What types of students, faculty, and staff should I try and speak with while visiting a college?
Try and speak with random students (i.e, students you see in the dining halls or on the quad) about whether they like the school and whether there’s anything about it they’re not happy with. If you have a specific academic interest, see if you can sit in on a class in that area and possibly speak to the professor.
You should try to meet with faculty and students in your intended major. You should also vist with students and advisors of different student organizations that you intend on joining. The best ambassadors for the university are the students.
You should definitely try to network with students and professors in your intended field of study. 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.) Try to sit in on a class or two, perhaps a general freshman-level course, and also a major-specific course. In addition, if you plan to become involved in campus activities (such as Student Government, for example) see if you can attend an event or meeting. The goal is to ask yourself, “Can I envision myself here? Is this a good fit for me?”
Visiting colleges can be so vital in deciding where to apply and ultimately where to attend. Students should try to meet with actual admissions officers for interviews and meetings. They should try to see if faculty in areas that intrigue them are open to meeting. They should stay in dorms or meet up with students who have graduated from their high schools or who host students. Students can also meet with athletic coaches and arts-related professors and staff. Try to create a tour that enables you to truly see what a college is like.
Getting uncensored and insight information which you can’t get virtually should be the aim of the visit. For this you should meet current students, faculty of your discipline and research interest along with their graduate and post graduate students, admission staff, administrator of the discipline you interested in etc.
Always try to speak with a few students “off the tour.” Whether this is in a dining hall, a library or in the bookstore, you can get uncensored opinions on so many things just by stopping to speak with a few students. If you want to speak with a faculty member in a specific major or school, it is helpful to set up a meeting in advance. The admissions office can assist you in setting up a meeting.
Try to speak with people who can confirm (or contradict) whether this college is right for you. Students – speak with students in your prospective majors, any students from your high school or hometown, and those involved in the sports or activities you would like to pursue. Faculty – speak with professors in your potential department. Find out what classes are like and what types of students succeed in their programs. Staff—speak with admissions staff, but for a more candid view of the school speak to some unexpected people—librarians, student center employees, even maintenance personnel. Ask about student life and what they think is best about the school. Be open to unscheduled encounters and you may be surprised what people will tell you.
If at all possible you should visit with anyone interested in the same major as you, someone in the sports, arts or extracurriculars you are contemplating joining, a Fraternity or Sorority member if that is your thing and administrative positions in which you would be dealing with on a consistent basis. (i.e., financial aid, campus-based academic advisers, etc. ) Also, check in on the tutoring or academic support center to see if there are other students happily and intensely engaged in real subject matter support that you may find yourself needing if attending that university.
Anyone you can!!! Admissions staff, current students that you meet on tours or as part of a formal lunch with a students program etc., faculty on class visits or if you are able to connect with someone from your department of interest ahead of time that is also excellent!
Try speaking to professors that teacher your first year classes to get a sense of what the work requirement is. If you know what you would like to major in speak with major specific faculty. Students that will be most helpful are the ones who just went through the process themselves so look for first year students.
Those who are in your primary area of study, assuming you have one. Stay out of the financial aid office, so you don’t become a “marked” person. Frat or sorority folks if that’s your interest, or maybe a coach or 2 if sports is important.
You really need to have this all planned out in advance, and it all goes back to my favorite caveat:
Plan your work, work your plan. Nobody plans to fail, but too many fail to plan. The admissions/financial aid process begins in the 9th or 10th grade, and I speak from 33 yrs of experience!
Primary Visit: Second semester freshmen or sophomores, faculty in your field of study, staff should be financial aid, admissions, and departmental staff.
While visiting a college you should try to meet with someone from the Admission staff so you can get answers to all of your admission-related questions. This also gives them a chance to put a face with a name…a very important element, particularly if you are applying to a smaller school. If you’re given the opportunity to meet with a faculty member you should certainly take advantage of that as they are the best resources for academic-related questions. While you’ll most likely have a student tour guide, you should also try to talk with students who aren’t necessarily employed by the Admission Office. Take a walk to the campus bookstore or food court and ask random students what they like or don’t like about the school. You will certainly get a mixed bag of answers but you’ll have a great feel for what the general sense of happiness (or unhappiness) is on campus.
Meet with all types of students as you never know where college will take you. See how receptive students are to your approach. Is the campus friendly? Do students seem stuck-up or stand-offish? If you have the chance, schedule a classroom visit in a major you are interested in. See how the class is conducted and determine if that environment appears right for you. In addition, you can tell a lot about a campus from the staff. How were you received by the admissions office? Immerse yourself in the experience and interact with as many people as possible as you may be spending the next four years of your life within this community.
While talking to the president of the student government may be enlightening, don’t overlook the less involved student too. Each student will have a different read on the school and it pays to hear it from all angles. Faculty love to talk about their fields, so expect bias and watch the clock! Residence life staff are often fountains of information, as are dining hall workers and the admissions rep for your area. Some schools will restrict access to these kinds of conversations until you are accepted, so don’t be surprised if you have trouble connecting initially.
If you are interested in a particular program, ask if you can meet some of faculty who are part of the program. Better yet, plan to sit in on a class or two. This can usually be arranged through the admissions office.
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