Part of the college search process for every high student and family is checking out prospective schools in person.
Here are 20 tips to make college visits as productive as possible within a short timeframe.
Top 20 College Visit Tips
|College Visit Tip||Explanation|
|Schedule Visits During Class||Make sure to schedule your visit during the semester to get a realistic idea of how the campus functions with students around taking classes. Spring or Fall will naturally be the best times and but require extra planning on your part to visit without badly disrupting your child's high school schedule|
|Visit Campus During Vacations||Take detours to visit colleges while on other vacations or similar trips where possible to reduce having to plan for extensive road trips. This will hopefully reduce stress when planning an extensive college visit road trip.|
|Look Into Overnight Programs||Some schools offer overnight stay programs where you can stay with a current student during your visit. This is a great hands-on approach because you'll get as close to the on-campus living experience as you can. Check with the Admissions office beforehand to see if they have one of these programs in place or not first.|
|Prioritize Your Visit Order||If you have a top 5 or 10 list of schools, visit your most desired ones last. Why? Because by checking out other campuses first, you'll develop your own procedure for assessing a school during a visit. By the time you reach the last ones, you'll know what to do and where to get the answers you want fast.|
|Check The Admissions Website||Every school has different tour programs available, plus if you want to meet with a specific professor, admissions official, etc., then that has to be arranged in advance. Go to the admissions page and find the right people to make those arrangements ahead of time to make your visit productive.|
|Check Out A School's Statistics||While doing your research, look into a school's graduation rate, freshman retention rate, post-graduation employment, etc. Ask the admissions department if they have this information on hand to help you make an informed decision before visiting.|
|Talk To Current Students||Talk to some current students in between classes. If they have issues or major complaints about the school, they'll share them. If not, they'll share the school's best points. Think of questions to ask them beforehand and come prepared. Their perspective is one you should have because it'll be largely unbiased.|
|Visit the Admissions Office||Visit the Admissions office and introduce yourself there; they'll point you to places to visit on campus. You may also be able to schedule an official interview too. Also be sure to sign their sign-up sheet too. Admissions boards keep track of prospective students who make these kinds of visits and show genuine interest.|
|Take the Official Tour||Sign up and take the official campus tour. You'll have a chance to see the school's best features that it wants to show off, but also have a chance to ask the tour guide questions along the way. It'll provide a good first physical impression of the campus layout for you to explore later.|
|Explore Campus By Yourself||Once the official tour ends, wander around by yourself to explore spots that maybe were ignored on the official walkthrough or check out more departments/areas in greater detail. This allows you to find the aspects of campus life that maybe the official tour doesn't want people to see.|
|Take Notes Every Visit||As you visit your schools, take notes or record thoughts on your phone to keep track of what you liked and didn't like about each one. Not only will these notes keep each visit straight in your memory, but also give you a chance to send Admissions departments follow-up questions you couldn't have thought of at the time.|
|Check Out The Quad||Get an idea of the day-to-day social life by hanging out where everyone else is between classes. See what people are doing on the quad, what games they're playing, how they're relaxing and studying. It's a good way to see the overall vibe at a school by observing how they act when congregated together in their free time.|
|Visit The Dorms||Virtually every freshman will live in the dorms, so take the time to check them out personally. Look at how well they are maintained, how full they are, what amenities are available. Remember this is where you will be living while away from what you've known so far. Make sure it's compatible with your lifestyle.|
|Visit The Dining Halls||Make sure that you have access to the best food possible while living on campus. Check out the dining hall to see the variety of food, product quality, how clean the facility appears, how accessible it is on campus, etc. If you can, have a couple meals there at different times to see what you'll be eating before and after class.|
|Examine Classrooms & Lecture Halls||Be sure to check out various classroom settings and lecture halls. Look at the layouts, see if they're wired for technology, do they look up to date or need refurbishment. See how often actual professors are teaching class versus graduate students. All these things matter when you're trying to absorb information during class.|
|Find The Health Center||Locate the campus' health center and check it out. Do the facilities look clean and current? How well is it staffed? How accessible is it in regards to the overall campus? If you're ever in need of medical help or there's an emergency, you should know what's available on campus to help.|
|Visit The Student Fitness Facilities||Every school will have an on-site athletic facility for students to use for exercise. Especially during freshman year when the dreaded 'Freshman 15' can happen, you should know where to work out. Check to see how modern the gym is and how cleanliness is maintained. If you're a student-athlete, you should be able to check out the relevant facilities and practice fields are too.|
|Ask About Campus Safety||Ask your tour guides about the school's campus safety policies, current security measures, and procedures, and if there have been any significant incidents to be aware of. Find out where the campus police are stationed and how to contact them if necessary.|
|Visit The Financial Aid Office||While on campus, take some time to visit the financial aid department and have questions on hand to ask in person about available opportunities and how they handle financial aid requests. Better to do it with a person in front of you than rely on just emails or constantly making phone calls.|
|Read The Student Newspaper||Get an idea of what's happening on campus from the student perspective and an idea of overall campus culture by seeing what's being written about by students for students. Collect them and reread them at home for reference too between different schools.|
Keep in mind these general themes when planning out your college visits to get the most out of them and make your final school decision.
Tap Into The School’s Admissions Department Before Visiting - Every college or university that you plan on visiting has its own Admissions Office that exists to admit new students and build future classes. In order to do so, it needs to make its school look as enticing as possible.
Take advantage of that need by using them as your first and best information resource. If you’d like to set up specific department visits or speak with certain people, they can help you arrange those appointments. They will also provide the information you need for official campus tours, potential overnight stays, etc.
Get Both Perspectives While Exploring The Campus - If you take the official tour then you will definitely get a great look at the school’s various facilities and insight into campus life - from the administration’s perspective. While this is valuable as a great introduction, also make sure to explore the grounds by yourself too.
Talk to students in between classes, explore areas that they may have shied away from for whatever reason. Try to get every perspective you can while on campus because it will only inform your decision about that school for the better.
Try To Replicate The Freshman Experience As Much As Possible - Take the time to eat in the dining halls and visit the on-campus dormitories. See how accessible major services and facilities like the health center and libraries are from the living quarters.
If possible, try to stay overnight with a current student to get a feel for how the campus operates on during a regular semester day. Anything you can do to help you get a feel for what it’s like to be a daily student will then inform your perspective on how each school operates differently from the others.
Use these tips as a checklist when planning out your future college visits for a better, more productive time.
For more tips and help, check out Prep Expert.
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