College Visits: How to Get the Most Out of Your Trip

March 14, 2012

Auburn Campus Tour

The college admissions and selection process is very important but can also be very stressful.  An essential factor in choosing the right school for you is a campus visit—and knowing a few tips and tricks will leave you with a satisfying trip.  Every school you go to is doing its best to leave you with the best impression possible, so it is crucial that you discover what attending the college is really like, whether it offers what you are looking for, and if it is the right fit for you.  The last thing you want to do is leave a school with unanswered questions, especially if it is far from your home and you don’t have another chance to visit before making your final decision.  These tips are sure to give you a fulfilling experience.

Before You Go

Try to visit on a nice day.  This may sound silly, but touring a school during a torrential downpour will automatically make you like that school less.  Weather is especially important if you’re at a school you’re already unsure about, or only touring because your parents want you to.  A beautiful day makes everything seem just a little better, so when possible, pay attention to Mother Nature when you schedule your tour.

Make a list of questions to ask your tour guide or admissions representative.  If you’re on your tenth tour, you probably know what’s important to ask.  If you’re a little newer to the game, take time to think about what factors are most important to you in choosing the right school.  Yes, many statistics can be found online.  However, there are some questions that can only be answered by a student.  Sure, the school may have a top rated career-services department, but how accessible is it?  Are there quality resources for students who are struggling in a course?  Are most students involved in extra-curriculars, intramurals, or jobs?  There are so many items that influence whether a college is the right place for you that if you don’t take time to write down your questions before the tour, you may forget to ask something important.

While You’re There

Stop for a meal at the dining hall.  Chances are, you will be eating here almost every meal freshman year, so you need to check out its quality—especially if you have special dietary requirements or restrictions.  In addition, this is a great place to observe the students around you.  How they interact; whether most eat alone, with a few friends, or in large groups; and the conversations you overhear are great indicators of a school’s personality.

Bring a camera and a notebook.  Taking pictures of the campus facilities and writing down key facts or major strengths/weaknesses of a school is important.  While you’re there, it may seem easy to remember everything, but a few months later it may be tough to remember the distinct qualities of each school you visited.

Explore the campus on your own.  Tours are a great way to learn facts about the campus and understand the features of each building you see.  However, a college or university is going to present you with the best possible view of the school during an official tour.  Take an hour or two to wander around on your own after the tour to get a real sense of the school and the students.  In addition, try asking some of the questions you asked your tour guide to random students.  This will give you a more well-rounded impression of what the campus atmosphere is really like.  Ask students what they like most and least about attending the school to put the school’s strengths and weaknesses into perspective.

Ask if you can sit on a class. Not only will this give you a great chance to observe the students and professors, you’ll get a feel for what college classes are actually like.

While the process of visiting and applying to colleges can be very stressful, it’s also an exciting time in your life—so remember to take time to enjoy the journey.  Respect your parent’s advice, while keeping in mind that it is your life and up to you to determine your course.

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