It’s an investment of time and money to visit the colleges that are on your consideration list, but there’s no substitute for a campus visit. Make the most of that investment by following these simple suggestions for a successful trip.
Start early: Try to use your junior year to see schools. Ideally, you’ll want to have visited most of your , or at least your top choices, before you apply. What looked like a perfect fit on the web site may feel very different when you’re there in person.
Make sure you’re signed up with the Admissions Office: Applicants who visit in person are considered to be more interested than those who don’t. This can sometimes affect consideration of your application, as admissions officers weigh which applicants are mostly likely to attend if accepted. So even if you feel you know all about the school, sign up for the Information Session and Campus Tour.
Ask questions: Take advantage of every opportunity to talk to students, starting with your tour guide. Don’t hang at the back of the line: get up front and start a conversation – all campus tour guides love to talk about their school! Find out about their living situation, the food, the workload in your desired major, and what they do for fun.
See if you can stay over: Some colleges will arrange for you to stay over in a dorm room with current students. Take advantage of these opportunities if the schools you are visiting offer them.
Get to class: Are you interested in a specialized program, like engineering, creative writing, or computer science? Contact the department and ask to sit in on a class or speak to an available professor about the program.
Look beyond the usual: Look beyond the dining halls and dorm rooms at the unexpected indicators. For example, what activities are being advertised on the bulletin boards? What’s for sale in the bookstore (besides books)? How do students greet each other? Each school has its own personality, and these subtle clues indicate if you’ll be comfortable and able to be yourself there.
After the visit: It’s a good idea to make notes once you return. Don’t just list pros and cons of each school. Also make note of the things that really stood out for you. You’ll be able to weave those real-life observations into your application, and show you’ve given serious thought as to why you’d like to attend.