Oh, man! There’s so many colleges and so little time! I have a math test tomorrow, I have to drive my little sister to school, my mom is making me mow the lawn/shovel the driveway depending on the time of year, and I still don’t know where I’m going to college!
If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Take a deep breath, easy does it, now exhale. Of course, picking the right college may be stressful at times, but us admissions counselors are constantly trying to make it easier on you. Our job is to lighten your load, and though we can’t take that math test for you tomorrow, we can at least make your college application process a little less strenuous.
See, picking a college is like picking a new home; it’s where you’ll spend the majority of your time for the next four years, make some of your closest friends, and discover your passions both socially and academically. So you really don’t want to mess that up, it’s kind of a big deal. And with so many options, how can one possibly find the ‘right fit’?
Well, for starts, we come to you. There are two ways you can make it easier on you before even stepping foot on a college campus for a visit: by taking advantage of college fairs and high school visits.
1. College Fairs
College fairs are events held by your high school (or by a high school in your area) where students come to be exposed to a plethora of colleges and universities. Typically, there will be universities represented from all over the state and the surrounding states eager to meet you and learn about your passions and interests.
This is a time to really test the waters. You have the chance to meet admissions counselors and learn about the school that they represent. It is a time to pick up literature on the particular school, and also sign up to be on their mailing list. You can inquire about different academic or athletic programs, the demographics of the university, social clubs and organizations, and really whatever else comes to mind.
College fairs are great for students who want to be exposed to many colleges and get a basic grasp for the different types of institutions and experiences one may have at an undergraduate level. It’s also a time to make that first connection with a college or university that peaks your interest.
2. College Visits
High School visits are set up by individual schools. They contact the guidance office, and through them, advertise their visit to your particular high school. You can sign up ahead of time to meet with the admission counselor that represents the college.
These meetings can be anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. Often times you can get out of class or a study hall to attend these affairs. Sometimes they even come at lunch, so as to not conflict with your academic schedule.
These visits are sometimes more individualized than college fairs. They give you a chance to sit one-on-one with a representative of a university, and really dive into the life of a college student. Though it may not be just you in the meeting, chances are it will be a smaller group than a college fair. Discussion is encouraged, and specific questions can be more easily answered.
If you’ve heard about a university at a college fair, or just in general, high school visits are great for making that next step and getting some questions answered at a more focused level. If it feels like the right fit, many students go on to visit the campus and/or start the application process for that particular institution.
At the end of the day, choosing a college is about finding the right fit. Does it have your major, your sport, are there extracurricular activities and clubs, do you see yourself here for four years, will you grow as a student and as an individual? College fairs and high school visits give you a good base for understanding a specific university and its students. It helps you see through the fog, and allows you to take the next step.
Whether it be a visit or a fair, these events allow you to connect first-hand with your admissions counselor and better understand both the university and the admissions process.
-Brandon Pytel, Admissions Counselor