I want to make the most of campus visits. What should I do, look for, and ask while I’m there?
Campus visits are important. You should attend the Information Session and go on a College Tour. Check to see if you can interview as well! Do make sure you at least meet the admission representative who covers your territory for admissions. Make sure you appear independent and relaxed, don’t let mom or dad upstage you in any way. (Parents, read my blog!)
If you are a senior you may be able to spend the night in a dorm. During the tour look for grounds that are maintained well, happy students, and plenty of light at night with call boxes for security. Look at the dorm rooms, the laundry facilities, cafeteria, and library. Look for information posted on bulletin boards, posters and fliers about activities, classes, trips, etc. Check out the makes of the cars parked on campus. While on campus pick up a newspaper, admission materials, etc. Ask intelligent questions!
There is simply no better way to learn about whether or not a college is a good fit for you than to set foot on its campus. Try to arrive at a college the evening before so that you can have a look around the surrounding town or city, settle in and be fresh for your tour, information session, and/or interview the next day. Visit no more than one or two schools in any given day. Bring a camera to record your impressions – after a while schools may start to run together. Aside from the tour, information session and interview here are a few more things to do while on campus. Have a meal in the cafeteria. Visit the student center to observe the students in action. What type of clubs, activities, events are going on. Can you picture yourself living and studying among these students? Sit in on a class if available. You may have to schedule this in advance. Check out some areas that may not be on the tour such as the gym,theater or athletic facilities. Finally always send a thank you note or email to your tour guide, information session leader and interviewer. Schools keep track of demonstrated interest.
There is simply no better way to learn about whether or not a college is a good fit for you than to set foot on its campus. Try to arrive at a college the evening before so that you can have a look around the surrounding town or city, settle in and be fresh for your tour, information session, and/or interview the next day. Visit no more than one or two schools in any given day. Bring a camera to record your impressions – after a while schools may start to run together. Aside from the tour, information session and interview here are a few more things to do while on campus. Have a meal in the cafeteria. Visit the student center to observe the students in action. What type of clubs, activities, events are going on. Can you picture yourself living and studying among these students? Sit in on a class if available. You may have to schedule this in advance. Check out some areas that may not be on the tour such as the gym,theater or athletic facilities. Finally always send a thank you note or email to your tour guide, information session leader and interviewer. Schools keep track of demonstrated interest. Francine Schwartz M.A., LPC, NCC
Founder and President
Pathfinder Counseling LLC
1. Ask specific questions.
Don’t throw your guide softballs like, “So, what are your most popular majors?” Instead, ask questions that will produce unique responses. Try asking, “What are some of your unique on campus traditions?” or “What’s your favorite thing to eat in the dining hall?” or “What type of student wouldn’t fit in here?” 2. Visit a class.
The percentage of tour time spent on academics is paltry. But, academics are the point. Just because the website doesn’t advertise it, you can sit in on a class at almost any college that you visit. Before you visit, read through course descriptions. If something sparks your interest, contact the professor yourself and set up a time to sit in on the class. Or, visit a “signature” required course like Reed College’s Humanities 110. 3. Spend time on campus off the tour route.
At most colleges, the tour showcases the best a school has to offer in under an hour. But, taking time to walk around areas off the route may help you to learn about the nuances of an institution. If you are able to see the entire campus on tour, go “off route” by people watching in the student center for 15 or 20 minutes. Overhearing student conversations, viewing the bulletin board announcements, and entrenching yourself in the culture of a school will help reveal distinguishing characteristics of any institution.
When I take students to visit a campus we go beyond the tour and info session. Elements of a complete campus visit include a meal in the dinning hall, sitting on a class, browsing the campus book store, reading the campus newspaper and bulletin boards and kicking back for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and doing some people watching. Take notes.
Before you attend a campus visit, ask yourself what sorts of things you want out of college. By knowing yourself — you can really streamline the college admissions journey for yourself and save time, money, and energy. Think about the kind of geographic location you are looking for in a college. Think about the subjects that interest you and new topics that you’d like to explore. Think about your personal, academic and career goals that you’d like to achieve in college. And finally, think about what kind of learner you are. Are you the kind of person who learns just fine in a large lecture setting or are you more comfortable in a small classroom setting with lots of discussion? Are you the kind of person who learns best by doing? Are you interested in research? Are you interested in traveling and studying abroad? Once you begin to know yourself better, you will be able to ask the questions that most relevant to you, your experience, and your priorities.
You have now spent some time thinking and researching various institutions, it is time to go and physically experience the colleges you plan to apply to. Contact the admissions office and make an appointment to take a tour, meet with an admissions representative or attend and information session. Visit the campus when school is in session, schools feel much different when they are full of students. Ask about visiting a class or two. Some schools offer prospective students an opportunity to spend the night in the dorms, this will really give you a chance to see what the college is like.
To get the most out of your visit, research the college, make arrangements ahead of the visit and have a list of questions prepared. The list of questions will allow you to compare one college visit to another.
Finding the best college fit is like buying jeans. You must try them on, correct? Have you ever bought a pair of jeans without trying them on? Then why would you apply to a college you have never seen?
You will be wearing that pair of jeans for the rest of your life. Translation: your college will remain on your resume for perpetuity. Think deeply about how important it is to you and your future to devote time, effort and resources to this process.
While visiting, avoid visiting more than two campuses per day. It is exhausting and college tours begin to blur together. Take copious notes during and immediately following including first impressions. Try to envision what a day might look like if you were student at each college you visit. These refelctions will be valuable when you make decisions as well as when you write your common application supplemental essays (should your college accept the common app).
A visit to campus is the chance to get a feel for the vibe of the school. Pick a class of interest and sit in on the lecture/discussion. See if you can connect with a faculty member in your area of interest. Have a meal in the cafeteria and initiate conversation with your table mates. Pick up the school newspaper to read when you get home. Pay attention to bulletin board postings, student activity tables, library traffic. Try to get a sense for how engaged the students are on campus. Do folks stay around on the weekend, if so what do they do? Make sure the residence halls look like a place you’d feel good about going home to after a tough day of classes. If recreation is important to you, are you pleased with the facilities? And most of all, if possible see if you can spend an overnight on campus. That is when you’ll really see what goes on.
you may want to know the class size, home work style and requirements, course selection, and student activities from the current student’s point of view.
There is so much to consider while visiting a college campus, but my greatest piece of advice is to simply soak it all in; be present and enjoy your experience. That being said, here are a few other suggestions for an informative campus visit: First of all, plan and schedule your visit well in advance (at least two weeks is standard) and ask for everything you’d like to do (sit in on a class, meet with an academic advisor for your intended major, etc.). With enough notice, most schools are happy to accommodate your requests. But simply showing up on campus with high expectations does not make it easy for the staff to prepare a full visit experience for you. When possible, visit when classes are in session to get a full picture of the campus. Summer and/or Saturday morning visits are wonderfully convenient, but they should be first visits for campuses that persist on your list. If you apply for admission and you are accepted to a school you visited during the summer months or on a Saturday, consider a follow-up visit before making a final decision. Many campuses have new residence halls and are excited to show them off to visiting students. But they are not always available for freshmen! While on tour, make sure they are showing you a typical freshman residence hall, not on that is only for upperclassmen. Grab a copy of the current student newspaper (or check it out online) to see what is making front page news on the campus. While the tour guide should be well trained to answer any of your student-related questions, I often like to approach other students on campus, as well, to ask them about their experience(s) at that campus. Go off campus to the area surrounding the school. Can you safely walk to accommodations (grocery store, restaurants, shops, etc.)? Is the area welcoming of students? Do they offer student discounts? And, if you plan to photograph your visit, find a sign, service vehicle, etc. with the school’s name/logo. Make that your first picture on campus, then all the photos behind it will be of that school. This is most helpful when visiting 2 schools in the same day or multiple campuses in the same week.
