From the source: College students talk campus visits
Who better to speak on how a campus visit can help clear a path for your student’s future than current college students? These Illinois State students share their stories of how a visit helped them decide to become Redbirds, and they offer advice on how your family can get the most out of a stop on campus.
Balancing work and life
Hillary Simon had Illinois State at the top of her list of schools from early on in the process. The Morton Grove native knew she wanted to study special education, and Illinois State provided her the best opportunity to do that. But it was stepping on campus that made her feel like her heart and her head were on the same page, setting her up for the best possible experience.
“I came here to visit three times, and knew I wanted to come here,” Simon said. “It was important to just kind of see the campus at different times of day or with different tour guides, just to solidify that this was the place I wanted to be.”
In considering how to get the most out of a visit, Simon said it’s important to factor in quality of life. “Living outside of the classroom is a big part of what you’re going to be doing here,” she said. She recommends taking advantage of residence hall tours to see where your student will live, sleep, and study. She also took advantage of meeting with academic department advisors, who made her feel comfortable and at home pursuing her special education path.
“Just try to picture yourself at the school,” Simon said. “Don’t force yourself to like a place; find a place that makes you genuinely feel good.”
Finding a new home
After getting an associate degree in junior college, Wade Hutchens was looking for somewhere he could wrap up his bachelor’s in two years. He also wanted a place where he would love to live. Illinois State’s location in Normal was what caused him to find his fit.
“It’s nice to see the town—how easy it is to navigate, how easy it is to drive around. It’s not crazy busy, and you have tons of opportunities to work on or off campus and go see all the little shops Uptown,” Hutchens said. “I think that’s a huge piece of wherever you go.”
A double major in animal science and animal industry management, Hutchens’ embrace of the community as home helped put him on track to graduate on time with not one, but two degrees.
“I’m looking back and thinking, ‘I wish I had more time here,’” Hutchens said. “I think those first couple of visits in high school really made me fall in love with it. Then I came and got an official visit, and that’s what really solidified it. I thought, ‘OK, this could be it for me. This is where I want to walk around. This is where I want to meet my friends.’”
Samantha Doak wanted a lot out of her college experience. A former high school golfer who planned to study accounting, she wanted a university environment that would support her academic pursuits while also featuring a vibrant athletic culture. Her visit to Illinois State helped her connect with her future home on both fronts.
Doak visited Illinois State three times before making her college decision; being able to step onto campus offered her a sense of the community and the opportunity to meet with an academic department representative.
“The visit was extremely important to see where I was going to be living—where I was moving, essentially—and to see the type of environment Illinois State has,” Doak said.
Doak ultimately discovered her academic interests lie not in accounting, but in finance and political science. Because she had found a good fit for herself as a Redbird, she was able to successfully transition to a new path of study.
Now she urges prospective students to not just make a campus visit, but to get invested in it—taking pictures and asking questions of tour guides.
“Listening is one thing, actively listening is another,” Doak said, “and if you’re not asking questions and participating in the conversation, you probably won’t remember and retain as much information.”
Illinois State was one of eight colleges that Sid Menon researched during high school. It was, in fact, the last of the eight he visited. That visit came on a gloomy, rainy day, yet turned out to be a tipping point in his college decision.
“The weather was awful and it was super rainy, but my tour guide was super positive and loud and that kind of made the tour for us,” Menon said. “The weather was awful, but my mom and I were like, ‘This is actually really cool.’”
That on-campus experience influenced the family to make a return trip for an Open House. Menon’s mother was looking for strong academics, and a trip to the College of Business eased her mind. Meanwhile, Menon found a Goldilocks campus—not too big, not too small, it felt just right.
“The visit is everything,” Menon said. “I feel like, for the most part, a lot of the stats are the same and a lot of the features a school has to offer are about the same. But the real difference is how you feel at a place. For me, the only thing I was really looking for when I went to a campus was how comfortable I felt there.”
Now, the finance and international business major gives campus tours of his own and wants prospective students to make the most of their visits so they can find the same sense of belonging and success that he has.
“I feel like people should talk to me more,” Menon said. “Not enough people ask about my personal experience. I wish people would just say, ‘All right, tell me about you,’ because that’s more real and more human than numbers on a page.”
Come see us at Illinois State and take advantage of your chance to ask questions and see what college life is all about.
Related Article: Before you hit the road to see colleges, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your trip to campus.
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