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How to approach the College Visit

- Elaine

As some of you may already know, Alex, Elise and I took a great trip up to New England to continue the college hunt that has taken over our lives. In this light, I’d like to share some tips that could make your college trip easier and less daunting.

Take a deep breath. Keeping a calm attitude is beneficial to everyone involved in the college search, and staying relaxed helps parents and teenagers communicate  more effectively.

Plan. Make a chart of what schools you are visiting, the available times for their tours and info-sessions, what kind of transportation to use to get to each school, and anything else they may offer (for example, Boston University had a free lunch for prospective students, so we were sure to hop on that offer in order to save money). It just so happens that my mom is a Microsoft Excel fanatic, so she eagerly made spreadsheets and charts to guide us through our days in New England. Alex’s mom Luisa was the driver/adult chaperone on this action-packed trip and she appreciated having all the necessarydetails at her fingertips as we zipped from Boston College to Boston University and Northeastern University all in ONE exhausting day via the Boston “T”!

Bring a notebook and pen. And a camera. Since you can find most of the academic information online, be sure to note the fun, unique things about each school so that you can remember what sets them apart, and which school seems to be more tailored to student life. For example, Boston University has free tutors and paper-editing, which is not exactly a deciding factor, but is definitely something noteworthy. Take pictures so you remember what each school looks like.


The view over the sports fields at Amherst College

 
Wear comfortable shoes. Depending on what schools you visit and the size of the campuses, you are going to do a lot of walking, and often at a very awkward pace between normal-walking and speed-walking, so it may be wise to wear the most supportive shoes you have.

Do your homework. I know this is a forbidden word in these precious summer months, but it is important that you research the schools you plan to visit ahead of time, so you know what you’re dealing with. Also, researching in advance allows you to ask specific questions tailored to your own academic interests so you can skip the introductory stuff of the info sessions and learn something that may be relevant to you.
 

Make friends with your tour guide. Laugh at their awkward, silly jokes. Warn them of the curbs or people or moving cars as they walk backwards. Forgive them when they accidentally curse mid-tour. Ask questions about their academic field and, although their answers may be manipulated to put their school in the best light, remember that no one knows more than the tour guides, who sometimes volunteer to do what they do.

Make friends with strangers. Talk to the students on campus; ask them about the school and why they chose that specific one. The tour guides typically can’t tell you what other schools they applied to, but anyone else can, so take advantage of the opportunity to get names of other schools you may not have heard of that are on the same level as the one you’re visiting. If you’re too shy to approach a student, look at the campus as a whole. Are the students smiling? Do they look like they genuinely enjoy the school they’re at?


Some students in Boston College

Eat out. Explore Ask a student where to find some food, and they’ll typically direct you to a somewhat cheap (!) and delicious restaurant or café teeming with other students. When you go to college you want the whole feel of the campus and the neighborhood, and eating is an important part of that. Also, make sure to check out the city closest to the college, because you’ll probably spend a lot of time there, either interning, working or partying.


It turns out Boston has some great arches to walk through and public places to enjoy


You can also take a lovely walk along the water

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