There’s no substitute for being there. Well-planned college visits will reveal more useful information than its website, course catalog, statistical profile, and magazine rankings all put together.
College Visits Before and After
There are two stages in your college admissions campaign when you should do your college visits. The first is when you create your college list — the schools to which you’ll apply in senior year. Ideally, your visits should begin in your junior year and continue until fall of your senior year, when you need to prepare your applications. It’s this Before stage that we’ll focus on in this post.
The After stage comes late in senior year. It’s brief but important, if you’ve been accepted to more than one school and are unsure which school to choose. Try to re-visit the contending colleges before May 1 to make a final comparison and decision. Stay overnight if possible.
Planning for Before Visits
Successful college visits require careful planning, so we recommend that you use the same criteria in comparing colleges.
First, do your homework and research each college that interests you. Review the school’s website, especially the course catalogue and, within it, the requirements for the majors that you’re considering. Second, although magazine rankings can’t assess the qualitative factors that matter most to you in selecting a college, they compare peer institutions in quantifiable terms. That may come in handy as a quick reference source for such metrics. In addition, search the web for recent articles in the news media about colleges of interest.
In addition to enabling you to add or delete schools from your College List, the knowledge that you gain in this process will make a positive impression on admissions officers in college interviews. They’ll know that you’re genuinely interested in their school.
What to do During Your Visits
Make the time that you spend on campus as productive as possible. Wear comfortable shoes. Take notes and photos because you’ll usually be touring several colleges in one trip and they’ll tend to blur together. You’ll need to make arrangements for the activities below in advance.
1. Schedule an Interview: Your first task is to schedule an interview with the admissions office. This requires the most lead-time, so make the interview appointment well in advance.
2. Go on the Guided Tour: A student-led tour of the campus is a great way to begin a college visit. Schedule it with the admissions office and let them know if others will be accompanying you. Campus tours usually involve an Information session led by an administrator or faculty member after the tour.
3. Assess the Classroom Environment: During the school year, sit in on a class (with permission of the admissions office) that you would be taking as a freshman. Even in summer, there’s likely to be classes that you can attend to get a feel for the classroom environment.
4. Experience Campus Life: Nothing you do will tell you more about a college than staying in a dormitory and eating in a dining hall. If you have a choice, stay with sophomores. They know more than the current freshmen do about the school and they’re not yet as jaded as upperclassmen. If the admissions office won’t arrange a stay for you, try to make arrangements yourself if you know students at the school.
5. Learn More About Your Major: If you can do so through the admissions office, schedule meetings with a faculty member and a student in your probable major. You can use the meetings to ask questions about the curriculum and any special programs within the major.
6. View College Activities: For those students with sufficient time on campus, try to attend a campus event such as a student concert, stage performance, or sporting event to get a sense of the community.
7. Follow Your Interests: Seek permission to take your own tour of facilities that are of particular interest to you, such as concert halls, athletic facilities, science labs, art studios, and rehearsal spaces.
Also keep in mind if you visit a campus in summer when the weather is pleasant, it may be much different in winter. Consider whether the campus will appeal to you under winter conditions.
At Klaar College Consulting, we get to know you very well so that we can integrate your interests, talents, experiences, skills, preferences, and goals into your profile. This affects the advice we give you throughout your college admissions campaign, including your college road trips.