Visiting college campuses while they are in-session is one of the best things you can do for yourself throughout the college process. Besides being an excellent way to demonstrate interest in the schools that consider it, visiting and seeing a campus and the community for yourself can help you determine what you want and don’t in a college. You will be able to tell almost immediately if the college is a good “fit.” However, you need to take an active role in your college visits in order for them to be effective. Below are some tips to keep in mind when planning your visit.
1. Plan a visit when the college is in-session and not during a semester break. Although you can sometimes schedule information sessions and tours when students are not there, the culture of the school can feel completely different. You may not be able to tell if you would like the students or personality of the school.
2. Spend at least one half of a day on each campus to fully get a sense of each institution. Do not try to visit more than two schools in a day; you don’t want to feel rushed.
3. Keep in mind that college tour guides often follow a script when giving you information to try and make it seem as favorable as possible. This is completely okay, but it is just something for you to recognize. In order to receive the full scoop and learn perhaps what students do not love about the college, you may have to ask other students.
4. Try to spend time in a student dining hall or heavily populated student union during a mealtime. In addition to seeing the food options, you can see a good mix of students this way.
5. While you may feel uncomfortable with this at first, push yourself out of your comfort zone and approach a group of students. Tell them you are visiting as a prospective student and would love to ask some questions. Generally, you will find that they will be more than willing to chat and tell you how much they love their school.
6. With a professor’s permission, you should absolutely sit in on a class during your visit. Try to pick a topic that sounds interesting to you. In addition to hopefully learning something cool, you’ll get a good sense of the academic environment and how much students there want to learn. Be sure to follow up your visit with a thank you note to the professor.
7. If the college offers one, sign up for an interview.
8. Pay attention to bulletin boards and any other announcements on campus. To learn more about life on campus, you can take a copy of the school newspaper as well.
9. Find out about career services, internships, jobs, and study abroad opportunities. Sometimes colleges have programs that can distinguish themselves from other schools and convince you to apply.
10. Spend time exploring the nearby town or city. Do the students utilize these resources? Sometimes admissions offices will have brochures of things to do near campus during your stay.
11. Remember to take good notes and pictures of your visit to assist you when writing your ‘why’ supplements. You’d be surprised how easy it is for all the different campuses to blur in your memory.
Visiting colleges should be FUN!!! There should be no stress when visiting because it's like window-shopping: you are browsing with no commitment. The visits are the time you can start to form opinions about factors such as city proximity, Greek life, class size, school spirit, professor attention, etc. As you begin to develop preferences, you’ll be able to formulate your final college list.