Visit Schools Before Deciding
College Success Series: The third Monday of every month, we offer college success tips that will not only get you better grades in less time, but will also help you get your money’s worth in school.You probably shouldn’t commit to attending a specific college or grad school until you’ve visited it at different points in the school year.
This poses a huge structural problem: nobody who goes to high school or college has the time (not to mention money) to visit every college that interests them two or more times during the school year. (Summer visits don’t count because what you’ll see bears no resemblance to what life will be like on campus during the academic year.)
If I hadn’t visited Stanford a second time – during their Prospective Freshman weekend, in which I got to stay overnight in the dorms and meet a sophomore who had once poured Tiger Woods a beer at a party – I never would have known that I wouldn’t feel comfortable among its students.
If my wife hadn’t taken time off from her full-time job in California to make a trip to DC to visit the three grad schools she was considering in the area, she wouldn’t have made the great impression on the George Washington University faculty that got her the sweet scholarship/work/research deal awarded to 5% of the students.
But what if visiting isn’t feasible? Take virtual reality tours of the campuses that interest you, or settle for a thorough hike around the campus using Google street view. Then, use as many social networks as you can, both online in real life, to get in touch with friends, or friends of friends, and schedule a video call with them. The more similar their background is to yours, the more valuable their perspective is to your decision-making process.
Check the average high and low temperatures for every month that you’re going to be living there, and think about where you’re liable to end up after you graduate. If you plan to stay in the area of your new school, make sure there are jobs there at which you can earn enough money to pay rent in that town, or, worse, pay back your student loans!