The spring is the perfect time to visit college campuses.
- You probably have time off from school anyway for spring break! Schools across the country have different schedules. Some of the colleges you want to visit will probably be in session. If possible, visit while school is in session to get the full experience on campus.
- If you just found out you’re accepted, visit to make sure it is the right place for you.
I always advise students to visit the colleges they are considering before making their final decision. From my own experience working in admissions offices, I know that colleges and universities spend thousands of dollars on the marketing materials that you pick up at college fairs or are sent to your home. The whole idea behind these materials is to make you interested in attending. Good photography and copy writing can make anything look and sound amazing! But, do they really show you what the college is all about? Sure, they show the things that they are proud of, but are there things left unsaid? Absolutely.
Here are my tips for visiting campus:
- Always plan your visit through the Admissions Office. The Admissions Office can set up almost anything for you during your visit to campus. Whatever is important to you in a college is something you should check out while you’re there. Please give the Admissions Office a few weeks notice before your visit to make sure they can meet all of your requests.
- Spend the night on campus. Spending the night in a residence hall will show you what it will really be like when you become a student. The Admissions Office will set you up with a student that lives in the dorms. This is your opportunity to ask real students questions about attending the college.
- Eat in the cafeteria. When you’re in college, you won’t have mom’s home cooked food any more. Check out all of the food options on campus and ask yourself, “Can I live with this food for nine months out of the year?”
- Take the Admissions Campus Tour. Most campus tours are lead by current students. They have a lot of knowledge about the campus and will show you all of the things that make the campus cool and unique. They will probably also share personal stories about their time at the college. This is another place you can ask questions.
- Sit in on a class or two. If possible, sit in on a class in the major you are considering. The professor teaching the class you sit in on will probably be someone you will encounter on a regular basis while at the college. If you’re not sure what major you’re considering, sit in on a major you’re curious about or a general education class such as English, History or a Social Science. If the professor has time before or after class and you have time, introduce yourself and ask some questions.
- Learn about your extracurricular interests. If the extracurricular interests are important to you and you plan on participating in college, check them out.
- Meet with a coach. Talk about the possibility of competing on the team, and if possible, workout with the team.
- Watch a theatrical production or talk with the director of student actor.
- Meet a student leader. If there is a particular club you want to participate in at the college, meet with a member or leader of the organization.
- Check out the campus facilities. Visit the library, fitness center, tutoring center, computer labs, etc. Any place you think you will be using, check it out.
- Read the student newspaper and/or look at the bulletin boards. This will show you some of the things that are important to students on campus.
- Visit the outside community. Although a lot of your time will be spent on campus, you’ll want to go to town for shopping, occasional eating out and entertainment.
- Take photos and notes during your visit. You’re going to see and hear so much during your visit. And, when you start visiting multiple campuses, the information and sights will start blending together. Notes and pictures will help you to remember each campus.
- Questions, questions, questions. Ask all of the questions you have. No question is stupid. Remember, a college education is an expensive investment and will be at least four years of your life. The campus visit if your opportunity to “test drive” the school.
Lastly, I recommend that you follow your gut feeling about the campus. Some of the visits are going to surprise you. There might have been a college you thought you would have loved for whatever reason (reputation, beautiful pictures in brochures, your friends go there, etc.), but when you were on campus, it didn’t feel right. Then, there might be colleges that you visited when you weren’t really interested (parents encouraged the visit, it was close to another school you were visiting, etc.), but you felt right being there. Listen to the gut feelings – they probably won’t change over time, no matter what you do. Remember, whatever college you attend, you’ll be there for four years and you want to be a place you feel comfortable and happy.
Having fun visiting colleges!