After your campus tour set aside time to just wander and explore. Stop in the food court so you can see how students interact with one another and what the general mood is on campus. If you’re planning to live on campus you’ll want to see the dorms. If this isn’t included in your tour, ask someone in the Admission Office if it’s possible to see a room before you leave. Another important thing to do during your visit is to eat the food! Many schools include lunch in the dining hall as part of your tour.
The biggest question is typically WHEN should I visit? I recommend students visit between the summer of your sophomore and junior year or the spring of your junior year. To get a sence of the different types of college environments, it maybe even a good idea to begin with any local colleges you have in your area.
To begin, surfing the college website is the first thing I would suggest. Checking aout everything the site has to offer from online tours to students reviews, to college ratings, helps you get a “flavor” of the campus. Browsing the admissons office site or calling ahead is essential to an effecient visit. Most campus tours or information sessions require a pre-registration, so make sure you schedule and sign in at the admissions office. After doing some research online, arrive with a list of questions that you would like to have answered. Jot notes, or impressions you found on the website. It is important for an effective visit to try and visit when school is in session. Here, you could observe the campus in action, meet and talk to current students, get a vibe of the environment. While on campus keep an open mind and positive attitude. After the pre-arranged tour or information session, try to explore on your own. This is the chance to talk to students, sample the food, explore the student union, read the student bulletin boards, see what’s going on during the weekends. Sometimes the admisisons office offer prospective students an opportunity to sit in on a class or even stay overnight. These opportunities give students an even deeper impression of the campus.
If you are an athlete, this is a good time to schedule a visit with a college coach.
College visits can be confusing and overwhelming. Be sure to capture some of your impressions with your smart phone.Take some photos, take notes, and maybe video certain areas.
While on a campus tour:
– Talk with students on campus
– Look at bulletin boards to learn about campus activities
– Attend a sporting event
– Take a campus tour
– Sit in on an information session
– Sit in on a classroom presentation
– Talk with a professor in your intended major
– Pick up the schools newspaper
– Eat in the cafeteria
– Go into town to see what type of an area the school is located and what it has to offer
– Take photos so you remember exactly what you see
You only have so much time during a campus visit. So use your time wisely. You need to check in the office of admissions so they know you were there. Ideally. 1. Go on a campus tour and info session. 2. Book an interview if possible. 3. Spend the night in the dorm…many colleges offer this to seniors in the fall. If you know someone who goes to the school, even better. 4. Visit some targeted classes-a seminar in a content you like or a regular lecture class. 5. Eat in the cafeteria. 6. Talk with students you meet on campus. 7. Go see a professor you’ve made an earlier appointment with. 8. Just chill in the quad and take it all in. 9. Go to a sporting or theatrical event. 10. Always take notes and grab business cards so you can write thank you and follow up emails when you get home. Then save up your notes to write a great targeted application essay about why the college is a great fit.
Ask what programs do they have, rooming and board and how is it on weekends ? what type of campus is it? what activities do they have.
Take the campus tour and sit in on the information session. Recognize that both are marketing tools to entice you to consider their college or university. Ask about:
1. Availability of courses and graduation rate in 4 years, 5 years or more [some schools, especially state schools have too many students for a class and, thus, the class becomes unavailable, thereby lengthening the years to graduate and increasing your college costs both in terms of increased college costs and lost income opportunities in the real world].
2. Housing options and availability. Is housing guaranteed for incoming freshmen? Are floors in residence halls gender neutral? What comes with the room? [usually a bed, desk, wardrobe]. Are mini-fridges and microwaves allowed? Is there air conditioning in the dorm rooms?
3. What is the endowment of the college / university? Poorly endowed schools could be on the endangered list or could limit departments, programs, courses. Is there merit aid available and what is the median range of merit aid offered?
4. Are study abroad or domestic exchange programs available?
5. What do students do on weekends? Are there student discounts at local entertainment venues, restaurants, and stores? Are there trips to local mountains, beaches, cities?
6. What are the food options and meal plans? Are unused meal plans rolled over into the next semester? Or are meal plans use it or lose it?
These are some questions you might consider to ask.
After the orchestrated campus visit / information session, I suggest you take a walkabout on the campus. If you can talk to some of the students, you might ask them what they especially like about the school, what they would like to see improved at the school. You might ask them where else they applied and why they decided on that particular school.
Take a look at the campus newspaper. You’ll get some interesting insights regarding what is happening on campus — issues, problems, controversies and a general overview of college daily life.
Look at the posters highlighting campus events. Are there concerts, lectures, interesting programs being offered on campus?
After your own walkabout the campus and getting a feel for the school, check out the environs. What is the area off campus like? There are some great schools with beautiful campuses but surrounded by some dodgy neighborhoods.
These are some of the areas I would have you consider and that I take into account when I do my college tours.
College campus visits are known as one of the best ways to see if a College is the right fit for what you want to do and how you want to do it. A learning environment that meets your expectations is important and should not be undervalued. With that said, I have a simple suggestion, one that was passed down many years ago in regards to making the most of a campus visit, and that is, to bring along a pen and notebook. Write your thoughts down in the notebook as you walk around campus, on anything and everything. Write your thoughts on what you see the students doing, how the library feels, your emotions as you walk around, the faculty you meet, the dining facility, classroom and lab space, residence halls, athletic center, theatre, stadium, fields, and everything else you can think of. It will be a good reminder to what it was like walking around campus as a student that day and when you are nearing decision day, you can go back a read your thoughts. A simple, yet, often forgotten about medium, the pen and paper… enjoy the search!
First, take the official campus tour. Listen to the guides, the campus facts, and interact with whatever staff members are available. This will be your first introduction to the campus (possibly) so pay attention to how they present their school. Are they enthusiastic? Do they have interesting major options? Is the campus size of interest to you? Do students seem to have ample opportunities to be involved with campus live. Second, ask the guide about their personal experiences. Ask them about their favorite parts of campus, why they made their decision to come, and what they are involved in. Pay attention to how they describe the campus. Do they think it is diverse? Third, take pictures! Capture the places on your tour that seem important to you. Whether it is the recreational center, or classroom space, capture the places that you want to remember and compare to other schools. This will help you see if you can picture yourself on the campus. Fourth, take a tour after the tour. If you are able to take a tour on a day where there are students on campus, walk around and introduce yourself. Get the “real” perspective of campus. Speak to diverse groups of people: from different places on campus, in the dining facility, near classroom buildings, and in the library. What is their experience like? How is the food? Do they have great dorm options? What are some of the campus traditions. These four tips are a great start to getting the most of your campus visits. However, remember what you feel when you were there. Many times, picturing yourself on the campus can sway your decision of whether or not if it is a viable option for you. Good luck!
Do your homework first – look up and read as much as you can on the college your going to visit. Your first stop on a campus visit should be the admissions office/welcome center – here you can get a solid overview of the school and sit down one on one with an admissions representative. Take advantage of campus tours if available. On your tour make sure you check out the dorms, cafeteria, major departments your interested in, sports facilities, recreation rooms/student centers, etc. If you can sneak a peak into classrooms while classes are in session that can give you an idea of what being a student at that school would be like. It is important to ask about majors of interest; class sizes; student life; how accessible professors are; etc. Try to be in tune with how you are feeling during your visit – do you feel welcome? comfortable? excited? Be sure to write down your impressions immediately after your visit. After leaving the campus, take time exploring the city/town it is located in and see what the city/town itself has to offer.
