What Parents and Students Need to Do to Prepare for College Visits
College visits are a great way for students to learn more about a school, its campus, social climate, academic offerings, and most importantly, whether or not they can see themselves there for the next four years.
Applying to college is a time-consuming and arduous activity, so students should focus on only applying to those schools that they would be happy attending. This is where a college visit can be most beneficial.
The goal of a campus visit is to be able to affirmatively answer, “Would I feel comfortable in this campus environment? Can I picture myself attending this school?” In order to properly answer these questions, there are a few things that parents and students need to do before visiting.
Plan ahead and research.
Because college visits are often an expense that families forget to consider, it’s important to plan ahead and budget appropriately so that students can see as many schools as possible. Plan visits at least a month in advance. While it’s best to visit a campus while school is in session, sometimes that’s not feasible. If you’re considering visiting during the summer, research what campus visit activities are available during that time so that you can get the most comprehensive campus experience.
It’s also important to do your homework before visiting a campus so that you know what to expect. Learn about the school’s history, campus culture, traditions, academic offerings, and admissions standards before visiting. Not only is this important for building your balanced college list, it also ensures that you’re prepared to ask the right questions and have a productive visit.
Schedule relevant activities.
When visiting a college, always schedule an information session with the admissions office. This is where you will get answers to your questions about what it takes to get in, the school’s size, diversity, and academic offerings. This is also how the school will have a record of your visit for the purposes of demonstrated interest. Campus tours are generally offered after information sessions, but double check in case you need to register for that separately.
Make sure you’re on campus long enough to eat a meal in the dining hall and visit a representative student dorm (not just the one on the tour!) Ask yourself: What’s the social environment like? Will I be happy living/dining here daily?
Also, sign up to audit a relevant class, if possible, and talk to a professor and a student who studies your area of interest. You’re going to college to learn, right? Make sure the school meets all of your academic needs.
Since there are several different things that families should do while visiting a college, we suggest that you visit no more than two schools in one day. With all of the information you’re gathering, it’s easy for it to blend together.
Compile a list of questions.
During the information session and campus tour, there are a lot of opportunities to get answers to any questions you may have about the school, the admissions process, academics, or anything else that comes to mind. Good questions to ask:
What is the admissions office looking for in an applicant?
What’s the most important thing you evaluate in an application?
How is my writing viewed in the admissions office?
While on the tour, ask specific questions about the campus and surrounding community like:
How do students take advantage of the resources in the community or outside of the college?
What do kids do for fun and on weekends?
What is your favorite thing about the school?
What would you improve?
Other things you should plan to do while you are on campus:
Pick up a course catalog and a school newspaper. These materials will give you a comprehensive guide to the school’s academic offerings as well as the issues on campus.
Visit parts of the campus that might not be on the tour and are important to you, such as the theater, the gym, the playing fields, or specific libraries.
Walk or drive into the surrounding community and make sure you’re comfortable with the social life and types of activities available to students. Check out local restaurants, shops, and hangouts.
College visits are an important part of the college planning process, and can often be a gut-check for parents and students. A school may look great on paper, but it’s hard to definitively decide if it’s a great fit without visiting.