The importance of the college visit

The importance of the college visit

Photo courtesy of Colgate University

Merdith Zingale, AP Lit Set 4

 The college-search process is incomparable to any other pursuit, from the plane tickets to the 15-hour car rides to visiting fifteen schools in a week.  The infamous search for a formal date or a prom dress cannot even be said next to the words, “college trip.”  It has become the new normal to visit at least ten colleges throughout the process, sometimes more than once. 

Senior Erin Pluchino shared, “I have visited 26 colleges, some twice even, but it has been really helpful.” 

Visiting every school you apply to, plus ten others, is the way of the future, even though the Internet is  readily available.  College admissions advisors encourage students to visit as many schools as possible, as the “search for perfection” is becoming a need and as the college-admittance process has become increasingly competitive. This encouragement is very helpful because “the visit” can truly make all the difference.

AHN College Counselor, Ms. Kerry Keegan, agrees and adds this advice about college visits:  “It is always best to visit a college when school is in session and students are there.  This will allow you to have the best understanding of the college.  It is also important not to let the tour guide influence your view of the college so that one person does not define the school.”

Understandably, not everyone will be able to visit faraway colleges or 25 colleges, but in my recent trip  to upstate New York, I found Colgate University to be one the “hidden gem” in higher education. 

A two-hour flight to Newark, an hour flight to Syracuse, and an hour drive to (very rural) Hamilton, New York,  were all worth it as soon as the campus came into view.  Beautiful dark and gray brick buildings clustered together on top of a hill, with a small lake at its entrance, and autumn leaves everywhere.  It was even beautiful in the dark of night. 

Colgate  is a small campus, having only 2,900 students, but it doesn’t feel too small.  Everything is close together, so there is no unnecessary walking.  The facilities seemed very well kept and fairly new.  The main library is the true testament to the school, as it has five floors that overlook a green lawn that surrounds a pond and tall winter trees.  The cafeteria, notably called “Frank,” is very cozy as the inside is also lined with dark brick. The food options look optimal, but possibly lacking in variety. 

The next stop was the student center or the “COOP.”  The COOP had many unique features including a large fireplace in the center of a studying area that students all sat around.  There was also a sale going on of Longchamp bags, brand-name jeans, and Lilly Pulitzer in the middle of everything.  This was a surprise to say the least, having already spent an hour on campus and not a sight of these items on the people.  The café-style food options at the COOP seemed promising and probably a good alternative to “Frank’s” food. 

The classrooms were small and the professors were definitely invested in their students.  Both of the freshman classes that I sat in had around 20-25 students in them, which provided a nice “not too small, not too large” atmosphere.  The desks were quite cramped next to each other in the classroom, but when I asked a student there about it she said, “I noticed it at first, but now it doesn’t bother me at all.”

The final point of interest on my visit was the athletic center.  Colgate’s athletic facilities were manageable for a Division I school, as its hockey team and basketball team are the school-spirited sports.  The all-student workout space was all right, but a new state-of –the-art athletic center will be finished in a year for all students, with the old center becoming the varsity athletes’ gym.  This improvement will enhance athletic life on campus, as many students are athletes and have awaited this new facility. 

Upon leaving the Colgate campus and returning to the Admissions Office, a group of students walked by me and said, “Come to Colgate, come to Colgate!”  This enthusiasm is something I will always remember, as it was distinctly different from all of my college visits.  The students love Colgate and have much school spirit.  I was told about the spirit, heard the spirit, and saw the spirit while I was there.  This little exclamation point to my visit made the experience special, as it gave me an idea about the positive people at Colgate. 

Without this visit, how would I have ever known about the great energy that Colgate University offers from its students and to its students?  The college-search process is incredibly difficult, but it is moments like these that separate “the college” from just “a college.”  The college visits are integral in choosing the “right one.”