The admissions tour and information sessions are excellent options for the first couple of times you visit a college. However, to really understand a college in a deeper way it is important to interact with students and faculty. For instance, if you are interested in a particular academic discipline,you could contact the department and request a brief, 15-minute discussion with a faculty or staff member to learn more about specific opportunities. Sitting in on a class will help you observe students and see their level of engagement. Are they interested or surfing Facebook? When the professor poses questions, do students respond? You can learn a lot about the student body this way. You should also try to speak with students off the official tour. Visit the cafeteria and strike up a conversation with current students. Better yet, if you know students who attend the college, request to stay overnight.
It is important to sign in with the Admissions Office as most colleges keep track of demonstrated interest. Many tour guides are paid by the college, so it is interesting to wander off the guided tour and speak with random students who can be candid about their experience. Try eating in the dining hall to see what the food is like. If possible, visit when classes are in session and you can sit in on a class in your major of interest. If you know anyone at the college, ask if you can stay overnight. This will give you a deeper insight into the day to day life of a college student at that school.
After your campus tour you should set aside some time to just wander and explore. You should make sure to stop in places such as the food court or dining hall so you can see how students interact with one another and what the general mood is on campus. If you’re planning to live on campus you’ll want to see the dorms. If this isn’t included in your tour, you should ask someone in the Admission Office if it’s possible to see a room before you leave. Another important thing to do during your visit is to eat the food! Many schools include lunch in the dining hall as part of your tour but, if it’s not included, just ask in the Admission Office if you can head over there on your own to eat.
Securing informal conversations with staff, faculty and students at prospective campuses can be a daunting process; having to introduce yourself to people you’ve never seen or interacted with off-campus or in other venues. Leave the “teenager” at home when you visit college campuses–be sure to have the student draft a list of questions and review it prior to the visit. If necessary, have students visit campus websites before the visit and determine “which programs offer what I want to study and in the type of environment where I learn most productively” This is the structural question and all others are peripheral and secondary. Current students will give direct answers to these structural questions and relate their own experiences to parents and family—but make sure to strike up informal conversations along the tour route to determine if tour guides and paying customers have similar views about the campus
When visiting college campuses, stop random students and talk to them. You will be surprised how candid and forthcoming they usually are about what they like (and don’t) about their school. Be sure to visit high trafficked areas like the student center, dining halls and dorms, etc. to see students in their relaxed environment. In addition to taking the tour offered by the admissions department, walk around campus and talk to students and professors. This will give you an unscripted reality of campus life. If time permits, try to sit in on a class in your desired major and speak to the professor afterwards. In these economic times, it is important to ask students if they have the schedule of classes they wanted. Walk around the campus with your eyes open, ready to absorb the community around you.
Reading the school newspaper is a great way to discover the hot issues on campus. You can always find copies in the student center – the place to go after the tour to check out the student hub of the campus. Read the bulletin boards, talk to the students staffing tables. There you can also find some students and ask them if they mind if you ask some questions – what are the hot topics on campus, what’s best about the campus, what would you change, etc? Finally, to connect with someone specific – a professor or club president – ask Admissions to help you.
As a potential member of a specific college community, it’s important to know what you can live with and without. I always advise students to talk to “real” students, not just the tour guides. Ask them where else they applied and why they ultimately chose this college. Ask what has been their most memorable academic experiences to date. Ask what they would do with a million dollars to improve something about their school. Ask what surprised them when they got to campus that they would want a prospective student to know. The answers may surprise and enlighten you, helping you to make a sound decision as to the best fit for you.
College tours require significant planning and expense to make them productive. Remembering what a prospective student and his family have seen and heard after visiting five or six schools over 3-5 days can be overwhelming. To address this problem I have developed an evaluation form for students which helps them assess the pros and cons of each school while touring the campus, during information sessions and while talking to students so they can easily compare schools. The form contains a rating system for evaluating each aspect of a school’s academic and social environment including geographic location, dorm life, academics, preferred major, sports, Greeks, costs, etc. plus a column for personal observations. It concludes with the question, “Can I see myself as a student there? ….. for four years?” Students find it very beneficial when visiting multiple campuses in a short time.
It’s easy for your impressions and reactions of a particular college to become blurry months later when asked on the Common Application supplement, “Why do you think our college is a good fit for you?” Articulate answers to that question will be easier when you take good notes during and after your visit. Jot down details about unique college programs, quote things that professors or students said during your visit, and bring a digital camera with you to remind you what the campus looks like. Show that you’ve been observant and done your research and you will make a favorable impression.
Campus visits are students’ opportunity to get to know what the “real” college is all about. A student’s job when visiting is to dive much deeper into the college’s make-up than what a website or marketing brochure can tell him/her. Some activities that should be on the top of every student’s list are to talk in-depth with students to get their feedback, thoroughly explore the targeted department, and visit with the activities/organizations that are of strong interest. Lastly, students should get acquainted with the local area as they should be happy with both the college and the surrounding area.
Before doing a series of visits, try to outline what you are looking for—besides how well you feel you fit in. Memorize three to five things that you are going to try to examine at every school. Say you know you need quiet study space; late-night food; and plenty of free events to attend. You may find answers during your tour, or you may want to wander the campus, observing gathering spaces and reading bulletin boards. If your questions are specific, ask Admissions for guidance when you book your trip so that you can meet appropriate faculty and students.
Use the visit for information, but also for observation. Observe students, where they congregate, their interactions. Do you feel like you will fit in? Go off the beaten path. Walk or drive around the surrounding neighborhood. Are there appealing places to eat, shop and hang out? Ask questions of various people, or if that’s too intimidating, let your parents do it. Arrange in advance to visit areas of importance to you: disability services, arts facilities, sports facilities and coaches, science labs, faculty or program heads, classes. Finally, do what interests you. For example, one passionate, prospective student visited art museums on every campus.
As the college search and application process becomes increasingly more discriminating and expensive, it is critical for a student to take in every facet of campus life during a college visit. No longer will the standard two-hour walking tour and information session give prospective students the real feel for the heartbeat of the campus community. A day of shadowing a student in classes and an overnight stay in a dormitory is a must – preferably on a Thursday when weekend social activities begin in earnest. Adding an excursion to a nearby city would also inform. Whirlwind? Yes! Necessary? Absolutely!
Tour the neighborhood to see where students hang out during the day (and night). Does the town welcome students by offering lots of restaurants, stores, housing, etc. to support them? How pricey are these places? How late are they open? Can you tell it’s a college town? What activities does the surrounding area offer? Do students hit the slopes or the beach on weekends? Do they go camping? Is there a city nearby? Students often want to be in a big city for the culture and activities; find out how much students take advantage of these offerings and consider how much you would. How often do you make it to the opera these days?
While the formal visit has become increasingly important and can weight the admission result in the student’s favor, there is also much for students to gain by going beyond that orchestrated visit. Pay to eat lunch in the cafeteria, sit with students and ask questions. What do you like about this school? What would you change? What do students complain about? Are any of you doing research with a professor? How did that happen? Pick up the newspaper and read the bulletin boards. Finally, set up a visit with faculty. Oftentimes faculty become the determining factor in a student’s decision
Imagine you are an anthropologist/detective who needs to observe inhabitants in their natural setting. Can you determine how they socialize, study and what’s important to them? Can you get a sense if these “natives” are the people that you would want to hang out with? Check them out carefully: do they dress like you or are they too “preppy”, too “funky”? Talk to them. Ask concrete questions: how do they spend their weekends? What was their best and worst classroom experience? And finally, be sure to eat some food in the cafeteria. Could you live on this for four years?
A campus visit is your time to get answers to questions that are important to you and your college search. You should ask to see a class in your area of academic interest and to talk with a professor in that department. Ask about the college’s NSSE scores to see how current students are gauging their academic engagement. Eat a meal in the college’s main cafeteria and sit down with a random group of students – ask them about their experience and what they like about the place, AND what they would change if given the opportunity.
