There’s nothing like being on campus to give you a sense of whether you will get the kind of 24/7 learning experience you are looking for in a college. Visiting as many college and university campuses as you can is the best way to learn which college is right for you. It’s never too early in high school to start. But go when students are there, summer time will only show you the buildings. Here are some questions that you might think about to help you discover which schools are the “best fit” for you.
• Do I want to be near a city or in a rural setting?
• How far away from home seems comfortable-what do my parents think is comfortable?
• Do I want a small or huge campus population?
• What university offers the academic programs that I’m interested in?
Now that you’ve decided to explore your options, Campus Visiting does take some organization to maximize your experience.
• Make a list of the colleges you think you’d like to explore, then map them.
• You can usually see 2-3 colleges in an extended weekend if they are within
5-7 hours of your home, or if flying, each other.Plan to start your travel on a Thursday night, college tours are not available on Sundays. Book your hotel well in advance, many colleges have Open Houses or Parents’ Weekends and you can find that there isn’t a room to be had. The admission’s office can help you locate a place to stay.
• Amtrack has discounts for college visitation and some airlines do to.
• Call ahead to schedule a student guided tour. Tours are important since you’ll be able to ask questions of your tour guide while seeing most of the campus.
• If you’re a senior and this college requires an interview, schedule a tour and interview at the same visit.
• Do your research-read everything that is public knowledge about the college and take notes-outstanding programs, faculty-student ratio, educational mission, sports teams, study abroad programs-everything!
• If you’re interested in a particular department, ask the admission’s office if they can schedule a meeting with the department chair while you’re there.
When the Weekend Arrives-Here are some TIPS
Arrive early and drive around the town, does it look interesting? Safe?
Make up a standard list of questions to ask the Tour Guide or during the informational session in advance, this will help you compare all of your colleges using the same criteria:
• What is the typical class size?
• How many of your classes were taught by teaching assistants?
• Are the professors accessible to the students, only during office hours or in casual dining room centers?
• Are there support centers for assistance with papers, or are tutors available? Is there a charge?
• Is housing guaranteed all four years? Deadlines for securing a dorm room?
• Are dorms co-ed, by room, floor, wing? What about the bathrooms-are they co-ed?
• Are there fraternities and sororities? What percentage of the student body gets involved?
• Ask your Tour Guide some specific questions: How challenging are the academics? How safe is the campus? What is the quality of the faculty advising? Do students remain on campus on the weekends? Can freshman have cars on campus? What professors are known as outstanding regardless of a student’s major?
After the Visit-remember to write a thank you note: to the Admissions Counselor who spent time with you, to the tour guide and to that Department Chair who stayed on campus that weekend just to meet with you.
Finally, file your notes in that college’s folder so that when you go to make comparisons and finalize your college list, you’ll be able to relive your college visit accurately.