If you are reading this, you and your parents have probably already made the decision that you are going to college, and you have a list of colleges or universities you are considering. Websites, counselors, family friends, and relatives are all valuable resources when it comes to fine-tuning your ideas on what type of college you are looking for, and it is the best time to determine if a college or university is going to be a good fit for you. If you spend time preparing for your visits, you will have a much more meaningful and productive visit. Once you have come up with a list of colleges you are seriously considering, it is time to schedule your campus visits.
Why Visit A College?
Your college education is a BIG investment, so invest wisely! A good investment requires a lot of research. Visiting a campus offers insight into whether the school and the educational experience is the right fit for you. It will shed light on the type of learning environment offered, the kind of students who attend, the setting, the amenities, the facilities, etc. It can also eliminate some colleges from consideration (Think of how much $ and time you could potentially save!) and can move others to the top of your list. It gives you the chance to be a "pretend college student" for the hour/day/weekend!
When To Start Visiting Colleges
The sooner you start, the better. Elementary school might be a little early; however, if your family is taking a vacation, stop and visit the nearby colleges or universities. Go to the campus and get something to eat, check out the bookstore, or walk around campus. If you think this could be your "dream school", stop at the Admissions Office and pick up some material.
Once you have a preliminary list of schools you want to visit and know the dates you have available, you are ready to register for a Tour and Information Session. The registration process can typically be found on the Admission page of the college's website, and the majority of colleges allow you to make a reservation online. If you are unable to locate the link, call the Admission Office.
Before scheduling, be sure to know the date, the time of day you wish to visit, and the number in your party. Most colleges will provide a list of hotels in the area and public transportation information on their Admission web pages for those families who require accommodations. Typically, Admissions Offices offer tours one or two times per day nearly every day of the year, except for major holidays. If at all possible, visit the campus while school is in session. This will provide you with a much better idea of the school's environment and student culture.
Get Prepared Before You Visit
A college education is a major investment in money and time, and it is a decision that will be a part of your life forever. So take your time to prepare. Remember, you are the customer! Do not question if "they" will like you...do you like them? Open this notebook to the worksheets in the back and start a worksheet for each college. Add the information at the top of the "College Visit Itinerary." You will be adding to these pages over the next several months. As you gain more and more information, these worksheets will become valuable repositories of data and information
• Do your homework. Read about the college in the mega-manuals (you know, like The Fiske Guide or the Princeton Review Book), visit the school's website, and check out the courses for your potential majors.
• Develop questions you want answered. (We will offer some suggestions later).
• Identify the dates you are planning to visit. Before you make hotel or flight reservations, go to the Admissions webpage and make sure the school will be in session (so you can see the campus when students are there) and that Information Sessions and Tours will be offered on the dates you are planning to go.
• Arrange to attend an Information Session and make a reservation for a Tour.
• Add the date and time to your Itinerary. Tour Information can be found on most college websites on the Undergraduate Admissions page, and you can typically make your reservations online. You can always call the Admissions Office, too. Additionally, ask if it will be possible to visit athletic facilities, see the labs, sit in on a class, or visit a dorm or a classroom - whatever means the most to you.
• Arrange for a dorm stay.
• Call in advance and ask to meet with an Admissions Counselor to learn more about the school. Add the date and time to your Itinerary.
• Ask the Admissions Office about sitting in on a class or two.
• Drop a note in the mail to the coach of the sport you are interested in. They may not be able to meet with you (NCAA rules), but you can let them know that you are going to be on campus. Keep it short and to the point. Take your athletic resume so you can drop it off, regardless of whether the coach is there.
• Discuss your expectations for the visit and what you will do on the campus, this includes you parents. You will need to spend some time apart, and it is better to agree on what your expectations are BEFORE you arrive. You can always compare notes later.
• Charge up your phone and get ready to take pictures. Parents, if the student is not comfortable taking pictures, grab the phone and start shooting. After touring four or five campuses, the memories and details have a tendency to get mixed up! Pictures help.
While You Are Visiting
You are going to receive a lot of information during your college visit, so you need to be organized and prepared.Your first opportunity will be during the Information Session. These are usually conducted by the Admissions Counselors and will provide you with a lot of information and statistics about the school. Turn to the College Visit Form and begin to make notes.