Spend some time alone on campus. Sure, you’ll probably be arriving with mom and dad and taking the official tour, but if you decide to attend this college, mom and dad won’t be with you and you won’t have a tour guide. So, at some point during your visit, break away from your parents and the tour and explore on your own. Grab a bite to eat in the dining hall. Hang out in the student union. Say hi to a few students. Look around. Listen in. Let yourself experience this campus without anyone else’s filter. Ask yourself: Can I see myself living here for the next four years?
The tourist experiences the college info session and campus tour. But to see it like a local, pick up and skim any campus newspaper you find, especially the “underground” ones. These will provide insight into the campus climate and you’ll learn about the big issues on campus. Study the fliers tacked on kiosks and talk to the students manning organization tables near the campus center. Ask questions about student involvement or the lack of it. Stop by the Career Office to study the help-wanted bulletin boards and notices about corporate recruiters coming to campus. Stop in and inquire about the percent of students who have job offers on graduation. Ask about the availability of internships.
The 549 mile college road trip with your parents is a rite of passage. This is your college audition time. Use all five senses to determine how you feel about a campus. Experience the taste of the new FroYo option in the cafe at the student union; hear the cheering coming from the soccer field as the school clinches their conference title; feel the benefits of suite style dorm living and what it may mean to share a room freshman year; see a classroom in action and experience the professor engaging in a lively classroom debate; smell the lilacs on the college’s 100 acre arboretum. This is how to test drive a campus.
When visiting a college and trying to get a feel for the place, look at places where the students express themselves: read what is on student doors; read the graffiti in the bathroom, read the student newspaper, look at ratemyprofessors.com. Go to the dining room. Who’s sitting with whom? Do minority students, jocks, etc. co-mingle with the rest of the students or sit separately? How many of the guys are wearing baseball caps, and how many are wearing them backwards. Do the students look like they just rolled out of bed or do they look like they are ready for the cotillion? How do the students carry themselves: with confidence or with cowardice? Is the campus kept up? Are their weeds growing everywhere, water spots on ceilings, flaking paint? Do the dorms stink of beer or bong water? Read the posters: are there causes you believe in or activities you are interested in? Find random students and ask: would they go to this school if they could start over? What do they like best or hate the most about the school?
Check the proximity of town, note how the students are dressed, what activities are going on (Frisbee? Classes outside?), and certainly eat in the cafeteria. If you know your major, go to that department and talk to the students and professors. Looking at the posts on bulletin boards across campus will give you a sense of what’s happening; the friendliness of students towards your tour guide will also tell you something. When you write your thank you letter, you will begin a dialogue that will allow you to ask questions throughout the process, and they will know who you are!
A number of schools have begun tracking your interest level, which can play a part in the admission decision later on. Don’t just visit the campus on your own; check in with the admissions office and let them know you’re there! While it’s helpful to attend the information session and tour, even if you simply hang out with current students who are friends, you don’t want them to mistakenly assume you never visited campus (and therefore might be making a somewhat less-informed decision to apply, with a less-intense interest in the school, and subsequently less-strong odds that you will eventually attend.) Get credit for showing up!
To make the most of a campus visit, students and parents should view the college’s website prior to the visit. The visit is to determine how the college feels. Does the college seem inviting? Are the student body/college personnel warm and friendly toward visitors? Do students seem interested and engaged during class? Are the dormitories and cafeteria clean, orderly and a relaxing place for students? Other questions relate to what types of student support services are available, types of safety measures in place, types of transportation resources available to go off campus, and percentage of freshman students returning sophomore year?
Be prepared for your college visit. Every visit will consist of a tour, conducted by a student and an information session, conducted by an Admissions Officer. Rain or shine, plan on three hours and sore feet! Before you go, really visit and research that college’s web site. Make notes for yourself so you will remember to ask or look for things that are important to you. Many times you can attend a class in a subject of interest to you. (you must make the request prior to your visit). During your visit, eat lunch in the student center, visit the career center and review the lists of internships the students take part in. If school spirit is important to you, perhaps you can attend an athletic event. Or attend a performance. And one last thing, take a walk around the town or city….. potentially this will be your neighborhood for the next 4 years, how does it feel?
Always visit on a school day unless the school schedules a special weekend program for accepted students. Take a campus tour, even if you took one earlier. Read the posters, what are the activities/programs/speakers/concerts available for students? Read a school paper. Attend an intro lecture class: what is the interaction? Who is teaching? How engaged are the students? Visit the Career Center–do they have active career alumni networks helping students get jobs? Does the school help you get an internship? Ask lots of questions: academic requirements, core curriculum, retention numbers, social life, what would students you talk to change about the school?
If at all possible, visit the campus when the college is in session. See the students. Talk to students on campus. There will be many organizations advertising events. Are the students engaged? Is there activity? How important is Greek life? Can you visualize living with students you observe? If you want specific information regarding a program, contact that department prior to the visit to determine if someone can be available to meet with you. Be certain to sign in at the Admissions Office. It is important to show “demonstrated interest”.
While college visits are a vital part of your college search, remember they are also a marketing opportunity for the institutions. This means that your open house or campus tour experience may not provide you with an unbiased view. Make time to talk to students or staff members other than the admissions counselors and tour guides to which you’re introduced; they may give you more honest feedback. Also, if you’ll be in the ethnic or socioeconomic minority on campus, seek out students who have backgrounds similar to your own by visiting the campus multicultural center or a related space.
Personal visits are the best way of getting to know colleges. What to do? Stop-by the admissions office, sign in and meet the rep assigned to your high school. Then take an organized campus tour or go on your own. Ask yourself these questions: Am I turned on or off by what I see? What’s available in my activity/athletic/other interest areas? Do students seem to be the kind of people I want to spend time with? (Ask a few what they like/dislike about the campus?) Can I see myself happily spending four years here? Have fun!
Some students make their first campus visit to their number one school. But if you visit a local school first and get comfortable with the campus visit, you will get more out of the visit to that school that really interests you. Think of it as a dress rehearsal. On a trial visit, listen to the questions and answers to help you determine what you really need to know about the school. Did they cover the things that matter to you and, if not, make sure that you ask about them on your important visits. Get rid of the jitters that may accompany you on visits to ‘important’ school by making sure that it is not your first campus visit and build a baseline for comparison.
Visit the campus while in session. After a formal visit and information session, explore the campus alone. Many schools, like Tufts, will let you attend classes. If you have a sense of your major, attend a core course. Arranged in advance, some will allow you to stay overnight in their dormitories. Anything is possible; just ask. Visit the gym, pick up the newspaper and check the bulletin boards, find out about internet access, go to the library, and talk to as many students as you can, especially over a meal in the cafeteria: they’re relaxed and open to honest exchanges.
Visits are extremely helpful, but don’t judge a college until you have engaged the campus. Attend classes, go to club meetings, eat in the dining hall, sleep in the dorms, if possible. Do you know students there from your school or home state? Look them up, ask to them about their experiences. Pick up a student newspaper to find out about important issues on campus. Be sure to exam kiosks and bulletin boards—they are a goldmine of information about the speakers, clubs, and even work opportunities available. Finally: pay attention to the intangibles—how a college makes you feel.
When visiting a campus, students and their families should understand that admissions officers want to showcase the best that their campus offers. Ideally, going on a tour and sitting in on an information session can give prospective students a good all-around view of a campus. But to see more about actual student life, it can be beneficial to talk with current students who are, more often than not, happy to speak honestly about the quality of life on their campus. Walk around library lobbies or student unions after the admissions tour and pick up copies of any campus newspapers (assuming they’re still being printed). Read what students post on bulletin boards. I also advise parents to try to keep their thoughts and opinions about a given campus to themselves and to allow their children to reflect on the visit and to talk about it when he or she feels so inclined.
