How to Make the Most of a College Visit
Some students know that they belong at a particular college the moment they step on campus. They describe something intangible, a special atmosphere or a gut feeling that tells them they have found their next home. For a high school student who is stressed about the looming future, that is a lot of pressure to put on one visit, so from someone in the same position, here is how to make the best of a college tour.
Schedule a visit that matches your interests.
College tours are available most days of the school year and during the summer, but just because a day is available does not mean it is the best day to visit. Colleges often plan special visit days, like seasonal open houses, throughout the year. A normal visit typically includes a tour and basic admissions information, but special visit days may offer expanded opportunities like additional information sessions, a student panel, or an activities fair. Other visit days may be designed for specific departments, like a College of Life Sciences day with tours of the labs and details about the biology curriculum. Choose the type of visit that will provide the most information about the school and your specific interests.
Talk to your tour guide.
“Please come up and ask me questions. It gets lonely up at the front,” joked Bayley, my Boston University tour guide. Guides are there to answer your questions, and as students, they can offer insight that the website cannot. How hard is a typical course load? How accessible are the professors? What do students do for fun? Their experiences provide a snapshot of life at the school. Hearing why your guide chose their college, what activities they are involved in on campus, and how they have taken advantage of the school’s opportunities can help you start to envision what your life could look like there.
In contrast, the student newspaper is happy to celebrate the school’s accomplishments, but it will be frank about its shortcomings as well.
— Allison MacLeod
Eat like a student.
After an hour-long walking tour, a meal is exactly what you need. Lunch in the dining hall or an on-campus restaurant is more than a chance to try the food, though. It is also an opportunity during your busy visit to sit and reflect. Discuss with family or friends what you like or do not like about the school so far. In addition, these centers of activity give you another window into student life. See how students are spending their time between classes, read the flyers for campus clubs and events, and consider if you could see yourself as a member of this community. Before lunch, ask your tour guide for any rules or recommendations. Schools may not let visitors eat in the dining halls, especially if it is not a special visit day, but visitors are often welcome at restaurants in the student union, or your tour guide can suggest popular off-campus eateries.
Pick up a student newspaper.
Most of the information you receive in the college search process is filtered, from mailings featuring the prettiest spot on campus to scripted admissions presentations. Even the student tour guides are trained and tested. In contrast, the student newspaper is happy to celebrate the school’s accomplishments, but it will be frank about its shortcomings as well. Are some of the dorms in desperate need of repair? Does the school lack mental health resources? Is Greek life regarded as a strong community or under scrutiny for hazing charges? Pick up a copy before you leave to get a glimpse of the good and the bad currently happening on campus.
Touring schools is an important part of the college application process, but it is not the only way to gather information. After visiting, continue to learn more about the school using online resources. For example, if your tour guide is assisting in research that fascinates you, read more about undergraduate research opportunities and that specific project on the school’s website. For that less-filtered perspective, find the student newspaper’s website, and search for other student-produced content online like a current student’s YouTube channel where they share their perspective of the school.
Best of luck in the college search process!
From Freshman Year to Now
In April of 2015, Marissa Golden, Jack Maguire, Dylan Gately, and Reece Klein had almost completed their first year of high school when they sat down for a Green Wave Gazette interview. The article, “Freshman Year: tough but worth it,” shared their thoughts about transitioning from middle school to high school.
Now well into their senior year, having achieved a variety of accomplishments as student-athletes, such as representing Abington at the MIAA Girls and Women in Sports Day, being chosen as SSL All Stars (lacrosse, football, and soccer), performing in plays and at open mic, serving in roles of class government, and/or being members of the National Honor Society, they share their thoughts as they prepare to wrap up high school.
What has changed the most from freshman year to now as seniors?
Marissa Golden: From freshman year to now I have stopped caring so much about what people think of me and have focused more on making memories and having fun with my friends.
Jack Maguire: Freshman year to now I have focused on making great memories with my friends and building strong relationships with the people around me.
Dylan Gately: Since freshman year, I have learned that trying to blend in is a lot more boring than standing out. It was a lot more difficult to be an individual as a 14-year-old walking into a new school, but these past four years have really helped me branch out and try new things.
Reece Klein: From freshman year to now I started to care less about self-image and started to be more comfortable with myself. Switching from jeans to sweatpants was the best decision I’ve ever made.
What accomplishment are you most proud of over your four years here?
Golden: I am most proud of working hard to push myself in both my academics and athletics.
Maguire: I am most proud of balancing my time inside and outside school, between studies, work, and sports, while still having a strong friend group.
Gately: My proudest accomplishment thus far in high school is remaining Vice President of my class throughout four tough class elections.
Klein: My biggest accomplishment was becoming a member of National Honor Society.
As seniors, how has the transition to the new high school felt?
Golden: Transitioning into a new high school was an exciting and a refreshing way to go into my senior year. Senior year has made me cherish the events and time with my friends and go into everything with a positive attitude.
