The campus visit is one of the top determinants in the college decision and yet, in its current format it falls short of delivering the real information needed to make this far-reaching personal and financial decision. Once you are done laughing at this Funny or Die Honest College Tour video, consider the consequences of ending up in the wrong place while becoming nearly a half million dollars in debt.
College-organized tours predominantly showcase the state-of-the-art facilities, offering a glowing pitch on academics and post-grad job prospects, but don’t provide deeper, honest, and personalized insights. We live in a culture of honest information-sharing. Most people won’t even buy a product off of Amazon without browsing through customer reviews. The college decision is certainly more consequential than online shopping.
The formal tour gives a general sense of the place, and even offers an experience for the entire family to begin preparing for the upcoming departure from home. However, it lacks honest insight into all the material facts and “hidden” issues.
As a student embarking on the college selection process, you are not only a prospective student, but you are also a consumer. As a consumer, you need to have all the facts in hand and carefully weigh the pros and cons of your hundred thousand dollar, four-year investment.
While the traditional college tour is helpful in allowing you to dip your toes in the water of campus life, it’s important and necessary to take your admissions process a step further. How can you make the best out of your college search? Here are some suggestions to consider while embarking on the process.
Connect with current students who don’t represent the interest of the university
As a prospective student and consumer, you want to seek out current students’ views on their university—the good and the bad. Having an intimate, one-on-one conversation with a student who doesn’t represent the university will allow you to gain insight into conflicts and challenges you wouldn’t hear about on university-given tours.
There are a myriad of resources for precisely this, including Campus Rebels, a marketplace that matches and connects prospective students with current or recently graduated college students for personalized and frank campus tours, and informal online information sessions. Through these prospective student to current student conversations, you can learn about material information that may be unavailable through a formal tour, such as: what’s really happening in the classrooms, the quality of professors, real attitudes of administration towards students and their concerns, true hiring stats, quality of social lives, and other critical social and academic information. As an added benefit, you can schedule the tours in a way most convenient to your schedule. Through these intimate sessions, you have a jump start in networking before you have even gotten to college.
More personalized tours allow you to be paired up with a college student with similar academic pursuits, ethnic background, religion, and extra-curriculars. If you went to a small Catholic school in the Midwest, you are most likely not going to relate to a college student who attended a large public school in an urban area. By being matched with a student of similar interests, you can better assess how well a school is going to help you progress in life as an individual.
Connect from home
Planning a college visit can be difficult to coordinate, both logistically and financially. If you can’t visit a school’s campus in person, seek other ways to reach out to current students. Companies like College Confidential allow you to participate in public forums and create or contribute to threads involving topics like essay-writing help or degree decisions. Feeling nervous about dorm life? Want to hear from current students at your top choice school, studying your intended major? These forums provide the opportunity to ask an expanse of broad or detailed questions through different topic threads.
From a consumer perspective, it’s integral that you hear from every angle of the college you’re considering. After actively reaching out to current students, you can take your research a step further by gathering your own statistics to round out the search process from home. Ranking and review site Niche.com has a “Best Colleges” section that gives you the chance to sift through honest reviews about specific colleges. These reviews from current students, alumni, and employees allow you to customize your search through an algorithm of preferences, including religious affiliation, student body size, and SAT score value.
By utilizing the resources available to you such as going on a private tour, connecting with current students, and finding frank reviews, you can customize your college search and sweep past admissions stats that can easily be Googled. This more personalized approach will not only bring you one step closer to your future college, but will pivot you forward as an informed consumer ready to make your four-year academic investment.
If you’d like to get more information on other college topics, check out the other blogs College Basics has to offer.