Your best bet to get a sense for if a school is a good fit for you is to actually experience it. Schedule to sit in on a class, attend a band rehearsal or team practice. Check the calendar of activities on the college website for sporting events, concerts, or other events that you could attend while you are in town. Roam around campus– spend a bit of time in the student union, cafeteria, library and other student hot spots. This will give you an opportunity to talk candidly with students and determine if the school is right for you.
The college visit is the best way to get a feel for a school and determine if it’s a good fit for you. The key to your visits is simple…plan ahead! Contact admissions offices to see if they offer overnight programs. Make tour reservations far in advance. Contact faculty members to meet and explore undergraduate research opportunities. If appropriate, contact coaches, music or theater department professors to discuss special requirements. Ask to sit in on classes. Research colleges through your high school’s resources, college web sites, and student newspapers. Prepare questions for students, faculty, admissions officers and financial aid staff.
Ask your parents to go get a cup of coffee and investigate the campus independently. Your will gain greater genuine insight about a school when you are perceived as a peer. Wander around the student center or a dining hall and ask random students questions. Ask those questions you wouldn’t ask someone in admissions. Students are more than happy to share their insights. Ask: it hard to get into the classes you want? Are the professors accessible? Would you pick this school if you had to do it all over again? Would you tell your best friend to go here? What are the best and worst things about this school? Is there anything to do on weekends?
talk to students on campus, visit the department, and speak to the organizations that you like to join. have a conversation with the career placement officer.
College tours are great, but if you are interested in seeing the “ins and outs” of a campus, be sure to stay overnight, and if you can, visit the schools you’re serious about during the weekend. Staying overnight and visiting during the weekend give you the opportunity to interact with students in a more relaxed setting, and help you get the real “scoop” on the institution. Non-peak times on campus may also help you view the school’s campus security in action and give you a look at the social environment. This information is not easily gleaned during the formal college tour or from the college’s website.
When visiting campuses, students should inquire about the specifics of academic advising. Advisors help students choose courses and majors and can ensure that students make informed decisions about their education. Ask the tour guide, or the admissions staff, how you will be assigned an academic advisor. Who are the advisors? Are they professors? Graduate students? Peers? Will you receive an advisor as a freshman or after you declare a major? If there is an inadequate system of advising, how will you choose your classes or your major? This is especially important at a large public university where students will need to reach out and ask for help.
Most college tours will take you on a quick run through the library. However, I’d recommend you stop by the library for a longer visit. Bring a book or take one from the shelves and then observe the action around you. Are students working in groups? Do people stop by and chat with one another? Is the physical space comfortable? If you see a student studying a subject you are interested in, you might consider asking them about the course. You are going to be spending a great deal of time in the library, therefore, taking a break among the books can be a good way to determine if the environment feels like a match for you.
Consider all the traditional factors—size, distance, major, student-body composition, extracurriculars, residence/dining options—but look beyond those. Ask random students why they chose the school and whether they would choose it again. Make them president-for-a-day, and ask them what they’d change to make life better on campus. Ask about the quality of interaction with truly mentoring faculty members (your grad school/employment recommenders down the line). How does the college help students to think deeply, communicate effectively and question intelligently? What percent of grads are in grad school or working six months after graduation? Discerning prospective students ask questions like these to discover the best fit for them.
Students should ask about research and internship opportunities for freshmen, and about future assistance with the job search. They should try to attend a class or speak with an upperclassman who is majoring in their prospective major. Upon request, sometimes students can meet with a dean or faculty member from the department they are considering for their chosen major. They should also ask about the most common social opportunities for freshmen, and tour the local town. Finally, a student can ask about the typical learning style in classes for their intended major – is it lecture, discussion or experiential based?
In addition to attending the info sessions and tours, make time to sit in places where students hang out: the student union, eateries or recreation facilities. While you are there, watch and listen. Try to envision yourself as a student. What are students wearing? How are students interacting with each other? Sometimes, you can learn more about a campus by parking yourself in these places than you can on an official tour. If you can make arrangements in advance to meet with a current student, that is always helpful.
Because most campuses offer daily tours, before scheduling a campus tour, I would suggest to make an appointment with the department of the major you are interested in first and then schedule the tour around that. This will allow for you to receive concrete answers for the department you are interested in since the tour guides may only have limited information on many of the majors. Some crucial questions to ask are regarding class size, student to teacher ratio, and on-campus housing options. Additionally students should ask about activities they are particular intrested in such as Greek Life, clubs and on-campus activities.
Short-term campus visit (1 day, over-night and weekend stay) only reveal so much about a school. It takes time AND real-life encounters to evaluate a school’s suitability to the visitor. But you don’t have an option. So, there are 3 questions that a visit should answer for a prospective student and the guided tour is perhaps the least useful except in providing an overview (which you can get online from the school’s website): 1. Do I like the place, the facilities, the physical environment and the larger context enough to stay for 4 years (or more). Assume that you won’t have a car so don’t use “I can always drive away” to justify a less-than-desirable locality. If you are getting your money’s worth out of the school, you can’t afford to be leaving campus regularly to get emotional relief. Walk the campus, walk through all the buildings that you would most likely frequent and check your gut response. Beauty is important to some of us. For the rest, being able to tolerate it is good enough though I can’t advise that. We all perform better in a place that we enjoy. Since the choice is up to you, why not choose a place you would LOVE to spend 4 years? 2. Do I like the social ambiance of life I feel in the classrooms, the dining hall, the student union, the dormitory. In smaller schools, there is a definitive prevailing spirit of the place, though there is of course diversity even within the community of a small college. To do this right, you must plan an overnight stay in the dorm and attend several classes. Many school provide this at no cost to you other than a registration fee to get a good head count estimate. Nothing like spending a day or two as a student gives you a feel what it’s like going to school there. 3. If you don’t already have an intended major, choose one that’s close enough for the exercise. Make a point to schedule meetings with faculty and an administrator of the department, ask about graduation requirements, double majors, flexibility etc. to discern what is the central concern of the institution. Most schools evolve into bureaucracies set up to balance budgets and manage programs to run students through the curriculum and they don’t like exceptions, variations. Then there are schools that boast about customized curriculum, independent studies, no walls between disciplines, etc. That can be a good thing for those rare breed of students who know what they want and the school doesn’t offer it (so why are they there in the first place?). It can also mean that they haven’t figured out what’s an essential and necessary curriculum! Schools sell diplomas for a living or fulfill a vaguely worded tax-payer mandate. Then there are institutions who focus on their mission, which is to educate the young, and array or develop resources to achieve that end. You will get a good sales pitch from all the folks you talk to who are on the payroll. The insight comes from comparing your notes from what you hear from say 3 different schools. You sense the difference immediately.
