Opinion: Should seniors go on college visits? It depends.


Credit: Jonathan Zhang

WSPN’s Jonathan Zhang weighs the pros and cons of visiting colleges and answers the question of whether visiting colleges is worth it.

Jonathan Zhang

Current seniors have a lot riding on their college applications that they are writing. After all, a student’s acceptance letters will leave them with their options for the next four years of their life. As such, when deciding where they might want to apply, they should want to have all the information that they might need to make a well-informed decision.

Some of this information can come from looking at a school’s website, reaching out to an admissions officer or attending virtual information sessions. However, a college visit is probably the most telling factor in helping a student decide whether a college is the right fit for them.

There’s a couple of reasons for this. There are certain things about a school’s environment that virtual visits or online information can’t tell you. For me, this included things like the stress culture of the school, the mannerisms in which students talked to each other and the overall atmosphere of the college.

Pictures online depict colleges at their best. After all, pictures of a college online can be considered advertisements that utilize the advantages of perfect weather conditions and angles of a camera lens. In these cases, all the student really gets out of a photo is the skill of the photographer, rather than the appeal of the school.

College visits can help students determine, through their own eyes, whether or not they can see themselves as one of the students walking across campus or attending classes.

From the aforementioned information, I’m pretty sure I’ve made my point clear: college visits play a vital role in students’ admissions processes… in a normal year. Needless to say, since 2020, the world has been anything but normal. With the risks of COVID-19 and the added hardships of travel expenditures that many students might not be able to afford, there exists hesitations in the desire to travel to see a college.

Personally, I’m not sure if my college visit was worth it. Sure, I learned a lot about the school that I’m thinking about applying to, but at the same time, I don’t think I got enough out of the visit that I’m certain I would be happy going to the school.

The only way to know if I’m going to fit in or feel happy at a school for the next four years of my life is if I actually experience life at the school for myself. I need to eat, sleep, learn and feel like students who go to the school. And not just for a day or two. If I only experience what students at a college experience for a limited period of time, then confounding factors like weather might project a false sense of belonging. If the weather is nice, I might view the school in a better light. Of course, going to a school for an extended period of time and living like a student at the school is impossible.

While college visits do give you valuable information, it’s never going to be enough to make an informed decision. Then again, you’re never going to have enough information about something to decide the next four years of your life. That’s why transferring majors and transferring schools is a common occurrence.

And so, the decision is up to you. My advice would be to weigh the pros and cons of visiting a college first. Keep in mind, the knowledge you gain from your visit won’t necessarily be enough to help you make the decision. Just trust your gut.