Why Visiting Colleges is a Great Idea

In the winter of 2010, I was an enthusiastic high school senior eager to embark on what everyone told me would be the most exciting 4(ish)-year journey of my life: college.  My mailbox was constantly overflowing with materials from colleges and universities from all over the country, each one promising that I could find my place with them.  This one had a great music program, that one was in the mountains, this one had crazy good financial aid…  How’s a kid to choose?  The answer is simple: visit.

The first school I visited sounded perfect: it was nestled in the mountains, had beautiful waterfalls a short hike away, a well-respected music program, a tiny student-faculty ratio, and boasted a diverse student body made up of motivated young people who were going to change the world thanks to their stellar college education.  I was so excited to visit.  What I found, however, was a dirty, depressed campus, boring classes, nary a professor to be seen, and students who were about as excited to be there as fish on a bed of kale.  At least the mountains lived up to the hype.  The visit was not a happy one, but my high school self was very happy that I’d tried it out before making up my mind to plop down a deposit and enroll as a soon-to-be-super-bummed college freshman.

The next school on the list did not sound cool at all to my high school self: a women’s college that was way too close to home and had a stupid mascot and was in a gross part of town and that I was only visiting because my mom was making me goNo thanks.  I showed up on this campus ready to be proven right by how ultra-yuck everything was, but I pretty quickly realized I’d been 100% wrong.  The campus was beautiful and full of old-timey charm, the mascot was a real animal that you could actually play with, and I must have mistaken this “gross part of town” for someplace else entirely, because this place was as hip as it gets.  Everywhere we went, all across this lush and historic campus, I saw people I could see myself happily befriending: intelligent, vivacious young women who were excited to be there and ready to dive right in to the engaging classes this college offered.  All of a sudden I found myself dreaming about attending a college that, two hours earlier, I thought would be the last place on earth I could envision myself.

The last school I visited sounded way too good to be true.  Their website made them sound awesome, but after my first college visit I was a little leery of on-paper (er, internet) promise.  Was there any way that St. John’s College could possibly live up to my expectations?

When I arrived at St. John’s, I met all kinds of interesting people doing interesting things and thinking interesting thoughts.  The campus, which was gorgeous and historic and charming, was small enough that it fostered a strong sense of community without feeling cramped.  They had clubs and organizations to meet the needs and wants of everyone, from the chatty socialite to the nerdy wall flower.  What got me for good, though, was visiting a class.  I sat in on a seminar and was immediately hooked, entranced by the discussion I was witnessing.  Deep thoughts flew hither and thither, unfettered by the prepackaged opinions of textbooks (which were nowhere to be found) or the drone of a lecturer (also notably absent from this school) and the students engaged their minds and voices in lively conversation which I was dying to join.  This, I knew, was the place for me.

The moral of the story is that visiting a college can give you a game-changing look at the school’s true colors.  Maybe you thought it would be the coolest thing since those shoes with the wheels in them hit the market, but in reality the school turns out to be every bit as un-cool as those shoes did.  Or maybe you expected to find yourself on the campus named National Geographic’s #1 Lamest Place on Earth, but it ends up being so much better than you ever imagined and a place where you could actually envision happily spending the next 4(ish) years.  Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll visit your dream school, it’ll be even better than you ever thought it could be, and you’ll know you’ve found your college home.

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And now for the plug.  If you decide to visit St. John’s College, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • We have two different campuses. Annapolis was voted one of the top 16 places to live in America, while Santa Fe has been ranked #6 among the top 75 college towns in the states.  Come check ’em out and see if these rankings got it right.
  • Observing a class can make all the difference. You can sign up, see one of our unique classes, and decide for yourself if it’s something you’re into.
  • If you come for an overnight visit you will not only have the chance to stay in a dorm, but you will also get to meet one-on-one with a faculty member and ask them all your nitty-gritty questions about our program.
  • Meet students. See if this is a group of folks you could get along with and enjoy as partners in intellectual exploration.  Maybe lay the foundations of your very first college friendship.
  • For those of you who can’t make it to campus right now, there’s always our virtual tour; you can you can enjoy the fruit of modern technology by virtually visiting Santa Fe or Annapolis. Though it’s of course not exactly the same, you can give it a look-see and see how it looks.

Whether you feel love at first sight or a simple, steadily growing interest, we know that visiting us will be both informative and fun.  Come check us out and see if we’re the place for you.  We can’t wait to meet you!

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