A college visit is one of the few times in your life where it is encouraged, and even required, to make an extreme judgement based on one day. You must decide in just a few hours if you wish to pursue this school any further, and therefore college tours are incredibly daunting, overwhelming, and significant. I always said that I chose my college because it was “love at first sight,” but truly it was deeper than that. I realized there were negative qualities that had turned me away from other schools and landed me in the arms of the perfect college. The “love at first sight” vibe is important, but be sure not to overlook the following red flags while on your search for “the one”:
1. The school has unfriendly students and faculty
In one day at a school you will become acquainted with your student tour guide, students on the campus, and some faculty members. This is a representation of the people you will be surrounded by for the next four years. At some of the schools I toured, the people I came in contact with were unfriendly or otherwise unpleasant; they wouldn’t hold doors open, they didn’t say “thank you” or “excuse me.” They ignored requests for directions. These may seem like little, insignificant factors in a college, but when you tour a school where everyone you meet is friendly and pleasant, you will get a sense of comfort and happiness and you will want to be a part of that student body.
2. There is no school pride
When I toured what would later become my alma mater, my favorite thing about the college was that a huge percentage of the student body seemed to be flaunting school hoodies, sweatpants, t-shirts, and hats. Everyone seemed happy to represent their school, and there was a natural sense of school pride all around campus. School pride also resonates through your tour guide- if you find your student tour guide making snide or insulting remarks about the school, this is a huge red flag. You want to attend a college that students are proud to attend, not one where students are putting down their own school. School pride unites the student body; it not only gives you a team to root for and a mascot to love, but it gives a sense of belonging and family that will live on long past graduation.
3. The surrounding area is unsafe or inaccessible
You want to choose a college where you feel comfortable and safe. While many college campuses may feel like safe little bubbles, you can’t ignore the surrounding area. At some point in your time at this school, you’ll want to venture out of the bubble for a job, to go to a store or restaurant, or to live off campus. Is the area safe? Do you have access to public transportation? Could you easily get to a grocery store, pharmacy, and doctor if necessary? While on your college tours, explore the surrounding areas. This is often overlooked, but it is a very important factor in your overall college experience.
4. The food
No college will offer food as good as your mother’s home cooking, but finding a school that serves food you like will make the transition from home to college much easier. It is important to ensure that the cafeteria offers a variety of food, especially if you are a picky eater, have a specific diet (i.e. vegetarian or vegan), or have food allergies. This is the food you will primarily be consuming for the next four years, be sure the college offers what you want and need. No matter where you’re looking, there will be that one freshman who shouts “The food sucks!” at every tour group he passes. He is not a reliable source. Stop in the cafeteria for a meal and do some investigating during your tour, make sure your needs will be met.
5. The school does not offer everything you’re looking for (and more)
No one’s college experience is ever exactly how they picture it- a lot can change in just a few years. Maybe you’ll start out as a creative writing major but end as a business major. Maybe you plan to join the dance team but will instead be a rugby star. Don’t limit yourself- it’s best to be at a school where you have options. You may find a college that you think is perfect, but you later find out they don’t offer a study abroad program and you were considering spending a semester overseas. Or perhaps they don’t have any Greek life and you were planning to channel your inner Elle Woods and pledge. Make sure you have a rough idea of the majors, activities, and opportunities you’re looking for in a school, and don’t settle for anything less. There is a school out there that offers exactly what you’re hoping to find. Don’t compromise your future plans for a school; choose the school that can offer you the future you want.