While a prospective college student conducts research on various colleges, he or she may stumble upon questions on whether a college is the best fit for their learning style, interests, and personal needs. College visits are an extremely useful tool to answer lingering questions about a college and acquire a “feel” for the campus, student body, and general atmosphere.
The first thing a prospective student and their family should do is take the time to research the school they want to visit. Researching a college is a proactive action in deciding the college a student wants to attend. Many questions can be asked to fuel the research:
• Does the college have the major(s) I am interested in?
• Does the school offer the extracurricular activities I enjoy, at the level, I am most comfortable with?
• Am I comfortable with the location of the college?
• Do I have access to all of the resources and support I need on or near campus?
This step will assist the student in knowing what the school offers, which further generates questions about the other aspects of the school. The research also gives the student elements to look for during the actual visit. Research can be conducted through college website searches, trusted reviews, and factual statistics. Although some research may support assumptions, it is necessary to maintain an open mind for the acquisition of new information during a visit—Which may challenge preconceived points of view.
Planning a Visit
When preparing for a visit, the student and their family can create a checklist of important topics and questions they plan to cover during their visit. The checklist can be accompanied by prior research that may assist the student in finding the answers to their questions. According to personal preference, prospective students need to decide how they will tour the campus. Most colleges offer tours guided by a resident or administrator of the college. Some colleges orchestrate tours based on certain time frames students and their families can openly join the tour. Others require students to sign up for spots on the tour due to a limitation of members on a tour. Another available option includes self-guided tours. Here a student should obtain a map or list of buildings to guide them through the campus. Due to traveling expenses that may not fit everyone’s lifestyles, many colleges offer programs that aid prospective students by providing transportation to the college, meals, and housing on campus for the duration of the stay. If a student is interested in meeting with a specific coach, director, or another member of the faculty and staff, the student should contact the individual before arriving on campus. This prevents scrambling to track the individual down at the last minute.
Before tours begin, there is usually an information session for students and families to see the basic information about the school and the tour. The admissions office heads the operation and a large portion of the presentation covers the admissions process. The pre-tour information session allows some questions about the college to be answered if time permits. Pre-tour presentations are highly recommended, as basic questions of most prospective families are answered upfront. Guided tours are a great way to ask direct questions to the school representative; this person most likely has a great deal of knowledge about many areas and programs the college offers. If there are a lot of people in a tour group, it may be best to join a smaller group. This way the tour guide can pay more attention to your questions and go into detail about the college. To hear information clearly, the student should not be afraid to head to the front of the tour group. Note-taking can help students remember some of the topics covered during the tour. Individual tours allow the student to take as much time as they need to discover the campus. However, they should keep in mind the opening and closing times of facilities in order to cover all of the desired areas.
Campus Environment, Resources
Although academics and campus activities are a vital portion of a student’s college experience, the atmosphere in and around campus are just as important; the student will be living in the area for the next four or more years of their life. Students should consider the college’s location, weather, demographics, housing availability (the cost of off-campus housing as well), and the overall – gut feeling – the college gives the student. There should be places outside of the campus that allow the student to flourish and be just as happy as they would be on campus. The area around the campus should be toured to find the resources the student will need as an independent individual. This includes access to stores, transportation, health care, and laundry facilities. Any other aspects of the student’s life should be considered during the college visit to ensure an enjoyable experience for the student. The environment may be quite familiar to the student, in which their college is close to home. Whether the college is across the country, a few miles away, or close to home, the location of the college is dependent on the student’s comfort and ability to adapt to college life in the area.
College visits are a fun and exciting time for prospective students and families. Preparation is key to a great visit. Immersing oneself into the experience can lead to great results and a decision on which colleges to apply to.