Guest post by Isabella Luaces. Isabella is senior at Denison University.
For some people, it only takes seconds for them to decide which school is right for them. A lot of my friends at Denison tell me that the minute they stepped on campus, they knew it was the right place for them. To them, it just felt “right.”
However, this is not how the decision process works for everyone. I never had a gut feeling about which school was right; instead, I gradually realized which school was right for me through the information I gained and the experiences I had during my on-campus visits. Taking a campus tour may or may not give you a great first impression. It’s what you do in addition to the campus tour that will really help you make the right decision.
In the spring of my senior year I spent an entire day at Denison taking classes and talking to students and professors, and by then end of my visit I knew I could see myself going there. Below are just a few of the ways you can gain some in-depth knowledge during your time on campus.
1. Talk to students. No one knows the school better than the students that attend it. Many admission offices will help connect you with students who have similar interests as you so that you can meet them and talk to them. I had a strong interest in being involved with an organization called YoungLife in college, and I was able to talk to students at various schools who could tell me what that organization was like on their campus. Find the Right College has a great blog post with questions to ask current students to get to know the school you’re visiting.
2. Sit in on a class. Try to sit in on at least one class during your time on-campus. Most schools allow this but it may not be widely promoted so you may have to ask for the opportunity. It is important to find the learning setting that is right for you because so much of your time will be spent in the classroom. Sitting in on a class can help you see how big or small classes are, whether they are lecture-based or discussion-based, and how much students interact in the classroom. When I sat in on a class at Denison, I loved how small it was and how heavy the discussion was, and that really sold me on wanting to go there.
3. Meet with the head of your academic departments of interest. As a senior in high school, I was interested in being an International Studies major. During my visit to Denison, I sat down with the professor who ran the department, and she gave me a great snapshot of what it would be like to be an International Studies major on campus. I was able to see a list of courses and learn about the different events the department was hosting for the semester. Even if you are undecided, this can still be helpful. Look at the majors the school offers and connect with two or three of the departments that sound the most interesting to you.
4. Go for an overnight. All of the things listed above are best supplemented by staying the night in a dorm with a current student. As a senior I only did one overnight visit but it was worthwhile. I ate in the dining hall, saw what students did after classes ended, and had the opportunity to ask a current student unlimited questions about their experiences at the school. The entire trip gave me a lot of insight, and by the end of my trip I knew that the school was not right for me.
These are only a few suggestions, and every college will offer different things that you can experience as a prospective student. Some opportunities are widely available (like taking the campus tour) but others may take some inquiring (like arranging an overnight visit). So don’t be afraid to ask your prospective schools for extra information! Making the most of your time during on-campus visits will help you make a confident and informed decision about your future school!
Nicole has dedicated the entirety of her 20 year career to encouraging higher education opportunities. After graduating from Vanderbilt, she worked in her alma mater’s admissions office. The, she completed her PhD in Counseling so she could bring that expertise into college counseling. Nicole partnered with her former Vanderbilt colleague, Fitz Totten, to form Find The Right College and support their mission to make trustworthy advising more accessible.