★ College Visits are Work!

They can outwardly appear much more fun than they are, and can easily ensnare a poor, unsuspecting student into lackadaisical procrastination (planning-wise). One day a college visit is a passing thought— flashforward second-semester senior year, and the scramble to get to Destination College is on; suddenly there is so much to take into account, like coordinating time off with parents, excused absences, scheduled tours, hotels, and flights.

Don’t get caught in the trap. College visits can be a lot of fun, but they are often much more work than they are given credit for. Visits should be planned at least two weeks in advance, to give parents enough time to maneuver their schedules and enable the student to create a plan for the work that will need to be made up in school.

That being said, it is definitely doable. Marisol Sardina, one of the college counselors here at Miami Country Day, explains, “Typically all students visit colleges before making their final decisions. Those visits always provide the feedback the students need to make their final decision.” Almost all students unanimously agree that visiting their prospective college campuses was an undeniably huge part of their decision-making process. To read about a college on paper is one thing, but to the spend your every waking moment there for four years is an entirely different game.

Echoing Ms. Sardina, even Country Day ex-alum, Gabby Bailey, can speak to the importance of getting a feel for each university specifically. “College visits are important because you’re going to live there for four years, so you have to take everything into account! The environment, the food spots, the types of people, the surrounding city, etc.”, she makes a point to mention the important aspects of college-life that don’t necessarily have anything to do with college: the food, the location, and the student-body makeup.

Seeing a college involves a lot more in-depth analysis than just sitting in on a class, or checking out how many floors the library has. It mostly involves a lot of daydreaming—can I see myself studying here? Do these seem like people I would get along with?

Junior year is a time for exploration, but senior year is a time for decision-making. Where a student might have been purely interested in statistics, admissions rates, and cut-and-dry curriculum information a year ago, now they are interested in what students do on the weekends, and what a typical semester course-load looks like. If research isn’t done beyond the university’s carefully put-together program, students can end up just as unhappy as had they not visited at all.

Graduated student Sydney Jones, Class of 2015, found herself in a similar situation after having to make a last-minute decision and visiting only two schools. “College visits only show you what they want you to see,” she says. “My college visit and expectations were nothing like my now-reality. I think the best indicator of what a college will be like is the blogs and websites that have students rate them.” Making an excellent point, she adds, “Also talking to current students, who share an identity similar to yours.”

Everyone will claim to have a different a-ha moment with their dream colleges, but they rarely ever occur glossing over a few artificial webpage infographics—so close your laptop, stop obsessing over the acceptance rate, and start worrying about pinpointing exactly what you need to thrive.