Your second opportunity to receive information will be during the Tour. Additional opportunities will occur when you meet with an Admissions Counselor, walk around campus by yourself, or spend the night in the dorms.You will have opportunities to ask questions while you are visiting, so make the most of it. During the Information Session, you can ask questions.Additionally, the tours are typically conducted by enthusiastic college students. This is a great time to ask the real questions about student life.
5 Questions to be Asking
1) What do students love about the school? What are common student complaints?
2) What do students do on the weekends?
3) How is the food on campus? What are the different types of meal plans?
4) How intense is the learning atmosphere? Is it laid back, highly competitive, or somewhere in between?
5) How are the dorms? Dated? Newly remodeled? Loud? Are some dorms better than others? Can I study there?
What To Do While on Tour
Depending on the size of the campus, tours typically last approximately 1-1.5 hours and entail a lot of walking, so dress comfortably. This is not the time to wear those new shoes you just purchased; wear very comfortable ones.
Pay attention to the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Dressing in layers is usually helpful. For those of you from the "sunny states", the weather is not as consistent in most other areas of the country, so consider an umbrella, parka, gloves etc. depending on when and where you are visiting colleges.
You might also bring a backpack to carry the materials you collect along the tour. Additionally, the Admissions Office ALWAYS has tons of materials for you to take home.Typically, you will attend an Information Session first. Then, the Admissions staff will direct you on where to start your tour. Often you will be divided into groups to tour the campus. Take a tour, but spend some time on your own too. Wander the campus. See what you can see for yourself!
During the Tour
• Ask questions.
• Listen to the questions other students and their parents are asking. Chances are you were wondering the same thing!
• Write down notes as you go. Use the worksheets in this workbook as a guide or jot down notes in your iPad or phone. Be specific. You'll be surprised how visits tend to run together after you do a few.
• Take lots of pictures! Places you like and don't like.
• Write down names of people and collect business cards. You will write thank you notes later, so these will come in handy
After the Tour
• If you need financial aid, visit the Financial Aid Office and find out what the process is for applying.
• Visit the library, bookstore, athletic facilities, dorms (even the old dorms).
• Get a copy of the school's newspaper.
• If your major has a facility, check it out! Don't forget to visit the department of your major you are interested in. Visit the Admissions Office to see if you can sit in on a class.
• Do you have a learning difference? Stop by Disability Services to inquire about accommodations.
• Planning to play a sport in college? Stop by the athletic facilities.
• Explore the town or area off campus! Find some cool local spots or even just the grocery store.
Up to this point, you have received a lot of information on your visit about a particular college. Now it is time to reflect on what you have learned and draw some conclusions on the degree to which it is a good fit for you. Don't rush this part of the process. Take time to reflect and think. Talk with your parents and together, make notes on your worksheets BEFORE you leave the campus.
Evaluating the College
• Think about your experience! list out pros and cons; dislikes and likes
• Ask yourself: can you see yourself attending this college? (YES, NO, MAYBE)
• consider the distance between where you attend college and home. (travel expenses, moving costs, frequency of returning home)
• looking ahead: everything you do now is for your future! (major & career opportunities, internships)
Our rule of thumb is, if you can't stop thinking about the college after you return home chances are you've found a match! Spend some time and ask yourself-Is this college a good fit for me? Could I be happy attending the college and would I be able to thrive academically?
You will and should continue to gather information about colleges until you make the final decision of the college or university you choose to attend. Until that time, talk with friends, relatives, and neighbors who have attended the college. Discuss this with your college counselor to get their input. When the representatives from colleges visit your high school in September, October or November, make a point to connect with those who represent the colleges you are interested in. Make your notes on the worksheets in this workbook so you have all of the information in one place. Enjoy your journey!
Virtual College Tours
If you have a busy schedule and are like most active high school students, your weeknights and weekends are packed with clubs, sports, projects, homework, and family activities. Sometimes visiting a campus is just not possible. There are a lot of resources available to you to begin your search for the ideal college, including online resources where you can view campus videos. These can give you a good idea of what the campus looks like. Additionally, they often provide interviews with students and faculty providing solid information regarding the academic programs, student life, and so on.
Some of our favorite campus video websites are listed below. These are not the only ones, so take some time to browse the internet and gather as much information as you can. However, as we have said before, do NOT accept an offer of admission until you spend time actually visiting the college or university.