Skip to content

Walking the Grounds

Let’s face it, the college process is a tedious thing to tackle; writing applications, searching for potential scholarships, taking SATs and ACTs, and so much more culminate in deciding what college to attend. An unexpected obstacle that we seniors faced was the cancellation of college tour plans. When campuses were closed due to the pandemic, the possibility of visiting colleges was also shut down. Thankfully, colleges made significant improvements to their websites, especially making virtual college tours available. Aspiring juniors and seniors, you too will likely face challenges in this arduous endeavor of choosing your college or university.

Whether in or out of your home state or country, going to visit colleges may feel like an unnecessary hassle, especially while striving to achieve excellent grades in a demanding curriculum for admission consideration. Very few of us enjoy taking time out of our school breaks, weekends, or even weekdays to visit colleges in person, but such was often the practice until virtual tours became more robust and readily available from the impact of COVID-19. Now, a student can get a 360 view of the campus as well as gather information on most aspects, all without setting foot on the college grounds. I too did not see the point of wasting time acquiring information I had at my fingertips, so the virtual tours sounded great to me. 

When on-campus tours became available again (even in a more restricted capacity), my parents suggested that I personally visit some colleges on my list. I reluctantly agreed, as my declarations of satisfaction from already touring the colleges via computer fell on deaf ears. My expectations were low for the upcoming time-wasting trip because I was certain I would gain nothing from these in-person tours. 

But lo and behold, I got exactly what I needed from these on-campus tours, and not just the technical stuff I had questions about based on my research. The question I had never asked myself turned out to be the most crucial part of the entire college-seeking process experience: which one felt right to me?

Sometimes it is a matter of instinct. After all, when you are trying to analyze and compare the details you learn about a college, you don’t necessarily consider it will be your home (away from home) for the next four years. Preferred academic programs and promising research grants will fall flat at a college that does not appeal to you on all levels. You will love some colleges and discard others as soon as you walk a mile on the grounds. That is the crucible of college tours in the flesh, regardless of size or location.

I am enrolling as a freshman at Villanova University this coming August. Would I have made this decision had I not seen the campus in person? Maybe not. When I followed the virtual tour on the Villanova website, I admittedly found it a little depressing; I just wasn’t that excited about it. That being said, I was deeply interested in the opportunities on campus and the fact that Villanova chose me while both of my former dream colleges felt differently.

But to my grateful surprise, my visit was an absolute blast! I genuinely felt at home on that beautiful campus, talked with incredible professors, and immediately connected with other students with similar interests. In fact, every student I walked up to for help was extremely kind and considerate in answering any questions I had and some even offered impromptu tours. The whole experience left no doubt in my mind that I would be heading to Villanova once my time at St. Anselm’s is over! Visiting a college campus in person not only allows you to observe the architecture or visit academic buildings of interest or ask questions of potential professors but provides a sense of what student life is actually like, learning tidbits and stories from current students that ultimately would be missed in a virtual tour.

Remember that not all college searches will end up as cut and dry as mine did. You will almost certainly fall in love with multiple campuses throughout the process and will be forced to choose. So when you inevitably reach this difficult decision point, use in-person campus tours to your advantage; it can make or break your opinion of the colleges on your list and make your final decision easier. Rising juniors and seniors, never underestimate the importance of walking the grounds!