With now less than a year before graduation, one Reality panelist embarks on a summer tour to decide his future.
Before the summer, I had barely thought about college. This was understandably worrisome to my parents, as college is a pretty big deal and I’m supposed to be going there in less than a year.
When summer started and I finally started going on college visits, I was greeted with an overwhelming number of options. Every school boasted about their high graduation rate, low teacher-to-student ratio, and great starting salaries after college. All these colleges sounded fantastic, but then I had to somehow differentiate between these enticing options that all seemed so similar.
Every one of my visits started with the admissions presentation. A couple hours long, these presentations always gave the vital information I had to know about the college. Later on, the tour guides would go more in-depth, telling stories of their experiences at the college, and how it helped shape them.
As the week progressed, I started to slowly dread having to sit through the admissions presentations. While I did recognize that these were very important, the same topics of financial aid, internship opportunities, and academic excellence were discussed for hours on end, and got to be very repetitive. The presentations were informative, but I never had the feeling that I had learned anything that would separate any particular college from the rest.
As I went on more visits, I searched for differences between colleges during the presentations, but I was never able to find any deal breakers. A two- to three-student difference in class size wasn’t going to shake my world. Neither would the number of clubs the school offered.
However, after the presentations came the tours, where I learned important lessons about college life because the tour guides gave more details about their personal experiences.
While college visits are crucial for students to see how they might fit at the school and how the campus feels, the most important aspect of college life I learned about was that engagement in the various programs at whichever college you end up choosing will result in success at any college. I learned this from the tour guides, who mentioned all the clubs and activities they were involved in. They were able to give firsthand opinions about how their activities helped shape their college experience and set them up for the future. All of them were involved in different activities, ranging from academic clubs to sports, however they all learned that their engagement had translated into success.
My tour guides were able to tell me what distinguished their college from others, whether it was stories about their school helping them if they were struggling in a class or setting up great internships and job opportunities. I learned the most from the tour guides during my college visits, because they were able to provide me with personal accounts of their time at the college that showed me what separated their college from the rest.
Most importantly, my whirlwind week of college tours taught me lessons that I can use to succeed when my own college experience begins.
I went into my college visits expecting to learn a little about the schools and get a small taste of college life. What I got was much more than I expected, and the visits were a very rewarding experience. They opened my eyes to the possibilities that college offers, but also gave me some insight that is sure to help me effectively make the transition from high school.
I waited far too long to start my visits, but I came out of the week with new-found knowledge about college and how to make the most of my time when I’m there.