I’m afraid this might not feel very helpful.
I loved Vanderbilt the first time I visited it in 2011. In fact, of course, I still do love Vanderbilt. They have a firm commitment to undergraduate teaching. They’re alright in the class size department with 66% of the classes’ having fewer than 20 students and 9% having over 50. Everyone lives on campus and the freshmen start in those terrific Ingram Commons. They’ve got it going on academically, and they have a great spirit on the campus. Nashville ain’t half bad either. Oh, yes, and that super-duper financial aid with their no-loan policy, doh…
HOWEVER, when I re-visited yesterday, I left a little cranky. My new white Vans turned out to be half a size too small, and a blister was threatening my toe. I wore jeans in the 90 degree heat, and the whole time I was worried that the Tennessee sun was turning my hair red. If I were 17 years old, or simply more of a novice, I might mistake all those peripheries for true indications on what my experience might be like as a Vanderbilt student.
I think we all need to take our visit days with a grain of salt. Those visits are essential, but when we place too many expectations on them, I believe we may make the mistake of walking away with an extreme view of a school– for the good or the bad.
How can we really assess the value of a $280,000 education in a 1 hour info session that sounds EXACTLY LIKE EVERY OTHER 1 HOUR INFO SESSION OUT THERE— especially if your shoes don’t fit??? (Side note—- if admissions officers ever visited their peer institutions, I’m certain they would wither in embarrassment over the similarities in their presentations.) The college visit is as important as ever. It’s an essential look into a college and what it feels like to be there. But the real meat and potatoes must be discovered by serious research into academic programs, by talking to real students, by meeting with professors, and I hate to say it, but maybe even by visiting more than once– and perhaps on your own without the structure of the tour/info session to distract you from what’s really there.