Most successful campus visits are centered around an information session and a campus tour. It is also sometimes possible to schedule a personal interview with a member of the admissions staff or with academic or sports staff in areas which are significant to you. Information about when information sessions and tours are scheduled can be found on the websites of most schools. You can then schedule an interview that correlates with those pre-scheduled events. Some admissions offices do not offer interview options, however. You might also consider arranging an overnight stay in one of the dorms. Contact the admissions office to see if/how this can be set up. You would be paired up with a current student and would have the opportunity to get a much better understanding of student life at that school. The information session, usually led by one of the admissions officers, will provide input on institutional offerings, application requirements and procedures, and other areas of general interest. The information sessions are typically followed by a question and answer period. This will be a chance for you to ask about issues of particular relevance to you. Do your research ahead of time, so that your questions will be appropriate to the institution, and be sure not to ask a question that the admissions officer just answered in his/her presentation. That doesn’t make a very good impression. You should feel free, however, to ask about points that were not clear to you. It’s best not to ask questions that are very specific to you. These would be better addressed privately with an admissions officer – either in an interview situation or informally, after the information session. The campus tour, which usually lasts from an hour to an hour and a half, will most often be led by a current student or recent graduate of the school. You will probably be taken to most of the important academic departmental buildings, dormitories, sports facilities, performance facilities, the library, etc. This will be a good chance for you to ask questions about any of the facilities that are of particular interest to you and to get a better sense of what life is like for a student on campus. Ask anything you wonder about. Ideally, you would be able to visit the school during a time when classes are in session, so that you could get a feel for the campus “vibes”. Unfortunately, however, the time when you’re free to visit will often be when school is not in session at the colleges/universities. But, never mind, you can still learn a lot on the tour even if the campus is not teeming with students. As you’re touring the school, try to imagine yourself in that environment. Would you feel comfortable and happy? Most of the schools you visit will have some kind of building/renovation projects underway. At least that’s been my experience. That’s a good sign. A “red flag” should go up if you see many buildings which are run-down and if the campus does not seem to be well cared for. If you do arrange an interview, this will be a chance for you to present yourself personally – your prior accomplishments, your interests, your abilities. You will be able to ask any questions which relate very specifically to you. Some schools say that their interviews are just for the exchange of information and will not be part of your evaluation. Others require or recommend (read that as “require”) an interview as part of their admissions evaluation procedure. Remember that the impression you make will be based on things other than just your prior academic and extracurricular accomplishments – things such as whether you choose to dress appropriately, how you speak, your level of confidence, your manners, and so on. Keep in mind that you may be able to arrange interviews with members of academic departments in which you are interested. You would always want to go into those interviews with a good understanding of the departments as they are configured in each school, as well as gathering some background information about the person with whom you’ll be speaking. If you are a talented athlete and hope to continue a sport in college, you will probably want to arrange interviews with the relevant coaches.
Short Answer: Be an astute observer and a critical thinker when visiting a college and listening to an admissions counselor. Detailed Answer: Your college search is one of the first steps you will take to more fully become the person you will be throughout your life. So your college visits are a great place to begin developing the critical thinking and observation skills that will serve you well in every aspect of living. Be a smart consumer of higher education. Do your homework before you go, and be an astute observer and critical thinker when you visit. First, listen critically to everything that is told to you. Traditionally, admissions counselors have been caring, knowledgeable individuals. However, many admissions counselors attitudes today are being driven by pressure from the administration to bring in students, which equals tuition and room and board money. Admissions counselors are selling you their college, because their jobs depend upon the numbers of students they recruit. So, unfortunately, you can no longer believe them any more than you would believe a used car salesman, despite everyone’s good intentions. (BTW, the term “used car salesman” is one I hear often now, used by admissions counselors weary of the pressure to recruit students who are not a good fit.) I have attended and participated in many, many info sessions over the years. In the past several years, it is astonishing how similar these sessions have become. They are almost interchangeable. The truth is that admissions departments everywhere have deeply researched your generation and know exactly what to say to attract you — from diversity, to community service, to safety, to anything and everything. Honestly, visiting a college is much more about considering the details that will affect your day to day life and sussing out the truth behind the marketing and reputation. 1. Observe the way that professors and administrators behave around students. Are the employees respectful of the students? Do they seem to enjoy interacting with them? Do they seem helpful and not dismissive of students with questions? 2. Consider the situations at Penn State and Rutgers. Consider your own ethics and then think about what questions you need to ask to learn about the ethics of the institution. For example, what is their student judicial system like? How have they handled bullying in the past? Do they have campus-wide programs in effect to increase inter-human sensitivity? How do they handle substance abuse issues? How do they deal with student conflict? What is their approach to handling student mental and emotional health issues? If a student is in crisis, and that crisis may reflect poorly on the institution, will the institution act on behalf of the student or will it cover up the crisis in order to protect the institution? Does the institution seem punitive or does it seem to approach jurisprudence as a learning opportunity? Don’t just ask them open ended questions, ask for specific examples. 3. Ask about their first-year student intake program. How are they going to ensure that you are socially integrated and academically supported? What are the mechanisms for students to confidentially express their fears and anxieties? Do they have an Early Alert system? If they don’t, what is their process for ensuring that no student falls through the cracks? If they do, is it one that is designed to truly help students who are struggling, or is it intended to seek out struggling students and punish them for buckling to the high pressures of college life? 4. Look at the “bricks and mortar.” Does the campus look well-cared for? Does it look safe? Lights in alleyways and hallways, etc. That stuff matters. But college is a place to learn. It’s not supposed to be the Golden Door Spa. Be aware that fancy, expensive residence hall facilities should make you question where your tuition and room and board money will be going — especially if it is an institution that is charging higher tuition and it has little or no endowment. It should be going to ensure that the academic facilities and equipment will prepare you to enter your profession. That’s what you’re going to college for. 5. Before you go, read the local newspapers online and see what’s mentioned about the college or university. Does the institution have a good reputation within the community? What is the relationship of the college to the surrounding community — “town and gown”? Is the college genuinely invested in the people and community that surround it, or are they simply taking up space, creating a universe of their own with no interest in bettering the world around them? Some institutions, such as Indiana University — Bloomington, are fully integrated into the community in every way, ethnically, socially, and economically. This integration creates a rich personal and professional experience with lots of real world possibilities for building a resume aimed at gaining employment upon graduating. 6. Listen closely and think critically. Make sure that the institution you are visiting is marketing itself HONESTLY through its tours and info sessions. For example,Tulane University is in New Orleans, which in its admissions tours touts its diversity. However, look around you on campus and you see virtually no evidence of varied ethnicities. Then drive to the other side of town and see a completely different, devastated community. Then remember the admissions officer telling you that their football team plays in the Superdome, which had housed all the people from the Ninth Ward. They have an almost billion dollar endowment, yet they accepted $135 million from FEMA post-Katrina to upgrade their data systems, yet the city is still devastated. Again, institutional ethics and truth in marketing — pay attention to what they are telling you, then pay closer attention to anything that supports or denies what they have said. 7. Before you go on your tour, research safety statistics and everything that’s been in the general news about the college. And when you are there, pick up a copy of the student newspaper — that’s where you will see what’s really going on. And learn about what’s being discussed at the Student Government Association meetings. Pay attention to what you find out about efforts students and student groups make to express their concerns to the college’s administration. What are the concerns being expressed and how are those concerns being responded to. 8. Ask where your tuition money and room and board goes. Better yet, ask to be directed to published information that details where your money will go. 9. Don’t ask what their average SAT score is, or their graduation rate, or their student/faculty ratio. You can find all that info online, even though it’s not very important. The fact is, you learn more from astute observation and research than you do from asking questions. 10. Four-to-five years is a long time to be someplace. Before you leave for your visits, you should read online the college’s Strategic Plan. When you visit the campus, check to see if there is evidence that the institution is moving actively in the direction its Strategic Plan indicates it wants to go. 11. Also research online where funding cuts are being made. If it’s a public institution you are looking at, research what kinds of funding cuts are being made to make up for reduced state funding. Many, many institutions around the country are being faced with having to pull back on programs or eliminate them completely. When you visit, talk to a professor or students and find out what the continued funding outlook is for their department. You don’t want to end up in a program that cannot keep up with it’s needs for educating you, or worse, in a program that is in danger of being eliminated. And make sure you research what they tell you — they may be trying to save their department by recruiting anyone and everyone. That doesn’t mean the department isn’t good, it just means they are struggling and you want to make certain that you understand the truth and possible outcomes of their struggles, because they will affect you. 12. Ask if tuition money is being spent to attract international students or if it is being used to help students such as yourself pay for college. How much money is being spent to recruit international students? Where is that money coming from? The latest statistics show that colleges are now spending more money on general marketing and marketing to international students than they are on scholarships for talented, low income students. Colleges claim that they recruit internationally because they want the diversity, but it’s just about the money. The fact is that there is plenty of diversity in this country that is not being served by our institutions of higher learning.
