Warrior Words: The college experience

Back to school means many things for the seniors of Wilton High School: new teachers, new classes, new friends and one final year to leave a legacy. Most importantly, however, back to school means Wilton High School seniors have to start to think about their futures. College, conceptually, can be a daunting notion, which is why most students choose to start small by selecting a few schools to visit on a “College Road Trip.”

Of all the vacations any person could take, the college road trip is by far the greatest. There is no better way to spend the sweltering hot days of summer and early fall than marching around the most prestigious universities of America, trying to decide the best place to spend the next four years of your life. The ideal college road trip contains the maximum number of colleges in the minimal number of days. Sleep-deprived parents and students alike bravely trudge through endless visits to schools that all blend together in the name of finding “the right fit.”

The danger, however, is wasting a visit by not knowing what to look for in a school. Too many students make the mistake of not planning properly for their trip, stressing out over minor details like a school’s location, average class size, or tedious statistics like the “professor-to-student ratio.” So, here is the guide on how to have the perfect college visit.

Step one: take notes. Admissions officers and tour guides alike have many facts you’ll need to remember when the time comes to make a decision. For instance, at Stanford University, the ratio of palm trees to students is 4 to 1, while William and Mary boasts having the northernmost palm tree in North America. At the University of Pennsylvania, students “toast” the football team by throwing toast onto the field during games, and Northwestern University has a “Happiness Club” dedicated entirely to making people happy. Information like this must be remembered, for it is factors like these that make or break a school.

Step two: choose the correct tour guide. To put it simply, a bad tour guide can ruin a college tour. If Richard from William and Mary is reading this column, I’d like to let you know that you did not disappoint. Good tour guides deliver short, yet comprehensive tours and offer interesting perspectives that only students could give. Poor guides, on the other hand, tend to ramble on and take too many stops at non-essential locations. The most important trait to look for in a tour guide, however, is his or her ability to talk and walk backwards at the same time. Without it, no tour guide can truly have a successful tour.

Step three: most importantly, inspect the eating facilities. If you are anything like me, the quality of food in both the cafeteria and the surrounding restaurants should be a deciding factor. Stopping after a tour to grab a meal at a school’s cafeteria can provide an essential look into the dining situation. For instance, the enormous cereal bar and nearby “Country Style Donuts” made the University of Richmond a huge success, while the lack of quality fast food restaurants in colonial Williamsburg unfortunately made William and Mary a disappointment.

These three steps provide a foolproof plan of action for anyone embarking on the infamous road trip. The college process can be scary and seemingly complicated, but focusing on these vital aspects of each school has been proven to provide Wilton students with the most fulfilling college experience.

Jackson Ward is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with four classmates.