By: Julia Darkey
While most kids used their spring break to relax, catch up on sleep, or maybe go on vacation, I was up every day at 7:30 a.m. getting ready for college tours. From April 14th to April 21st, my dad, mom, and I went on college tours throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. My mom and I scheduled tours for almost all of the colleges we visited so we had a set schedule of where we were going to be and when. I would HIGHLY recommend scheduling the school tour on their website. Often there were as many as 50 students, plus their parents on my tours; and colleges often set a limit of students per tour so you don’t want to be disappointed that you can’t tour the school after traveling there because you didn’t make an appointment.
It was really a huge help to schedule visits with the schools not only so we had a set schedule, but also so we had an actual student showing us the ins and outs of the campus. I was able to ask any questions I had and get a truthful answer from someone who is actually attending that school. The schools were also very great about giving me the option to attend live classes and even go to lunch with a student!
Before I left for my trip, I made a worksheet with questions on it that I completed for each school I visited. The questions on each sheet started fairly broad (school’s location – rural, suburban, urban?, feel/look of the campus – old or new?, number of students, etc.) but eventually narrowed down to more specific questions (does the school have my study major, tuition/costs, how many clubs, Greek life, internships, international exchange opportunities, etc.). As soon as I would finish a college tour, I would get in the car and fill out the worksheet while the visit was fresh in my mind. Since I visited so many colleges, and eventually every tour started sounding the same, it really helped to write down all the information and details about each school. Once I got home from my trip, it was very easy to look back and rule out some colleges that were not a good fit, and to do more research and reach out to colleges that were a good fit for me.To begin our journey, we started in Virginia visiting Old Dominion University and Virginia Wesleyan. After that, we drove along the east coast of North Carolina and stopped at East Carolina University and UNC Wilmington. We finally made it to South Carolina and toured Coastal Carolina University, College of Charleston, and Furman University. After spending four days in South Carolina, we headed back up north, making a pit stop at Brevard College and UNC Asheville and ended our college tours in central North Carolina at Elon University. So in seven days, I visited ten colleges.
Each college was different and unique in its own way. I personally want to attend college in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. I visited some schools near the beach and some in the mountains, some large campuses, and some very small. I learned a lot during this trip especially that I do not want to attend a large university. I also learned that a college education is very expensive, especially if you are looking out of state like I am. I quickly learned that you get more “bang for your buck” by attending a private school versus a state school if you are planning to study outside your home state. State schools are designed to educate students from that state and the tuition costs are much more affordable for them than for out of state students, which often can equal the cost of a private university education. Additionally, private schools usually have larger endowments that provide Merit scholarships to students based on their educational accomplishments, which can greatly reduce tuition costs. I also like that the private liberal arts schools really emphasize not only providing a college education, but developing the whole person - mentally, physically and spiritually. I hope that a private school will provide me a more personalized education and since it a more tightly knit community, I hope to develop relationships that will last a lifetime.
This trip was a big help to me because a lot of times when looking at colleges, you want big name schools just so you can say you’re going there, but often you can get the same, if not a better, education at a smaller school and the campuses are just as beautiful. My “shortlist” for now is Elon University, Rhodes College (in Memphis, TN where I visited on a previous campus trip) and Furman University. If you are like me and considering a smaller campus out of state, all of these schools are gorgeous and offer top educational programs.
My trip was a great learning experience and also a really fun trip with my parents. Even if you aren’t looking at colleges far away, it is always a great idea to personally tour the campus so you can get a feel of what your “home” is going to be like for the next four plus years. You won’t regret it!