After visiting a few colleges in Vermont, which included campus tours and interviews in the winter of 1993, my mom talked me into driving by a beautiful campus we hadn’t planned on visiting.
I didn’t want to go. I was tired and didn’t think I’d even like it there, but she insisted on it because we were so close.
After seeing it from the window, I told my her I wanted to get out of the car and walk around to see more. I was falling in love with the old brick buildings in the forefront of rolling green corn fields.
The smell of pancakes and bacon swirled on the air as we walked up the sidewalk past the dining hall. As the students were walking to dinner (a college that serves breakfast for dinner on a cold February evening gets major bonus points if you ask me), everyone smiled and said “hello” to my mom and me.
It wasn’t long before a group of freshmen guys invited us to do a short tour of their dorm and showed us the workout room, cafeteria, and small cafe.
This informal or stealth visit convinced me to submit an application and arrange a more formal visit after I’d been accepted.
Once I was accepted, I went for another visit where I stayed with a student for the night in her room. We had dinner, went to a basketball game, and the next day I sat in two English classes since that was going to be my major.
My mind was made up for the most part after the informal visit and acceptance letter, but after staying for a longer period of time, I really felt at home there. I knew it was my school and I couldn’t wait to go.
Now, here I am 26 years later, getting ready to go on some college visits with my oldest child, who will turn 16 this year.
I’ve since learned a lot more about college visits, although things haven’t changed that much since I went off to school. But I now know there are five types of college visits you can make, including the informal “stealth” visit that changed my life, and the “accepted senior visit” that confirmed my school choice.
It’s definitely a good idea to review these visit options with your teen as they start the process of thinking about their college years. Visits can make all the difference in deciding where you want to attend school.
Obviously, if my son doesn’t like the look and feel on a campus, even if it’s everything he wants on paper, he isn’t going to feel compelled to go there. Furthermore, if he’s on the fence, I’ll definitely encourage him to look a bit further and have a more formal visit that includes a tour.
However, I also know the feeling of thinking you are going to love a school, walking around to explore the campus and talk to staff, and knowing it’s not the right fit. A school must be the right fit because, let’s face it, if you’re living there for four or more years and spending tens of thousands of dollars or more, you should feel connected to it.
I visited three schools that I thought I’d love before stumbling on the one I couldn’t wait to get into. And that wasn’t even in the original plan.
But visiting that campus was a turning point for me. Had my mom not talked me into going to see it, I never would have applied.
Not only can a college visit get your future college students excited about the next phase of their life, they will really get a feel for the environment, culture, diversity, and atmosphere of the school.
A visit is just one step in the college application process, but it’s definitely one of the most important. Who knows where I’d be if my mom didn’t drive by that school in the hills of Vermont? It was definitely a life-changing experience for me because it was the perfect fit.
Need Help with College Planning?
Hi, I’m Brad Baldridge, a college funding specialist and the owner of Taming the High Cost of College.
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