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Yes, looks do matter! Planning your College Visits April 27th, 2009 | No Comments

You knew this right?! As I read this article about Suan Boyle, stereotyping/categorizing, and how the brain works, (NY Times, 4.26.09) I started thinking about some recent conversations I’d been having… with a high school junior I am coaching and a group of juniors in one of my workshops; feeling safe, in the sense of comfortable in your environment, it critically important to doing your best work.

When you think ahead to visiting college campuses, what do you intend to do there? there’s the usual short list of:
take the informational tour
walk around
observe “stuff”

I’d like to suggest that you check out every campus (of the schools that really interest you) – at least twice, if possible – with clear ideas about what you want to accomplish. And, try to use the same “lens” for all the places you visit, as it will help when you are making your final decisions about which school to choose… when you are holding those acceptance letters in your hands.

So here’s my thinking (which really means, here are my questions for you):
What do you already know about the school – what attracts you to it? Can you name at least six things…
➸ academics (approach to completing coursework, majors, minors)
➸ atmosphere (academics + fun, more academically oriented or more of a party school)
➸ mission of the university (what their materials tell you about their values)
➸ size of student body and/or departments and classes
➸ study abroad opportunities
➸ sports (are you an athlete looking for a Division I school, are you more of a D III player, is intramural more your speed… or do you just want to know there’s a pool and treadmills?)
➸ housing choices (houses for special interests, the opportunity to live off campus your sophomore year, gender free housing, etc.)
➸ location (urban, suburban, rural)
➸ distance from home (near or far… there are advantages and disadvantage to each)

What will you be looking for when you visit campus? You know that the tour guide is going to be personable and upbeat. It’s your task to listen to all that great info… and dig deeper…
☞ Pick up the student newspaper and read it
☞ Check out the bulletin boards – what’s hanging there
☞ Visit several classes and stay overnight if your schedule permits (the folks in the admissions offices will set this up for you on many campuses)
☞ Watch the students interacting with eachother and their professors… both in classes and around the campus
☞ Talk to the students (and think through what questions you want to ask them. Go further than, “Do you like it here?” to “What do you like about being here (courses, students, professors, campus life, sports…?” “What other schools were you looking at?”
☞ Eat the food in the cafeteria
☞ Go to events: sports, music, lectures

I know you know where I am going with this. Looks do matter! Can you see yourself in that environment? It’s really a two part question (at least!): Would you feel comfortable there now and will it provide the environment that you want for your four years? Can you grow there, becoming who you want to be?

Sorry for the length of this post! I am passionate about people feeling good about where they’re at… whether that means almost an enclave from which you will receive support, venture out and do your best work, or if it means challenging yourself and stepping into a new and different environment. What do you want and need? It’s a big question! I know you can figure it out.

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