By Sarah Soule
With spring vacation quickly approaching, it is an ideal time for area students to visit college and university campuses. Seniors who are planning to attend college in the fall must make their final decision by May 1 and submit a tuition deposit and enrollment contract to the institution where they will enroll. If a senior is still trying to decide, the April vacation week is a great opportunity to re-visit. For juniors, it’s not too early to start considering touring campuses as you look ahead to college and the fall of 2018 when freshman year begins!
I recently visited five very different universities. My tours reminded me of the importance of physically visiting a campus whenever possible. Admission brochures and websites are always informative and filled with photographs designed to promote the best aspects of an institution. However, when touring a campus, one has the opportunity to meet with students and admission officers, see facilities first-hand, and get a sense of the scope of the offerings in person.
I have visited over 250 colleges in the last 12 years and meeting with students, administrators, and touring dorms, libraries, offices, and laboratories helps me in my role as a college counselor. The campuses I recently visited ranged in size from 4,000 students to another that enrolled over 20,000 students. One was in a quaint village and another was in a city about the size of Burlington.
I spent time exploring the locations where each university was located in addition to taking the tour. This should be a required part of your college touring plans. When heading off to college, you want to consider the location as it will be your home away from home for four years and you want to be sure it has the activities and opportunities that are of interest.
To arrange for a campus tour, go to a college website and look to the admissions section. Information can be found about tours, open houses, and upcoming events of interest. Be sure to allow for ample time to have your questions answered. If you want to meet with a professor or coach, be sure to ask in advance of your visit. Some colleges and universities will make an arrangement for this to happen, but they need time to schedule.
Tour guides are great sources of information on campus life; quiz them about their experiences on campus. Just remember, though, that they are hired by the admissions staff to represent the college. I always like to go to the bookstore or on-campus coffee bar and find a random student and ask them questions. Students love to talk about their colleges; don’t be shy, ask away!
Locally, we have some great colleges and universities. Start out by visiting Middlebury, Champlain, CCV, VTC, St. Michael’s, or the University of Vermont. Many students think they know all about these colleges because they’re local. Enjoy and you never know, the perfect college for you might be in your own backyard!
Sarah Soule is the Post-Secondary Planning Coordinator at Middlebury Union High School. Sarah has worked in the field of college counseling and admissions for 35 years. She served as a senior member of the admissions staff at Champlain College for 20 years prior to becoming a college counselor. She also serves as an educational consultant and advises students on the process of applying to college. Sarah is quoted in the just published book, The College Finder, written by Stephen Antonoff. She resides in Shelburne.