What are the most important things to do and ask during a college visit?

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Our counselors answered:

What are the most important things to do and ask during a college visit?

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

What are the most important things to do and ask during a college visit?

Ask students: Are you happy here? Would you go again if you had the chance? Do you really get to know your professors? How hard is the work?

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

have a check list

students should prepare a list of important questions during the college visit. one of the important thing to do is to schedule on campus interview for admissions.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

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.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Questions to ask college students

What activities are taking place on the upcoming weekend? Which organizations have flyers on the bulletin board? Is social justice important? Is environmentalism prevalent? Is the social life centered around one type of association? Do you feel comfortable on campus? How is the food? Is there a lot to do on the weekends or do people go home? Do students and faculty meet outside of class?

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Top 3 College Visit Tips

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.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

Be Professional

Please ask for business cards from anyone with whom you interact. Common sense: now you know their title, email, and can spell their name correctly.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Do your Homework

When visiting a college it is important that you ask intelligent questions during the information session. DO NOT ASK standard questions that you can find out on the website: how many students go here? do you have a business major? Ask questions that show you have done your homework. Ask about particular programs you may be interested in, ask about housing and if they have learning communities, ask about first year programs, or ask about a particular feature about the university (such as a great outdoor program or leadership program.) Show the college admission representatives that you have really looked into their university. During the tour, ask questions. Don't let your parents upstage you. Colleges want to know that your have driven the college application process, not your mom or dad. Read my blog about what parents should not do on a campus visit at http://collegeadventures.net/blog/2009/08/11/campus-visitswhat-parents/!

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

What are the most important things to do and ask during a college visit?

That will depend on what you need and want to know. Before you visit be sure to prepare. Go on the website. Look for the answers about the things that matter to you—the program and majors, costs and financial aid, the make-up of the student body, the realities of the social life, freshman retention and grad school placement rates. If you can’t find it in advance ask when you are there. See if you can sit in on a class and stop by the student center to see students in their natural habitat and see what they think of their school. Get answers to the things that matter to you and that will be important to the experience you seek.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

College Visits

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.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

What are the most important things to do and ask during a college visit?

The most important things to do and ask during a college visit will differ to a certain extent depending on where a student's interests lie. It will be worthwhile to visit the facilities of the areas in which you are considering focusing your primary studies - science labs, math facilities, art or performance studios, etc. If possible, you might want to schedule interviews with members of the teaching staff in departments relevant to you. Ask about typical class sizes (the faculty:student ratio indicated in college statistics is not an indication of class size), the amount of interaction students have with their professors, whether classes are taught by professors or teaching assistants, research opportunities open to undergraduate students if this possibility if of interest to you, performance opportunities . . . Feel free to ask about anything that is important to you. If you're interested in athletics, you will want to take a look at the athletic facilities, and of course, if you are a high-performance athlete and are hoping to participate on one of the college teams, you would do well to schedule an appointment with one of the coaches. When you are looking at facilities, arrange to see the type of dormitories/housing facilities available to entering students. As you progress through your college years, you will probably have accessibility to increasingly more desirable housing opportunities, but it will be good to know what your entering housing situation will be. Also take a good look at the dining facilities; many schools have more than one. See if you can plan to have a meal at one of them. What better way to get a feeling for the dining experience and the type of food available? Many schools have formed consortia with other institutions in order to expand offerings to their students. If you are looking at a school that is a member of a consortium, investigate what this actually means. What kinds of interactions are facilitated among the member institutions of the consortium? What are the limitations of the relationship? Ideally, you would be able to visit a campus when classes are taking place and students are on campus as this is the best way to get a feel for the social culture of the campus. Because of your own schedule, however, this may not be an option. In any case, if you have time, plan to wander around the campus for awhile on your own, just soaking up the "vibes" and trying to get a feel for what it would be like to be involved on that campus for four years. . Below is the answer I gave for a similar question on the UNIGO site, which will give you a broader overview of a typical college visit. There is occasional repetition of advice. "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."