Advice for Accepted Students Days
Lucas offers some Dos and Don'ts for future Accepted Students Days attendees.
Lucas offers some Dos and Don'ts for future Accepted Students Days attendees.
After having the pleasure of hosting three awesome prospective students (or “prospies”, as we like to call them) over this year’s two rounds of Accepted Students Days (during which — you guessed it — high school seniors admitted to Carleton’s incoming freshman class have the chance to visit and learn about the school), I’ve realized I have a few pieces of advice I wish I’d been aware of before I attended my own Accepted Students Day last year.
This year’s Days have come and gone, so I guess what I’m about to say only applies to people who’d be visiting next year, or for people planning on visiting other schools whose equivalent events happen later in the year. Still, I think it’s a good idea to get it all out there while everything’s fresh in my mind. So without further ado, here are some of the biggest pointers I’d give to anyone planning on attending any sort of admitted students program down the road!
Do . . . get your host’s contact information (ASAP!)
At Carleton, you can’t get into most buildings without a OneCard (still confused?), and as an admitted student, you won’t have one. Be sure to exchange phone numbers, email addresses, or whatever you and your host are most comfortable using to keep in touch. This’ll save you from getting stuck outside a dorm building late at night if you ever venture off by yourself! (Note: if it’s not super late, and you didn’t listen to me and are totally out of options, just sitting outside a dorm building’s entrance usually works — eventually, someone will pass by and let you in.)
Don’t . . . forget the necessary gear
You’ll probably end up sleeping on someone’s floor — something I neglected to plan for last year! If you’re like me and would prefer not to spend an entire night on a cold, hard surface, be sure to bring something to prevent that. Most people use sleeping bags. Toiletries, clothes, homework, and all that are essentials too!
Do . . . ask real questions
No college is perfect, but common admissions materials probably don’t reflect that. Still, it’s important to know which drawbacks matter to you, and at which schools you’ll find them. So ask away! Areas for improvement are some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with professors, students, and prospies, and most, if not all, the people you’ll encounter during your stay will be more than willing to provide honest answers.
Don’t . . . avoid any of the experience
What I mean is, if you can stay with a student, stay with a student. A nearby hotel in Northfield isn’t going to give you a sense of what Carleton dorm life is like. Similarly, nearby restaurants won’t tell you anything about Carleton food! Be sure to eat at the dining halls at least a few times. You’ll be given free passes to do so, and even if you’re convinced you hate all cafeteria food and are set on finding a nice place to dine somewhere in town, the daily quality and selection of food available to you at your potential college is invaluable information. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be surprised! I quite like the food here.
Do . . . advocate for your interests
This is your time to learn about how Carleton fits to your unique set of desires, interests, and needs! Be sure to take advantage of that. Want to be sure you get to check out the Arb? Tell your host that. Curious about the observatory? Tell them that too! Seriously, your host volunteered to do this for you, and satisfying your curiosities in myriad ways is the reason why.
Accepted Students Days are your chance for a personalized, extended info session and tour. I personally recommend getting some work done somewhere, maybe in the Libe. You’ll probably have homework you could be doing, and in my opinion, getting some of it done in an environment where you’re considering learning over the next four years is a really important step in gauging how successful you think you can be there.
Don’t . . . do anything stupid
I think you know what I mean. You worked hard to get in here, and if you went to the trouble of visiting, there’s probably a serious chance you would really like to attend. So don’t do anything to imperil your opportunity to do so. Sacrificing your admission to this wonderful school in favor of a single day’s reckless behavior simply isn’t worth it. So practice your common sense!
Do . . . get to know people
A big part of your college experience comes down to the people with whom you share it, and there are few better ways to get a sense of who those people might be than spending a couple days with them, in person, at the college. There’s always a whole host of schools with similar stats and even touted demographics, but each place’s unique personality is something you can only really get a taste for through visiting. I’d also argue it’s the most important student body factor out of the three I just listed.
For example, part of what had me really interested in Carleton was the so-called “quirky”, “humble”, “down to Earth” environment, but I wondered whether such good humor was simply marketing and not as distinct or unique an aspect of the school as it’d been made out to be. Visiting proved this concern wrong, and solidified my desire to attend that upcoming fall.
I highly recommend getting to know people beyond your host — both other students and fellow prospective ones — to get a picture of what life at Carleton really looks like, and to make a few new friends along the way (it certainly helped me to come to campus last fall having already made a few friends here).
Don’t . . . base your experience on your host
Your host is just one person. With all of the above being said, it’s still worth mentioning that the people you meet will be dictated (largely) by chance, and no matter how vociferous a socializer you manage to be during your brief visit, you won’t meet anywhere near a significant portion of the school. In larger numbers, getting out and talking to people is good for feeling out general trends in attitude and atmosphere, but any one person is simply not significant enough a datum to let them impact your judgment.
Don’t choose a school just because you happened to get along with the host you were paired with there; likewise, don’t rule any school out just because you didn’t happen to get along with the host you were paired with there. Your host is a source of food, shelter, directions, encouragement, and information (specifically with regards to residential life), but they are in no way any more significant than whoever else you meet along the way. It can be easy to let one person or experience color your perception of a school, but I strongly advise being mindful of that, and thinking against it.
Do . . . trust your gut, and have fun
When I visited a bunch of colleges my senior year, I did my absolute best to turn my overly-analytical mind down somewhat, while listening closely to what my gut (or feelings, or heart, or whatever you’d prefer) had to say. I don’t regret that in the slightest. I could’ve made a bunch of logically sound arguments for any number of other colleges or universities I seriously considered last year, but it was only Carleton that left me with a genuine feeling of remorse when it came time to leave.
If you felt good — safe, supported, inspired, at home — while visiting, that’s a good sign that you’ll feel good there down the road. And feeling good is so much more integral to your ability to learn from and grow through your years in college than whatever that specific institution’s common data set says. If you come home not liking Carleton as much as you expected to after your visit, that’s great information. If you return loving it way more than you anticipated, that’s great too! Be sure to listen to that, and to have fun with the process. Regardless of whether you actually end up choosing to attend Carleton, I think you’ll remember your visit here fondly and for a good, long time.
With all this being said, best of luck to next year’s attendees! And as always, if anyone has any specific questions they’d like answered by a Real Live Carl, feel free to email me.
Lucas is in his freshman year at Carleton, bringing with him a passion for all things nerdy and a talent for overthinking and awkwardness (and self-deprecation). He hails from Pasadena, California, and yes, he realizes it gets cold out here. Currently wildly undecided, he can see himself attempting a Physics and Cinema and Media Studies double major, although Chemistry, Economics, and Computer Science (among many other subjects) have been tempting him as well. He misses his bearded dragon.