Campus visits: dos and don'ts
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.
DON’T assume that you can take whatever time off you want to head to your chosen schools.
DO check with the campus to see if they have special visiting days or events for prospective freshmen.
DO check with your high school to see what their policy is regarding time off for campus visits. It doesn’t hurt to check with your parents as well to see if their vacation time can mesh with your high school’s policy.
DON’T think you can see five colleges a day, five days a week, cover 8 different states and get anything useful out of your trip.
If you’re going on a big road trip, DO plan on seeing no more than five colleges in three days, and plan well in terms of driving distances so you can figure out what schools are the most sensible to visit in a single trip or a single day. Plan hotel and motel reservations accordingly.
Also, DO save the colleges that are one to two hours away from your house for day trips.
DON’T just show up without doing any research on your destination or asking any questions at the visitors center.
DO find out if you need an interview to apply for the college you’re visiting, so you can knock it out while you’re there.
DO call the school a few days in advance to set up your visit, tour and interview, and have a list of two or three possible dates on which you can meet.
DO find out what is on the tour, and, if there’s something you want to see that isn’t listed (classes, labs, sports facilities, theater, etc.), ask them if you can tour it, as well.
DO ask if you can see professors from your prospective major, students that might share your same interests or coaches for your sport. You may have to call specific departments, but these meetings will be invaluable to you in deciding if this school is the place for you and meets your needs.
DON’T forget to confirm your appointment.
DO remember that colleges are busy places and you are not the only prospective student visiting that week or even that day. Call the day before to confirm your visit, tour and, if scheduled, your interview.
DON’T forget to make sure everyone you met with remembers you.
DO send your interviewer a thank-you note along with any professors, coaches or students you meet with. It’s a simple thing that makes you stand out.
The perfect college visit allows you to simultaneously learn about the institution while they learn about you. Not only does that result in you being able to make a more informed decision about where to attend, the campus visit can allow the administration to see you in a new light, and when they receive your application, remember that this was a qualified student who was also very professional and interested in attending. Visiting the right way can only help you, as long as you take advantage of the opportunities available.