'Tis the season for college tours
Whether you’re a senior trying to make your final decision, a junior putting together your college list, or a sophomore just starting to think about next steps after high school — spring break is the perfect time to step foot on college campuses, take some tours, and get a feel for what different schools are like. Below are a few things we encourage you to consider as you embark on this season of college tours.
The type of visit makes all the difference
I will always recommend in-person visits over other options whenever possible—there is no better way to get a true sense of the school's vibes than by spending some time there. Nothing can replace walking through the school's buildings, sitting down in its classrooms and cafeteria, breathing its air and seeing the faces that fill its campus. Going on an official tour is a wonderful way to learn about the college, ask important questions, and talk with the students and staff.
Of course, each school will have different policies this spring regarding in-person visits that may put limits on the experience. The size of tour groups may be small, visitors may have to fill out a form asking about COVID-19 symptoms and comply with mask-wearing and social-distancing policies, and certain areas such as residence halls may be off limits. Check with the schools you're interested in about what they're offering and allowing.
If the in-person option doesn't feel safe for you or your family at this time, or a campus isn't allowing the public on campus, but you still want to get a sense of the schools on your list, consider doing a drive-by. Sure, you won't be able to walk through buildings or see various parts of campus, but you will be able to take in the size and layout of the school, its proximity to local eateries and shopping, its general ambiance, etc. Some schools are even offering official drive-thru tours where you can parade through the campus with staff and other prospective students!
Virtual tours started to become popular long before COVID-19 hit, but have certainly become better in the last year, simply out of necessity. So if staying at home is the right choice for you, or if the colleges you're interested in are too far away or too expensive to visit in person, then you'll definitely, at the very least, want to invest some time in virtual tours.
We have a whole blog post all about virtual college visits — how to access them and make the most out of seeing schools this way. Better yet, most colleges have now created their own platforms and apps to offer students the best virtual tour experience possible.
Go to your prospective schools' websites, particularly their admissions page, to access their virtual visit opportunities. Some will have online events where you can speak with current faculty, staff, or students. Other will have a host of videos to watch that can paint a nice picture of what a day in the life at their school looks like.
Variety is key!
If you don't know where to start when it comes to making a college list, my first piece of advice is to visit a variety of campuses to get a clearer idea of what kind of college will be right for you. From big to small, public to private, rural to urban — the best way to establish a preference on these things is to experience them. I recommend checking out one school from each category listed below (e.g. a small private college in the suburbs, a medium-sized college in a rural setting, and a large public college in an urban area).
A small college campus is one with less than 2,000 students. They are usually either private schools or community colleges. Examples in Oregon include Lewis & Clark College and Pacific University.
A college is considered medium sized when it has 2,000-15,000 students. Oregon Tech and George Fox University are both medium-sized.
There are three large colleges in Oregon (>15,000 students): Oregon State University (OSU), Portland State University (PSU) , and University of Oregon (U of O).
Public colleges are funded by local and state governments and usually offer lower tuition rates than private colleges, especially for students who are residents of the state where a college is located. These types of schools tend to offer more academic majors and research opportunities. Eastern (EOU), Western (WOU), and Southern (SOU) Oregon Universities are all public schools.
Private colleges rely mainly on tuition, fees and private sources of funding. Private donations can sometimes provide generous financial aid packages for students. Private schools often offer smaller class sizes and a more intimate learning environment. Corban University and Linfield University are just two of Oregon's fifteen private colleges.
Urban: located in cities; (e.g. PSU, University of Portland, Willamette University)
Suburban: located in small cities, large towns, or residential areas near cities (e.g. OSU, U of O, Lewis & Clark, Pacific University)
Rural: located in the country, often near farms and wilderness areas and usually near a small town (e.g. Linfield College, EOU, SOU, WOU)
Some things to pay attention to
How do you feel when you're on the campus?
Pay attention to your internal state as you walk around, sit in the buildings, take in the campus's energy. Are you overwhelmed? bored? excited? content?
How are your values embodied there?
We all have different values, and it's important to consider yours as your look for a college campus to call home. Each school will emphasize values of their own, whether that's community, diversity, professionalism, faith, etc.
How would this school help you reach your goals?
If you're spending the time, money, and effort on earning a college degree, hopefully you have a clear goal in mind in doing so. Think about that goal while touring each campus — which school will give you the best chance of reaching it?
Looking for more guidance as you plan out your college visits this spring? Reach out to your college and career counselor for help!