I visited Lake Forest College for the first time recently.

I had never been to campus before; despite having grown up in the Chicago area, my exposure to the North Shore was limited to listening to the melodic tunes of Norah Jones at Ravinia.

As a college counselor who has visited numerous campuses, I always walk away from a campus tour feeling enlightened about the application process and inspired by the commitment of the admission staff to recruit and retain the right students for their school. It truly is a match-making process.

Lake Forest is a beautiful community 30 miles north of Chicago, with winding, tree-lined streets dotted with mansions and historic homes. Nestled in this residential area is a wonderful liberal arts college that is home to fabulous academic and athletic programs.

I learned much about Lake Forest College from the tour guide, a young woman from Minneapolis, a women’s hockey player and highly motivated student. She showed us everything from the collection of student-created holograms to her messy dorm room.

It is always incredibly insightful as a counselor to walk the tour just as prospective students do. It is also a very vivid reminder of how critical it is to visit campuses before deciding what school you want to attend.

Just as a personal interview with a college helps a student add his or her own “voice” to the admission application, the campus tour gives a voice and personality to the pile of promotional materials cluttering the dining room table.

As they begin the college admission process, I recommend high school juniors start by visiting one small, one medium, and one large school. It’s a good way to get a feel for the various settings.

Here are a few easy road trips that Morgan Park Academy students and their families can do in a long weekend:

  • Downstate: Illinois State University (Normal), Bradley University (Peoria), and Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington)
  • Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marquette University (Milwaukee), and Lawrence University (Appleton)
  • Indiana: Indiana University (Bloomington), Butler University (Indianapolis), and Earlham College (Richmond)
  • Iowa: University of Iowa (Iowa City), Drake University (Des Moines), and Grinnell College (Grinnell)

By Theresa Wright

Mrs. Wright is our College Counselor. An award-winning member of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling, she has 14 years of experience on both the college and high school sides of the college admission process.