Your campus visit is perhaps the most important part of your college search process. It is your chance to form an opinion or idea based on firsthand experience. No matter how much information can be found online, physically stepping onto a campus can give you an answer within only a few hours. Sometimes these visits can be overwhelming. To avoid leaving campus feeling more confused than when you arrived, here are some tips to make sure you maximize all opportunities.
Plan ahead –
If you are in the area, do not feel like you can’t stop by for a last-minute college visit without scheduling ahead of time. Any visit is better than no visit. However, if you are able to schedule your visit ahead of time you will have more of a full experience. Whereas if you stop by last minute you may get to go on a tour and possibly meet a few people. Planning ahead will allow you to schedule activities such as a meal in the cafeteria, a meeting with a professor or coach, attendance in a class, and more.
Make it a full-day experience –
Visiting two colleges in one day is not a great idea. There is a good chance your visit will make you tired with the tour and feel overwhelmed with information. It is best to visit a college on a day when you are not worried about getting somewhere. Allow your experience to be flexible. It is good to have enough time to wander and explore on your own after your scheduled activities, including on campus and the surrounding area.
Come prepared with well-thought questions –
Ask questions that do not have a yes or no answer. Take these answers at a glance, but also read into them a little bit. The answer to a well-thought question can give you an idea of campus priorities, student culture, and much more in an inadvertent way.
Be a tourist, but then go undercover –
With your admissions goodies in hand and parents at your side, it is pretty obvious to current students that you are visiting. That is totally fine. You do not need to worry about impressing any future peers. Even so, gaining as many perspectives of the school as possible is always a good thing. Sit in the student center, student section at a sports event, or the lobby of an academic building. Be observant and try to meet a current student outside the admissions office.
Meet a professor –
Most of the time you can set up an appointment with a professor in your field through the admissions office. These encounters are priceless. Professors want you to come to their school but, even more, they want you to feel the same passion they have for their field of study. Talking with a professor can be beneficial for gaining further knowledge about a possible major.
Do all you can while you are there –
Meet all the coaches, professors, advisors, and students that you can. Attend all the info sessions, sporting events, and campus activities available that day. See the whole campus, quirks and all, and the area around campus. You will regret it if you don’t.
Do not overload on college visits –
Road trip tours are special, but visiting 10 colleges within one week does just about as much good as cramming the night before an exam. Yes, it is important to see all the schools you are considering, but it is more important to be able to consider them individually while you are on your visit.
Start a notebook to document your impressions –
After each visit write down your impression of that school. Whether you write two words or five pages, having these notes will be a huge blessing a few months after your visit. Especially if you are doing multiple visits back to back, it is important to distinguish which school was which. Even if you write down a lot of information, challenge yourself to choose a couple words to encompass your impressions of each school.
Overall, here is my advice: don’t be nervous, do all you can, and enjoy the t-shirts and free pens.
Written by: Abbie Russell (’21)