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The Secret Sauce Behind An EPIC Campus Visit

April 20, 2016 :: Admissionado Team

Harvard University Campus

Congratulations! You’ve been admitted to college!

But wait, not only have you been admitted to one college, but after years of hard work and dedication throughout your high school life, you’ve been accepted into more than one college. And they’re all amazing programs. Yikes, you thought the application process was hard, now you have to decide between Northwestern, UCLA and UC Berkeley like our student Tim? Not an easy task, but a very admirable position to be in. Where do you start? Our advice is always, above all, without a doubt, go to the BEST college you get accepted to. But what if you get accepted into two equally great universities that are both in the same “tier” of excellence?

 > > > Read our blog post discussing school tiers/echelons > > > 

This is when you have to start thinking about fit. Urban or rural? Larger or smaller student body? More student organizations or more fraternities and sororities? You can read all the ranking reports, articles, and profiles that are out there. Then you can ask your teachers, counselors, and your cousin’s tennis partner’s uncle’s friend who owns the corner bakery. But you won’t really understand fit until you experience it for yourself. Admissionado’s tip for choosing between colleges? Visit campus.

By no means is this a groundbreaking tip, but there is more to a college visit than just setting foot on campus and leaving a couple of hours later. Over the years, we’ve compiled some excellent pieces of advice from our students and mentors (we’ve even got advice for parents!) on how to maximize your college visit, which we’d like to share here. Before we even get started, however, general piece of advice number one:

You Get The Real Deal When Class Is In Session

Do your absolute best to visit campus when classes are actually in session. I know this can be tough from a scheduling standpoint, but NOTHING will give you a better feel for campus than experiencing and observing the energy of that campus in motion – an energy that you might be contributing to in the near future!

As you prepare for your visit, the first thing we recommend you do is reach out to departments you’re interested in within the schools that you’re visiting. Interested in the economics program? Great! Find the department’s general email on the college’s website and let them know you’ve been admitted, the date you’re going to be on campus, and that you want to learn more about the economics program. Most of the time, they’ll be very accommodating and find either a professor or student to sit down with you and chat. Maybe they can set you up to sit in on an actual class. This can be a great way to get some more insight not only about the particular program, but the college in general.

General Advice for Campus Tours:

  1. Don’t be shy, be inquisitive: As much as you can, ask questions during the tour. I was a tour guide at Vandy and really loved when people would come up and talk to me when moving from point to point. It can get lonely up there otherwise!
  2. Log your experience: After the tour (which, as you know, will be full of history and info about popular professors and some joke about walking backwards), write down your initial reactions. Not to the tour, specifically – but to what you saw: did you like the way the campus looked? Did you feel you could fit in with the students you saw while on the tour? What about the facilities? Did they seem impressive? Old and outdated? Just think quickly: what was your INSTANT reaction
  3. Retrace your steps: Also after the official tour, if you have time, retrace the tour’s steps to explore more. Sit in the student center or in a busy courtyard (to read the campus newspaper maybe?) and just observe students and faculty being themselves. There’s something to be said about soaking up the general ambiance of a school.

Checklist of Things to Do While on Campus:

  1. Read the student newspaper, even the ads, especially those directed at what kinds of events are happening on campus
  2. Try to find other student publications—department newsletters, ‘alternative’ newspapers, flyers, etc.
  3. Eat in the cafeteria (even if it’s just a snack! Take a look at the options.)
  4. Ask a student why he/she chose this college, and what is their favorite part.
  5. Ask a student what he/she dislikes about the college.
  6. Ask a student what he/she does on the weekends and in his/her free time. It may seem scary for you to walk up to a student, but a great way to find someone is to look around the student union around lunchtime. There are usually a bunch of student organizations advertising events – they’re just waiting to talk to someone.
  7. Read the bulletin boards in the student union and in the academic department(s) in which you’re interested. This is a GREAT way to get a handle on what life is actually like on campus.
  8. Walk or drive around the community surrounding the campus to explore the surrounding area.
  9. Look into clubs and organizations on campus that interest you (again, check out orgs advertising in the student union).
  10. If possible, try to see a dorm that you didn’t see on the tour.
  11. Go to buildings that house programs that interest you. Into intramural sports? Check out the rec center. Into art? Check out the art studio. Into community service or student activism, check out groups like this, or this.
  12. In general, just ask questions! Lots of them.

Last, but not least, enjoy yourself! Let it soak in… you’re going to college next year! No matter what decision you make, remember that you’re signing up for four of the most fantastic years of your life – full of intellectual growth, life experiences, and making life-long friends.
Happy travels!

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