if you have your own counselor to work with you, your counselor may set up interviews with the admissions office and other people. that’s the best way to go.
if you do not have a counselor, you should visit schools with other seniors or classmates to gain different perspectives.
if your parents are helpful and able to share their perspectives with you, you should consider their inputs seriouly.
if you have college friends, they can help you with their experiences as well.
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?”
The process of picking a school isn’t complete without the campus visit. Most colleges look pretty good as you flip through their glossy brochures and read statistics about their star students and athletes, but it’s important to inform yourself to make sure you’re getting the most trustworthy information. One of the best ways to do that is by visiting and touring the campus in person to get a feel for the atmosphere. Much can be accomplished during one of these excursions, and it’s important to plan well so you can get the most out of it. Taking a look at the following dos and don’ts will help ensure that you don’t waste your time.
Before you visit a college — ask yourself a few questions about what YOU want in a college. Once you do this — you will be able to pinpoint the qualities that are important to you.
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?
When possible, visit a college during an academic term, when the normal campus rhythms of classes and dorm life are evident. Colleges have different student demographics, facilities, majors, programs, resources, and personalities. Extracurricular activities, academic support, social fit, cost, and the outcomes of a college’s graduates will likely factor into the search process. The basic question: If accepted, would the student flourish on that campus, studying and socializing for a few years until graduation?
Keep yourself at the center of the visit: YOU call admissions to set up the visit. YOU ask the questions. YOU write the thank-you notes to the people who gave you their time and attention.
When I take students to visit colleges, I tell them to look for what you don’t see. Are the folks who look alike all bunched together in the cafeteria? How large are the classes? Are visitors allowed to sit in on any “visitor” classes? Are the grounds and facilities well maintained? Do the tour guides seem rote or genuinely engaged by their alma mater?
Are the guides paid employees or volunteers?
In addition to attending a tour and going to an information session, see what else you can learn about the campus:
— Arrange to sit in on a class
— Read bulletin board to see what is happening on campus
— Try the food in the cafeteria
— Read the school newspaper
— See what the neighboring community is like
— Talk with random students
— If possible, stay overnight with a current student
It amazes me when a family goes to visit a college and then never gets out of the car because they saw one thing that did not click. If you are there, give the place a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised. If you have done your research in the first place, you would not be making a visit to a college that did not interest you for some reason. There have been plenty of times that I have visited colleges and have been put off by the appearance going into campus or by the tour guide, but when I put that aside, everything else was fine.
Short Answer: Do your homework and be purposeful.
Happy students! Engaged students! Watch how students spend their time: studying, partying, socializing, exercising…Make sure you visit when school is in session. Get a map of campus and drive around/walk around. Take the campus tour (yes, you MUST take the campus tour). Take a notebook and write down your first impressions. Look at the library, classrooms, dorms, and fields. Is the college well lit? Is it well groomed? Are there call boxes in case of an emergency on campus? Of course, all students want to see the food courts. Buildings should be attractive and well kept, no matter how old they are.
The people should be friendly. It is not unusual for the neighborhood around the school to be run down, don’t worry about that. Colleges in those areas usually participate in service projects in the neighborhood. Check out the distance from the dorm to classrooms and labs. Look at the makes of the cars parked on campus. While on campus pick up a newspaper, admission materials, etc. Be sure to write down what you think about the school immediately after the visit, while it is still fresh.
Create a template for your college visits that you can complete as you go or while you are leaving the campus. Take lots of photos (including one with the name of the college appearing). Talk to students while visiting. Eat in the cafeteria. Check out the bookstore. Look at the events on the bulletin boards. Go by the career and counseling office and see if there are internships on offer. Ask about support services–peer tutoring for example or a writing lab. Notice if the physical plant is in good condition. Ask about safety measures–is there a blue light system, are there special arrangements for late at night?
