The College Tourist: Senior offers advice on college trip extravaganza

Alexandra Bacchus

This will be the first of a series of pieces from the perspective of a senior applying to college. Having visited over 40 schools in the last 12 months, Alexandra Bacchus takes a look at the growing challenges of getting into college.

My Spring Break college road trip began the way that of most other high school juniors do: a lot of packed food and a long drive ahead, with only my dad and me. With our first stop at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and our last at the University of San Diego, I knew I was in for a very long, very tiring Spring Break.

One car, two people, five days, 600 miles, and… 25 schools. When my dad first told me our plan was to see 25 colleges in just five days I thought it was crazy, but couldn’t help feeling a little nervous since I knew he wasn’t kidding.

My dad has been taking me to see colleges since I was a nine year-old living in New York City, so he doesn’t kid around when it comes to college. At all. Not knowing what to expect, I embraced the impending trip by telling him, “Okay, let’s do it,” but inwardly telling myself, “There’s no way this is possible!”

As expected, a trip of this caliber required a lot of planning–on my dad’s part–before we set off. He really let his cognitive side, and love for order, shine through when he mapped out each day, which became apparent to me very quickly.

On our first day we toured three schools, on the second we saw another four, and the next day five more. It continued that way until we reached the last day and saw a monumental seven schools. By the last one it was so late at night that we had to take a hasty, self-guided tour around the campus to finish the trip off before midnight, at which point we high-fived like the teammates we had become.

There were a lot of 6 a.m. wake up calls, plenty of 10 a.m. (or earlier) tours, and too many other Redwood students who saw me when I wasn’t exactly looking my best. But somehow, I made it through.

Like a real road-tripper, I had to endure many of the usual setbacks: the hunger and thirst while riding in the car for hours on end, and the fatigue that comes after being too well-rested (I clocked dozens of hours sleeping in the car). Thankfully, I was lucky enough to avoid driving for the whole trip, making my dad navigate the complex freeway system in Los Angeles on his own.

The schedule was tight in the midst of fitting so many schools into one day, but I can’t deny that I learned more than I ever could have hoped about what to look for in a college campus. For example, I learned that safety doesn’t seem to be an issue because of the of Blue Light Systems that can call campus police to a fixture in two minutes or less. Unfortunately, on the day I visited USC two students were shot outside of the campus which taught me that location is also an important part of making my ultimate decision.

Even though it took me a few tours to get in the swing of our routine and eventually end up enjoying myself, my dad seemed to be loving it from the beginning. He looked forward to talking about the pros and cons of each school over food or frozen yogurt in university cafeterias after each respective tour. It almost worked out seamlessly until he accidentally shattered a plate at a certain San Diego school, and we decided not to eat in any more cafeterias.

So that was just the beginning of what continues to be a crazy college-hunting adventure with my dad, and I will admit that it’s been really fun spending time with him and bonding over college which is usually so stressful. I’ve learned enough about the whole process to help anyone during the next few months who wants to benefit from the tips I’ve gained, and what I know about applying to college.

If I’ve learned anything from all of this, it’s that there isn’t just one perfect school out there – there are many – and all I had to do was look.