What is a college open house?

What is a college open house? Are there advantages and disadvantages to attending an open house? | JLV College Counseling Blog

When it comes to the college search, visiting colleges is necessary to get a real feel for the campus. Students have a few choices when visiting colleges, including the big open houses. Open houses are typically big events for prospective students that happen once or twice a year. Open houses have their advantages and disadvantages that students and parents should consider before making plans to visit campus. Here are some things you may experience when attending an open house for prospective students:

  • Open houses will look a little different depending on the college, but they typically will include similar features. Prospective students can expect to take a campus tour and have opportunities to hear from professors, staff, and current students. There may also be information sessions about campus resources, student activities, and specific academic programs. Many colleges will have the schedule of the day available online so students will know what to expect.
  • The college will be “rolling out the red carpet.” The college will be doing everything they can to make the college attractive.
  • The campus will be well manicured. The lawns will be freshly mowed and the gardens will look fresh and clean. If there is construction on campus, they may stop on the day of the event so that it doesn’t interrupt the program.
  • Parking will probably be easy on the day of an open house. This will be very different than what students can expect when attending the college. On many college campuses, there are more students and staff then there are parking spots.
  • Most people on campus will be very welcoming and available to answer questions from prospective students and their families. Visiting during non-open house days will probably not be as easy to meet with everyone you want to talk to because they probably have other things they need to do, such as teaching classes.
  • Current students will probably participate in open houses. However, the students selected to speak at the event will probably be hand-selected by the people in charge, and possibly prepped on how to answer certain questions. The students who usually participate are campus leaders and students who love the college.
  • The food will be great on the day of an open house. The menu for the day will probably be selected to show off the best options or student favorites.
  • There will be a lot of prospective students on campus, making it a great opportunity to meet future classmates. This is especially helpful for students considering colleges where they may not know anyone. Connections made at the open house could turn into future friends and roommates.
  • There will be a lot of information packed into the day. The day will be carefully designed, and sometimes scripted, to ensure prospective students learn and see most everything they need to know and want to see.

Final thoughts on open houses

Open houses include almost everything prospective students and their families need and want when visiting colleges. The day will be scripted and almost everyone who participates will be hand selected because they are good representations of what the college wants to present. Many open houses happen on weekends, so prospective students may not get to experience an actual school day or sit-in on a class. While not everything may be an authentic representation of what a day on campus might be like, students should be able to get a feel for the personality of the college. In addition, most students will be able to see everything and talk to everyone they want when attending an open house.

There are advantages and disadvantages to open houses, just like there are for individual visits. Before making plans to visit the colleges you are considering, ask yourself what is the most important when visiting: a carefully planned out day for hundreds of students that allows you to see almost everything or an individual visit that may offer personal attention but may not be able to offer everything you want to do. Whatever you choose to do, both options should give you a good idea about the college and how you might like (or dislike) being a student at the college.

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