Maguire: The transition into high school has been exciting. Having been in both schools, it is easy to see how much improvement has been made to our learning environment, like the new technology we are using that we did not have access to in the old school.
Gately: Starting senior year in a new school was kind of like a baby bird learning to fly. You have no clue what’s going on until one day BOOM, you’re flapping your wings like it’s nobody’s beeswax.
Klein: Transitioning into the new high school was definitely exciting and a nice change. I am glad I got to experience it for my senior year and I’m excited to be in the first graduating class of the new school.
Do you have any advice for current and future freshman based on your high school experience?
Golden: I encourage freshmen to try new things and go out of their comfort zone. You will be surprised by the people you’ll meet and the activities you never thought you would love.
Maguire: I encourage freshman to develop strong relationships with their teachers as they have the most advice for life during and after high school that can benefit you. Also, don’t have any regrets in these four short years and try things outside of your comfort zone.
Gately: My advice for newbies at the high school would be to stop caring about your appearance so much and start focusing on things you love most. Life’s too short.
Klein: I would advise freshman not to take every moment for granted. Time flies faster than you think and soon enough all your firsts turn into lasts. Make memories so you can take them with you at graduation.
What are your plans after high school?
Golden: I plan to go to college and become a speech pathologist in either a school or hospital. I feel that high school has prepared me for college and I am ready to see what the future has in store for me!
Maguire: I plan on attending college while playing football and earning a degree in business management, as well as going on to law school after graduating college.
Gately: My plan after high school is to get my degree in Special Education, then eventually move up to New York to start my career.
Klein: I plan on attending college and majoring in business economics. I am definitely excited for the future and hopefully prepared enough for it.
The College Application Survival Kit
If you’re a junior or a senior, I can probably guess what you are thinking right now. You are most likely spending your time filling out applications, looking for scholarships, or planning college days to visit the school of your dreams. While all of this is exciting, it can be extremely stressful as well. The cost of applying to college alone is enough to wipe out a student’s motivation, but don’t fret. There are plenty of things you can do to take your mind off the taxing application process, so you can make your last high school years memorable.
If you are not involved in a sport or club already, you should definitely think about joining one, especially if you are feeling the pressure of choosing a school. Sitting at home all day after school, before you go to work or do homework, will add to your stress, and makes for an unhealthy mindset. Having a club or sport to let out your energy will give you a break from the stress and might even help you decide, based on your passions, which school to choose. It will also give you the opportunity to talk about the application process with people who are going through the same thing, which you will probably find comforting.
Having a fun social life, that doesn’t make you afraid of the future, should be a top priority.
— Caroline Bradbury
If all else fails, turn to music. Silence is usually just an excuse to worry about college, and having a great playlist can motivate you to get work done, or simply empower you to think positively. Spotify has great music for studying or even meditating. You can choose from all types of music from “pump up” to peaceful instrumentals.
Regardless of the type of music you fancy, it’s very important to take time to listen and calm your mind down. This may even lead to you becoming passionate about a certain band or artist, which definitely can take your mind off of this stressful time. So many people use music as an escape, but it can also motivate you to conquer the world.
It’s also important to have events to look forward to. Instead of hanging out in your friends’ living rooms like you usually do, get a group together and do something different. You have to remember that even though you are almost an adult, your time to be a teenager is still here.
There are so many exciting things to do in or around the city of Boston, and it’s only a short train ride away. You could go see a play, go shopping on Newbury St., or go to a concert at the House of Blues. If you want to stay local, plan a game night or drive around singing along with friends in the car. Anything is better than watching movies or having everyone sit on their phones the entire time. Having fun events to look forward to really takes the stress out of your year and will motivate you to be successful in school.
It’s also helpful if you step out of your comfort zone and hang out with new friends. Your original friend group may get stuck talking about what schools they are applying to; it might be beneficial to take a break from that conversation and talk to people that won’t stress you out. It’s extremely important to put yourself and your positive mentality first. Having a fun social life, that doesn’t make you afraid of the future, should be a top priority.
The most important aspect of this process is to remember that getting a rejection is not the end of the world. Getting rejected does not mean you are not good enough, it means that thousands of people apply to certain colleges every year, and only a handful of those applicants can be accepted even if they are all equivalent in the school’s eyes. Knowing this alleviates a lot of stress and makes it easier to have a clear mental space. There is a school for everyone and a spot for everyone that wants to get a higher education, so don’t waste time stressing over failure. It simply won’t happen.
If you don’t know what you want to major in, that’s okay. There is a major for everyone and a path for everyone. You have to be patient and open yourself up to all possibilities; your future will become clear to you.
So don’t spend all of your time worrying about the future, live in the present. Even though high school might not be your favorite experience, you only get to experience it once. One day you’ll look back and wish you spent less time stressing and more time living. So put down your SAT prep books; stop refreshing your email looking for admissions letters, and start taking some time for yourself. Graduation will be here before you know it, and so will your bright future.
Caroline Bradbury is in the class of 2016 and has been on the newspaper staff since her freshman year. She has written several articles about her experience...