Campus Touring Tips Learned on a California College Road Trip

Author: Derek Babine

Tags : Exploring, Quarter Finalist, USA

The idea of a two week college road trip seemed daunting to me at first, and as the date neared for my family to leave, I became increasingly anxious and apprehensive. The basic idea was to visit five colleges along the California coast in search of my “Holy Grail” university.

Prior to departing, I had contacted many of the schools, setting up tours and meetings with important people.

The day after we arrived in San Jose, my family drove up to Stanford University. After a tour of the campus and the occasional conversation with a passing student, I was convinced that this school had many reasons for its outstanding reputation.

For the next few days I got a bit of a break from the stress of the college search and had the opportunity to relax with family and friends while exploring the bay area. This was enjoyable but I felt it ended too soon.

We then took the lengthy, yet beautiful drive down Highway 1 to San Luis Obispo. I was particularly excited for this stop because it is home to Cal Poly University, a school I had been deeply interested in for quite some time. Additionally, I had set up exponentially more activities at Cal Poly than any other stop. After a day filled with attending classes, taking a tour, and meeting with a department chair, not to mention dining at an on-campus eatery, I could see how this whole college choosing business could be extremely difficult.

Yet as quickly as we had arrived, we were off again, this time to Santa Barbara to visit UCSB. The city, relatively small, yet full of life, immediately grew on me. After visiting the university the next day and seeing the stunning campus, I realized that college really did not need to be as monotonous as high school.

Once again, my family left another school behind as we traveled down to San Diego, and another school I had been looking forward to in particular.

After a free day that turned into an additional college visit (UCSD) I was really starting to feel the wear of this excursion, but I looked eagerly forward to my visit to the University of San Diego.

One look at the USD campus was enough for me to see why any student would want to attend their school; thankfully, I got more than one look. First, I met with the head of the mechanical engineering department who was not only amicable but also highly informative. The campus tour was simply icing on a cake that was looking better and better by the moment.

The next day we were off again, this time up to Los Angeles for a look at the final school on our adventure, Cal Tech. Although I learned a great deal about the school’s atmosphere and history, it also became apparent to me that they were not messing around here and the realization of how difficult it would be to be accepted really hit me.

In addition to simply visiting all of these universities, I kept in contact with each school by emailing one or more people I had met at each to thank them for their time and form connections. I would say the most impactful visits were the ones where I met with a school representative one on one to discuss some of the finer points.

If I could give a few words of advice to other students touring schools, it would be that the tireless prep work that goes into these trips will pay off in the end.