Navigating Admitted Student Events
Congratulations on getting into Barnard! For some of you, you can finally breathe easy, knowing exactly where you’ll be headed come August. But for some of you, the hard work is just starting. You got into all these great schools--but how are you supposed to choose where you’ll spend the next four years by May 1st? I was in the exact same situation when I got to April of my senior year. As someone who has always been indecisive over even the smallest of things, deciding where I was going to college seemed really, really intimidating. Luckily, a lot of schools offer programs for admitted students to get to know the school at which they might end up before they submit their deposit.
Navigating these admitted student events can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re not sure what to be looking for. There’s a lot of sensory overload: schools want you to know everything they can offer you within the span of one or two days. It can all be a lot to take in, but as someone who has been through the process before, I’m going to tell you what worked for me.
I’m not going to say I was the type of student who scoured every single college catalog, pamphlet, leaflet, website, etc. to make an extremely informed decision on where I was going to college ... but I did make a rather detailed Word document with the pros and cons of my top choices. I also waited until about four days before the deposit deadline to decide I was coming to Barnard. More power to the students who just know where they want to go like a year before their senior year even begins! I was just like a kid in a candy store--too many options for me (and I’m not even a Libra).
The first thing you should know is that there are basically three different kinds of admitted students events: admitted student day programs, admitted student overnight programs, and admitted student meetups (usually for colleges and universities which are far from your home city). I’ve done ALL of them. While meetups can be a great way to get to know other students who may become your future classmates, I’m going to focus on admitted student day and overnight programs.
Focus on the school. This point is likely specific to Barnard and other city schools. If you’re not from New York City and you’re really excited to be here, really do try to focus on specifically what Barnard has to offer you rather than trying to explore the city for the brief amount of time you’re here. If you’re at our Open House Program, we can’t take you outside of Morningside Heights! Additionally, the subway can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with it (and the last thing you need is to wind up in Queens with no idea of how to get back to Barnard). New York City will always be here, but you only get a few hours or a couple of days to get to know Barnard from the perspective of being an admitted-but-still-deciding student. Make sure to take advantage of this time while you still can!
Think about extracurricular activities AND academics. If you love singing, keep an eye out for choirs and a cappella groups. If you like sports but don’t want to play on a varsity team, think about club sports. Definitely be sure to ask current students about the options available to students with your particular interests! Even if they aren’t involved in that particular activity, they will probably know a little about it or they’ll know someone who participates in it. When it comes to academics, if you know what you want to major in already (it’s totally possible! I was 97% sure I wanted to be a history major when I was a high school senior and two years later, I am a history major), think about what particular schools have to offer within that department, from classes to supplemental/free guest lecturer series to co-curricular programs. And if you’re someone who’s still totally undecided about what you’d like to study, think about the fields you’re interested in and consider what unique thing this school has to offer about those subjects.
Get to know current students as well as other admitted students. This is probably a pretty obvious point, but try to talk to both sets of people. Current students are great to talk to because they’ve been through this process before and they can give you an idea of what students who actually go to this school are generally like, what they’re interested in, etc. However, make time to get to know your potential future classmates! It’s nice to talk to other students who are going through the same process and who are continuing to think about their options. They may be able to provide a different perspective on your own situation.
Think about what students do on the weekend. Is your possible future school a place where everyone goes to football games? Or improv comedy shows? Do you want a lot of on-campus activities to fill up your calendar over the weekend or would you prefer to wander off-campus and find yourself in a cute little coffee shop or in an art museum? Do you want all these possibilities and more, or will that give you too much FOMO? These are all things to consider when you think about where you’ll end up, in terms of the actual college and the area surrounding it.
Ask students for their candid opinions. Feel free to ask students about the daily life of a college student, or about their particular journey to this school. I cannot stress this enough: they were in your shoes not too long ago! Even though I love Barnard, I know it’s not for everyone. Like many of my peers, I would want you to go to the best school for you, regardless of whether or not it’s Barnard!
Don’t be afraid to sit something out. Open house weekends are jam-packed with events and activities … sometimes this can be overwhelming! If you see something on the schedule that you’re not too interested in, don’t be afraid to sit it out and wander around campus on your own, or with a friend or your student host. Honestly, some of the best moments during my open house events were getting to know other students in a more relaxed setting and just talking to them about whatever — from Insomnia Cookies to psychology to reality television. Make sure you take some time for yourself in the midst of all this madness. It will give you a moment to pause and regroup before you continue with the decision-making process.
Think about the community and how you see yourself becoming a part of it. I’m going to give you an unpopular opinion which I didn’t believe as a student in the college process but I now firmly support: “fit” is an illusion. I know you’ve probably heard your parents, college counselors, and teachers all use that word so many times. You’ve probably been told that as soon as you find your “fit,” you’ll know where you’re meant to be. Personally, I think you can make just about any school your “fit.” The truth is, whether you’re an athlete, a singer, a writer, or anything in between, most schools have the resources you might need or want. At a lot of colleges and universities, you can forge your own way, but the distinction between schools is how hard you need to work to make a school your fit. Each school has its own “vibe” and community: do you see yourself integrating into it smoothly or will the process require a lot of growing pains? Do you want to automatically feel like a member of this new community or do you want to be challenged before finding your place within the school? During the application process, colleges asked how you would contribute to their community. Now it’s time to start asking, “What can this community do for me?” Do you see yourself growing as a member of this community? What does this school value and how does that relate to your own goals? How do you see yourself four(ish) years later after graduating from this school?
Best of luck and I’ll see you on campus!
- Cassandra Clifford ‘21