So I recently finished a week of college visits with my younger sister (who is a rising senior). It was wild. One going anywhere that has started to open up in the past year is nuts. Second, driving in Boston is the worst. Third, on paper and going in-person are such different experiences that it can be jarring. We visited 3 major universities and drove through another. Personally there were three major things I noticed that changed my feelings about the schools.
One, how welcoming the school is when you arrive. Are they excited for you to start your journey with them? Are they selling the school to you? Are they being upfront about any inclusion or access policies they have, this may look like informing when buildings with ramps and elevators are, financial aid, housing policies, dietary support, etc.
Two, the other prospective students. Are they excited to be there? Do they seem anxious and nervous? Do they seem like feel they are entitled to a spot at the school (smug, legacy status, etc.)? These are the people you could potentially be spending your time with, living with, stuck in classes with, etc.
Three, all colleges of stated values and ideals, but what are they selling it as. We had one school sell it as a stepping stone to success, that it’s graduates were the most hireable. One school focus on the college experience and community. Another about the love of learning and all the ways they promote curiousity. Another, talked about the next step in education and figuring out yourself. There are no wrong answers but there are better fits and it’s important to pay intention to what they think you will get out of their institution.
I have been giving a lot of college search and application advice lately and I just thought it would be a good idea to share out wider. Specifically, my advice is geared towards the introverted or those that maybe anxious during this time. But, why you should even listen to me? I am an introvert who successfully went through the college process (with many introverted friends who also went through at the same and different institutions). My parent worked in the scholarship and financial aid office and has imparted a lot of stories and advice across many years at multiple universities. I work, give advice, and write recommendations for youth going through this process. I am intimately familiar with social anxiety, depression, and selective mutism.
Create your common app or any application accounts early. This gives you more time to ask for any recommendations , write essays, etc. without having to put it all into the same timeframe.
Email the teachers, coachers, and advisors for recommendations before the school year starts. As long as your account is open they will be able to submit it. It makes less sense and is more awkward NOT to ask in person after school has started for the year and you are seeing them on a regular basis. Plus, this gives the impression you are on top of it.
Remember, that commitment over time, volunteerism, and any expansion of responsibilities (babysitting, work, tutoring, etc.) are all demonstration of leadership skills.
Look into the institutions dining programs and make sure there is always a pick-up or carry-out option. There are always going to be times, when you want eat alone, need to work, don’t want the chance run-ins, etc.
Don’t just look at University population, also look at the size of the departments that you would want to be in (Chemistry, English, etc.). The official website should give you a list how many professors you could be working with or stuck with. You may also be able to find how many graduate with that major. This will give you an idea of how many you would regularly be in class with or working with across your time there.