July has come and gone and school is just around the corner.  For you seniors, the most important year of your life is about to begin.   You’re going to have many important decisions to make; the most important of which is where you will be going to college.   Hopefully you have taken a few college visits by now; if you haven’t, you need to start.  College visits are a key factor when it comes to making your decision.  You should never decide on a college or university without actually seeing the school in person.

During your initial visit, there are a few things that you should be looking for.  The first is the aesthetics of the campus — is it pleasing to the eye?  I know this may sound superficial, but when you step out onto a beautiful campus, it just makes you feel better.  Trust me, you will thank me later.  You will also want to see how easy or difficult it is to navigate your way around campus.  Is it easy to get from the dorms to your classes?  Is it too big or is it too small? Will I get lost easily?  These are things you will want to determine.  You will also want to ask some of the students about the atmosphere on campus and see if the students are friendly.  Remember, those first few days of school are going to be hectic and you will have a lot of questions.  Are the students going to be helpful to you or are they going to bite your head off if you ask a question?  You’ll want to know that.  All of these questions and concerns deal with the environment of the campus, which is 50 % of your collegiate experience.  If you do not like the environment of the campus, you will not feel comfortable there.  You will be less likely to get involved, less likely to make friends, and less likely to succeed academically.

On these visits you will want to ask questions about academics as well — remember, you are going to school to receive a degree.  You’ll want to ask about the academic programs you are interested in.  Does the school offer your major, how do their academic facilities look, are there resources to supplement your learning?  These are some of the questions to ask.  Also, you will want to know about the places to study, is it quiet in the library, are there comfortable study lounges.  These are very important questions.  When you are up late studying, you will want a nice and comfortable location.

The last thing to look at on your initial school visit is where you will be living.  You will want to see the residence halls.  All freshman dorms are going to be smaller than the room at your parent’s house and more often than not you will have a roommate, but you will want to see if they are somewhat comfortable.  You’ll want to see if there are amenities offered in the residence halls for you; for example, are there common areas for students to gather, is there a computer lab available in case your computer breaks down, things like that.  Another important question is about the food, like do they have a state of the art cafeteria that is popular with the students, (OU does and it’s FANTASTIC!!), are there places to eat if the cafeteria is closed?  These are important questions.

Now, after you have made your initial visits, you will need to get rid of the schools that do not make the cut.  You should have two or three schools that are at the top of your list.  These schools you will need to visit again.  On your second visit, you will need to add more questions of a personal nature.  You will want to know about the social scene, like what students do when they are not in class.  The majority of your time will be spent outside of class; how will you occupy your time?  Is it easy for students to find jobs, what is there to do for fun, how’s the night life, and most importantly; where will I find someone to date?  The most important question you have to answer on this visit is the question you ask yourself — can you see yourself on this campus for the next 4+ years?  Does this place feel like home, because you will be on this campus for a while.

I’ll use myself as an example, I arrived in Norman Oklahoma of 1999 and you know what, I’m still here.  I have been either a student at OU, or employed by the university for over 12 years.  Norman is my home.  Your college has the potential to be your next home.  You need to treat it as such.

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