After narrowing your list of schools, reviewing brochures, information on the web and taking virtual tours, try to personally visit some of the schools on your list. Most colleges encourage prospective students to visit the campus any time of year. However, to observe the campus in action, and meet students, the best time to schedule a visit is when school is in session.
Contact the admissions office ahead of time (or check the college web site) to get information about tours and information sessions.
When you arrive on campus, stop in at the admissions office. Take note of the campus (academic, athletic, living facilities) and the people you meet.
A typical campus visit generally has two parts: an information session and a campus tour. Sometimes there are also opportunities for an interview and/or to meet with students. The goal of your visit should be to help you decide if the school is a “good fit” for you. Many colleges and universities provide a general overview of the school in classroom-style information session. This session generally focuses on academic life, student life, the campus, and the admissions process with time at the end for questions. Then prospective students (and their parents) typically break off into groups for student-led tours.
Since campus tours are usually led by a current undergraduate, it is an ideal time to get a student’s perspective of the school. The tour guide will be glad to answer your questions and speak with you about a variety of subjects such as courses, dormitories, campus life, academics, recreation, etc.
Some schools offer an on-campus interview. If so, it’s an ideal opportunity to express your interest in the college and (in a humble manner) why you think you’d be an asset to the school. This is a good time to highlight anything pertinent that you didn’t have an opportunity to share on your application.
Take some time before or after the scheduled activities to explore on your own. The student guides are trained to show you the school’s best features. Visit a dormitory. Check out the posters on the bulletin boards in the student center and around campus to see that’s going on that weekend. If you are able to, eat in the dining hall. Strike up some conversations with students. If school is in session, see if you can sit in on a class – perhaps in your intended major, if you have one. Stay overnight, if possible — many schools have overnight stay programs for prospective students – staying overnight can give you a deeper feel for the school and the students. You’ll probably walk away knowing if it’s a good fit for you or not.
During and after each school visit, take mental and hand-written notes. If you are visiting a lot of schools, it’s easy to get them confused. If you put your impressions on paper, it will be easier to refer to them later.
Author: Lynn Radlauer Lubell, Publisher of InLikeMe.com and Founder of Admission By Design, an Educational Consultancy based in Boca Raton, Florida.
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