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The Big Decision: 5 Methods to Choosing a College

The lion statue on Saint Leo's University CampusWhen students think of going on a college campus tour, there are many questions that come to mind. You must do your research before touring college campuses and ask good questions to your tour guide. I wrote this article because I wanted to inform potential incoming students to be prepared before they tour the Saint Leo University campus for the first time. I chose Saint Leo for my higher education because of the small class sizes and actually being able to talk to my professors for additional assistance. Also, The Donald R. Tapia College of Business offers many different on-campus business majors and minors, which made it easier to choose Saint Leo over other schools.

Listen to everything and ask good questions

This seems like a given, but the student tour guides and the admissions officers are the best people to give you the important information on the background of the school. Take advantage of the tour guide’s knowledge and ask them why they chose this school and if they are happy there.

Ask the tour guide about the different majors that are more popular and what the reputations of those programs are.

Ask how big their classes are and see if study abroad options are popular in certain majors compared to others.

See what it’s like to be a first-year student here and what a typical day is like. Ask what they like to do on the weekends and how much time they usually spend studying per week.

Ask if there are a lot of student involvement opportunities around campus like fraternities, sororities, clubs, and organizations.

Find out if they offer student jobs on campus and see if they are flexible with the students’ schedules during the semester. Also, ask if there are a lot of quiet and relaxing assigned study areas and see if printing is offered free of charge.

A shot of the Saint Leo University Campus courtyard showing apartments 1 through 4Tour the on-campus freshmen and upperclassmen dorms. Ask the tour guides about their experiences living in the on-campus dorms.

Catch an athletic event on campus

By attending an athletic event, you are immersed as an actual student for the day, and you get to witness the amount of school spirit the college or university has for game day.

If there is not a game available that day, ask current students if sporting events play a big role in the campus involvement.

A lacrosse match being played at Saint Leo's University CampusThis is a good way to check out the athletic events on campus and is an excellent way to root for the school you are potentially going to. I know when I visited Saint Leo University for the first time, I attended a lacrosse game on a Saturday, and it showed me what the school spirit is like and the alumni base is like.

Eat on or around campus

Many colleges have their popular restaurants frequently visited by students. Ask current students and your tour guide what they are and visit them.

By checking out the restaurants around the area, you get the feel of the great food offered and what’s popular among the residents and staff.

One restaurant that I recommend in the San Antonio area near Saint Leo’s University Campus is a restaurant called Poncho’s, which serves the best Mexican food. Another recommendation is On Q Smokehouse Grill, which serves the best barbecue in the area. The Abbey Tavern, which is located across the street from University Campus at the golf course, serves the best buffalo chicken dip.

If the school has a buffet-style cafeteria, definitely sit down during the week and interact with current students and ask them what the food is really like during the week and on the weekends.

At the Saint Leo dining facility, they offer a pasta and pizza bar, sandwich station, stir fry and salad line, omelet station, healthy section, and a Chinese section.

Ask the dining facilities about the different meal plans available and if they are required for first-year students and students in upperclassmen dorms.

Get familiarized first

Before planning to fly or drive to a campus for a tour, make sure to read reviews about the school to truly determine if the college is what you want to visit.

I would recommend the website Niche, which is a site with reviews from current or former students from a particular college or university. The website has been a great recruiting tool that got me interested in attending Saint Leo. The site gives the schools grades on factors, such as academics, diversity, athletics, value, campus, and then an overall whole rating combined. (deleted last sentence of this paragraph)

Some colleges and universities offer a way to virtually take a campus tour without actually visiting the campus. You Visit lets you tour different facilities and buildings on a college campus. It also gives you other alternative pictures of the place and videos with a tour guide describing the campus as you move along to the different places around the campus.

Engage in social media

Most colleges and universities set up Facebook groups for potential students that want to learn more about them. Current students who attend the school are often in the group to give prospective students their insights on the college.

When I was interested in attending Saint Leo, I asked the admissions office to add me to the specific graduate year that I was supposed to graduate in. In the group, prospective students were able to communicate with the potential class, current students attending the school, professors who teach on campus, and admissions counselors in the undergrad admissions office.

In the group, you could introduce yourself and give information about yourself such as where you are from and what your intended major of study is. Also, if you were recruited from a sports team, it could be mentioned in the group.

This Facebook group was a good place to find potential roommates for the incoming semester. This is how I found my roommate for my freshman year. This group was also an excellent way to purchase used textbooks from students

When I was making my choice in attending Saint Leo there was a group messaging app called Quad or Group Me and it let me connect to my potential class more on a personal basis.

Definitely getting engaged and connected on social media was a major deciding factor withier or not I was going to attend Saint Leo University after high school.

Attend an overnight event

These events are specifically held for incoming freshmen and give them the experience of an average night at a college campus. Saint Leo University offers these a couple of times a year, and I would contact the undergraduate admissions office for dates and details.

Typically, when the prospective students arrive at the campus, they are greeted by their assigned student ambassador. The ambassador gives their input on their experiences at the college and offers to give you a tour. Then all prospective students are invited to join others for an event specifically for them to interact all around campus at night.

If prospective students cannot attend this event, which only happens once a year, there is always an alternative of just spending the night with the student ambassador. The ambassador would be in charge of your sleeping arrangements during your visit, and you are given meal vouchers to the Saint Leo dining facility, which offers buffet-style dining. Depending on your ambassador, he or she will have things planned for you so you can get a feel for the school.

I would highly recommend attending these events and staying the night with student ambassadors. I attended these events, which made choose Saint Leo University over other colleges.

A head shot of Saint Leo marketing grad Sean RossAuthor bio: Sean Ross is a recent alumnus of Saint Leo University, graduating in the spring of 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He served as a marketing intern at the university during his senior year as well.

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