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Encouraging 'The Visit'

A high school senior speaks about his campus visitation experience thus far.

As an incoming high school senior, what’s the only thing worse than finding a worm in your apple?

Thinking about college.

We’re being asked to make a decision that encompasses the next four years, and in some ways the rest of our lives. Therefore, it’s not surprising that there exists an aura of mass hysteria surrounding the whole college thing.

There’s light, though.

Since March, I have been on about 20 college campuses all across the East Coast and California in desperate search of the mythical “right school.”

I embarked on yet another college tour this week; this time traveling to the innards of America, visiting a saintly city on the Mississippi and a windy one lakeside, looking for a future.

Before my parents and I started searching, we sat down and worked out a couple of preferences on the macro level. Tiny, medium, or large? Urban, suburban, or rural? Our choices: a medium-sized campus (3,000 to 8,000), a suburban setting (not in a large city, but near one) and a relatively mild climate.

However, out of the 20, some of my favorite schools don’t fit that description at all, while others I was sure I would fall in love with fell short upon visitation. At first, this frustrated me. I felt like I was back to square one, having to reestablish my penchants and desires.

As I became a veteran of the famed information session/tour combo, though, I began to develop an ability to sense how comfortable I felt on a campus within the first couple of minutes. From then on (and feel free to call me crazy and/or weird) I actually started to like visiting schools.

That light I mentioned earlier, it’s the campus visit. Nothing can tell you more about a school than simply standing in the middle of the quad and soaking it all in. There will be schools that make the list and others that get crossed off based on that first breath on campus.

Look at it this way: If visiting a college can give you an immediate opinion about a school’s environment without animated family discussions and hours of research, I recommend going on as many visits as practical.

And remember that aura? With it lifted, there won’t be anything worse than finding a worm in your apple, except maybe…

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