So where do you start? With thousands of colleges in the U.S. alone, deciding which schools are worth the visit is a daunting task. The job grows even more overwhelming when you take travel costs, time, and distance into consideration…but don’t panic! Follow these steps to have a successful season of college visits.
If you have a long list of colleges and universities to visit, it pays to plan ahead and be as efficient as possible with your time. If you are planning to tour multiple schools in the span of a few days, make sure you consider the travel time between each of the schools. And reserve your spots on informational sessions and tours as some schools have limited space for any particular date. Once you have your and campus tours scheduled, make a game plan for the remaining time. Swing by an athletics event, check out the student center, or eat lunch in the cafeteria.
The best way to tour campuses is to begin early. If possible, start in your junior year in high school. Take weekend trips to nearby universities and colleges, or take time on family vacations or road trips to stop and visit nearby schools instead of paying for a separate trip later on. You never know when you’ll find one that sparks an interest. Make sure you sign in at any school you visit as some colleges look for demonstrated interest on the part of the student as part of their admission evaluation.
When visiting campus, make sure you ask your tour guide, university faculty, and any current students questions. Ask about classroom smart boards, campus WI-FI and computer compatibility. Take a couple of pictures to help you remember the campus later on. When talking to the tour guide, ask questions about the following:
- Your Intended Field of Study
- Graduation Rates
- Academic Support
- Health Services
- Campus Life
- Financial Aid
- Study Abroad Opportunities
- Campus Safety
Most importantly, make an effort to talk to current students other than the tour guide. Ask questions about what student life, academic support, and housing is like on campus and get their opinion. Ask what they study, what clubs they’re in, or if they hold any jobs on campus. Details like these can give you an honest look at what daily life is like for a student at that university or college.
Try to make the most of the time you have on campus. Eat in the dining hall to see what the food is like, walk through the academic buildings and student center, check out the library and visit the student life office to see a list of the university’s clubs. Stroll through the town or area of the city where the college is located. For gaining an insider-understanding of life on campus and the surrounding community, a good takeaway is a copy of the student newspaper.
After touring a few campuses, they all seem to blur together, so make sure you take notes and absorb everything you can. After each visit students and their parents should discuss their impressions. Each may have noticed things the other missed. There are numerous college tour checklists available but a good one is CollegeBoard's Campus Visit Scorecard which you can download and take a copy with you for each college you visit.
If you or someone you know is planning college visits, contact College Docs. We provide consulting for all steps of the college application and admissions process, and can help your student create a list of best-fit colleges. Call us today at 203-330-1852.