Hi. My name’s Karina. I’m a high school junior in Tennessee, and I’m right in the middle of this whole “college search” frenzy. Man it can get exhausting! Thankfully though, I’m in the homestretch (or at least halfway) after taking a college tour of ten colleges and universities. But before I get too ahead of myself, let’s go back to the very beginning…
Searching For A College
I’ve always known that I wanted to go to college. Besides teachers and my parents telling me it’s a good idea, it just seemed like such an adventure that I knew it would be an important part of my life. Growing up, I never really had a dream job or a dream school. Between sports, music, acting, and writing, I liked so many things that I could never imagine picking a singular “goal” occupation. And as for a school, I just didn’t really think about it too much. I’ve always been a University of Arizona fan (my parents’ alma mater), but Arizona’s pretty far away from Tennessee.
So, it wasn’t until my freshman year that I really started thinking about actually searching for a college. It was mostly my mom who pushed me into it. Since I have three siblings, she wanted to start my search early in order to have plenty of time. Most of our college tours came in the form of “on the way” stops: instead of making specific trips to see colleges, we were sure to visit them while we were already traveling to see family, etc. This ended up working really well, since it gave me the opportunity to take everything at a little slower pace.
Visiting Lots Of Schools
At the moment, I’ve visited upwards of ten schools, and I’m only really considering two of them. From the surface, it might seem like I wasted my time visiting so many universities. But visiting those eight schools I ruled out helped me refine what I’m looking for in a college.
Taking a tour at Lee University and Sewanee (both small private universities), made me realize that I’m looking for a little bit bigger of a school. Likewise, visiting Princeton and Duke (both over 500 miles away), revealed that I was looking for someplace a little closer to home. So, don’t be afraid to tour colleges if you’re not 100% interested!
Ask The Same Questions
Another plus of visiting a variety of colleges is learning what questions to ask and what statistics to pay attention to. At the first couple colleges I visited I barely spoke to the tour guide. But as time went along, my confidence grew and I accumulated a set of questions I wanted to ask every college. Here are my top five:
- How academically competitive is the atmosphere?
- What is your freshman retention rate?
- How easy is it to switch majors?
- Do most upperclassmen live off campus?
- Could you describe what the school spirit here?
These are just some of the questions that really speak to me and what I want to know about a school. I think it’s super important to come up with these questions for yourself, especially if they aren’t your typical “FAQ” list-type questions. I’ve found it helpful to keep a notebook as well to jot down questions as they come to me and scribble notes on tours.
Choose The Best Tour Guide (if you have an option)
Also, all of the tours that I’ve been on have been led by current students at that college. They have all been extremely kind and helpful and love it when you ask questions! Every tour leader I’ve had has been very open to giving their perspective on the school, which has been super interesting. It’s much more realistic hearing about a school from a current student than a pamphlet or even an admissions counselor.
At several colleges, I’ve visited, the tour has gone like this: about fifty of us prospective students gather in a big room, where there are two, three, or four tour guides. Each of the tour guides gives a brief introduction about themselves, and we are split up between the guides to go on tours. At first, I would just go on the tour with whichever guide was closest. However, I quickly learned that it was to my advantage to go on the tour with the guide who was most similar to me in interests. That way, I was able to get more of a glimpse into what my life would be like if I attended that school.
This week, I’m touring the last couple of colleges on my list. After that, I’m going to have to look deeper into which schools will give me the best scholarships and offer the best programs. Who knows, I may have to visit some of my top choices again to help narrow my decision. But until then, thanks for hearing part of my story, and I’ll talk to you next time!