fit for me, after which they elaborated more on their Computer Science program and the campus culture.
When visiting the college, I thought it was quaint, which was nice, but I thought it was a bit too far for me to commute too and a bit harder to get to by public transportation from where I lived, which is what ultimately led to my decision to not attend.
Last but not least, the last college I applied to via an onsite decision day at my high school, which also offered me Honors College acceptance and a full tuition scholarship, was New Jersey City University.
When I visited the New Jersey City University campus, I instantly felt like I was at home, and I loved the atmosphere and sense of community and diversity that was exemplified through the student population on campus. The campus was small and promoted small class sizes alongside being accessible through public transportation.
It felt like the perfect place to grow as a person while also being able to challenge myself to start a new chapter in my life. I was also able to connect with the Trio Learning Community on campus which helped me throughout my college experience at NJCU.
The TLC community helped me with an on campus job and mentorship opportunities through the TLC campus director and my TLC peers. I felt supported and genuinely the most happy I had ever been, like I was in a place designed for me to thrive and excel in life.
I am so proud to have been a Gothic Knight and having had the opportunity to graduate from NJCU within 2.5 years with a major and minor under my belt in fields that I thoroughly enjoyed learning about.
I believe that my college visits helped me understand what it meant when others had told me that I would just know which college was meant for me. I truly believed that the feeling of just knowing felt too good to be true, almost like a fairy tale, but being able to visit college campuses and being able to interact with current students made the experience so much more enjoyable and real.
It made me realize that being able to visualize where you feel like you can belong is thoroughly important to planning one of the most important chapters of your life: college.
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