Making a college visit count


Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood.

The student editor of Michigan State University's State News shows off recent editions of the publication during a visit this fall to the academic institution's campus. Photo by Tyreshia Black.

Every year, high school students across Chicago start preparing to attend a college or university. The effort is a big undertaking, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. There are so many different types of higher education institutions to choose from, and a lot of students don’t know what they’re looking for.

One important way that many students figure out what they want from a college is through a campus visit. During a visit, prospective students tour the campus, talk to professors, and learn about student life.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” said Tametrius Files, a 16-year-old Simeon High School student who has visited Eastern Illinois University, DePaul University and other schools.

Experts say it is important to make the most out of college visits.

Betty Weinberger, a college consultant at a Glencoe-based company called North Shore College Counseling Services, said in an e-mail interview that students must make realistic and appropriate plans in order to ensure their campus visits are worthwhile.

“You might begin by asking yourself the following questions,” she said. “Do you like a large school or small? Do you want to be in the city in an urban environment or do you prefer a suburban or even small town environment?”

Ms. Weinberger added that students should also think about college activities while on a campus tour as well as their fields of interest.

One university student, Kate Sheka, said her initial visit to Michigan State University in East Lansing included a full campus tour and meetings with her future adviser. She also met with other high school students visiting Michigan State.

“My advice for future students would be to do a lot of research before you choose a few colleges to apply to and then to visit,” Sheka said in an email.

Ms. Weinberger noted that there are many higher education institutions in the Chicago area high school students could visit, such as the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The first college I visited was Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. But as someone who wants to be a journalist, I was disappointed because I didn’t get to learn about the school’s journalism program. While it was helpful to hear the students say it was important to set a flexible schedule and get other advice from them, I wanted more focus on media opportunities.

My trip to Michigan State, on the other hand, allowed me to see the resources a student journalist there could take advantage of. For example, Jim Detjen, who is a journalism professor specializing in environmental issues, showed our group from Englewood the journalism department. We also were able to see a television station called WKAR. Station manager Gary Reid gave us a first-hand look at the station’s studios where political talk shows and a high school quiz program are taped.

Finally, Kate Jacobson, the editor in chief of the student newspaper the State News, spoke to us about her experience as a reporter at the school. We saw exactly where a Michigan State reporter covering everything from crime to campus news to sports would sit, do interviews, and write their articles in the State News building.

As someone who has gone on multiple college tours, I would advise that students do research about the campus before visiting. Try to figure out what you want before you visit and make sure you seek that out once you are on your tour.

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