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Nick College visits—A primer on how to plan for success

College Visits – A Primer on How to Plan for Success


When visiting colleges, Nicholas Marmalejo says asking the right questions will go a long way towards making the right decision of which college to choose.

Visiting a college can be intimidating for both students and parents.

In the end, these experiences are either splendid, awful, or somewhere in between.

In this article Seton Guidance Counselor Nick Marmalejo offers some items to keep in mind before, during, and after one’s college exploration to help bring more perspective and ease to the process.

Visiting a prospective school, college, or university must surely rank as one of the most exciting milestones in any educational journey.

Choosing a school is similar to choosing a vocation. The college you select will define your future and many of the opportunities you encounter for years to come, often in ways that you cannot anticipate or even imagine.

Because of this, it is important to set yourself up for success as much as possible.

Proper Contacts

Admissions representatives or student volunteers often conduct tours of the campus and are available to answer questions about the school. Before your visit, try to become as conversant about their program and school as they might be.

Accomplish this by exploring the college’s website and literature. This will allow you to ask the best and most penetrating questions during your visit, since most of the preliminary ones will be out of the way.

All school employees are ambassadors who, to some degree or another, embody the school’s mission. If possible, I encourage you to form a relationship well in advance of a visit with one specific college admissions representative at any school you are seriously considering.

The level of professionalism, organization, and kindness exhibited by this person will be your first indicator of the school’s climate.

Similarly, if there is a particular professor whose work excites you, it would be worthwhile to meet them during the visit. Meeting teachers or staff one-on-one is a fine way to avail yourself of inside information that can help you in your application process and choose the right school.

One other thing I encourage is to make as certain as possible that your accommodations while you are visiting are comfortable and satisfactory. Saving a few dollars to stay at the local dive hotel is probably not the best idea.

While that could work out, you do not want to create any unnecessary opportunity for your school visit experience to be colored negatively.

Having your lodgings, transportation, and food happily squared away in advance frees you up to immerse yourself in the college visit experience.

Know your Mission

Before choosing a college to visit, it is critical for you to understand what you hope to gain not just from attending any college, but this specific one.

This means you have to have self-knowledge, to know about yourself and your direction.

  • What is the outcome you wish to achieve?
  • What kind of person and professional do you want to be when you finish?
  • How does that look to you personally?
  • How much debt, if any, will you have?

The clearer you are on these specifics, the more successful your college visit will be.

Additionally, when it comes to choosing the right Catholic college, it is important to be familiar with your own individual charism and mission. Each Catholic school has its own spirit or ethos, and the one you choose should have an atmosphere that suits you.

This goes for any school for that matter, but in my experience, if you want to thrive academically and live your Faith to the full, you definitely need to be in a setting that will foster your specific personal and spiritual needs.

Fully Engage

Once the formal tours and meetings are over, take some time alone to venture around the campus as if you were one of the students. In doing so, you want to have as unfiltered an experience as possible.

  • How does the place make you feel?
  • Are the buildings clean and functional?
  • How are the other students?
  • Do they treat you well?
  • Is this a climate in which you feel at ease and in which you can find yourself successful?
  • What about the area surrounding the school—does that work for you?

These and more are all the types of critical questions you need to ask before you commit to a school.

On the flip side, if you are not engaged in this process, it could be a very costly mistake. College, even with financial aid and scholarships, is enormously expensive in today’s world.

You will be investing a great deal of time and energy into a school and the degree or status it confers. Hence, a college is certainly not the place where you want to be going through the motions because you think you have to be there. It should be a freely willed choice and one that motivates you.

Being as realistic, objective, and honest as possible in your college research and visit will provide you with the best data on which to base your college choice. Oftentimes, we arrive with pre-conceived notions at a school. We want to test those notions to see if they have merit, or should be modified or reversed. Sometimes this calls for one or more additional visits.

Regardless, asking the right questions and doing whatever it takes to understand why a particular school has value—and value to you personally—will go a long way towards making the right decision of which college to choose.

About Nick Marmalejo

Nick Marmalejo
Nick Marmalejo, a history major, graduated from Christendom College in 2001. He holds a Virginia Teacher Certification and lives in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and three children.

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