College Diaries: Visiting universities


Hannah O’Leary , senior, shares her input and knowledge about visiting colleges and college selection criteria.

The beginning of a new school marks a time for growth and learning. As thousands of kids march through the hallways, accompanied by mechanical pencils with their erasers still attached and sparkling white high-top Converse, there is an underlying current of stress among a certain group of students: the seniors. It should be our year, where we reign over the school and assure that this will, indeed, be the best year yet. However, everyone forgot to mention, though, that there is one small thing that most seniors must do before they can coast through their senior year: apply to college.

Oh, yeah, that one small thing. That everyone claims will predict the rest of our lives. So follow me as I navigate the world of college applications, freak out over deadlines and look to my future.

I have a confession: I’ve been procrastinating. I have not made a single inch of progress on any of my college applications. Why is this a problem? Because they’re due in two weeks. That’s right, all six essays are due in the next two weeks, and I have yet to start a single one. The only writing that I have done to date is the mini-essays required by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities application.

Looking back, I probably should have started completing these essays earlier, but that’s what I always say. Hindsight is 20/20. I feel even worse about myself when I see some of my friends who have already been accepted into college and are good to go. Meanwhile, I’m over here trying to ignore the fact that I am not going to meet any of my deadlines on time.

Since I have no progress report this week, I have decided to take this post in a different direction: visiting campus. When you attend an information session for any specific school, the first thing the admissions officer asks is Have you been to campus before? With my handy-dandy guide to campus visits, you will be able to say Why yes, yes I have.

The most important thing that I have to say about visiting colleges is do it. I learned a lot about what I like in a school and what I don’t by visiting different types of schools. For example, when I visited the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, I found that I love urban schools. When I saw Southern Methodist University, I saw that I liked mid-sized schools better, though I do not have a strong preference towards the size of the school.

Personally, visiting a school can make or break a school, as it should. If you cannot picture yourself there, then it’s probably not the right school for you. I have talked to multiple people who have visited a large, well-known state school. Some leave the school and have it as their number one, while others hate it and have taken it off of their list.

I have made a list of the most important factors that I look for on a college visit:

  1. Location
    1. I like urban schools, and this is probably the most important factor for me.
  2. School Size
    1. I like either midsize or large schools
  3. School Spirit
    1. I tend to lean towards schools with lots of school spirit, including large sports programs
  4. Campus Layout
    1. Whether the school is compact in size or very spread out, I have to like the buildings and look of the campus
  5. Greek Life
    1. For those who like it, make sure that the school that you are looking at has what you want, whether that be no Greek life or lots of it
  6. Amenities
    1. If you like things like the library, dorms and Starbucks, make sure that the school has everything that you are going to need

Some of these things may be deal-breakers, and others may not be. For me, a bad location is a deal-breaker. On the other hand, the school size is not a huge factor for me. Whether the school has 8,000 students or 50,000 students, the size is not a big factor for me.

P.S. Standardized test and transcript request forms are due today.