The downsides of visiting colleges too soon


As seen in the April 10 print edition
Marguerite Alberts, spotlight editor
Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 12.45.12 PMCollege season is upon us. Notifications of acceptances and rejections have flown in and now seniors are faced with the tough choice of where they will spend the next two years, at least. As the year winds down and I reflect on the culmination of my high school career, I have realized quite a few things that I wish I had recognized as I went through the college process.
I should have listened to my father’s advice and never have visited any schools before applying. Many people will balk at this, demanding to know how they could possibly choose which schools to apply to without ever having seen them.
Easy: research. The world is at our fingertips and by Googling only a few words, we can receive plenty of facts about any school. There are a bunch of websites that will narrow down your college search and help you decide which schools you should look into by presenting information and opinions regarding each. Counselors will advocate the use of Naviance and the College Board website, but I personally found College Prowler to be most useful. Also, after deciding which schools most interest you, you can visit the school’s website which will go into even more depth about the programs and facilities they have. Additionally, the college center on Beverly’s campus has hundreds of brochures for your appraisal, and your counselors will undoubtedly have advice to give to you about which colleges you should consider applying to. You don’t need to see a college to hear all about their attributes and failings.
After finding which colleges catch your eye, it is important to remember that you may not get into the school of your choice. Not only do you have to pick the school, but they have to pick you, too. Flying and driving across the country, looking at schools that won’t necessarily accept you, is an incredible waste of money. Paying for flights, renting cars, filling up the gas tank, booking hotel rooms and making reservations at restaurants are all expensive activities, especially considering the fact that some of these schools won’t take you.
Furthermore, visiting colleges just sets you up for heartbreak. For example, for the last four years I had been reading about the University of Washington and I fell in love with the idea of going there. At the beginning of last summer, my father gave in to my pleading and we took a family vacation to Seattle; the main purpose of the trip was so that I could finally see, in person, what I had been dreaming about for so long. Immediately, I felt connected to the school, and there was no doubt in my mind that it was where I was meant to be. However, I didn’t realize that this love affair was completely one-sided. Just because you develop an attachment to a school it doesn’t mean that the school develops an attachment to you. So when my rejection came in the mail, I was shocked. I couldn’t stop crying for three days. Looking back now, I wish we hadn’t visited UW because that attachment wouldn’t have been so cemented in my brain and I would have been more open to some of the many other amazing schools out there.
Eventually, I recognized that it didn’t matter that the University of Washington wasn’t as in love with me as I thought, because I got into a lot of other great schools that did want me.
However, that isn’t to say that visiting schools isn’t important. Once you are accepted, it is important to visit your options in order to ensure that you make the choice that is best for you. Visiting schools allows you to experience the campus on a much more personal level and lets you interact with actual people who go to the school rather then faceless commentators on the internet.
This past weekend, I visited the University of Colorado Boulder for Accepted Students Day. Though hesitant at first, I quickly realized that Boulder will most likely be a much better place for me than Washington ever could have been. And if it isn’t, so what? I can always transfer.
When I arrived home from Colorado, I found the letter I had written to myself in Mr. Elitzur’s eighth grade science class waiting for me on my bed. I knew something in eighth grade that I had forgotten in high school. The closing sentence said, “It doesn’t matter where I go that much as long as I Iearn the correct things and I learn what I want to learn.”  Also, something that I try to live by is to hope for the best, but expect the worst. Not waiting to visit a school made me forget both of these principles.
As the saying goes, “patience is a virtue,” and it is a trait that you will need during the application process, but also when deciding when to visit a college.