Thursday, January 10, 2013

Top 5 Questions College Visit Questions

Happy Thursday everyone!!

This week is the last week of winter break, so for me, it's been dedicated to preparation for the spring semester!! From buying books, picking up some delicious snacks during those hungry study breaks, packing up some warm snuggly sweaters and snow boots, and of course an Alex main staple, pink boxes of tissues, I've definitely been trying to get ready for the winter months ahead. Most of all, I cannot wait to be getting back into the swing of things and see my amazing SMC friends!!

Since this is the time when many of you are applying or hearing back from colleges, I wanted to talk to my wonderful readers about questions you should be asking yourself during your college visits. Now, I know I could be saying things like, "What are the academics like? Dorms? Health Services?" etc. which are all very extremely important questions to be asking, but sometimes, it comes down to something different when making that final decision.

When I was going on my college visits, I was told a million times by people, "Take a journal, because once you go on a couple of visits, all your schools blend into one and you can't figure out which had which." I definitely found this true for me. Tours, in my opinion, are really one of your strongest selling points of a school, but when a lot of the same things are said (academics, library hours, sports division) you can tend to forget which school had those things. I actually ended up bringing my camera along and recorded video diaries in my car before (what I was looking forward to, the time it took to get there, what special programs the college offered I would be interested in etc.) and after each visit. What I focused on greatly was answering these questions which I thought would have an impact on where I eventually chose to call home for the next four years:
Me during my 1st visit at SMC (staying at the Doubletree Hotel)... 4 years ago ahhh!! 

1) What do you want in a campus?
One of the best parts of the college search is having the chance to take those tours around campus. You get to step into the shoes of a current student for the day, going to the same places and of course, getting the chance to meet a current student tour guide!! This is the chance to narrow down what you want in a campus. Do you want a college near or in a big city or maybe more suburban or rural? Do you want a residential college (like SMC, where 99% of students live on campus because of 4 year guaranteed housing) or a chance to live off campus? Is there easily accessible transportation to and from places on and off campus? Also, make sure you get a feel for how big or small the campus is. If you don't want to be walking a half hour across campus to class one day, try to narrow down your choices to schools that may have a shorter walk to class or have dorms close to the academic buildings (or have a 2 minute walk from first year dorms to the connected academic buildings like SMC does- pretty great perk, if you ask me :) I know for me, I wanted a campus small enough where I could go from place to place and not get too lost, but big enough where I was constantly meeting new people and didn't feel too enclosed.

2) How is the food?
Okay, I know, probably not one of the obvious top 10 questions you may be thinking about. When you think about it though, if you're going to be going away to school and calling it a second home, that means you'll also be eating three meals (or maybe more or less, totally up to you :) there as well. I personally recommend not basing a decision down to food, but really, you don't want to choose a school where you absolutely hate what you're eating. My advice? Ask at the front desk of any admissions office you go to if you could possibly have a meal in the cafeteria!! Usually, most schools will have meal tickets which you can just hand in when you arrive. I tended to do this a lot at the schools I visited, whether it be after my tour or getting the chance to test out the cafeteria after an academic day or open house. There usually is a wide variety of foods to be choosing from whether it be in a cafeteria or a campus cafe, so it's great to find somethings you like (for me at SMC, it was the buffalo chicken wrap, french onion soup, and cherry coke in Alliot, literally my favorite meal ever!!) and reassure yourself that you'll never be hungry :)

3) Will I be accepted for who I am? Do I think I will fit in with the student body?
HUGE question to be asking yourself!! You want a school that will help you to grow and give you the tools to be the best person you can be, not one that will bring you down and won't embrace you for who you are!! Plus, part of that experience of going away to college and calling it a second home is feeling like you belong there. While you can usually get a feel of your school when you visit a few times, it's really the first weeks of college where you will actually figure out where you belong and form those great friendships. Don't let this get to you though, because you have plenty of resources to gather this information:

  a) Your tour guide: Your tour guide knows pretty much all there is about the school and is one of the best representatives you can have of the college that you're visiting. Tour guides are there to answer any of your questions, big or small, and what's great is that when they answer questions, they have the surrounding campus to aid them.
    b) Blogs: We can't spend every day on a particular campus observing things. What's great is that we can have our own peek into a life as a student year round through a student blogging program. What's great about bloggers is you get to read what's going on with them  and see pictures and videos about what they do as students. Usually, these programs are attached to different social media outlets as well, so if you're on Facebook, Twitter, Formspring, etc. there's always a way to get in contact with someone from the schools you're interested in.
    c) Alumni: Whether they graduated last year or 50 years ago, Alums can give you some of the best inside information about a school and their experience. SMC has an amazing alumni/ current student relationship, with many alumni hiring SMC students because of their connection to their alma mater.
Number 1 thing though? You need to be willing to be yourself with others. One of the best things about SMC students is how accepting, supportive, and respectful everyone is with each other. It's not a judgmental place, but a school where everyone wants to learn more about you and help you to be your best self. Don't try to be someone you're not, because it isn't worth it and no matter what, you will find groups of people who will become your best friends because they love you for you.

4)What is there to do on campus? Will I get bored easily?
No one wants to be bored on campus. One of the main parts of the college experience is taking part in different activities, whether it be cheering on your school's sports team or taking part in a community service trip. If you're interested in something, there will most likely be others who are interested in it as well. That's why it's always so important to figure out when you're visiting what programs, clubs, and activities each school offers that you can take part in. By choosing to involve yourself in activities you're passionate about, you really enable yourself to grow. Now, do I think you should be a part of 20,000 clubs? No. Again, it's sort of like trial and error- go to the initial meetings of the clubs you are interested in and if you like them, great!! If not, don't force yourself to do something you don't like. Also, ask yourself if you want to be going home on weekends or staying on campus. For me, it isn't an option to go home except for breaks because of the long distance, but I've never had a problem. Usually because there is always something to do!! My advice- ask about weekend events!! Are there socials going on in the dorms? Any speakers during the week? Events going on in the near by city/ town? All of these things can really add to the fun experience of college :)

5) Do I have that "feeling?"
As my wonderful readers know, I'm a big big believer in "that feeling." Don't know what it is? No worries!! Basically, it's that initial feeling you get of belonging, that this is the right place for you to be. It's everything combined that makes this feeling- academics, clubs, sports, libraries- anything that makes you say, "Hey, I think this is it for me!!" Now, my advice for this is to just do all your research and try your best to re-visit or keep up with the blogs as best as possible so that you know, 100%, that you are heading to exactly where you ought to be.

Wow- a lot of information packed into one blog hahaha!! Anyway, I hope you are all having a wonderful day and remember, if you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to Formspring, Tweet, or email me- I'm always happy to help :)

Until next time, I send you my very best wishes,
Alex :)

PS If you've been accepted to the SMC Class of 2017, join the FB page and meet some great prospective future classmates!!

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