Take the time to document your college visits
Throughout the college application process, you are going to be considering many factors -selectivity/potential for admission, cost/financial aid, academics, extracurriculars, athletics, career opportunities, etc. Much of your research happens virtually and by reading through college guide books. When you take the time to visit campuses, however, you want to document your experience. When it is time to narrow down your choices, you want to be able to make a thoughtful and informed decision based on everything you have learned about the schools and about yourself. It is important that you can look back at your notes and remember what you liked and disliked, and what you still have questions, concerns or doubts about.
Come up with a system that works for you - it could be in a journal, on a spreadsheet, on a Google Doc, on a white board - whatever helps you digest information the best, and include your reaction and comments about the following:
1) Physical campus: Did you like the location? The proximity or distance to a city or to your home? The distance between buildings or between the dorms, the dining halls and the lecture halls? Did you like the layout of the campus and the facilities? Could you picture yourself living and studying there?
2) Students: Did you meet students who shared similar interests or values? Could you see yourself hanging out with these people? Do you feel like you would be appropriately challenged by your future classmates? Did the students you met seem happy at school? Do they seem passionate about being there? Could you see yourself fitting in with the student body?
3) Curriculum/Academic Environment: Did you get excited by the academic opportunities at this school? Do they have classes and major options that are aligned with your academic goals? Does the structure of the curriculum make sense for your learning style? Do they offer co-curricular, experiential programs, research opportunities or study abroad programs that you are looking for? Do you feel like you would be successful in this academic environment? Did it feel competitive or collaborative? Did it feel intense or more relaxed? Did it seem like the professors are accessible to students? Will most of your classes be taught by professors or by graduate students or teaching assistants?
4) General Gut Feeling: After each school visit, you are likely going to walk away with a gut feeling. This certainly can be impacted by the weather that day, the effectiveness of your student ambassador or tour guide, your state-of-mind and health that day, etc. While it is difficult to be objective, think about your overall experience at that campus and come up with a way to rate it - it could be a simple thumbs up, sideways thumb or thumbs down; it could be a number: 1= definitely yes, 2= not so sure, 3 = not a fan; it could be an emoji: huge smiley face, unsure face, frowny face. Just come up with a simple way to sum up your experience at that school that you can use to reference later on.
Take the time to reflect on the visit and capture your impression while it is fresh on your mind. It will help you later when it is time to carefully evaluate your options and you don't want to have to rely on your memory.