It’s my day off from school, and I spent it looking at another college. I looked at colleges over break, which ended not even a week ago, and I’m still looking at schools. But, hey, it’s junior year, and I need to get a good idea of where I want to go and where I feel I’d belong.
Quite honestly, I feel like looking at colleges is almost like a gift. It’s a learning experience that has taught me a lot about myself as both a person and a student, and it’s also educated me about all of the different kinds of colleges that there are out there. I mean, I’m looking at schools that are exclusively in the North (although I’m considering checking out some schools in DC), but I’ve noticed a lot of things out of all the schools I’ve looked at so far.
Here were my discoveries:
1. The size of a school can surprise you.
Okay, so there are schools, like the Ivys and some of the SUNYs, where the large student body can be extremely obvious. However, I’ve been surprised by the size of some schools. For example—and I’ll be honest about this—I always assumed that Hofstra’s student body was ginormous based off of the vast size of the campus. (I’ve visited the school many times—whether it be for tours, summer programs, prep classes, you name it—so I've experienced the size of the campus firsthand.) However, I checked the size of the student body, and it’s only around 5,000 or 6,000 undergraduate students. In other words, don’t assume that the student body is as large or as small as the campus in which they attend.
2. Student review websites are golden.
On the way home from visiting a college today, I looked up what students were saying about some of the schools I’m interested in. It’s one thing to hear about a school from a student’s personal perspective, because, as I’ve learned from looking at Catholic high schools, there will be facts that student tour guides and admissions counselors won’t bring up or will skew in attempts to keep the reputation of the school in tact. I’ve found that reading positive and negative reviews has helped me narrow down some of my college choices—which is great for me because I tend to be a bit indecisive.
3. Don’t assume that the most prestigious schools are the only places where you belong; do your homework on colleges before deciding what kinds of schools you should look at.
Let’s face it: it’s always exciting to find out when you, a friend, or a relative gets into some top notch Ivy or another school of the same caliber. These kinds of schools may have prestige, but they aren’t for everybody. If there’s two things that I’ve found to be helpful in my college search, they’re research and visiting. From research, you can learn about the different programs and organizations that are offered at you school of interest. If you think the school is right for you, then go visit it before you make any decisions—especially if you’re looking to apply early decision, where there’s no turning back if you choose this route (as you’re contracted to go to that school if you’re accepted). I’ve only looked at one Ivy as of yet (I’m leaving it unnamed so that I don’t offend said school), and, although I found it impressive, exciting, and different than what I'm used to, I didn’t feel like it was the place for me. However, different schools appeal to different students, so one school could be unattractive to one student and attractive to another.
4. Looking at colleges has been a bonding experience.
Since I can’t drive yet (I don’t have a license, a car, or the desire to drive long distances with such little driving experience), I have to rely on my parents to take me to look at colleges. Although none of us like driving anywhere from 45 minutes two several hours just so we can look at a school and drive back home, I feel like the time we’ve spent in the car together really has helped me bond with my parents. I mean, my mom’s taken me to most of the schools that I’m looking at, but I feel like my dad and I will have the same experiences when he takes me to look at other schools and the schools that I’m most interested in. My mom and I spent the entire car ride today just talking and laughing. It was fun, quite honestly. The memories that I have of these college visits are ones that I will never forget.
Catherine Litvaitis is a Wantagh resident and junior at in Syosset.