The importance of visiting a college campus before accepting a scholarship cannot be emphasized more. Brochures, catalogues, presentations by college representatives, counselors, coaches, and recruiters can all help a student form an opinion about a particular school. But a school visit allows students to see campus life first-hand, giving students like University of Washington’s quarterback Jake Browning, the opportunity to evaluate the school’s academic, athletic, and housing programs.
Allowing students to see a campus for themselves offers the best insight of all. It’s not uncommon for student athletes to think that a particular college might be right for them based on all the promotional literature, only to later find that it’s not the right fit. In fact, before agreeing to play at the University of Southern California (USC), quarterback Jalen Greene verbally committed to the University of Washington in order to follow head coach Chris Peterson, only to change his mind a few weeks later. It’s always better, however, to find this out before arriving in the fall with your bags and books in hand. The last thing you want to do as a new recruit is hit the road with all your belongings only to regret your college decision.
There are normally two kinds of visits for athletes and students: one is the “drive by” informal visit, and the second is the more formal visit that includes tours, class visits, information sessions, and in some cases, overnight stays.
The first visit is the type that can be set up early on in college research. Spring break and summertime provide the perfect opportunities for this kind of visit. A drive by visit can also be made without all the hype and pressure from coaching staff members and recruits. As a matter of fact, with a little planning, the informal campus visit can be a welcome side trip off the expressway during a family vacation with the opportunity to walk around and see all the different departments and facilities. Students and their families can also take advantage of campus tours and info sessions. The differences between campuses will soon become clear not only to the family, but to the student as well.
The second kind of visit is more appropriate for senior high school students who have narrowed down their list of potential prospects. This type of campus visit should be done when classes are in session and students are on campus. The visit should also include an information session, a campus tour, free time to wander around, and of course, a trip to the athletic facility. Some colleges, however, like the University of Washington, only offer this option to seniors who are graduating. A third option can be to wait until the student is offered an athletic scholarship, but this can be hectic and expensive since national signing day is in February. This means the student wouldn’t have much time to evaluate their options.
Are you ready for your campus visit?
If so, here’s some additional information that will help you (the student) make the most out of your college visit:
- Spend the Night in Town
If your schedule permits, spend the night in town in order to get a better idea of the area. Although you’ll more than likely stay on campus during your first year, it’s important to know about life outside the gates and see the what the townspeople think of students.
- Check out the Local Newspapers
Pick up a copy of the local newspaper while you’re leaving practice or heading to class. Although campus newspaper are helpful, they generally only focus on university issues. City newspapers, on the other hand, focus their attention on the general public. Therefore, students and educators alike are being informed on campus issues, and state issues as well.
The newspaper in general, however, offers students an uncensored take on issues facing not only officials, but other students as well. Drunk driving, for example, has always been an issue circulating around colleges and universities throughout the country. So reading up on this subject can teach student athletes early on about different legal actions and responsibilities they can take after a collision with someone who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Stop by for Office Hours
If you know (or think you might know) what you plan on studying while in college, stop by the department to see if an advisor or professor has time to talk. This is perhaps the best way to get a pulse on the type of scholarly work and research needed in order to maintain success both in the classroom and in your respected sporting event. It might also give you an idea of the accessibility of the faculty members.
- Don’t Forget to Say Thank You
Sending a follow-up thank you note to your tour guide or college recruiter is always a good idea. An e-mail can also be used, but remember to keep a formal tone throughout your note and in all communication with the admissions office. In other words, don’t use shorthand or text language. Be sure to articulate specific aspects of the college and your visit that you appreciated.
So whether you’re traveling all the way to the grand symbol of the United States Government (Washington DC) or just a few miles to Corvallis, a campus visit not only helps students narrow down their choices, but it can act as a motivator for students to do well academically. It also provides student athletes with a clear picture about the college environment and gives them the chance to discuss their choices with family and friends.
Ultimately, it’s your decision. Listen to your gut and ask yourself, “Can I call this place home?” If the answer is “yes,” then you’re one step closer to making it possible. If the answer is “no,” however, explore other options. Get your college moving checklist ready, and take your time when evaluating your options; and be sure to enjoy the campus visit.