Do I Really Need a College Visit?

“Mom, I’ve been on the campus lots of times,” I said. “It’s not like I don’t know what it’s like.” We were standing in the kitchen, and my mom was tossing zucchini into the mixer, finishing the dough for zucchini bread.

My mom nodded but her voice was firm. “That’s true, Claire, but you’ve seen what your sister’s life is like at Wheaton—not what yours could be like. You need to see what the school is like for yourself.”

She turned the mixer up another notch and I stood there waiting.

I had visited several colleges during the fall of my junior year, and I was feeling overloaded with all of the trips to different schools. I hadn’t made an “official” trip to my sister’s school because I had visited her there so many times already. I’d seen her dorm room and had walked around campus. I was sure I could fairly compare it to other schools without another trip to the campus.

But what mom said made me think.

When she turned the mixer off, I sighed. “OK, Mom, I’ll do the ‘official visit’ thing, but I don’t think it’ll change my opinion much.”

On my official visit to Wheaton, I went to all of the informational events on campus and ate in the cafeteria and sat in chapel. I had to admit it was different than visiting my sister. I felt more independent, and I started to imagine myself on the campus. After chapel, I visited a class because on my other campus visits, I felt like sitting in on a class was the best way to see what it was like to be a student there.

When I entered the classroom at Wheaton, several of the students said hello to me and introduced themselves. Once class started, the professor acknowledged each of the visitors individually.

The professor started lecturing after that, and as I listened to him talk about the reality of God’s presence in the world, something in me shifted.

I thought about the morning I had spent on campus, and when I looked around me, I realized that I felt like I could be one of these students. At the other schools I visited, I had enjoyed the campuses but never felt like I would fully fit in there. Here, in this classroom, I felt like I could belong at Wheaton. The morning on campus by myself, the professor’s welcome, the peace I felt with my surroundings—it was like God was nudging my heart and drawing me to this specific school. As the professor continued to talk about the glory of God and the truth of God’s Word, I found myself with tears in my eyes. I felt like I could be at home in this place. It was the turning point for me. From that day in class, I knew that I wanted to be at this school.

My weekend on campus showed me that it actually is important to visit the schools you’re thinking about applying to. I thought Wheaton could be a good fit before I visited, but after actually visiting for myself, I knew in my heart that it was my first choice.

Claire gradauted from Wheaton College, where she led a women’s discipleship group on campus.

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