With the start of junior year comes a new chapter in every life: college. It can be overwhelming to assess how to start the college journey, but college visits should be encouraged, as a way to get a feel for what life is like in different colleges. Forgoing a physical college visit for a virtual campus tour and online chat with an admissions counselor can be tempting, but if it is a possibility to do so, there is nothing that can top experiencing the real thing.
Here are four of the best cities to visit a whole array of colleges, especially for Hillel students, according to guidance counselor, Alexandra Gonzalez.
Home to over 250,000 students and 100 universities, ranging from liberal arts schools to technical schools, Boston is a lively and dynamic city. Located in the metropolitan area, Boston University and Northeastern University are around five minutes apart and are two of Boston’s top universities. Located in Cambridge, an area in Boston, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are two of the world’s most prestigious universities. Take day trips to some other notable colleges located in areas around the city, such as Bentley and Brandeis in Waltham. Others, such as, Tufts and Babson, are both around 30 minutes from Boston, but are definitely worth the trip. In only two to three days, you can easily visit a whole array of Boston schools, adding local landmarks along the way, all while capturing the essence of what it would be like to live in or around the city.
New York City:
With over half a million university students in New York City, the city streets have taken on a sort of “campus” like role to many of these students. The 110 universities located in the city mean there is no shortage of diversity in the different schools, whether it be a smaller research institution or a large arts school. For the prospective artist/performer, there are many great schools, such as Parsons Design School for the visual arts and Julliard for the performing arts. In addition, some other great schools in the city include Yeshiva University, and its corresponding girls school, Stern, New York University (NYU), and Columbia University, all of which make for great campus tours. Lastly, for those who don’t mind an extra plane ride, upstate New York is home to many great colleges, such as Syracuse University, known for its stellar communications program, and Cornell, a great Ivy League school.
When visiting colleges, one of the best ways to start is locally. The University of Miami (UM), located in Coral Gables, has a beautiful campus and offers over 180 majors and programs for undergraduate students. Florida International University (FIU), another college in the Miami area, has, in recent years, become one of Florida’s top research institutions. If you want to extend your tour beyond Miami, a road trip is a good option to see other schools in the state. As you drive up Florida, the University of Central Florida (UCF), ranked best value college by Forbes and Kiplinger, is definitely a stop that cannot be missed. The University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville and Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee are other of Florida’s top ranked schools, as well as the University of Tampa, located in the downtown Tampa area.
Another great option for college not many consider is Israel. Israel is a leader in cutting edge innovations, and it’s universities hold the same pioneering quality. Situated in Israel’s economical and technological capital, Tel Aviv University is the largest school in Israel, containing a wide array of programs, campuses, and research opportunities. Also, in Tel Aviv, Bar Ilan University is a great school for anything, from medicine to Judaic studies. In addition, it is one of Hillel’s most popular choices for post- high school gap years. Right outside of Tel-Aviv, Herzliya is home to the Interdisciplinary Center, most popularly known as IDC, a private university modeled after the American Ivy League Universities. Give or take an hour and a half away, located in Jerusalem, Hebrew University is one of the oldest universities in Israel, having been established around 30 years before the establishment of the country itself. Next time you happen to be in Israel, take some time to explore the wide array of schools the nation offers.
When speaking to Alexandra Gonzalez, one of Hillel’s college counselors, there was no shortage of information she could offer about the college process, more specifically college campus visits. While she believes that there are dozens of valuable benefits a tour offers, the most important is that “You can kind of get that gut feeling, that instinctive feeling, that comes from being in a place you either really like or really dislike.” By visiting an assortment of colleges, one can narrow down what it is that they like or dislike just by being there. Ms. Gonzalez also gives advice to those going on tours in order to get the best out of each visit. She says it is important to dig deep and pick the brains of the tour guide, admissions counselors, and random students in order to get to the core of the real experience the college offers. She says to “Stop a random student on campus and say, ‘Hey, tell me about your experience here?’ Ask them about their major, what their Saturday nights look like, and whatnot,” as well as checking out the surrounding area for good restaurants, live music, grocery stores, and more. While she knows it is fairly unrealistic to be able to visit all the colleges on one’s list, especially so early on, Ms. Gonzalez encourages everyone to actually step foot on at least one college campus in order to “sort of bring things to life.”