Spring is a great time to visit college campuses. Tips and suggestions for visiting are some of the most common questions I receive. So I'm breaking my thoughts and tips into a 3 part series in order to share all nitty gritty details.
In Part 1 I'll discuss the basics, in Part 2 we'll figure out what to do while you are there and finally in Part 3 I'll share what to do before you leave home. Enjoy!
Part 1: The Basics
Visiting a campus is a key component in a college search. It can happen Sophomore and Junior year when a student is building a list, and, most importantly when making your final choice. Since many of my clients are in both situations, I wanted to share some thoughts and helpful tips on what to do and what to ask when visiting a college. Obviously visiting allows you to get a sense of how comfortable you are on campus. No website, guidebook, or testimonial will give you a better feel for a school than seeing it for yourself.
When planning your campus visits, make sure to allow time to explore each college. Try not to schedule more than 2 visits per day. While you’re there, talk to as many people as possible: college admission staff, professors and students. Note that some activities, such as meeting with an admissions officer or staying overnight in a dorm, need to be set up in advance.
How to Schedule a Campus Tour
First things first, start by visiting the college’s website. Check the admissions page and see if you can sign up for activities directly on their page or through their tour link. You can also contact the admissions office by email or phone to get details and make a reservation. Remember to confirm the tour/activity time a day or two before you arrive just in case the schedule has changed.
If you are a senior who is visiting schools to make their final choice, you may be invited to an accepted student’s day or weekend. These are a wonderful option that allows you time to explore the school in depth. I highly recommend you attend and visit at least your top 3 choices.
Wondering what a college tour entails? Most college tours are a walking tour of the campus typically guided by a college student. The guide usually gives a brief description of the college and its’ history, the student body, activities, campus life, and student housing. Guides are usually eager to answer questions. Tours generally take 30 to 60 minutes and often start and end at the admissions office.
A campus tour will give you a general sense of the college, but you should keep in mind that your guide is only one of hundreds or thousands of students on that campus. In addition, the students giving tours tend to be happy with their college choice and may not always provide an objective opinion. Try to observe and talk to other students as well. While on tour, your main objective should be to gather information you cannot find anywhere else.
If your schedule doesn’t allow a formal tour, walk the college yourself. Most schools have maps for self-guided tours.
In addition to campus tours, many colleges also offer information sessions either before or after the tour. They are conducted by an admissions officer and include presentations that focus on how admission decisions are made, statistics of students who are admitted, information about the faculty, admission requirements/criteria, and application deadlines.
Interviewing on Campus
Many competitive colleges require or strongly suggest that applicants interview either at the admissions office on-campus or with an alumni interviewer in the applicant's hometown or high school. How do you know if an interview is required or recommended? Visit the prospective student page, and research admission requirements or call admissions directly.
If you decide to interview, be sure to research the college thoroughly beforehand. By doing so you’ll be able to articulate what it is about that college that interests you and ask knowledgeable questions. In addition, you may want to schedule your interview after the campus tour, so you will have a better feel of the school.
Check back for Part 2: What to do while your there!