When I was a first-year, I posted a blog about my college search process.
And I’m not saying that post was a lie – because it wasn’t. But that post didn’t have the whole story.
Sure, all the facts were accurate. But what was missing from my initial story was the feeling that I got from visiting Transylvania University.
Like I said in my now two-year-old post, I knew I wanted a small, private liberal arts college. So every school I looked at had small classes, pretty campuses, and personal attention from professors.
But the times I visited Transylvania, there was such a strong sense of community that I could actually feel it.
And at the time I was actually visiting, maybe I didn’t notice it. But I know that it was obvious enough to me as I visited other places and began narrowing down my post-high school options.
I remember trying to explain that community feeling to a friend at school, and I was really at a loss for words. It’s hard to put a feeling into words.
I’ve lived in the community at Transylvania for two years now, and as an Admissions Ambassador I’ve lost track of how many campus tours I’ve given. But I still don’t feel like I can adequately put that feeling into words.
To someone who’s never been here, it’s hard to describe how great it feels to be in a real community – sure, you don’t know the full names of every single person on campus. But even people you don’t know still smile and hold the door open when you enter a building after them. People that may not be more than acquaintances really will sit down with you at lunch just to ask how your day is going.
It’s refreshing to be in an academic environment in which everyone really does care about learning, is interested in what they’re studying, and actually does their homework. Being around motivated students is a good way to keep yourself motivated.
You really do get to know your professors outside of the classroom. The DPS officers really do sing karaoke with students and go to basketball games. The dining staff really does get to know you beyond remembering that you want extra honey mustard.
Everyone just cares. About school, about safety, about Transylvania’s future, and about each other.
I think that’s all you can ask for in an institution.
So as you make your way down your list of college visits, pay attention to the actual campus culture.
Of course, the facts, figures, history, and financial aid information matter. But do yourself a huge favor. Don’t just focus on the facts – because you’re not just picking a school.
You’re picking a place to live for four years. And more than that, you’re finding a community.
So if during or after a tour, you get a feeling that you love but can’t quite explain to your friends, pay attention to that.
You might have just found more than a great university, but a new home, too.