Campus visits are an essential part of the college research process. You want to make sure you get everything you can out of your time on a college campus, especially if that school is far from your home. Here a few visits to get the most out of your campus visit: Campus tours and information sessions can be a great way to learn more about a college. Here are few things you should keep in mind before you visit a college: 1. Do some practice visits. Before you spend the money to visit your “top choice” school out of state, visit some colleges near your home. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with how campus tours and information sessions run. By the time you visit your top schools, you will know what details to look out for and what questions to ask.
2. Plan ahead. Most colleges will ask you to sign up for your tour and information session at least two weeks a head of time. You should also ask how long the tour and information session last, in case you are planning on trying to make it to another college that same day.
3. Get off campus. In addition to touring the campus, be sure to spend some time in the surrounding community. Getting to know what life is like off-campus is just as important as getting to know what your life will be like on-campus.
4. Timing is everything. Unfortunately, the best time to visit a college campus is during the school year. This will allow you to see what the campus culture is truly like. You may also have the opportunity to sit in on some classes or meet with a professor.
5. Ask questions! Do some research ahead of time so that all of your questions can be answered during your visit. Make sure you find out who your contact is in the Admissions Office so you can follow up with them with additional questions that may come up when you get home. You should ask about anything that is important to you: a specific academic program, the residence halls, life outside of the classroom, etc. Katherine Price
Here are some things you should consider doing in order to get the most out of your visits: 1. Admission information session 2. Campus tour 3. Eat in a dining hall 4. Sit in on a class 5. Stay the night with a student if possible 6. Meet one-on-one with a professor 7. Check out the recreational center 8. Explore the town in which the college resides 9. Meet with a coach if you want to play sports 10. Meet with a student leader of an extracurricular group you’re interested in joining 11. Take notes on each visit so you can go back and review them later to compare your thoughts about each school. Use a form like this one. I wrote an entire blog post on this topic over at my blog ChapBits. You can check it out here: http://wp.me/p240Ca-C
If you are interested in specific programs ask about them. I recommend that if possible, visiting high school students should sit in on a class.
The top place on my list is are you satisfied with the university’s library? Can you speak to a department chair? What about the guidance counselors and their willingness to assist you? Are the dormitories comfortable and will they have a tolerable noise level? Are there non-alcoholic dormitories? Are there quiet dormitories? Stop in and eat on campus. Remember you will be living on the campus, or at least spending a good part of your day on the campus. Is the campus neat and attractive? What about the buildings? Are they pleasant to the eye? You will not be able to get complete answers, but keep these thoughts in mind and the best of luck with your visitations.
You can always find out the general stuff, and keep in mind that tours and campus visits are NOT designed to expose weak areas of campus life. Decide what the most important things are to YOU, and ask about them! If you really want to know what the best and worst living facilities are on campus, ask. If you need to know about a strict diet, or widely-varied options for food, ask. What is important to you in order to be comfortable on a campus is not the same as what is important to everyone else. Make a list that you need to know, and know you cannot live without knowing. That might be about available recreation centers, local transportation, cultural events, urban life, or any number of other things. Remember that living on a campus is not just trudging to class and back to your room.
The optimum time for an on campus visit is as a non-applicant way in advance of entering the 12th grade! If not, make sure school is at least in session when you go. Eat in the cafeteria if you’ll be taking meals there, visit a dorm or 2 where you might reside, speak w/numerous students about courses, professors, cost of books, or about any other concerns you may have. You should have a prepared list, and check off everything if possible. Take the following advice: Plan your work, work your plan. Nobody plans to fail, but too many people fail to plan.
The optimum time for an on campus visit is as a non-applicant way in advance of entering the 12th grade! If not, make sure school is at least in session when you go. Eat in the cafeteria if you’ll be taking meals there, visit a dorm or 2 where you might reside, speak w/numerous students about courses, professors, cost of books, or about any other concerns you may have. You should have a prepared list, and check off everything if possible. Take the following advice: Plan your work, work your plan. Nobody plans to fail, but too many fail to plan.
I believe a notepad, a camera, and even a tape-recorder should go with you on a college campus. You definately will need input from admissions and professors. Make sure you talk to students, and do it away from people who are trying to sell you the university.
A campus visit is a great way to learn more about a campus, but try and stay after your tour. Grab a bite to eat; listen to the conversations around you; hang out in the “quad” or library. By watching students who attend the school you can get a feel for what they are like. These students will make up your community. In addition, do they look happy, stressed, or even hungover. Remember that you are commiting 4 years of your life to this place, so do more than just visit.
Visit at the labs, libraries, sports facilities, security, health centers, interaction with the current students and faculty, college culture and history, notable alumini etc.
There are several books written just on the campus visit, but while it’s difficult to answer this question in a few words, there are a few very important components of the visit you don’t want to miss. First, be sure to ask questions that matter to you, but are not available in every brochure. You can always look up average class size, tuition and fees, what majors they offer, etc., but your tour most likely will be led by a current student, so ask about campus life from their perspective. If you are from a warm climate and you would be experiencing snow, ask them the most important items to get you through a real winter. Visit a classroom and pay attention to the students as well as the professor. Is it an atmosphere where they can ask questions, or does everyone just take notes and leave? Does that matter to you? Stop random students and ask questions that the tour guide might feel they have to answer positively and get a “real” answer. And most importantly, remember that this will be your home for the next four years, so look for what matters to you, not the guidebooks or even your parents. And whatever you do, don’t silently follow your parent around while they ask all the questions! It’s your college process, so take charge and make it yours.
At the bare minimum, you MUST do the tour and either campus information session or meet individually with an admission counselor. (The options for this will most likely vary based on the school.) But beyond that, you need to go far more in-depth and get out of the admission-scripted parts of the visit. Sit in on a class (or two!), eat a meal in the dining hall (the REAL dining hall – not the fancy cafe in the student union you passed on tour!), and go hang out in the library or student union and talk with students who just happen to be there (the ones who aren’t tour guides and won’t have any canned answers to your questions). There’s more you can do as well: If you’re an athlete, make time to meet with the coach and/or members of the team. If you’re in theatre or music, meet with the people who run those programs (students, faculty, and staff). The main goal is to get an authentic idea of what your everyday life will be like if you attend that institution, so you need to make sure you cover all the bases!
The most important thing about a campus visit is that you are getting to see your potential dream school (or not) in the flesh. This could be the place where you spend the next four years of your life, some say the best four years of your life! Act accordingly, your visit is disproportionately short for that amount of time. What you should do:
While you are there, try picturing yourself living on the campus. Don’t just think about the academics, rankings, or stats- you don’t have to be on campus to decide you do or don’t like that stuff. Look for the finer details, small things you might like to have in your day to day life. If you get the chance, find another student who’s not your tour guide to ask about campus life. The guides are there to sell the school, but the other students will give you an honest opinion. Go on the tour when school is in session. Touring a school over the summer when it is hot will leave you tired and grumpy, not to mention it will be extremely empty and look dull and lifeless. No school out of session looks better than a college with students in it. Give each school the chance to show you its best side! Things to look for: Are the students you see walking around smiling and happy? Look for details that indicate what makes the school different from other colleges. Read the flyers posted on bilboards and lampposts- do those event sound fun to you? Look for kids who are dressed like you. I know it sounds superficial, but most personalities and social groups do tend to dress similarly. If you are comfiest in jeans and a T shirt and everyone around is dressed in polos and chinos, you might not be the best fit socially. Look for kids who you would be more interested to get to know. When you’re only on campus for the length of a visit, sometimes judging a book by its cover is the only (and not entirely inaccurate) way to form an opinion. Things to ask: Make sure your questions are all ones that you haven’t been able to answer yourself by looking through the website. You have prime access to the school and all its student, admissions officers, professors, etc. This is the time to get the lowdown on what it’s like to live and study there! Don’t waste your time talking to a student about what their financial aid policy is like! Hopefully these tips will give you a basic guideline for making the most of your campus visit!
