The Hitchhiker's Guide to Visiting Colleges

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Future Choctaws! It's Director of Admissions (and fan of the Lord of the Rings saga) Kyle Brantley here! I will be hanging out with you guys on the blog today to discuss the entirety of  visiting colleges. 

Big or small?  Public or private?  Close to home or far away?  There are a lot of questions you need to ask yourself when searching for the perfect college home.  Likewise, there are a lot of questions you need to ask the universities you are considering to see if you are indeed a match made in higher education heaven.

Here’s your guide to the top 10 things to check out when visiting a college campus:

1. Make a list, check it twice.  You want to be sure you make an informed decision, so formally visit your top 3-5 schools (or more if you are able to).  Ideally, do this your junior year, and then return to your top 1-2 your senior year to confirm your final decision.  Don’t let those “college visit” days go to waste!  Visiting a campus is THE best way, I repeat, THE BEST WAY, to know if a college is right for you or not.

2. Know the Admissions Counselor.  At most schools, you will be assigned an Admissions Counselor or Recruiter to help you navigate the admission process.  Treat him or her as your man (or woman) on the inside!  They should be able to provide you with the answers you need to make a decision.  Plus, at many schools they are your scholarship advocates.  In the MC Admissions Office, your Admissions Counselor will keep you on track to being accepted and work with you in getting the best scholarship package you are eligible to receive.  Yeah, we just became your new best friends. 

3. Accept your responsibility…to be accepted.  When talking to Admissions, know what it takes to get accepted.  What are the ACT/SAT/GPA requirements?  Are there deadlines for application or scholarships?  Is there a deposit that needs to be paid?  Know the run down before you leave so you can stay on top of things.

4. Money matters.  Find out all you can about scholarships and financial aid.  Your Admissions Counselor should be able to give you a good estimate of what your bottom line will be after scholarships and financial aid are applied.  Also, be sure to ask if there are any fees outside of tuition, room, or board, such as books, parking fees, course fees, etc.  Ultimately, you want to have a good idea of what your bottom line will look like.

5. Ask major questions.  Sure, the idea of college may invoke anticipated thoughts of campus activities, independence, and roommates, but the reason you are attending a university is to get a quality education.  Visiting a campus is your prime opportunity to find out more about academic offerings, services, and the reputation of the university.  To do this, ask to sit in on a class or meet a professor.  What’s the average class size?  What majors are offered?  Is the college accredited?  Do TA’s teach classes or do professors?  Is there an honors program?  Study abroad?  These are important questions to ask as they may very well dictate your future.

6. Campus Culture.  Once you get all that academic stuff out of the way, you can get to the fun stuff.  Campus life!  Find out what organizations and activities are offered.  Are athletic events a big deal?  What are some student traditions?  What is there to do nearby?  Is the campus safe?  Is this a “suitcase college?”  Yeah, academics are important, but so is an engaging environment you can thrive in.

7. Confessions of a current student.  Maybe one of the most important things you could do is talk to current students.  If your Admissions Counselor or tour guide is good, they’ll introduce you to students as you’re touring campus.  Take each student you come into contact with as an opportunity to find out what they think about the school.  Do they give you a positive impression?  Are students friendly, engaging, and open to conversation?  Can you see yourself fitting in with this student body?

8. Get a taste of dining options.  The freshman 15 is coming.  Might as well make sure it tastes good.

9. Crash for a night.  Stay overnight, or at least check out the residence halls.  At MC, we offer overnight stays with current students so you can get a “day-in-the-life-of” experience.  Also, find out what students typically do for housing after freshman year.  Do students typically live on campus all four years or do most students move off and commute?  What are the RH options and amenities (practice this word before you say it aloud, trust me) as you go from year to year?

10. Oh, the places graduates go.   What are graduates (recent and older) doing with their lives right now?  Where can a degree from X university take you?   Find out student success stories specific to your major.  And, ask about what internships are available and where they could lead.  

At the end of it all, ask yourself if you can see yourself fitting in and thriving on campus.  What makes this college unique amongst the others on your list?  I think I’ve given you enough questions to dwell on, so let me leave you with this one last thought.  We hear this often on our campus and I have no doubt it happens on other campuses as well, but oftentimes after you visit a school, you just know.  It’s important to do your above homework, but in the end, I think you’ll have a pretty good feeling about where your future college days should be spent.  And if you’re reading this blog, I would hope that MC is on your list, so come see us sometime soon.

Some of the best years of your life are just ahead.  Get excited!

Kyle Brantley
Director of Admissions (and other cool things)

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