College Search

By Maria


That time of year has come once again! Thousands of high school sophomores and juniors are hitting the pavement and traveling up and down interstates across the country looking for “the perfect school.” I hope that, in this very busy time, you find some of the following tips helpful.

Getting to Know Yourself


The college search process is an intimate experience; a journey that is as unique and individual as we are. The best place to start thinking about which colleges/universities you want to consider is by asking yourself which aspects of the college experience are important to you. Some things you may want to consider are:


1) Are you more comfortable in large crowds or smaller, more personal gatherings? This can translate to being comfortable in a large lecture classroom or an intimate seminar style class. Similarly, you may want to think about your feelings regarding campus size.

2) We’ve all heard the adage: location, location, location. Think about your ideal location. Are you looking for the comfort of a familiar setting? Are you interested in experiencing something new and stimulating? Do you want the excitement of a vibrant downtown or the strength of community found in small towns?

3) What about distance? Are you comfortable traveling far away from home or possibly out of state for college, or would you rather be closer to home?

4) Would you prefer a large research institution or a liberal arts school?

5) What particular activities do you hope to continue in college? If the university doesn’t offer a particular activity, are you okay with going off campus or starting your own organization?

6) Do you prefer a primarily residential college, or is it okay if some students commute to campus?

7) Are there particular academic areas in which you’re interested?


Make a College Wish List


Take some time to go over your answers to the above questions as well as some that you may have come up with on your own. From there, build your college wish list. It’s important to begin thinking about which requirements you consider to be “deal breakers” versus ones that are more flexible. You may want to convert your thoughts into a check-list that can be taken with you on campus visits.


Make an Appointment With Your Guidance Counselor


Take the time to discuss your thoughts with your guidance counselor. He/she may have additional points for you to consider and/or may have additional schools for you to look into. Your guidance counselor will be able to answer questions about your high school’s deadlines, policy on missing classes for college visits, college fair schedule, etc. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin forming a relationship with your guidance counselor.


Discuss Options With Your Parents

While the college search process has much to do with you; many families make college choices together. Bring your parents into the conversation. Let them know what you’re thinking! You may be surprised to hear some of their thoughts regarding price, location, majors, or even campus size.


Research Schools Prior to Visiting


This really is essential. Your campus visit should not be your first introduction to a school. Prior to visiting, research the school online, request brochures, talk to friends and neighbors, and email current students. After a bit of light research, you should have a pretty good idea what type of school you’re going to see. From the school’s Web site you can find information like:

1) First-year student profile

2) Campus location

3) Total enrollment

4) Available majors

5) Surrounding area

6) Interviews required or recommended

7) Class visitation opportunities


Once you gather this basic information, you can spend more time during your visit asking questions from your check-list.


The Campus Visit

My biggest tip for planning a successful college visit is to be realistic when budgeting your time. Trying to visit more than two colleges in one day is often unrealistic and can lead to hurried visits and less memorable experiences. Being nervous during a campus visit is a normal and natural feeling; but, feelings of being rushed and pressured to “move to the next school” can be avoided.


Prior to arriving on campus, call the admission office to schedule an appointment. This will help the university plan for your arrival, and you’ll be able to ask questions about hotels, restaurants, and traffic conditions in the area.


During your visit, remember to:

1) Pack your camera. Taking pictures of specific buildings, the campus grounds, and the surrounding area will help you to differentiate universities later on.

2) Dress appropriately. Be prepared for at least a 30-minute walking tour of each campus. Often, you will be walking at a brisk pace both indoors as well as outside.

3) If interviews are offered, you may want to consider signing up for one. Interviews are a great way for you to have one-on-one time with a current student or and admission officer. In either case, you can gather more information about a particular school.

4) Grab a quick bite to eat. Even if you only have time for a snack, you should try to sample the cuisine. Remember, if you’re accepted, you’ll be eating there for four years!

5) If class visits are offered, make sure you attend one. Many campuses are beautiful, college students are typically very friendly, and admission officers can offer a breadth of knowledge. But, making sure an institution is the right match academically is paramount.

6) Venture off campus. The surrounding area is just as important as the campus itself. Will you have access to a city? A quaint downtown? Shopping malls? Do you feel safe off campus?

7) Keep a journal of your experience. Write down your initial thoughts as well as specific points regarding facilities, faculty, student life, campus location, and your overall gut reaction.



  1. Joseph Mortelliti
    Posted May 7, 2008 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I will be visiting the UR this summer (July 3). Is it possible for me to meet with someone in the business/accounting dept. or history dept. while I’m on campus? It’s a long drive from upstate NY, and I’d like to meet a member of the faculty then to get a better feel for the academics.
    Thank you.

  2. Tom
    Posted May 7, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joseph,

    Great question! Faculty availability can vary during the summer. Our professors are usually happy to meet with prospective students, but they may or may not be around during the summer months, when classes are not in session. Feel free to contact the Business School or History Department directly, to see whether anyone might be available on July 3. You can find the departments’ contact information in the University Directory at

    We look forward to seeing you on campus this summer!


Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: