Austin went on his first campus visit ready to fall in love with his dream college. That’s how it’s supposed to go, right? Well, not exactly…
“Once you find the right campus, you’ll just fall in love.” After hearing that for years, I was ready. I was ready to fall in love.
My junior year of high school, I decided I was going to visit my first college campus. I had told myself that I needed to make my college decision early. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was trying to rush and take lightly one of the most important decisions of my life.
Related: The Worst Campus Visit Mistakes
That first campus visit was a bad experience all around, though, to be fair, the college I was touring couldn’t have controlled any of it. It was raining when I arrived, the parking was about half a mile away from where I was supposed to be meeting my admission representative, and the campus was so big that it was hard to find anything. Still, I persevered so that I could get to the end of the tunnel that was this real magical school I had built up in my head.
In pictures and on paper, I loved this university—there was no way I was not going to go to it. But in reality, the school scared me. It was so large and had so many people that it put my small town population of around three thousand people to shame. Not long after I arrived, it became clear that it was not a “close-knit” community; in fact, you may not even see all of your peers in your whole tenure at the university. (By the way, this is not an uncommon practice in college and university life, according to many current college students I’ve spoken with, but I learned it’s not necessarily for me.)
I arrived at the university for my campus visit and walked to the administration building to meet with my admission representative. As soon as I walked in the door, I was greeted by a friendly “hello, how may I help you today?” That made me smile, which I was thankful for considering the way the day was going so far. When I stated the reason for my arrival, I was immediately shuffled into an office to meet with an admission representative who then set me up with a tour guide so that I could see all that the campus had to offer, both literally and figuratively.
While touring the campus, I saw and learned many things that I would not have seen or learned without the visit. These things helped me solidify what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, why I wanted to do it, and my expectations for where I wanted to do it. After my campus tour, I had a private meeting with one of the professors in my chosen field (which at the time was health sciences but has since changed). I also got to briefly meet the program director for that department as well.
In the end, I decided that the school that I visited was not for me, but the visit was definitely a win, because it helped narrow down what I should look for in a college or university, and what I really wanted out of the experience. I had struggled with these things prior to actually seeing a college campus for the first time.
If I had to tell someone in my shoes one thing, it would be this: do not be afraid to take plenty of campus tours, because I have learned many things from many different colleges. They eventually helped me find my dream school, and for that I will always be thankful.