Graphic By William Gangnath
Planning for college is one of the most exciting and overwhelming parts of high school, and while students put in ample time and effort into researching and applying to schools, they often neglect one of the most critical parts of the process: visiting the colleges they are considering.
Seniors frequently hear their peers talk about the lackluster effort they have put into researching college. Often they apathetically say that they have yet to visit schools and will only do so after they receive their acceptances. However, 37.2 percent of college students transfer at least once, according to a 2015 study conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. If students spent more time learning about their college options, perhaps this percentage would be significantly lower.
Despite the fact that upperclassmen are allotted five excused days for college visits, students often do not take advantage of this opportunity.
“Personally, I think they go unused,” attendance secretary Mary Norfolk said. “Very few students give me notes saying they were out due to a college visit.”
The best way to know what kind of school is perfect is to take advantage of those days and experience a physical visit to a campus. Perhaps more importantly, students need to visit numerous schools so they have points of comparison to really determine which is the best fit.
Visiting when classes are in session is a good way to guarantee that prospective students will be able to get the most accurate idea of what student life is like, according to a June 2015 article in Time Magazine. Admitted students days and open houses are informative at minimum but are unlikely to provide the most helpful version of daily life at school. But the problem is many students don’t even meet this minimum requirement.
In addition, visiting a school before applying has other benefits when it comes to admissions. When prospective students sign up and take a tour, the school makes a note of this to show that the student has demonstrated interest, according a Dec. 2015 article on prepscholar.com. For some schools, this can give the applicant an advantage over those who have not visited.
In an April, 2017 article in the New York Times, psychologist Erica Reischer argued that students should not visit colleges because of the biases we may encounter during the visits. She claims that if while taking a tour we see a group of college students who appear to be having a good time, we are likely to think that we will have a good time too. If it is rainy during the tour or the tour guide is not competent, we will think poorly of the school.
This advice grossly oversimplifies the decision making process. Recognizing possible biases is a significant part of decision making. But students need to see if the campus size fits their needs, if the dorms are acceptable and if different department programs appeal to their interests l. The best way to do this is by experiencing the campus in person.
Seniors are about to spend four or more years of their life at a college, and if they want to enjoy their experience, they have to put in the work and do their research.