Okay, so it’s not the vacation of your dreams. Maybe you’d rather be sunning yourself poolside or bombing down freshly-powdered slopes, but setting aside the time to visit college campuses is vital.
This is the key intel that will play a role in deciding where you will spend the next four years of your life. To help you get the most out of your campus visits, take a look at these 4 quick tips from your friendly admissions gurus.
We know, we know, you’ve heard this before. But trust us, once senior year starts you’ll be channeling the majority of your (already very limited) free time into crafting those applications. With that in mind, it’s best to start visiting campuses spring of junior year and continue into early fall of senior year.
It can be tempting to try to cram all your visits into the summer months, but we strongly discourage that. Most college students go home over the summer so you won’t be getting a true picture of what the campus and student body are like. Once you’ve set a date, contact the college admissions office—via their website, email or by phone—to get details about campus tours and information sessions they offer. We strongly suggest that you take a tour at every school you visit. Information sessions are great, but they start to blur together after your third or fourth school. Plus, rather than sit in a room and hear about campus, why not go see it!? You’re much more likely to remember walking the picturesque colonnades or the leafy college lawns.
Before you arrive
- What’s the percentage of courses taught by tenured professors, non-tenured professors, and graduate student teaching assistants?
- Does the school actively assist students in finding summer internships?
- What percent of graduating seniors have full-time employment within the first three months of finishing school?
- Are there opportunities for students to do research?
- Do most students spend their free time on campus or off campus
You should also arm yourself with more self-reflective questions, just for you. These are questions to ask yourself during your visit and should focus on what you want out of your college experience: think class size, majors offered, campus size or location, or the general vibe on campus. The important thing is that you have an idea of what you do and don’t want so that you can determine whether each campus checks those boxes, or checks boxes you didn’t even know you had!
Be sure to set aside time to explore on your own after the tour. Tours are great and incredibly informative, but the student tour guides are, of course, going to make their school sound great. In order to get a more authentic campus experience, go rogue and roam free!
As a prospective student, you will be able to visit the majority of areas on campus. Peek into academic buildings (the main buildings are usually open during the day), or if you have an idea about what major you hope to pursue then this is a great time to stop by the department and ask questions. If you are a health nut then you can swing by the school’s athletic facilities and check out the gym. The important thing is to seek out the areas on campus that interest YOU, or anything that was left off the tour.
While you explore on your own don’t be scared to talk to students. They were all in your shoes not that long ago, and most of them will love to wax poetic about their college experience. Besides, you might get a more honest, unfiltered take than your tour guide was able to give.
Here’s a tip: if you’re scared to approach a student and want an icebreaker—act lost (unless of course you actually ARE lost). Simply stopping a student to ask for directions is a great way to start a conversation.
Document Your Visit
Take pictures! It’s true that pictures are worth a thousand words and the ones you take on campus will be a far more honest depiction than the shiny professional photos on most college websites. It’s also important to write down any initial thoughts or feelings that you have after your college visit. And we mean RIGHT after your college visit.
After three or four times around the block, these visits might start to blur together. You will thank yourself for jotting down a few notes immediately after or even during your visit so that the memories are fresh, and you can reconjure your honest impressions of the school several months from the visit when you are trying to make a painstakingly difficult decision. Be honest. What aspects of the school did you like? Were there any parts you hated? If you have any lingering questions be sure to write those down, too, it’s a great idea to bring these up in an interview.
Bonus tip: have fun with it! If you have time to squeeze in a little off-book rec time then you absolutely should. Most campuses have an array of local advantages they are proud to share, so ask your tour guide or a member of the admissions team to point you to their favorite local landmark, hiking trail, or city museum. Getting to know the wider environment surrounding the college may be vital in helping you make your decision down the line.
Your college visit is like a first date—those first impressions may determine whether you’re willing to commit long-term. This is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make and it’s imperative that you come home armed with as much information as possible. Be inquisitive, outgoing and adventurous. Most importantly, be honest and open.
Now, read up and get smart:
- College Parent FAQs
- Supplemental Essay Analyses 2018-19
- Admissionado College Case Studies
- Admissionado’s Guide to Senior Year
- Admissionado’s Guide to Junior Year
- Essay Brainstorming Guide
- Admissionado’s Guide to Elite College Admissions
That’ll get you started. Still have questions? Reach out, and let’s gab.
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