When I was a high school swimmer I took a couple of Unofficial visits with my mom when she had to travel for work. It was scary and intimidating to visit a university campus as a seventeen year old.
I couldn’t imagine actually being at that school–so much bigger, so many more people than what I was used to…and I went to a big high school! However, these campus visits helped me create and check off a lot of priorities on my “what I want in a college” list.
Know What is Important to You
I visited one campus that didn’t have a football team. Until that moment, I didn’t realize going to games was important to me, but it was–I wanted to cheer on my team on Saturdays.
I visited another campus that was a “commuter” school. Even though I could live on or near campus, most of the students commuted and I realized that campus living and a student body atmosphere were important to me.
Another school my mom and I visited was perfect: great weather, good academics, and even a good football team. It was only an hour away from home, though, and I knew I didn’t want to be that close to home when I “went away to college”.
A Taste of life on Campus
I also had the privilege of visiting campuses through camps. I went to swim camps, water polo camps and cheer camps all held at different universities. This allowed me to take a week and really visit these schools.
I slept in the dorms, ate in the cafeterias, swam in their pools. In hindsight, this was a great way to really look at a school’s environment and find out if its location suited me.
Granted, these camps were in the summer so school was not in session–I didn’t get to see classes going on or where students hung out between classes. I did get to jump in and pretend I lived there.
During these camps I actually found THE SCHOOL, the one that I wanted to go to. I bought the sweatshirt, contacted the swim coach. In my mind, the search was over; I knew where I was going to college! I still had to apply to the school, get in, and see if the coach was interested in me. But in my mind those were minor issues.
Apply to Schools and Talk to Coaches
My mom gave me a budget for applying to school. I had enough money to apply to ten schools. I did my research, found schools that had swim teams and met my academic and geographic standards. Then I started the application process.
Around the same time I also started receiving letters and phone calls from other coaches who were interested in me swimming at their school. Some of the coaches who contacted me were on my list and some were not. I decided to write some of the coaches at the schools that I was interested in, especially those who had not contacted me yet.
Laying the Groundwork for the Official Visit
I was shocked when I was accepted to nine of the ten schools that I applied to. Things were starting to get serious. I knew what school I wanted to go to–I’d visited the campus and gone to camps there several times. I’d already been accepted and was talking to the coach.
My mom recommended that I look at other schools since I had options. I did it begrudgingly.
I was also being offered Official visits from schools and that was flattering. Who wouldn’t want to take a trip!