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August 8, 2005

Taking the college search to California

By Stefan Koski

One of the most prescribed pieces of advice when trying to choose a college is to visit the college itself in order to get an idea what the campus, dorms, and programs are like.

This is fine for local colleges or even colleges within the state. But it becomes much more of a problem when visiting colleges across the country – in my case, from Connecticut to California.

The allure of California colleges is much more than the warm weather.

Schools such as the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California have some of the best film programs in the country. With a huge interest in being a film major, it was imperative that I visited both.

About a month in advance, planning for the trip began.

Tour reservations had to be made for the schools I was going to visit: USC, UCLA, and the California Institute of the Arts (another major film school in California).

Expenses limited the trip to a four-day affair with travel time, so a one-school-per-day schedule was adopted.

Time constraints also limited how far apart the colleges I was going to visit could be.

Thankfully, USC, UCLA, and CalArts are each about half an hour driving distance from each other as long as the traffic isn’t horrendous.

Anticipating bad traffic conditions, reservations at three different hotels – the closest ones to each campus – were made to minimize the traveling distance on the way there for tours. Plane tickets also had to be purchased and boarding passes printed out.

Campus tours, as generic as that might sound, are not generic in their make-up.

Some tours are intensive, involving a visit to the major college buildings, dorms, and cafeterias as well as sit-downs with heads of different departments.

They can rage from a basic questions and answers session (such as at CalArts) or as intense as the full campus tour with in-depth explanations of the program (such as at USC).

Important pieces of information that required close attention include admission requirements, costs, financial assistance, and, additionally important for far-away schools, the percentage of the student body that’s out-of-state.

Schools like UCLA may have 2 or 3 percent of their student body from out-of-state, whereas USC has an impressive 40 percent.

This can be crucial when determining whether the prospective student might feel like an outsider.

Another point of interest for a student coming from another state is the availability of on campus housing, which can be a necessity for those whom going home on a weekly or even monthly basis simply isn’t possible financially.

In this case, all three schools provide housing for undergraduate freshmen and sophomores, and UCLA provides housing for all its undergraduates.

While deciding on which colleges to attend out-of-state, a visit to the college itself is crucial.

Living and attending school far away means picking a college that is both comfortable to live in and ideal for a students academic pursuits.

Making a bad choice can equate to being a long way’s off without any help or support.


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