Do you ever feel like these flamingos? Touring so many schools, absorbing so many facts? Campus Visits can be overwhelming, but fear not… this blog post covers the top 5 ways to make the most of your college visits.
- Dress appropriately
This might sound silly, but if you feel uncomfortable during your campus visit, you’ll be distracted while on tour. Look at the weather before your visit. Bring a rain jacket; know how long the walking tour is and wear shoes you can hike around in for that long; dress for the heat/cold. If you’ve paired your tour with an official interview, you need to be prepared to be in business attire for your interview. And even if you don’t have an official interview, most likely you’ll be meeting someone in the Admissions office…dress to impress.
- Arrive on time
Make sure you know how long it will take you to get to the campus and park. Plan for traffic and wrong turns. Campus tours generally run on strict schedules as there many working parts including professional staff, student staff, tour guides, and other campus personnel. Arriving late and leaving early takes away valuable time from important information and interactions—this could negatively impact your college search process. Let’s face it, traffic jams happen. If you know you’ll be arriving late:
- Remain calm. Arguing with your parents for the duration of the drive won’t set your visit off to a good start or get you there any faster.
- Communicate with the admissions office. This is so appreciated!
- Be flexible. Most likely, you’re going to miss some part of the visit. Most admissions offices will do their best to catch you up, but if you miss appointments (faculty meetings, class visits, etc.), don’t be surprised if they cannot be rescheduled.
- Ask Questions
This is not the time to be embarrassed or shy! This is likely the biggest decision you’ve ever made! This is the time to have a list of questions and ensure they are answered before you leave. Admission counselors hear all kinds of questions, so nothing is silly or trivial. Likewise, student tour guides do what they do because they love talking about their school and their experiences. Asking what it’s like to have a roommate, or use a hall bathroom, or how to join Greek life is not inconsequential, and your tour guide will have great advice. (Also, don’t be embarrassed when your parents ask questions. We’ve all been there. They love you, want the best for you, and they want to know a lot of details before they send their pride and joy out of the nest!)
This can be especially important if you are looking at schools that are fairly far away from home. It is important to build time into your trip to both explore the campus at your leisure, but also explore the surrounding area/town/city. Find a populated area on campus to people watch! What do students look like? What’s the vibe in the student center? People watching can give you a great sense of the energy on a college campus and help you decide if you see yourself being a part of that energy! Pro Tip: Be cognizant of the time of day you do this. You don’t want to assume students should be hanging around at 4pm, only to find out 4pm is a popular lab time.
Exploring the surrounding area is equally as important. This could be your home away from home for the next 4 years. Are there fun things for college-aged students to do? Are there internship and volunteer opportunities? Do the amenities exist that you like to have in your daily life? (I myself prioritize Starbucks and Target, but they might not be as important for you). If you are looking at a college campus that is close to home, you might ask to meet with a current student who is also from the area. Ask them if they find themselves going home often, how easy it is to make new friends, and how they relate to their hometown in new ways as a college student.
Planning ahead will ensure you are making the most of the campus visit. Are you are visiting during a time when the college students are on break? Could you plan to attend a class, eat lunch with a student, or perhaps even spend the night? Do you have specific questions that need addressed by an Admission or Financial Aid counselor? Would you like to talk to someone from your area of the country and ask how they adjusted to this campus? A college admission office is likely very happy to accommodate any of your desires to personalize your visit, but they are most likely to fulfil the requests if you give fair advance notice. (Fair advance notice is anywhere from 2-4 weeks from your visit date). Planning your trip well in advance allows you to maximize your visit options and really make the most of your experience.
Good luck….and get touring!
Laura Williams, Assistant Director of Admission & Campus Visit Manager