michelleb337, is it weird that we think Beefy Bits sound delicious? —Sparkitors
Somewhere out there, a really proactive eighth grader is visiting colleges. Yes, it's tempting to devote 100% of your summer to tanning and earning money, but if you want to keep up with that ambitious 13-year-old, you might want to consider scheduling a few college visits. If you’re a rising junior, it’s not too early to start looking. And if you’re a rising senior, this is crunch time. It's college tour and open house season. The hunt is on.
Why are college visits important? Well, for one thing, you actually get to see the crummy library not pictured in the glossy brochures flooding your mailbox, which instead depict brand-spanking-new science facilities, interestingly symbolic trees, and hilariously fun and productive study groups (apparently, like Santa Claus, they do exist). By visiting, you’ll actually get to taste the stir-fry, renowned for its supreme awesomeness, and the hated “Beefy Bits” in gravy, renowned for their dog food aroma.
You have to live wherever you go for four years. It's important to see your top college choices in person, so you can know for sure before you apply whether you'll be happy if you wind up there—or at least whether you’ll need takeout numbers on your speed dial for Beefy Bits days. Here are the five things to look out for on your college tour this summer.
- Study spots. Does the school have a crummy library? Or an eight-story, privately endowed library? Does the library offer tutor services? If so, are they free? What kind of research help can you get? Are there good outdoor spots to study? Quads to play football or sunbathe on? Okay, so that’s not studying. But seriously, look around. You probably have some sense of how and where you study best. Can you find those places on a particular campus?
- Dorm rooms. At first glance, they all look alike. Usually colleges have a demo dorm room set up, with bedding, decorations, and the whole shebang donated by the local home-decorating megastore. However, these dorm rooms may or may not (probably not) be the same size or layout as a typical room. It’s definitely okay to ask, “Are all the dorms about this size? Are they bigger or smaller?” And check out closets. Because you know you’re going to need room for your clothes, your suitcase, and all the ridiculous things you said you could never live without. Such as your pet alligator.
- FOOD. Really. You can eat delivery pizza at every meal for four years, but it's probably not a good idea. So… ask if you can stay for lunch, to get an idea of what the dining hall is like. Trust me, the admission people won't say no. In fact, they probably have get-into-lunch-free cards. Above all else, make sure your tour takes you through the cafeteria! On one of my tours, they skipped the entire building that held the food. Of course, my mom and I asked if we could go check it out. We did go see for ourselves and were pretty disappointed. We were glad we'd asked.
- Laundry. Inquire about laundry services. Will you need to pack three pounds of quarters? Is use of the laundry room included in tuition? Is there a pay-online system? Or, luxury of all luxuries, does the school do your laundry for you? (I have seen this with my own eyes!) Same thing with student mail. Will your care packages (yay!) be stored safely in a temperature-controlled environment until you can retrieve them? You know how easily Mom’s brownies get all melty.
- Transportation. Unless you have a Segway, you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking from class to dorm to library to coffee shop to library to bowling alley…. You get it. Can freshmen bring cars? Where’s the parking? Do a lot of students have cars? Are there buses? Or bikes to rent? Will the security people drive you from the library to your dorm when you’re too terrified to walk that far at 2:30 in the morning after you’ve finally finished studying for your economics exam? These are the pertinent questions.
Most importantly, don’t think that any real question you have is too ridiculous to ask on a tour or another part of a campus visit. If you're shy, quietly ask the tour guide your question while your group is en route, instead of feeling you have to scream from behind a dangerously tall person with big hair during an awkward pause. This is your college tour, and the lovely admissions staff wants to make sure you get a real feel for the school. It’s their job. So scope things out, ask questions, and check out the little stuff. And please, don’t eat the Beefy Bits.
Have you been on any college tours?