How to visit a college
What to do on a college visit
1. Plan well in advance:
a) Call to check on times for tours, information sessions, and to see if/when you can set up a time for an interview. If possible, tour before you interview.
b) Get directions - plan on getting there with time to spare. It is very easy to get lost on a large university campus. Try not to visit more then two colleges in one day.
2. Get the catalog by mail/internet well in advance of the interview so you can ask intelligent questions and speak knowledgeably.
a) Know the graduation requirements, core curriculum, etc. You do not want to be telling the interviewer that you want to major in business, for example, if they do not have a business program!
3. You should look at:
a) Facilities: Are they attractive? Well maintained? (Always check out bathrooms) Well-lit? Air-conditioned (if necessary)? Visit libraries, dorms (pay particular attention to room arrangements, distance from classes, laundry facilities) student union, sports facilities, computer labs, etc.
b) Try the food. Is it edible? Can you survive on this kind of diet? Do you see professors eating with students? Check out cleanliness and variety, as well as cost. This is also an opportunity to chat with students who don’t work for admissions.
c) Check out the student body. Are they conservative or radical (i.e., green hair/nose rings vs. J. Crew sweaters?) Look at the “intangibles”. Do the students seem happy or stressed? Go with your gut feeling and ask yourself if you feel comfortable here. Do the students that you see look like the kind of folks that you would want to be friends with?
d) Check out the bulletin board. Do they offer activities that interest you? (i.e. dances, movies, concerts, speakers etc.) Review old yearbooks to learn more about campus life.
e) Try to speak to a professor in a department that you may be interested in studying or majoring in. The admissions office can set something up for you, or you can just stop in and see if someone is available to speak to you.
f) Go to two different classes, if possible. Are the students alert and interested? Is there good interaction between the professor and the students?
g) Check out the bookstore as it does reflect on the overall character of the school. Are there only textbooks and university souvenirs? Is there also plenty of literature and music available?
h) Get a copy of the school newspaper. See what interests and excites students about their political, social, or university lives. Is safety a concern?
i) Spend a night in a dorm with students, if you can arrange it. You may decide to do this on your second visit if that school becomes one of your top choices.
Questions to ask
How is the faculty? Are professors available and accessible? How large are the classes? Are the professors mainly adjuncts or full-time? Do T.A.’s (teaching assistants) teach many of the classes? Are there opportunities for research with the faculty? Are most classes’ lectures or seminar discussions? Is it difficult getting into the classes that you want? How much space is there in your desired program for taking electives? What is the educational atmosphere like? Is learning or grades the main concern? How competitive is the school? How supportive is the learning environment?
What is the social life like? Male/female ratios? What percentages of students leave on weekends? How many commute from off-campus? How important are athletics? Are there opportunities for intramural play without having to join a team? Are there many campus activities, such as speakers, musical performances, and cultural events? What about the drinking/drugs/sex scene? How is campus security? How important are fraternities - what are their roles on campus? Does the school seem to favor anonymity and conformity or identity and individualism? What are the neighboring communities like? And are there good town/gown relationships?
FACILITIES / MISCELLANEOUS
Are there: Off campus programs? Study abroad options? Independent studies? Internships opportunities? Senior thesis? How are the career counseling and job placement programs? How are the facilities for health and counseling services? What kinds of support facilities are there (i.e., writing centers, availability of tutors, etc.)? Can students have cars on campus? Are they necessary? What percentages of students stay all four years? What are the chief complaints of the students on campus?
Did what you see and learn mesh with what your expectations were before your campus visit?