You have spent time researching institutions and you have narrowed down your list of possible colleges, it is time to experience these institutions first hand. To get the most out of your visit make sure you have researched the institution thoroughly. A few weeks before your visit call the admissions office and make an appointment to take a tour, meet with an admission representative or attend an information session. Visit the campus when school is in session, campuses have a much different feel when they are full of students. Prepare a list of questions ahead of the visit, using the same questions at several institutions will allow you to compare colleges. Ask if they have an overnight visiting opportunity, spending the night will really give you a feel for the school.
Bottom line research the school, call ahead to make arrangements and make a list of questions before the visit.
Review the mission statement of each college prior to visiting. Look for how the college is implementing the ideals set forth in its mission statement. Authenticity is a sure sign that the institution will deliver on its promises.
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.
I would suggest keeping a journal for each college visit. Make notes as to what you liked…..what you didn’t like……note anything that stood out to you too. Write down the contact names of the school officials you meet and talk to during your visit. This may come in handy when completing your applications. Also….does the school specialize in the career area you are interested in? Talk to students on campus and make sure you visit the dorms or residence halls.
While tours & info sessions are useful, after a while they all sound the same and most visit the same spots on campus.
Make sure it when school is in session. try to arrange a meeting with a chairman of a dept you plan to study under, and a meeting with the provost can enhance your chances immensely. Talk to current students and ask pointed questions, and be sure to stay out of the financial aid office.
1. When you’re visiting several colleges during the same trip, and you’re getting toward the end and they all seem to say the same things, and yo’re getting a little tired of it all – hang in there. One of my students who visited 19 campuses during a ten-day trip from overseas told me that she stayed focused all the way through because, as she said, “I figured that the next one might be THE one for me, and I didn’t want to miss it.”
2. Take photos and take notes during the visits; then each night, write your reactions to the school in a journal. This will come in very, very handy two months later.
3. Parents and students might think about taking different tours, and comparing notes later. If you do take the same tours, try to keep your reactions to yourselves until afterwards – then compare notes.
4. Before or after the tour, eat breakfast or lunch somewhere on campus. Ask current students what they like and don’t like about the school. Don’t ask IF they like it, but WHY they like it. Come up with two or three questions to ask at every college and ask them of the tour guide and random students you meet.
5. Have fun!
Before I visit, I go online and schedule my trip through the admissions office and spend some time learning about the school. I like to have a picture of the university in my mind, so I know what to expect: size, location (urban, suburban, rural), top programs, unique features, cost, type of students, and overall feel.
The best two tips I give to all of my families when they head out to visit campuses are the following:
Explore on Your Own.
Read the Bulletin Boards.
Eat in the Dining Hall.
Visit a Class in Your Major.
Schedule a Conference With a Professor.
Talk to students.
Write out your questions before coming on your college visit! What you feel is important and what you feel you really need to know. Like where is the financial aid office or Where are the counselors located at? Your questions can even include the surrounding area: maybe you want to get a part time job or you wanna know where the local park is. It’s important to ask these questions while you physically have someone in front of you to answer them. Also if possible venture out check out your surroundings, go look at the dorms, the cafe, ask about the bookstore and how hard it is or isnt to get the books you will need for class. Try to plan yourr visit with a member of the college who can walk you around the campus and show you were everything is. Grab a map if you feel like it will be a college you will attend. I would say just don’t go in there without a plan!
Be prepared. Have a notebook. Have a list of things you want to know..
The more legwork or preparation you do before your visit the more you will get out of your visit. Do you know any current students that you could contact before you arrive and arrange to meet while you are on campus? The student can show you their dorm room and give you an honest assessment of the food or even have you for a meal which you won’t get on the tour. They can describe their workload and accesibility of the professors. When you research a college see if there are any special programs that are of particular interest to you and ask ahead of time if you can sit in on a class or meet current students in the program. I am a fan of visiting fewer colleges for a longer visits than drive by visits of many colleges. I also recommend that your visits include diverse colleges in terms of size, setting (urban versus rural), and selectivity vis a vis your academic profile.
Lab facilities, Meeting the professors and their students, learning about college culture and life, sport facilities, promotion to entrepreneurship , student activities and always to learn about history of college. Seek inspiration from top alumini.
