Posted By: Lisa Cynamon Mayers, Senior Admissions Consultant
Although I think it best to visit colleges while school is in session, summer is an easy time to schedule visits. You won’t worry about falling behind in calculus or missing the big game. You’ll also find yourself more likely to be traveling in general. This presents a great opportunity to schedule a visit while you’re out of town. Even if you’re only a freshman or sophomore, if you find yourself in a town with a college, go take a look. Get some experience touring, chatting and learning about college life. Visiting helps you hone your preferences so that when the time comes to make The College List, you’ll be ready.
Some tips to get you started:
Prior to Arrival
Research – Before you make hotel reservations and start buying plane tickets, spend time doing some serious research. Visiting colleges takes time, money, enthusiasm and a sense of humor. It would be impossible to visit every college you are remotely considering, so get organized, do your research and visit those schools that will help you reach your ultimate goal — admission to your first choice school.
Where To Visit, Part 1– If you are considering applying to any school early decision, you must plan a visit to campus. How can you sign on the dotted line that you will attend this school, if admitted, when you’ve never even seen the place?
Where To Visit, Part 2 – If you are undecided and overwhelmed by all of the college options available to you, it can help to visit a few schools to get a sense of what you like/dislike. Visiting a large state school, a small liberal arts college and an urban campus can give you different pictures of what college can be like. Even if you ultimately decide against applying to any of these schools you visited for research purposes, the time will be well spent if the visits help you determine the places you
would like to be.
Schedule Your Visit, Part 1 – Contact the admission office, via the phone or web, to schedule your visit. Admission offices want to know that you are coming to visit so they can help you make the most of your visit. It would be a shame to plan an entire visit and not realize the admission office is closed for the day. Plan ahead!
Schedule Your Visit, Part 2 – It is best to visit campus when school is in session and students are not frantically preparing for final exams. Summer is a popular time to visit colleges, but remember that the campus won’t be buzzing with normal activities or current students over the summer months.
Coordinate Multiple Visits – Let’s say you’ve decided to visit Ultimate University, your first choice school. It would be smart while you’re in Ultimate City, or on your way to Ultimate City (if you’re driving), to also visit a couple other schools. Make the most of your travels and try to see as many schools as you can, especially for comparison sake.
The Campus Visit
Information Session – Generally schools offer a group session in which an admission counselor (and sometimes a faculty member and current student) discusses basic information about the school. The presentation is often followed by a question-and- answer session so it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the school.
Tour – Typically tours are given by current students. Depending on the size of the campus, the tour can last anywhere from 45 minutes to well over two hours. This is your best opportunity to get a guided tour of the school. You might even have the chance to see residence halls and dining facilities.
Interview – Some schools offer prospective freshmen (that’s you) the chance to interview during a campus visit. Determine if you can interview while you are on campus and knock out a couple of birds with one stone.
Observing Classes – You might be thinking why on earth would I want to sit in on a class when I’ve planned this whole trip to get out of going to class. Point well taken, but don’t you want to get a glimpse of what college classes will be like? You don’t have to stay for the entire class — sit in the back and try to observe for a short time. Note the interaction between students and faculty and get a feel for college classes.
Food – Explore the different on-campus food options. You’ll probably end up visiting over lunch or dinner anyway, so you may as well try out the food while you’re there. Some schools will even give you a meal on them. Who can pass up free food?
Staying Overnight – Schools are going to have widely varying policies on the overnight visit. If you know a current student and can stay with a friend while you’re visiting, that’s always a good idea. Also, you may be able to arrange a visit through the admission office. The overnight visit is one of the best ways to really and truly experience a school. You’ll get to see the campus without parents and get a feel for what “real” students do.
Special Visit Days/Weekends – Almost every college and university offers special visit days/weekends. This can be a great time to visit campus. Just think, you’ll get to meet tons of potential classmates. Pay attention to your mail and to the school’s websites for information about these special open houses.