Finding the right college campus is a lot like shopping for a pair of jeans.
Scrolling through jeans on a popular clothing retailer's website, headlines promise to find the perfect fit. Looking for something more flexible? Try the jegging. Want a more structured fit? The skinnies are for you.
While the jeans guide gives the illusion that they are super versatile and diverse, the company uses the same model for every pair of jeans shown. This proves to be unhelpful when trying to order jeans without trying them on. Sure you can make a logical guess and click “add to cart,” but when they arrive and don’t fit the way they were advertised suddenly the dent in your bank account just isn’t worth it. For most, the only logical direction to go from there is to visit the store in person.
Just like shopping for jeans online, looking at a college’s website is a good start to finding a perfect fit for you. They will show you all the ways they are diverse and versatile and based solely off the pictures you can get a good idea of what the campus looks like. But how does it feel to walk around on those sidewalks? What are the people like? In order to find a college that is the best fit for you, it is important to take the time to hit the road and visit the campus itself – try it on, so to speak. Just like going into a store, it will take time and gas and, in the case of college campuses, sometimes even a plane ticket. The whole process probably sounds exhausting and maybe even a little intimidating. But it's fun too and sometimes the only way to find the perfect fit.
Here are my recommendations:
Start your search online
Just like you would go to multiple stores’ websites to look at different styles and prices of jeans, go take a look at a variety of college websites and social media accounts. Explore what they have to offer and, if you like what you see, bookmark it.
Schedule campus visits
After you’ve found a good handful of possible options, take the time to actually visit the campus. You’ll never know for sure if a college is the right fit for you unless you try it on. Perhaps when visiting a school, just like trying on a pair of jeans, the campus fits just fine but you didn’t necessarily feel very comfortable right away. It’s OK to toss a school in the maybe pile and see what else is out there.
While buying a pair of jeans may not require a lot of extra thought after trying them on, college campuses do. After visiting the campus, reflect on how it went. Did you like the campus tour? Were the people friendly? Were the dorm bathrooms up to par? Was the food good? Did it have potential to feel like home? Whether you're someone who goes off of gut feelings or makes a pros/cons list, taking the time to process your visit will hopefully make your end decision clearer.
OK, so maybe you're a spontaneous person. You see a pair of jeans online, you pick your size in the drop-down menu and go on your merry way. I get it – taking time to drive to the store, pick them out and try them on can be a hassle. But I can promise you this: the satisfaction you feel when you pull the right pair on, fasten the button and dance around the dressing room is just like visiting the right college campus. It makes the time, gas and money worth it.
Olivia Laskey '17 studies business marketing at Concordia.