School hosts spring break college tours for juniors


Lucy Peck, Staff Writer

72 juniors and 10 chaperones embarked on a trip to tour a variety of colleges over spring break. The tour usually happens with each junior class, although the list of colleges varies. This year’s group toured Boston University, Brandeis University, Tufts University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston College, Brown University, Providence College, Trinity College, and Yale University.

Students toured 10 different colleges in four days, from Sunday to Wednesday, Head of College Counseling Canh Oxelson said. “We wanted to arrange a tour where it was easy to get to each college,” he said. “So, we decided to go to the New England and Providence area because there are so many colleges there.” 

The students were able to see the colleges all in a few days, Oxelson said. “They got a good sense of comparison because they were seeing so many colleges in such a short period of time.”  

The attendees traveled by bus, Julia Cassino (11) said. At each college, the juniors either joined an information session, went on an official tour, or spoke with a Horace Mann alum currently attending the college. 

“There was a lot of diversity in the ways we received information,” Louise Kim (11) said. 

For example, at Tufts University, three alumni came to talk to the group about their experience at the school, Oxelson said. 

“It was very helpful to hear about what life is like directly from current students there,” Amelia Resnick (11) said. 

Cassino could not have toured the same amount of colleges in such a short amount of time had she been by herself or with her family, she said. 

“It was a really dynamic experience to be able to go to 10 colleges in just four days and learn a lot in such a short amount of time,” Kim said. 

The students enjoyed being able to see the schools through different lenses, Cassino said. “Talking to the alumni allowed us to really see what it would be like going there,” she said. “It allowed us to see the school from their perspective.”

Oxelson believed the tours by alumni were especially helpful, he said. “The students could see the college through the eyes of someone who understands what it’s like to go through Horace Mann,” he said. “The alumni could explain what the workload is like and what the opportunities are like at that college.” 

Kim found out more about her college preferences through the tour, they said. “I found out through the tour that I’m more flexible, and I like more universities than I thought I would going into the tour,” she said. She had originally thought she would like only medium-sized schools near a city like Boston. “But, I realized there were schools outside of [my original] parameters that I could imagine myself going to,” she said. 

Cassino felt like she got a good feel for campus life at each college. Before the tour, she had a sense of what types of colleges she liked because she had already seen some colleges, she said. “But, because we saw such a variety of colleges, I feel like I definitely figured out more of what I liked and narrowed it down.” 

Kim found the trip to be helpful in getting them started with the preliminary college process, she said. “I also realized through the visit that the college tour was meant not only for students to consider those ten schools, but for all students to act as a springboard for preliminary research, to help us understand the qualities of universities that we appreciated so we could find other schools that shared those qualities.” 

Touring colleges with her friends was a very different experience than seeing them with her parents, Cassino said. “With my parents, it’s all business, but with my friends, it was more laid back.”   

Kim’s favorite part of the experience was being with her friends, she said. “It also made it a much more memorable and fun experience,” they said. 

Because the students were with their friends and counselors, the trip felt like a communal experience, where they discussed their feelings and opinions, Kim said. “I felt supported and confident the whole time,” they said. “Specifically, during our debriefing sessions with counselors, I felt very taken care of.” 

Barriers among students diminished during the trip, Oxelson said. “While this school can feel competitive at times, especially around college admissions, when students are traveling together in a really informal way, those barriers that can be created by competition tend to come down,” he said. 

Kim was originally concerned about competitiveness between students going into the tour; she did not know what to expect, they said. “However, once we were going on visits, the student atmosphere felt very supportive and enthusiastic,” she said. “We shared what we liked and disliked about each school with each other with a transparent and easygoing attitude, especially because we were all experiencing the university at the same time, under the same conditions,” they said. 

After finishing tours, the college counselors on the tour helped to facilitate conversations between the students, Oxelson said. “We did this because everybody who goes on a campus tour at a particular college has a different experience,” he said. “You may have toured the same college, but you will see different things, you will notice different things, you will understand different things about that college.” Bringing the students together helped them put together the pieces and form a more holistic view of each college, he said. 

After tours and debriefing, the juniors had free time during the night, Cassino said. She especially enjoyed going out to dinner with her friends in the college towns each night. 

After dinner, the group would return to the hotel, Cassino said. “When we got back to the hotel, I did some room-hopping. So, I went from hotel room to hotel room and we could all hang out.”

Kim was originally a bit concerned about safety and navigating around the college towns, but felt safe throughout the trip. “I was a bit nervous when I heard that we were going to have free time after the college tours at night, to go shopping or go out to dinner,” they said. “But, I actually found that it was really fun and I was never concerned for my safety or anything like that,” she said. 

One night that stood out to Kim was when the whole group went to the arcade Dave and Busters. The arcade was a great place for the juniors to have fun and let loose, they said. “I played a lot of Dance-Dance Revolution and Giant Connect-Four with friends,” Kim said. 

“During our free time, we felt pretty independent.” Kim said. “For example, during some mornings we were expected to get our own breakfast, so I went to a nearby cafe with my friend.” It was fun for Kim to imagine what life is going to be like as a college student, they said. 

Oxelson was disappointed that the previous classes of juniors did not get to go on the trip because of Covid, he said. “It is an impressive experience for kids where they learn a lot about themselves and what they want for a college experience,” he said. “It’s unfortunate there were classes that did not get to experience our college tour because it really changes the lens through which you view college.”