I do not think I would have gone out of state for college if it was not for previously visiting colleges. Coming to think about it, I did not even know where I wanted to go to college. I lived in Los Angeles and everything I knew about colleges was the University of California (UC) system and California state universities (CAL State). I figured I would end up going to a UC. In high school we took various tours of colleges, such as UCLA and USC. I was impressed at how immense the campuses were. I saw and lived the college life a student has in dorms, ate at their cafeterias, and took classes in their classrooms. However, I did not yet identify myself with those schools. UCLA or UC Berkeley was all I heard people talk about, as if they were the only schools. I also heard USC and Occidental college, which are private, however, at that time I was not that well informed in the differences of them all. I have to admit I was pretty privileged for visiting all these colleges in my early high school years before even starting any college applications.
Coming my junior year, I was fortunate enough and I was selected to be in College Match. College Match helps outstanding academic students from challenging backgrounds with SAT prep classes, college orientation, and a trip to the east coast to visit private colleges. The west coast does have colleges but the east coast has more variety of private colleges. I think this trip greatly impacted my college decision and views of living in college, being away from college, and the independence gained from it. It was an exhausting two week trip. I stayed in dorms, ate at cafeterias, assisted to classes, explore college towns, went out to party with college students, and read at their libraries. I immersed myself in the college life and realized that although exhilarating for the many new situations presented, it was a once in a life time experience. In those private colleges I saw what I did not see in those big universities of California. I saw small classrooms, professor to student interaction, and a campus small but big enough to be well acquainted with everything. I am not intending to be against big public universities, what I am saying is that I found my type of colleges. I knew I wanted to go to a private liberal arts college and out of state. I realized there was so much for me to learn and I wanted to do it far away from home. I ended up choosing a college I had not visited before, someone had recommended it to me. I searched it and read everything about it. I took an online tour, since the college is located in Pennsylvania. I applied to it and once I was accepted I was offered to fly for free to visit their campus. For two days I lived there and was part of an orientation. I left happily and satisfied with my visit to the college because it was so different yet felt right. Franklin & Marshall College was the best decision for me.
Therefore, visit colleges! Take road trips with your parents and if they are not available search for college programs you could enroll in to visit them. Apply to summer programs or visit the colleges around your area. If you apply to colleges without visiting like I did with Franklin & Marshall College, take a virtual tour and learn all you can about it. If they accept you, they will perhaps pay your expenses to go visit their campus and maybe even be the one you fall in love with.
Which college are you applying to? Or which one is the right one for you?