Visiting colleges is one of the most important things you can do when deciding which colleges you will apply to and ultimately, which college you will attend. Actually stepping foot on the college campus can change your perspective entirely about a particular school. We’ve had students who were dead set on a particular college and then went to visit and changed their mind completely. We’ve also had students who thought they would never consider a college and then went on a visit and fell in love. If you are applying to a college, you need to go and see what it’s like. Here are some tips to get the most out of your college visits.
Plan a campus tour while school is in session: The optimal time to visit a school is while the college is in session. This way, you’ll be able to get a feel for what the campus is like while students are on campus. You’ll also have the opportunity to talk to students as they are walking to and from class or to the library. Most students are very willing to speak with prospective students and would love to answer your questions. These students also tend to be very honest considering they are not being paid by the school, unlike those giving you your tour.
See if you can arrange an overnight visit: Many colleges offer prospective students the chance to actually spend a night in a dorm room. This is a great opportunity to get an insider’s view on the college. The best time to spend a night at a college is before you submit your applications when you are narrowing down your list, and then again after you are accepted. If you are unsure of what you want, consider spending a night at the two colleges on your list that are the most different. While on campus, make a conscious effort to be friendly and meet as many students as possible. Ask questions to several different students such as “why did you choose this college” and “what do you like/don’t you like about this college?” If you are considering applying Early Decision to one of your schools, arranging an overnight stay is an absolute must.
Set up an interview with an admissions officer or coach: First, you’ll need to research your schools to see which require interviews. For schools that offer interviews (but they aren’t required), you’ll need to consider if it could help your application and if you should do one. Then, make sure to prepare for your interview by researching the college and doing mock interviews with practice questions and answers.
See if you can sit in on a class and/or talk with the faculty: High school and college are very different. See if you can sit in on a class, especially one in your field of study if you have one. You’ll get to see how a college class operates and the dynamics between the professor and the students. If you can, see if you can talk with a member of the faculty. Again, speaking with someone who is in the department of your field of study can give you incredible insight into the program.
Eat in the dining hall: Food is a very important part of your life and you should know what kind of food you’ll be eating for the four years while you are living at college. Make sure that you go to a dining hall on campus and sample the food that the students are eating. Also ask questions about the meal plan for students at the college. Is it the same for all students? Can you change it mid-semester or mid-year? Does unused money roll over to the next semester or next year?
Look at the dorms: Make sure you visit a dorm and take a look at the living quarters. Are the dorms doubles, triples, or quads? What’s the difference between freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior dorms? Is housing guaranteed all four years? If not, what kind of help does the college give you when you need to look for off-campus housing? These are all important questions you should ask while on your visit.
Travel around the town/city: How easy is it to get into the closest city? Can you walk? Is there a bus service near by? Do you need to take the train? You’ll want to travel into the closest town or city to see how easy it is to get there and what there is to do. After graduation, students tend to find jobs and settle around the city they went to college in. Can you picture yourself living in that city indefinitely?
Send a thank you note: If you interviewed with or met with anyone, send them a hand written thank you note. Mention something specific that you talked about to make it a bit personal. Reinstate your enthusiasm for the school.
Take down notes: Before you forget, take down notes on the college. Once you do a few visits, they will all begin to blur together and you’ll forget which dorm, dining hall, professor, etc. went with which school. Take notes and compare them with your notes on other college visits so that you can begin to narrow down your list.
College visits are such an important part of this process. Take them seriously and ask a lot of questions while you’re there.
Any additional tips to share? Leave your comments!
About Smart Track™ Toolkit: The toolkit is a web based service that assists families with everything from admissions and test prep, to student athletics and financial aid. Our intuitive software and on-demand workshops are key components to making sure students find their top choice colleges, and families can afford to send them there.
About the author: Laura Guarino is the Student Services Coordinator with College Planning Strategies, LLC. Laura has a degree in Human Development from Boston College and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in School Guidance Counseling. She is also enrolled in a certificate program in College Admissions Counseling. Laura is at the forefront of the college admissions process for the families of CPS and The Smart Track™ Toolkit.
Connect with us