A college visit can determine what schools you apply to and which one you ultimately decide on as your top pick. Summer college visits allow you the opportunity to visit campuses in a less formal atmosphere and wander around the campus on a self tour. Classrooms may be empty, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting. The college doesn’t necessarily have to be on your list–visits to any college help you formulate the list and give you ideas on what you like and don’t like on campus.
However, paying attention on college tours can be difficult, especially when there is a lot of information to digest. When deciding on a college and looking back on your time at each one, you may even forget important factors that can sway your decision. Here is some advice to get you through each visit and keep track of all the key details.
1. Do your research
Before getting in the car, do plenty of research about the college or colleges you’re going to visit. You want to be as prepared as possible when arriving on campus so that you can get the most of your experience there. What academic departments are you interested in? Where are they located on campus? What are some places in the neighborhood that you want to check out? Are there walking tours on campus? If so, find out when they are and how to join.
2. Determine when to visit
The success of a college visit may vary depending on the time of year, even the time of day, can have a large impact. It is common for most students to wait until spring of their junior year in high school or early autumn of their senior year for their visits. Check the school’s academic calendar to be aware of any potential dates the school is closed.
3. Plan the visit
Once you have determined the date of your visit, make an appointment with the admissions office to take the campus tour. While you have them on the phone, schedule your interview and your meeting with the financial aid office.
4. Create a checklist
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of the things to do, information to gather, and people to talk to while on a college visit. Create Checklist and be sure to prioritize the items that are most important to you. Informational sessions are important, but exploring the college to get a better feel for its campus environment is also critical. Be sure to think about some of the worries you may have about going to college and write them down. Then, look for opportunities to speak with students or staff who may have shared your same concerns before beginning college.
5. Take the guided tour
During the tour, take notes on anything relating to your major and interests. For example, if you are interested in majoring in biology, pay attention to research opportunities the guide may mention and any labs you tour. If you have not decided on a major, you can ask if there is a program for undeclared students. You will also be going through the freshman dorms, gym, library, and other facilities that are available to students. If you are interested in fitness, the condition of the gym and its equipment may be important to note. Will you be able to study at the library? Will your dietary restrictions be a problem at the cafeteria?
The tour guides may mention the kinds of activities available on campus. They may also know how big Greek life is, or if there are a variety of clubs to join. These are the biggest ways to meet others on campus. If you do not feel comfortable with joining a sorority or fraternity and most of the student body participates in Greek life, that college may not be the right choice for you.
Important: Don’t forget to ask questions during the tour. Your tour guide is a current student and has a wealth of information available to you that you might not find in a catalog.
6. Do some exploring
Once your tour is over, take time to explore the campus and surrounding city on your own. While walking around the school, look at the bulletin boards and posters to get a better idea of the types of events and activities offered. Eat in the cafeteria and talk to students. Current students will often have an honest perspective on the college and college life.
7. Schedule an interview
Make an appointment with the admissions office for an interview when you schedule your campus tour. Not all schools require an interview, but it’s to your teen’s advantage to request one. It allows admissions to put a face with the name on the application and also offers the opportunity to provide more information than what is on the application. There’s a good chance that your teen will have an advantage over someone who did not take the time to interview.
8. Meet with financial aid
When you make an appointment for the college visit, make an appointment to meet with the financial aid office. Even if you aren’t anticipating the need for financial aid, it’s important to meet with them. Ask questions about merit aid, financial aid deadlines, the percentage of aid the college provides for incoming students and the true cost of attendance.
9. Sit in on a class
Even if you don’t spend the night on campus, you can sit in on a class. Try asking your tour guide about visiting a class. Attending a class is one way for students to check out majors and determine if that college and/or major is a good fit.
10. Talk to a student or professor in your anticipated major
While visiting, seek out a student in your anticipated major. This is a good way to find out more about how the specific program works and opportunities in that major. Getting a student’s perspective is the best way to get the truthful inside scoop. In addition to talking to students, it’s also possible to talk to professors. The admissions office can help you make an appointment before your visit. This is especially helpful for students who have already decided on a major.
11. Spend the night if possible
Many colleges will allow prospective students to stay overnight on campus. They allow students to stay in a dorm, get to know current students and other students who are also applying, and attend a class to see what college is like. Staying overnight is a good way for your student to get a feel for life on campus and get to know the campus culture. However, be sure to discuss dorm safety with your student and what to do if he or she feels uncomfortable in a situation.
12. Keep a record of your visits
As you can imagine, keeping track of college visits can be a task. After a few visits, they all seem to run together. Here are a few ways you can keep track of the visits and review them when it comes time to apply and/or make the final decision:
- Use Google Docs to create a spreadsheet of all the college visits with contact information of each.
- Use Pinterest to create a board and store pictures along with other information from each college.
- Use apps on your smartphone like Dropbox or Evernote to store information.
- Use your smartphone, take photos, and create albums for each college.