When it comes to the actual process of selecting a college or university, you may feel at times completely overwhelmed with information. With college catalogs, brochures, DVDs, websites, promotional and recruiting letters, there's a lot of info to take in, that's for sure. Especially if you're considering a number of colleges. It can certainly be a daunting task to process all this stuff, but you'll want to give it your best effort. Your choice of where to attend college will affect every day of the rest of your life. It will affect your income, the friends you make, where you wind up working, where you settle down, etc. You'll want to make as informed a decision as possible when picking a school. Read all you can, talk to your parents, talk to college personnel, talk to people who've been to the schools. All these are important, and can help you to narrow your list of possibilities down to a reasonable level. But once you've come up with a short list, you should visit each school if at all possible.
The importance of visiting an undergraduate school or university before enrolling cannot be overstated . You can only learn so much from a website or DVD. There's no substitute for checking things out in person. You can get a feel for the intangibles - are the students snobby or down to earth? Are the professors friendly and outgoing, or reserved and aloof? What's the campus layout like? Is it aesthetically pleasing, or does it feel drab and sterile? What are dorms like? And talk to students - they'll give you the real scoop. Where are the cool hangouts in town? Which professors are great, and which ones should you avoid? What's the local community like? Do the cops like to hassle students? Which fraternities and sororities are cool, and which aren't? You can learn a lot of interesting things by actually visiting a college, much of which you would never glean from a brochure or website. There are two ways of visiting a college.
Most colleges have scheduled events one or more times a year where prospective students are invited to come spend a day or a weekend. You'll need to make reservations, usually, and much of the visit will be a well scripted, guided tour. You'll probably be able to sit in on a class or two, usually with a popular professor. You'll sample a few meals from the cafeteria or dining services, and you'll be given a grand tour of the campus and facilities. You'll be able to check out the dorms, and maybe spend a night in one. Of course, it's important to remember that everyone is on their best behavior during these events. The college is putting its best foot forward to entice you to come, and you probably shouldn't think every professor is as dazzling, funny, and friendly as the one you heard, and the ordinary college meal probably won't be quite as good as the one you were treated to. Which brings up the other option, which might yield more useful information. Instead of attending during one of these events, call the college and arrange to visit on your own. Most colleges are amenable to this, and will arrange for someone to show you around, but you'll also have quite a bit more free time to talk to students and faculty away from college officials, and you might get a more well rounded impression than on an organized tour. Either way, when choosing a college, you should really make an effort to actually visit the place before deciding to spend four of the most important years of your life there.