Are you planning a campus visit? Several? Visiting colleges can be fun and informative, but most students can only visit a campus once before applying. Here a few tips that can help make that visit as productive as possible.
Plan ahead. Tours and information sessions can quickly fill up during the summer months. Find out if reservations are required. Even if they are not, arrive early to be sure you get in on the scheduled tour times and get seats in the sessions. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, you may get turned away or have to wait for extra sessions later in the day, which may interfere with your overall schedule. In the winter, when there are fewer visitors, the schedule for tours and sessions may be reduced, so again, check ahead of time. During the regular academic session, an overnight visit with a current student can be arranged with 2-3 weeks notice.
Take notes. Although colleges may be very different, they can all start to look and even sound alike when you’ve visited several of them. Bring a notepad (or keep digital notes) to jot down those points about your visit that particularly stand out to you about a campus.
Talk to students. Feel free to walk around the campus on your own and talk to students. Be warned though: not everything you hear may be positive, but the more students you talk to will give you a more accurate overall impression. If possible, you may also want to eat in student dining center. Most will allow guests to pay for meals. It’s a great place to meet students and try out what you’ll be eating for four years!
Meet with faculty/Visit Classes. By planning your visit you may be able to meet with one or two faculty members in departments you’re interested in (this may be more difficult during the summer or semester breaks). Be sure to schedule an appointment with the faculty member and come prepared with questions about the department specifically (not general admissions questions). If a faculty visit is not possible, you can find out the class schedule and sit in on a class or two. For very large classes, it may be easy to just sit in. For smaller classes, you should ask permission first – there may not be enough room for extra students to sit in.
Talk to financial aid. If aid is going to be a concern, schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor and find out what you will need to bring for them to give you a rough estimate of what you may expect in aid.
Meet with an admissions officer. Not all colleges offer interviews, but if they do, they are not done as walk-ins, you must schedule an appointment.
Look for signs of student activity. If you’re visiting campus when it’s in regular session, scan the bulletin boards, pick up flyers, read the student newspaper. These are all great ways to find out how active the campus is, what type of activities are available, and what issues are important to students.