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A Teen's View

Second Chance, Last Chance

Kat Dart

(5/2012) In a lot of ways, a college visit is like a job interview, with the potential student as an employer and the college as a job applicant. They have one shot at making a good enough impression to inspire a student to apply.

Some colleges focus on how grandiose and beautiful and ornate their campus is. Some focus on the surrounding sites – the history, the social life, the nearby cities. More focus on all the extra things they have for their students, such as clubs and organizations and their Division-1 teams. And some focus on the core of their purpose – their educational standards.

But really, when searching for something, it’s the small things that count. In the span of forty eight hours, I toured three colleges, each very different.

One led us on a tour through their smaller-than-average campus, pointing out fun facts and showing off their fun programs, like their fashion design buildings and full gym, and told us about the off-campus places to visit and how easy it was to travel on a weekend to major cities.

The second led us on a tour through their absolutely gorgeous and utterly stunning campus, pointing out their major rebuilds and showing off their latest-and-greatest technology they used. They showed us the gorgeous scenery they were located by, how peaceful a town they were located in.

The third? They showed us how very institute-like their campus was. It was majestic but not really beautiful in a way the other campuses were. They focused heavily on their core education and stressed that they were not a "nerdy school" but a serious one with some fun activities outside of school.

At the end of the visits, I decided that the first and third colleges were definitely on my "apply-to" list and the second was most definitely not. Really, what made the difference?

The tour guides for one thing. Both the first college and the thirds had excited guides who were quickly throwing out interesting facts about their respective colleges, such as pranks pulled or interesting events that happened.

The second college’s tour guide was almost rehearsed and speaking from memory, and honestly didn’t seem interested in what she was saying.

The second thing was the student body. And the first college, there were students screaming "WOOOOOO COLLEGE" from halfway across the campus, or yelling at us to apply to them.

The third college would tell us about student-hosted events, such as throwing liquid-nitrogen pumpkins off the roof of a twenty-story building at Halloween.

The second was, in a lot of ways, just dead feeling. No one talked to us except the guide, no school pride was really shown. It almost felt like we were in the way on our tour.

The small things made the biggest difference, and really influenced my decisions (for now). There was never anything bad at each college, some were just better than others in different ways, and each had its own traits to look into and make decisions over.

I left the college visits, driving back to Maryland, and having a discussion with my Dad about each college I liked, didn’t like, why, and what I was applying to. At that moment, I knew exactly what I was doing in six months, where I was applying, what tests I needed to take, what classes I needed to schedule.

I was so sure for each of my decisions, and I had that moment where I was positive that I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, and I had made a million plans on how to get there and I was SO READY to get started…

…and then another college pushed its way into the picture, carrying neon-colored banners saying "Look at Me!" in bright letters, and my mom informed me that she wanted me to visit it.

So, all I was left with is a few opinions, an incomplete decision process, and reprioritizing, and a lovely phrase one of my teachers taught me echoes through my mind. "Starting all over again…"

I suppose, in a way, there are a lot of things that I do now that are similar to the college process. There are always a lot of factors that help make a decision, a lot of small things that solidify it. The little dumb things make the biggest difference, the large things form a general opinion.

It’s like friends. They are all a lot different, different interests and personalities and sometimes you wonder how you get along with them. It’s because of their little personality quirks – that person who knows your coffee order, or just comes up to you every day to say "hi." The little traits that make them special are what stick out in the end.

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