Play the role of an anthropologist, observing a new culture. Sit in a campus eaterie or hang out on the green. Watch the students. What are they wearing? What are they talking about? Do they seem enthusiastic and engaged, or cold and isolated? Do they seem shallow, intellectual, school-spirited? Homogenous or diverse? As Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
Please don’t ask anything that can be found by looking the information up. This is your chance to really gain the student perspective. Ask questions that relate to you as the learner or you as the potential student. Look for verification as to why a particular school is on your list. Ask questions that provide proof that what you are looking at is the real deal. Eat in the cafeteria. Pull a student or professor aside and ask them what they think of the school and if they like where the school is headed with their vision.
I submitted this same answer in response to another question, which was asking what to do, ask, and look for during a college visit. It provides a number of useful tips for your college visits.
I submitted this same answer in response to another question, which was asking what to do, look for, and ask when visiting a college. It provides a number of useful tips for your college visits.
To get the most out of a visit you need to go prepared. Do some advance research so that you can ask questions that yield information that goes beyond what is offered on the tour. The school has its message, but you need to know as much as you can so as to be sure 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 they should welcome your desire to get to know it as well as you can. Too, go beyond the tour—go to the student center talk to students walking by and ask about life on campus. They are living the experience–get their thoughts. If you have the time, try to sit in on a class. That can give you some great insight, as well.
College 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.
Take the tour. Go to the information sessions. Request a specialized tour (if available) for a particular program or department that you think you might want to declare as your major. Ask for an interview with an Admissions Officer and prepare for it. (another post)
The first thing I would say about college visits is that it is about YOU not the college or admissions officer. Of course you should act appropriately, but don’t worry if you don’t have the opportunity to make your way to the admissions officer giving the info session. That said, you never know who you’re talking to, so making intelligent conversation and having thoughtful questions (ones whose answers are not found on the website), is a good idea.
1. Talk to lots of current students
2. Take Pictures and Notes
3. Eat in the dining hall
4. Explore on your own
5. Talk to professors
6. Read the bulletin boards
1. Try to schedule your visit well in advance, since some tours may fill up.
There are many events that are specifically for future students that you’ll get invitations to attend. But note you’ll likely to get the ‘glossy’ view of the campus. But on the positive side, you’ll have a chance to see cool experiments, take part in fun activities or have access to areas that are normally closed to regular visitors.
Make the most of your visits by trying to see what the campus has to offer you-academically, socially, and with activities, sports, and service. Go beyond the basics of tours and info sessions by walking around campus. Talk to students. Try to visit with anyone you know on campus. Spending the night in a dorm is awesome. Based on your interests, you can see if you can visit classes, meet with professors or coaches, and attend sports or theatrical events. If you can interview while there, even better. Remember to take notes and collect cards from anyone you meet. Always, always write thank you notes. But one final tip: please visit while the college is in session. Empty campuses or campuses filled with high school programs are not he same as an in-session visit.
If possible sign up for the information session and tour of the school since you will hit the high spots and get all the official material in that way. Make sure to ask your tour guide any extra or specific questions you may have about majors or extracurricular activities you may be interested in, or athletics. I always like to ask what they did over the last weekend or what might have surprised them after coming to the school? These questions often elicit interesting responses. If there are buildings or facilities that you are interested in that are not on the official tour, make sure to find out where they are and visit them before you leave campus. I always make sure to re-visit the Student Union or Campus Center and grab a soda or cup of coffee and watch the students coming and going to see if they look like people I would enjoy going to school with. Another good thing to do is actually go up to a group of students and engage them in conversation and ask them what they do on campus and how they like going to school there. They will usually be very honest and unscripted and you will get a lot of truthful information about the school and campus life. Once you are done and get back in the car, immediately take your notebook reserved for campus visits, and write down your thoughts about the school, good and bad, as you will see many schools and you want to capture your thoughts about this school while they are fresh in your mind. Then later on you can compare them with other schools that you visit. This is key. Remember enjoy your visit to schools – this is a fun part of the college search process.
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