Selecting the colleges to apply to is never an easy task and always instills feelings of anxiety and doubt. The decision involves a careful evaluation of various ingredients: test scores, GPA, financial aid, majors and minors offered, etc. We are focused on the numbers and statistics that the institution provides on its website, forgetting about the experiences that the college will provide. While it is crucial to your learning to find an institution that satisfies all of these criteria, I found it equally important to search for an institution that had a welcoming environment I knew I could adjust to as I was away from home. A college should enrich you intellectually as well as provide a comfortable space where you are free to grow.
Before I determined which schools to apply to, it was imperative for me to visit the campus. I found it necessary that I be immersed in the campus life and get a taste of how that particular institution functions in order to adequately make an informed decision on where I would like to study. I was so motivated to find my ‘best fit’ college that the summer before my senior year of high school, I applied to the fly-in programs that the institutions I was interested in offered. This had a drastic impact on my decision on where to apply. Before looking into any special college visit programs, I had to understand the type of campus I wanted to attend. I knew I did not want a big, city school, but I also did not want something too closed off. I determined that a medium-sized campus would be ideal for me. The location also played a pivotal role since I did not want to relocate to the other side of the country away from my family. Thus, I chose fly-ins from colleges that met these guidelines.
Attending the fly-ins was a great way to analyze the institution. I found that I was exposed to the campus more and gained an intimate feel of the school than if I had simply done a tour. Not only did the fly-ins allow me to attend a class of my choosing and meet and talk with professors, but I got to meet the students and share in the same living arrangements that they occupied. This was essential to my decision because, being away from home, it was important for me to know that I would be in a comfortable social environment that was inclusive. The fly-ins made it clear how accepting students on different campuses were, along with how they interacted with different groups. I also discovered how accessible certain departments were in aiding the campus community. Colgate University’s fly-in, Colgate in Focus, was especially memorable to me. Not only did it include the initial aspects I was looking for in a college, but it encouraged community, an ideal that was exhibited through the actions of the campus. Whether it was from my student host’s warm and friendly personality to the student panel who bonded with the fly-in group through stories about their experiences on campus, the fly-in proved to be a learning experience on adjusting to campus life. Furthermore, the staff and professors were also open to speaking with the fly-in group, all of which helped to reaffirm my decision to apply.
When looking at colleges to apply to, I would strongly recommend applying to fly-in programs. They are a great way of helping you determine how well you can see yourself fitting in with the school that simply looking at pictures on a website cannot do. When participating in these special college visit programs, attempt to get a true sense of how that college functions because all institutions have different environments that are unique to that campus. I am sure that it will prove fruitful in narrowing your college list!
Best of luck on your application journey!