I just talked about the importance of the college visit. So, if it is that important, what is the best way to visit a college to get the most information?
First, call or email several weeks in advance of your planned tour to let the admissions office know you are coming. Many colleges accept students on the tour without prior notice but some require the notice. It never hurts to call ahead so always try to do so. Also, for those colleges that track expressed interest this contact may be recorded as showing your interest.
Second, before going to the campus, do some basic research into the college. You know, number of students, average test scores, what sort of clubs do they have on campus, that sort of thing. After you know some basic information about the college you can think about some questions that you have that will help you get a better feel for the college. Not sure what to ask? Here is a list of possible questions for you to ask about the college.
Third, wear comfortable, and appropriate, clothes and shoes for the tour. No, you do not need to dress up but leave the really short skirts and shorts that have holes in “inconvenient” places home.
Once you get to campus you should plan on spending several hours. You will generally want to start with a tour to get a general feel of the college. Most college tours are led by current college students so the tour is your opportunity to ask a few of your questions of a current student. However, unless this is a private tour, don’t monopolize the tour guide with your questions. Let other people ask questions also. And don’t have mom and dad ask your questions. If they have their own questions, that is fine, but you should be the primary one asking the questions.
One word of caution. A tour guide can greatly influence, good or bad, your impression of the college. remember that a tour guide is but one student. Try to meet several students at a college, even if you don’t
click with your tour guide. Weather can have the same effect. Every college looks better in bright warm sunshine than freezing rain. Try as much as possible to look past these issues in evaluating the college.
After the tour, many colleges will offer an informational session generally led by a member of the admissions staff. These can be useful to ask some additional questions and hopefully get more information about the college to see if it might be a good fit for you.
After the tour and information session, plan on walking around the campus looking at places you have not already seen or that you want to look at in more detail. Ask some of the students you see some of your qustions about the campus. Most students want to promote their college and if most of them don’t, that tells you something about the college too. These students will often give you a less scripted answer than you might get from a tour guide which may allow you to get a more realistic view of the college.
As you walk around campus, see if you can find any professors in the major in which you have an interest. Ask the professor about the department, the number of majors they typically have each year and what the majors go on to do after college.
Another thing to do on campus is to look at bulletin boards to see what is happening on campus. The type of posters you see around campus will give you some feel for what is happening and important on that campus.
If possible try to eat on campus. You will be living here for four years and it might be nice to know what the food will be like. As you sit in the cafeteria, pay attention to what the students are talking about. Are they talking about the class they just finished, the big game next weekend or where the parties are that night.
Finally, remember that all of the information you are gathering is to help you find the best college for your needs.