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Why merely visiting campuses is not enough

“Go with your gut feeling.” Throughout my college search, I have received this piece of advice countless times. But what exactly forms this feeling?

Apparently, the “gut feeling” is the intuitive knowledge that you would thrive at that college. You step on campus and your heart sings; you can see yourself strolling down University Street and sitting with your friends in the dining hall. Unfortunately, too much of what forms this “gut feeling” is arbitrary: Busy high school students rarely have time to stay at colleges past the tour and information sessions. Therefore, most of their judgment of the school depends on the tour, and consequently, on one person: the tour guide.

I knew by the end of my junior year what type of college I was looking for: a small or medium-sized liberal arts school on the East Coast with a competitive Division III cross country and track program. Two of the colleges I visited that year included College A and College B.

I toured College A on a quiet Saturday morning—most students were still sleeping. My tour guide was a sophomore who was passionate about orchestra (I am not interested in pursuing music in college). He told us all about the music program, and only mentioned in passing a rehearsed sentence or two about athletics. He majored in science, a subject that I do not plan to focus on in college. I left campus far less interested in College A.

I toured College B on a lively Thursday afternoon. My tour guide was a senior who was passionate about writing. She was part of the journalism school, and she raved about the newspaper club and other writing programs (which I am interested in pursuing in college). I had a lot in common with this tour guide, which helped me envision making friends with students like her at College B.

However, College A is undisputedly the better choice for me. It is a small liberal arts school in a competitive Division III athletics league. College B is a large state university with one of the best Division I athletic leagues in the country (meaning that I would not join its running teams). But based on my two tours, I certainly would have chosen College B.

This weekend, I visited College A again. Instead of staying for two hours on a quiet morning, I stayed for a full day and night with the track team. Instead of a science major, one of the track coaches gave me a tour of campus. She highlighted key places that were relevant to my interests, like the indoor and outdoor tracks. I got the opportunity to eat meals with girls who could potentially be my future teammates, which allowed me to envision my life as a student at the college. Additionally, I got unrehearsed answers to all types of questions about life on campus. For example, the students I met could tell me more about social life, a topic that tour guides can only touch on with heavy filters. I can now easily envision myself fitting in at College A, though I could not say the same after my first tour. Campus tours cannot possibly paint the whole picture for prospective students.

Article by MoCo Student staff writer Zoe Nuechterlein of Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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