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College Visits: The Do's and Don'ts from A to Z

Definitions are quoted directly from the Oxford English Dictionary unless otherwise noted.

amicable (adj): friendly

During these trips, you’ll start to see the same people over and over again.

DO: Chat with them. It’s cool to meet people from all around the country (or world) who are on a similar journey as you.

DON’T: Completely ignore them and pretend you’ve never seen them before because you see them as your competition.

brave (adj): courageous

Channel your courage.

DO: Sit in the front at the information session, and talk to the tour guide in a one-on-one conversation.

DON’T: Be annoying. Everyone’s here to learn about the college, not about you.

change (v): the action or process of making or becoming different

You might change your mind about literally anything, so keep that in mind as you plan your visits, go on your visits, and reflect on your visits.

DO: Look at different types of schools, even if you think you already know exactly what you want.

DON’T: Have an existential crisis when you visit your favorite school and decide you hate it.

delightful (adj): highly pleasing

These visits can be fun!

DO: Have fun on the tours. If you do not like the tours themselves, find fun in other ways. This part should be enjoyable.

DON’T: Treat touring like the worst part of the process. If you can’t stand touring, good luck with your junior spring and senior fall.

environment (n): the social, political, or cultural circumstances in which a person lives, esp. with respect to their effect on behaviour, attitudes, etc.

The energy of the campus is, in my opinion, the most important thing to gauge during college visits. The campus environment is what makes a school unique. Do you vibe with this community/setting?

DO: Talk to your tour guide after the tour, then hang out in the quad, in a library, or in a dining hall.

DON’T: Only do an online virtual tour if you have the opportunity to do a real one. (Of course, in-person tours are not always possible, in which case, an online tour can be useful.)

footwear (n): outer coverings for the feet, such as shoes, boots, etc.

This is a lot of walking! DO: Wear comfy shoes.

DON’T: Wear five-inch heels in an effort to impress someone.

gum (n): the hardened secretion of the spruce-tree, or other insoluble substance, chewed

The information sessions can get a bit boring–especially at larger and more well-known schools. They spend about twenty minutes giving tips about applying to college.

DO: Bring gum or mints to the information session. (Just kidding; that’s not necessary.)

DON’T: Tune out because you think you know everything and can figure the rest out on the website.

homework (n): work done at home

Do your homework! Learn about the school before you go.

DO: Before you go on your tour, identify three specific things you read that you would like to learn more about.

DON’T: Bring homework from school to do during the information session.

individual (n): of, relating to, or characteristic of a single person

Remember that you’re the one applying to college.

DO: Speak up for yourself, ask your own questions, and think about your own likes, dislikes, interests, etc.

DON’T: Let your parents take over.

jargogle (v): to confuse, jumble

After you visit a few schools, they will all start to melt together in your head.

DO: Take notes right after you visit a school, and try to identify at least one uncommon characteristic of that school.

DON’T: Wait and take notes after visiting thirteen schools.

kilterums (n): an eighteenth century word for random odds and ends (source)

There are a lot of miscellaneous things you should think about. Is housing guaranteed for all four years? Can freshmen leave a car on campus?

DO: Ask questions.

DON’T: Decide not to consider a school that you absolutely loved because you have to leave your new Porsche at home.

listen (v): to hear attentively

Listen, listen, listen, and process.

DO: Listen during the information session, during the tour, and while hanging out on campus.

DON’T: Tune out and then ask a question that someone just answered.

mix (n): a combination of different qualities, features, etc., which make an integrated whole

Visit a mix of different types of schools. Your favorites, ones you’re not excited about, big schools, small schools, reaches, likelies, safeties, liberal arts colleges, research universities…

DO: Visit schools that the college office suggests, even if you’ve never heard of them.

DON’T: Only visit Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. You’re not Rory Gilmore.

note (n): a brief written observation, record, or abstract of facts

Take notes! You will need them. (See “jargogle”.)

DO: Take neat, organized notes in a notebook that is specifically for college visits. Write down everything that you thought about, even seemingly insignificant stuff. Write down what you can’t find online, and write down what you might forget. Sit down in the quad after the tour and don’t leave until you’re done writing.

DON’T: Bury yourself in your notebook during the tour.

open-minded (adj): receptive to new ideas

Some things might seem weird at first. Open curriculum? Gender-inclusive housing? Don’t remove a school from your list until you’ve really thought about it.

DO: Learn more about what surprises you.

DON’T: Announce, “you can’t major in anything here except neuroscience” after you read the list of majors and don’t see engineering (quote: my father ☺).

polite (adj): courteous, behaving in a manner that is respectful or considerate of others

Be friendly! Use your manners! Think about kindergarten! DO: Channel your inner Emily Post.

DON’T: Antagonize the presenter during the admissions session by interrogating her or him about the recent college admissions scandal.

question (v): to inquire

Ask questions. Learn about the school before you get there, and listen up during the information session so that you can ask really thoughtful, helpful questions. Also, your tour guide might forget to mention something, so if you want to hear more about it, it couldn’t hurt to bring it up nicely.

DO: Ask relevant, positive questions.

DON’T: Ask, “can my boyfriend sleepover?” or “do you run our essays through a plagiarism detector?” (real questions)

ready (adj): prepared

Be ready for anything. They might ask you questions. At one college, the director of admissions sat us around a table and had a conversation. At another, the director of admissions asked us to introduce ourselves and explain what we were most interested in about the school.

DO: Be honest and positive.

DON’T: Overthink it or get too nervous. Or say you’re there to “meet women” (a real response!)

schedule (n): a plan of events

Plan ahead and come up with a schedule that works for your family.

DO: Sign up for information sessions and tours, and sign up to visit classes. Also, check to see if schools are on break.

DON’T: Show up late.

tiring (adj): wearying, fatiguing

These trips can be exhausting.

DO: Sleep in between trips.

DON’T: Pack too much into your schedule.

unexpected (adj): not expected; surprising (source)

A lot of really exciting, unexpected things can happen! There was a dog-petting booth in the quad at one college, and I ran into my friend from a summer program at another college.

DO: Embrace it.

DON’T: Cry.

values (n): in plural. the principles or moral standards held by a person or social group; the generally accepted or personally held judgement of what is valuable and important in life.

Think about your values, and try to get a sense of the school’s values and philosophy. Examples: community, diversity, sustainability, etc.

DO: Take notes on which schools seem to align with your values.

DON’T: Make assumptions about a school’s values and/or culture without visiting the school.

weather (n): the condition of the atmosphere

Prepare for the weather.

DO: Try to visit schools when the weather is nice.

DON’T: Decide you hate a school because it was raining when you visited.

xenagogue (n): one who conducts strangers; a guide

Choose your tour guide thoughtfully.

DO: Select a tour guide who is loud, audible, engaging, and excited, and/or a tour guide whose interests are similar to yours.

DON’T: Select a tour guide based on who you find the most attractive.

you (pron): used as the pronoun of the second person singular or plural (source)

Can you see yourself at this college?

DO: Think about your personality, interests, likes, dislikes, hobbies, ticks, preferences, etc.

DON’T: Climb into bed in one of the dorms.

zany (n): crazily ridiculous

It’s college. You’re going to encounter a lot of weird stuff. I went to one school with a bright blue statue of a bear/lamp. It was as tall as a house.

DO: Embrace the weird, and find the fun in it.

DON’T: Apply judgement.

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