Immerse yourself in the college culture, look for students, and ask only the questions you truly want the answers to.
1. Take the tour. Attend the information session. 2. Listen, look, learn. When you are walking around campus on the tour, does your student ambassador know a lot of the other students on campus? 3. Check out the other students on campus. Do they look happy? Are they walking around by themselves? In groups of friends? 4. Stop in the student center for a burger or a cup of joe and eavesdrop shameless. Catch the rap and see if the conversations are ones you’d like to join in on. How do students dress? Can you relate? 5. Read the student newspaper. Can you relate? Does it feel extreme? Or does it feel like you? 6. Do you feel comfortable? Excited? Pumped? Or are you freaking out. 7. Pop into the labs, classrooms, if possible. Clean? Up to date equipment? Windows? 8. Search Twitter Facebook, Tumblr, etc for posts from students at that school. This will give you some insight on the culture. 9. Visit the Career Services Office – are they friendly? How many counselors do they have. Check out their Social Media. Ask about Internships and/or coops and/or community service opportunities. This office is a TREMENDOUS resource to you and you want the best possible service. 10. What about the counseling center? Do they run workshops on stress, time management, homesickness, college life adjustment? How many visits are you allowed each semester. Getting used to college life can be BIG. Know what resources are there for you. 11. Student Success/Academic Support – what is available to you. Is there a writing/math center and/or tutoring resource? 12. International study. What do they have to offer? If there is a specific office, and this is important to you, go visit the office. 13. Keep your eyes and ears open. You will change and mature a lot during high school, and you may change your mind about what is important to you – or may not know what is important to you. So remember to “go with our gut” feelings too,.
1. Take the tour. Attend the information session. If the school is of great interest to you, see if you can schedule an interview with the Admissions Department. Also, if there is a department that your are particularly interested in, call ahead and see if arrangements can be made to tour the department and possibly meet with a professor. 2. Listen, look, learn. When you are walking around campus on the tour, does your student ambassador know a lot of the other students on campus? 3. Check out the other students on campus. Do they look happy? Are they walking around by themselves? In groups of friends? Do they look like people you’d want to meet? 4. Stop in the student center for a burger or a cup of joe and eavesdrop shameless. Catch the rap and see if the conversations are ones you’d like to join in on. How do students dress? Can you relate? 5. Read the student newspaper. Can you relate? Does it feel extreme? Or does it feel like you? 6. Do you feel comfortable? Excited? Pumped? Or are you freaking out. Sometimes you will have negative or positive reactions to a school, but cannot describe why you feel that way. Its okay. The important thing is to LISTEN to your intuition. 7. Pop into the labs, classrooms, if possible. Clean? Up to date equipment? Windows? 8. Search Twitter Facebook, Tumblr, etc for posts from students at that school. This will give you some insight on the culture. What are students chatting about. What are they complaining about? Altho this is not fool proof information, it may give you a little insight. 9. Visit the Career Services Office – are they friendly? How many counselors do they have. Check out their Social Media. Ask about Internships and/or coops and/or community service opportunities. This office is a TREMENDOUS resource to you and you want the best possible service. 10. What about the counseling center? Do they run workshops on stress, time management, homesickness, college life adjustment? How many visits are you allowed each semester. Getting used to college life can be BIG. Know what resources are there for you. 11. Student Success/Academic Support – what is available to you. Is there a writing/math center and/or tutoring resource? Are there peer mentors students who can help you navigate through your first semester? 12. International study. What do they have to offer? If there is a specific office, and this is important to you, go visit the office. 13. Keep your eyes and ears open. You will change and mature a lot during high school, and you may change your mind about what is important to you – or may not know what is important to you. So remember to “go with our gut” feelings too,.
Campus visits are a great way to determine if the school is a good fit for you, but don’t stop with the standard tour! Contact the admissions office in advance and ask if you can shadow a student for a day and night (including staying in a dorm, if possible.) I know that the university where I worked had a program like this as well as Open House days where we held Q&A panels with current students, the ability to sit in on a freshman-level course, to visit the student union, and other great “day in the life of” experiences for prospective students. This is my short list of must-see’s when you visit a campus:
Visit the dorm and ask, “Could I see myself living here?”
Visit the library. “Could I see myself studying here?”
Visit the football stadium. “Could I see myself cheering here?”
Visit the cafeteria. “Could I see myself eating here?”
Visit the Student Union. “Could I see myself hanging out here with friends?”
Visit a class. “Could I see myself learning here?”
Walk across the quad. “Could I see myself calling this place ‘home?’”
It might sound weird but I used to just walk around with my backpack and observe current students like I was one of them. I listened to what they were talking about as I walked by. I noticed their demeanor and tried to get a feel for the social culture of the college as a whole. Friendly and happy looking people went a long way for me. But remember not to stop and stare. They don’t take too kindly to that. Be casual. The tours will always show you only the positives of the school campus in order to sell the idea to you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The tours are generally a good idea. However, in order to get a real feel about whether a college is right for you, I highly recommend taking your own tour. I went to the admissions office and asked for a school map. I wanted to see what the library looked like, what kind of activities were available at the student center and what kind of food the dining hall was cooking that day. And if I had any questions, I was more likely to ask a random student walking to class then the tour guide. It was more authentic for me than the tours.
I like to equip my students with a book and a list of questions to complete after a visit… I always tell students they will know in a minute of two of appearing on a campus if it is right or not. Tours are helpful, because I have more kids come back home to live after 3 months away at the school of their choice because it was not what they thought it was. This is one of the reasons the college selection is the most important part of the college application process.
A college visit isn’t just about going on the tour and listening to the stories the tour guides want to tell you. It also isn’t just about attending an information session where most of the information you are going to hear can be found on the school’s website. Instead, what the visit should be about is an intentional effort on your part to form an opinion on the things that are important to you. If you want to know more about your program, arrange a meeting with a faculty member or ask to sit in on a class. If you are interested in campus activities and student life, check out the bulletin boards, and locate a campus newspaper and read it. If you want to know what the food is going to be like, eat in the cafeteria. If you are an athlete, check out the sports and recreation facilities. Know what is important to you before you visit and then intentionally seek these items out when you visit. Having said that, one recommendation I make to all students is to just spend some time people watching. Grab a seat in the student center and, while reading the campus newspaper perhaps, take in the atmosphere around you. Listen to the conversations and watch how people act. Do you like what you see? Do you see yourself fitting in? Can you picture yourself here? Can this place be your home away from home for the next four years? Between admissions reps, tour guides, parents and your friends there will be plenty of people offering advice and opinions. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to sit for a while and just take it all in.
Visiting campuses is really quite fun and when working with a college admissions counselor a student is given a specific list of things to look for. The most important thing to remember is to compare the same things at all schools so when looking back later you will be comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges.
There are many responses on making the most of campus visits if you review those and have specific questions that are not answered please re-ask your question with the specific information. I can be confident that this question has been answered and has more information than you can imagine….enjoy the visits
To get the most out of your visit you need to go prepared. Do some advance research so that you can ask questions that yield information and an understanding that goes beyond what is offered on the tour. The school has a message its wants to share, but you need to know as much as you can in order to be sure that it is the right place for you. Ask about program, about financial aid, the make-up of the student body, the realities of the social life, and grad school placement rates. It is all relevant to your ultimate decision, and the school should welcome your desire to get to know it as well as you can. Too, go beyond the tour—go to the student center or just talk to student walking by and ask about life on campus. They are living the experience that you are considering and so it can be very valuable. If you have the time, ask about sitting in on a class. That can give you some great insight, as well.
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