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

College Search

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Sarah Moon

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

Questions to ask which may help give an overall idea of the culture at the college: Who chooses which college dorm they live in (i.e. is it random or can students choose)? What type of security is in place at the dorms? How do you enrol in the courses you need? How many students are in each class? What is the faculty-student ratio? How many hours per week do you spend in class and how many hours are you expected to study? If I do not own a car, are there places nearby for groceries etc... within walking distance? What types of clubs are offered and which is the school most famous for? What sports is the school known for? What fun student activities does the college host? What is student life like when not studying? How many cafeterias does the school have and what types of food do they offer? Are on-campus jobs available and who is eligible to apply? Things to check out while on a college visit to see for yourself where you may fit best: Definitely check out the dorms and hangouts - if you happen to see a 'local', jump on the chance to ask about what they like to do for fun Eat at the cafeteria and judge for yourself how often you will need to do your own groceries... Sit in on a class - can you hear properly? How crowded is the classroom? How interested are the other students? Will you need a recording device in case you nod off...? Gym/Recreation Center - can you picture yourself working out there? And... last but DEFINITELY not least... walk around randomly if you get a chance to break away from a tour to talk to the students... they are your best gauge for what it's REALLY like there.

Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

Be a Careful Observer

Short Answer: Ignore the "song and dance routine" being presented to you by the admissions office, as it has been specifically crafted to engage you. Be an astute observer, critical thinker, and question asker. 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.