While the college search should begin with technology, it should end with a visit to the campus.
“The most widely used source for college searches is the Web, but the most trusted source is the campus visit,” Wellman says.
“It’s so important for a student to walk across campus and pass by other students and faculty and have that opportunity to ask themselves, ‘Does this place feel like a place I could call home?’” Wellman says. “Students assume they know a college until they visit it. There is an emotional reaction to a college the moment you step foot on the campus. That’s something technology can’t simulate.”
At USC, prospective students are greeted by student ambassadors, a select group of 53 students who are carefully trained to lead campus tours. The ambassadors, who represent a cross-section of states, majors and student organizations, undergo 30 – 40 hours of training about the university, in which they learn about campus landmarks and history, areas of study, student organizations, services and opportunities for academic enrichment and helpful facts and figures.
Wellman encourages students to visit a minimum of three colleges and to space out campus visits so they can avoid information overload and have time to reflect. She also advises them to jot down their reactions and take photos to which they can later refer.
“Students need a point of comparison in order to make a decision that feels right,” Wellman says. “Students often are surprised that the college they didn’t expect to be a fit ends up being the perfect fit.”