College trips take over


Wintertime is a busy time for seniors as they go through the college process and prepare for the next stage of their lives. Choosing a college is a procedure involving many complex decisions and experiences, one of the most important factors being college trips.

“The first college trip I took was the fall of my sophomore year, which is fairly early,” said senior Colesy Cotter. “I didn’t go on any trips until the spring of my junior year after that.”

College trips give students an opportunity to see where they would be living for the next four years of their lives.

“I would usually go on a campus tour and information session, and try to talk to the college representative for Westminster at each school, so I would usually visit each school for at least a day,”  said Cotter.

Internet research can only take students so far in terms of deciding which college is right for them.

“First semester junior year, when you have your first meeting with your college counselor, you come up with a list of colleges to visit, which is probably going to be a lot longer than the number of schools you apply to,” said Cotter. “My list was about 30 schools and I ended up only applying to 6, although I was planning on applying to 11.”

Academics are only one factor; environment, proximity, and distance from home can be all major considerations when choosing a college.

“I picked schools in locations I liked, schools my friends liked, places I knew people, or schools with great debate times or international relations programs, since that’s what I want to major in,” said Cotter.

Academic quality was a key factor for many.

“I wanted rigorous, challenging academics alongside a welcoming, dynamic school community, and I was looking for a place that I would be excited to spend my time in,” said senior Alex Kong.

Although some students went on their first college trip early, others chose to begin their college process at the beginning of senior year.

“I went on my first college trip the summer before senior year,” said senior Katie Zhu. “I spent about half a day at each school I visited.”

Most students visit more colleges then they apply to. Students seem to have different goals on their college visits; some seem to be more concerned on the social aspect, some are more focused on academics, and some pay special attention to extracurricular activities.

“I didn’t ‘officially’ visit all the schools I applied to, such as Georgetown or Michigan, but I’d already been to New Orleans for vacation, Georgetown for a debate tournament, and I spend all summer at Michigan for debate camp,” said Kong.

A lot of students go into college visitation with a predetermined favorite, but many will find a new frontrunner once they’ve seen the different aspects of each individual college.

“I had a top five list, and Cornell was number one, and then Northwestern, Dartmouth, Colgate, and Georgetown were my other top choices in no particular order,” said Cotter. “My visit definitely changed my decision; Colgate wasn’t really in my top ten list before I visited, much less my top five. But when I visited, I just had a really great time—the representative was incredible, everyone I met was so nice, the campus was beautiful, and the food was great. I really felt at home there.”

Alumnus Evan Katz, a freshman at the University of Georgia, began visiting colleges later than others in his grade and looked for very specific dynamics in each college he visited.

“I started the visitation process later than most people because I had already seen a number of schools through debate camp and debate tournaments,” said Katz. “My first visit was to Duke in August of my senior year.”

Katz visited six schools before he made his final decision based on his field of study, distance from home, and financial considerations.

“I took trips to the schools I was most interested in attending because I wanted to get a sense of what each of those schools would be like,” said Katz. “I used that knowledge to properly order my college list and make an educated decision about where I wanted to apply early. When regular decisions came out, I visited a few other schools to which I had already been accepted in order to have all the information I needed to make a decision.”

Part of Katz’ process included the fact that at least one parent traveled with him to each college he visited.

“My family went on every trip with me,” said Katz. “Mainly because my mother played an active role in the application process; I looked to her for guidance and her opinions on whichever schools we visited.”

A major factor that Katz looked for when touring colleges was if he truly felt satisfied with all the opportunities that the school would provide him.

“I look for a school where I feel comfortable,” Katz said. “I don’t necessarily have to feel at home, but the campus has to feel inviting. I also look to see if there are things to do outside of campus so I don’t get bored on days without class.

The college process is both stressful and exciting as high school seniors make a decision that is a gateway to the next stage of their lives and the first major independent decision of their lives.

College visits are a pivotal part of the process, and although each student may approach college visits with different ideas and goals, the end result is the gathering of vital information necessary to make an informed decision as to which college they will attend.