I want to make the most of campus visits. What should I do, look for, and ask while I'm there?

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I want to make the most of campus visits. What should I do, look for, and ask while I'm there?

Anne Richardson
Director of College Counseling, International & ESL Programs Kents Hill School

Read the school newspaper!  Talk to the students!...

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.

Carol Morris
Regional Director of Admissions Southern Methodist University

Let them know you're there!...

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!

Carolyn Lawrence
Founder AdmissionsAdvice.com

Spend some time during each college visit exploring by yourself....

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?

Deborah Shames
Independent College Search Consultant & Transfer Admissions Advisor www.CollegeCoachDeb.com

When visiting campuses, it’s good to dig below the surface! ...

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.

Dorothy Styles
Director for College Readiness Programs & Initiatives Project GRAD Atlanta

The campus visit is to determine if the college fits....

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?

Ellen Fisher
Founder & Independent College Advisor College4U

Think ‘Outside the Box” for your next college visit....

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?

Estelle Meskin
Certified Educational Planner EstelleMeskin.com

An evaluation form a good tool when visiting colleges....

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.

Francine Block
President American College Admissions Consultants

Ask LOTS and LOTS of Questions.  ...

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?

Gail Grand
President The College Advisor Inc.

Tourism’s nice, but you’ll want to see the campus like a local....

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.

Gwyeth Smith
President & CEO College Quest Inc.

Plan for the visit. Know what you want to discover....

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”.