Trees are beginning to bloom April 3 in front of College Hall at the University of Pennsylvania.

Spring is a time of budding trees, warming weather, and my long-awaited spring break college tour.

The college search has been a wonderful experience for me — one of my favorite activities, in all honesty. Before the essays are written, before the applications have been submitted, and before the excruciating wait to hear if I’ve been accepted begins, the possibility of it all is delightful.

And maybe the most exciting part of the college search is the campus tour. I was so grateful to have the chance to plan a trip to the East Coast and see a few of the schools I have been dreaming about.

My college tour started at the University of Pennsylvania. It was a must-see, as I have been talking about this school since sixth grade. Situated in the bustling city of Philadelphia, just minutes away from Independence Hall and founded by Benjamin Franklin, the Ivy League school is incredible. Trees line Locust Walk. Red bricks (or, in the case of College Hall, green stone) cover the buildings, and historical traditions lie at the heart of campus life.

One of the traditions was started when the school song was taken a little too literally; during football games on Franklin Field, fans wait to hear the lyric “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn,” then everyone throws toast (and, yes, I do mean toasted bread) onto the field. UPenn definitely lived up to the picture I had created in my head; maybe the school even surpassed my expectations.

By way of Interstate 95, we traveled from the Quakers of UPenn to Swarthmore College, a liberal arts college historically cared for by the Quakers. The campus is clad with an amphitheater that sits among a man-made forest, buildings that are made from quarried stone, and outdoor chalkboard walls that are perfect for class in the sunshine.

After a good night’s rest, we traveled North to Barnard College, a school under the Columbia University umbrella that is located in the Upper West Side of New York City. I hadn’t heard of the school before reading actress Lauren Graham’s book in which she mentioned Barnard College as her alma mater. I loved everything about the 4-acre campus, not to mention the Thai food truck on Broadway where we grabbed lunch. Though I did not have as many expectations in my head for this college, it was beyond what I could have imagined.

We crossed Broadway and landed at Columbia University’s gates. I was enchanted by the core curriculum and buildings there, many of which looked like they belonged in Rome. From the crosswalk over Amsterdam Avenue, you can see the entire length of Manhattan (on a clear day, of course). The entire experience of being on campus was one to remember.

As application deadlines and anxiety inch closer, I will look back and remember the joy I felt during the college search process.

Anna Ergeson is a junior at Selah High School.