By Kiersten MurphyWhy Should You Visit? I don’t think there are many of you out there that would buy an expensive pair of jeans or a new car without trying it out. You can read about it, look at pictures, but you really don’t know how it fits you. The same would be true of one of your biggest investments – your college education. College brochures are attractive, websites offer details relating to statistics, but what you really need to do is to see it, to know if you can ultimately see yourself there. Which Should You Visit? Even if you have a college list developed, it wouldn’t hurt to investigate schools that are outside of your comfort zone. If you are focusing on urban setting colleges, try to see a few rural liberal arts options. If you are only looking at public universities, take a look at a few private colleges that meet some of your criteria. You might be surprised about what you end up liking. Leave a Footprint Not only is important for you to visit to determine if a college is the right fit for you, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate interest in the college. Colleges want to admit students who want to attend, and if you never make an effort to visit, email or call a counselor, how will they know that you really are interested? That’s why it is important to register for your visit and take a guided tour if possible. When Should You Visit? If you haven’t had a chance to visit some schools on your list this spring, consider taking some road trips this summer to narrow your options. Summer visits are a bit harder, as you won’t see the campus when school is in session, but you will get an opportunity to see the facilities, speak with admissions, chat with a coach or professor and explore the surrounding community. Preparing For Your Trip Take a look at each college’s website to review their visitor information (tour & information session times, how to register, directions, & hotel suggestions) and pull out your map and see how you can best maximize your time. Two college visits per day is most realistic to allow for driving time. Connect with the admissions counselor from that school covering your region via email – see if they have time to say hello to you before the tour begins. The day of your visit I know this might be the silliest suggestion of all, but I encourage students to grab some breakfast as their day will be long if planned well. Allow extra time to get to campus, park and find the admissions building. Sometimes this is harder to do than you think! Tours I would encourage you all to be aggressive and walk in the front of the pack on the tour. It’s hard to hear if you are not in the front and many tour guides walk and talk, making it hard to catch it all. You don’t want to have come all this way and not hear the valuable information being shared. Your visits to various campuses may blend together so it can be helpful to take some photos while walking about. Feel free to ask questions, especially when the tour guide is not giving you “the talk”. There are no wrong questions to ask, but ask questions that you actually want to know the answer to…something that isn’t easily accessible from the college website. For example, you could ask about what unites the student body, what could be improved upon, or who might not fit in at this school. At the end, be sure to thank the tour guide and ask for their email just in case you have questions in the future. Informational Sessions The information session is usually led by an admissions counselor and allows you to learn more about the application process at this particular school. Some sessions can be quite large (hundreds of people) while others can potentially be very small or even one-on-one. The Big Interview Don’t panic, they aren’t as bad as you think they are—think of them as a conversation. Remember, a college admissions counselor wants to get to know you and your interests. This is your big chance to shine, so be prepared to discuss three things about yourself at length to get you started. If you have some discrepancies on your transcript, now would be the time to discuss it. Likewise, if there is something special about yourself you would like to share that won’t be evident on your application, be sure to let them know. Although the interview is not required at the majority of schools, it is usually highly recommended. When You Leave Be sure to jot down your impressions before they fade. If you have interviewed, it is polite to send a thank you note to the interviewer. If time permits, grab lunch in the dining hall, or someplace nearby that is a fan favorite among the students. One Final Note If you are on the fence about a particular college after a visit, perhaps it might be worth your time to re-visit when college is back in session. The same is true for one that you are absolutely loved.