Walking into my first college visit was one of the scariest moments of my high school career. I remember being so anxious that my hands were shaking and my lips felt glued shut. That anxiety led to me not hear a single word my tour guide said. I left that campus convinced I was not going to college. It took me a couple more visits to get those nerves out of my system. When I finally did rid myself of the nerves, however, I realized focusing on these keys helped me get the most out of a college visit.
Quality of Residence Halls
The first thing I was interested in when attending college visits was living spaces. How big are the residence halls? Are the rooms air conditioned? How far from the halls are the dining centers and academic buildings? Asking these questions helped me gain a clearer picture as to what living at the universities I visited would look like. At Illinois, almost all of the residence halls are air conditioned and have lots of storage space. Moreover, none are more than a few-minute walk from a dining hall. They are also conveniently spread around the campus, so you can choose to live close to where you anticipate most of your classes being located!
Success of the Alumni
A second thing to research when going on a college visit is how your university will impact your life post-graduation. How successful are the alumni in your chosen field of study? How high are the post-graduation employment rates from your college/major? Luckily for me, I came to UIUC knowing I wanted to be a volleyball student-manager and pursue a career in coaching. With this in mind, I majored in Human Development & Family Studies, minored in Leadership studies and filled all of my electives with Kinesiology and Recreation, Sports and Tourism courses to create a hybrid “Coaching” degree.
In creating my own hybrid major/academic experience, I found my two mentors: current Head Volleyball Coach Chris Tamas & University Instructor and former Head Volleyball Coach Don Hardin. They have not only taught a couple of my classes, but helped me gain many contacts for potential future employers and taught me the “ins and outs” of coaching. When on your college visit, ask the tour guide if they’ve had any mentors help them for their future career. You can also attend a College Open House at any of the UIUC colleges. While there, you can meet faculty to see if any of them would be willing to take you under their wing (hint: at Illinois, they will!)
Envisioning Yourself on the Campus
The last thing to look for on a college visit is determining if you can envision yourself on the campus. The University of Illinois was actually the last school that I visited. I thought that because I grew up in Champaign, there was no way I would go to college here. Truth be told, the instant that I began my campus visit I knew I would be spending the next four years here. Walking around was electric. Seeing all that the campus has to offer was, and still is, so exciting.
When touring your future school, just being on the campus might not give you that electric feeling right away and that’s okay. At Illinois, there are tons of spots on campus that give students that sense of home. For example, UIUC has the Disability Resources & Academic Services, Women’s Resources Center, and LGBT Resource Center. There are also several cultural houses, including the Native American House, La Casa Cultural Latina, Asian American Cultural Center and the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center. All of these resources work towards making Illini feel connected on campus. I would encourage you to look at some of them while you are here!
Stepping into your first visit terrified is totally normal. Starting the college search process is stressful! Focusing on a few of these key areas and questions, though, should help you ease all of those nerves and find your perfect home!