Last week I left behind the buzz around campus over seniors’ college admissions decisions and juniors’ recent college planning day. My goal for my trip away from AHN was to find out if I would like to attend a university or college outside of Florida. So off I went on a visit to the University of Virginia to see for myself.
Cristina Gomez A’12 graciously allowed me to stay in her dorm for the weekend. She and her friends answered my questions about UVA and showed me around campus and the nearby town of Charlottesville. In the process, I came up with some important information worth passing along about the importance of the college visit.
First of all, make sure you know what travel arrangement are necessary if you plan to visit your family and friends back home. To get to UVA from Tampa, I flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then had a connecting flight on a small plane to Charlottesville, Virginia. I noticed that flying to UVA is a bit more time-consuming than I had thought because there is no direct flight from Tampa, so I ended up facing long layovers. On the bright side, I learned about rental “Zipcars” that allowed Cristina and her friends to pick me up at the airport and drive us all back to campus.
Second, check out the living arrangements. At UVA many dorms have been renovated very recently, making them very nice, clean, and new. I personally loved Tina’s dorm, even though we had to share a bathroom with the entire hall. I noticed that sharing a bathroom is not as bad as I originally believed. The bathroom is cleaned everyday, and I never had to wait to use a facility. Because everyone shared the same location, I met most of the people in her hall, an arrangement that encourages more social interaction than a suite-styled dorm. On the other hand, sharing a bathroom with four people is more convenient and allows you to leave all your essentials in the bathroom.
Third, try to stay on campus with a student for at least one night because it is a completely different experience from an official tour. You can ask more personalized questions , hear both the positives and negatives of the school, see the insides of classrooms and dorm rooms, venture into the surrounding town with someone who is familiar with the restaurants and activities, eat in the dining hall, and experience true college life. I noticed that some of my perceptions of campus life were changed after this experience, both for the good and bad.
Fourth, take time to take in the environment of the campus itself. At UVA, the campus architecture is traditional and elegant. The main part of the university, built by Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the university, preserves the history of the school within the buildings and the professionally landscaped grounds. I first toured the campus with my mother over spring break last year and found the campus breathtaking in its spring flowers and lawn and the temperature was cool but comfortable.
This visit, however, was very different from my first experience because I had never experienced a true winter outside of Florida. It was very cold and gray the first two days of my visit. The trees were bare, and it even started to snow. I did not realize how much I missed sunshine until seeing these conditions and their effect on the campus. The weather, especially in the winter, is an important factor to consider when choosing a school outside of Florida because it is something most of us have not experienced fully. If weather could affect your mood or study and social habits, I would recommend staying closer to home.
Fifth, take a step back from all of your impressions of the school you visit and see if the positives outweigh the negatives. I loved many aspects of UVA. I appreciated the dorms, dining hall, downtown, work ethic of the students, nationally high-ranking business school, Greek life, change of seasons, campus, lack of online classes, and emphasis on honor and tradition at UVA.
Based on my visit during perhaps the worst part of winter, UVA is still one of my top preferences for next year. I feel much more informed after visiting the university. As a result, I recommend visiting all of the colleges and universities you are considering, especially if you can stay overnight with another student. Visiting and picturing your life in college can help you make the right college decision.