College visiting is like channel surfing. You look at lots of options in a short span of time, and you’ll need to see some of what you don’t like before you can settle on what you want to watch.
That’s irreverent, of course, but I’ve found truth in this analogy. During the summer months, many rising seniors and their indefatigable families will travel to college campuses around the country where they will attend an information session or an interview (one hour, maximum), followed by a campus tour (another hour, maybe a bit longer for a sprawling campus). Hopefully, no one gets stuck at the back of an enormous tour group with a soft-spoken guide or (worse yet!), huddled under an umbrella while a summer thunderstorm inexorably and negatively colors one’s view of what was previously a top choice institution. After a relatively brief experience, it’s back in the car to drive on to the next stop where the process is repeated.
As a mother of college applicants (three), I’ve probably visited more than thirty campuses. While the quality of the visits varied, I found in all cases that some research in advance of the visit was very valuable. Also, making notes immediately after the visit. I’ve always been a fan of the traditional composition notebook, but notes on the smartphone work just as well. In addition to marking down facts about the institution, it’s helpful to note how the campus “feels” to you: friendly, busy, isolated, peaceful. Remember that the tour guide may or may not be just like the student who will sit next to you in class or sleep in the bed on the other side of your dorm room. Your visit is a snapshot of this particular campus on this individual day, but it’s an important one.
So get out there and visit! Do your homework, set some parameters, and visit as many campuses as you reasonably are able, bearing in mind that while your time on campus may be brief, it gives you a taste, a sampling, a snapshot of the institution. If you come away intrigued or wanting more, return to sit in on a class or stay overnight. Remember to make your notes, listen to your gut and keep an open mind. I invite you to visit us at the Olin College Office of Admission. Come hear about our innovative, project-based curriculum. Ask questions of our Admission staff and our students. We are eager to meet you!