Reflecting on Your College Visits

By Patricia Gorden Neill - March 19th, 2013

You’re in the car on the long ride home, parents are in the front seats, and you’re in the back filling out your post-visit checklists. After visiting five colleges in three days, some of the details are getting a bit blurry and blending one college and another. It’s essential now that you use the notes you took on campus to help you remember each college distinctly. When you fill out your post-visit checklist, you’ll have the information and your impressions at your fingertips.

Sample Post-Visit Checklist

College A—huge, the state’s flagship university

Pros

  • Great psychology department and good creative writing curriculum and teachers
  • Nice mix of new and older buildings, all well kept up
  • Really nice admissions lady, Mrs. Cavalier was very warm and encouraging in my interview
  • Dad said financial aid package was decent, that we could afford this school
  • Talking to the students was OK, they were friendly and a couple of them were really helpful when we took a wrong turn

Cons

  • Campus was too big. People were hurrying everywhere. I didn’t feel really comfortable.
  • The dorm I went to by myself was kind of shabby, worn carpets. It’s slated to be renovated next year, though.
  • Mom didn’t think the lunch was all that healthy but I liked the salad bar.
  • The student activities fee seemed really high. I guess it supports all the clubs and student organizations.
  • The prices at the bookstore for textbooks!!!

Interesting Facts about the College

  • 1. Student union building designed by famous architect, WW Lang.
  • 2. The whole school arguing in newspaper about updating the mascot and team image.
  • 3. The statue over by the Student Union is supposed to represent Knowledge. I thought it looked like a big snake.

Admission Requirements

  • 1. Two recommendation letters
  • 2. 4.0 GPA
  • 3. 2200 SAT
  • 4. 10 Advanced Placement courses in core disciplines

What is the Admission Deadline? Financial Aid Deadlines?

Most memorable part of this visit?

Overall Impression

  • Positive
  • Decent—I’ll apply
  • OK, had good and bad things about it
  • I didn’t like it much at all, negative

Extra Notes:

I fit in with the students, we dressed much the same, talked the same. The library looked excellent.

Try to fill out the post-visit checklist when all the details about the college are still fresh in your mind. Put in as much detail as you can, it will come in handy when it comes to decision time.

You’ll also want to reflect on different aspects of the college.

Academics

What did you think of the academic quality of the college? Was the class you took challenging for you or seemingly too easy? Can students meet with faculty without difficulty? How big are the classes?

Student Body

Were the students friendly? Were you able to ask them the questions on your list? Did they like the school even after a few years? Would they choose to go there again? Were they relaxed with each other or intense and competitive?

Campus

Was the campus too big or too small? Were the buildings well kept, lawns mowed? Was there Internet connection in each dorm room or common area? Do the dorm buildings have adequate lighting? Did the campus feel safe? Were there security guards or campus police? Were there well-marked call boxes for security? Do all freshmen live in the same dorms? Were the dorms crowded or noisy?

Town

Was there a supermarket, Wal-mart, drugstore and restaurant close by? Was there a place to do laundry if not available in the dorms? Did it seem like there would be lots of things to do in town? Was my church in town? What’s the apartment scene like if I don’t have to live in the dorms in junior year?

Student Activities

Were there lots of clubs and other activities for students like film series, a radio station and places to meet and hang out? How was the athletic department, how are the teams? Is the Greek system strong on campus?

Financial

What is the total cost for a year at this school, including tuition, room and board, fees and books? How much spending money will I need per week for outside snacks, movies, laundry and sundries? Is there a work-study program or can I find a job off campus fairly easily? How much financial aid will I get? Is it enough?

In summary, write down as much detail as you can about different aspects of each college. Include whatever you think will help you remember the college, its campus, student body and overall impression. Use this information to revamp your college list if necessary. You may want to drop some colleges off your list or add that small rural college you quickly visited on your way home, which wasn’t part of the official college tour. Be honest about your impressions. Respectfully ask for your parents’ opinions and recommendations, but remember you have to make the final decision. Your college will be your home and your life for the next four years and finding a good fit will be your reward for your remembering and reflecting after each college visit.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.