A campus visit is the best way to evaluate whether a college suits you.
1. Learn about the college before you visit.
Read materials from the college and check out their website. If you are visiting more than one on a particular day, refresh your memory about that school just before you arrive. Be sure to spend at least a half day at each college.
2. Evaluate the environment of the campus.
Is the campus too big or too small for you? Do you like the nearby town or do you feel isolated? Consider how you would get around campus—particularly in the rain or snow.
3. Visit the admissions office and participate in the information session.
Ask questions that help you clarify the academic program at the school and the type of student who is most comfortable and successful there. You may choose to have a formal interview with an admissions staff member. Bring a resume of your grades and activities. Dress nicely, but not out of character.
4. Take the student-led tour of campus.
Take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions about campus life from a peer. Recognize, however, that tour guides are not necessarily typical of all students since they are often paid to formally represent the school.
5. Check out the dorms.
Find out about the dorm options available, such as all-freshman or coed floors. Arrange in advance to spend the night in a dorm, if possible. Picture yourself living in a dorm. Are you comfortable with where it is located on campus, such as the proximity to classes or the student center?
6. Arrange for campus meetings with department heads in the subject that interests you most.
Also meet with coaches in sports where you excel, as well as former graduates from your high school. Bring a resume that highlights your experience in your area of expertise. Ask about opportunities based on your skills and interests. Write down the names of any officials you meet with and send personal thank-you notes when you return home.
7. Sit in on classes and check out the library.
How is the rapport between students and faculty in the classroom? Look through the books and explore the technology available at the library. Look for quiet places to study.
8. Look into life beyond academics.
Check out the athletic facilities, theater, and student center. Read the notices posted in the dorms or on bulletin boards. Can you see yourself joining in?
9. Eat lunch in the student center and watch student interactions.
Talk with students all over campus about their impressions of the school. Look at the students themselves. Do you feel comfortable among them?
10. Write down your impressions of each college you visit.
After a while, the visions of different schools start to blur if you don’t immediately stop to record your thoughts! Keep a list of pros and cons for comparison. Also consider taking some photos to help you keep track of the campuses you visit.
11. It’s not always possible to visit every campus to which you are applying.
There are online alternatives to visiting a campus in person. Most college websites have links to virtual campus tours. A number of online providers also offer virtual tours and often allow users to sort universities by location, size, or selectivity. Some of these are Campus Reel, You Visit, Campus Tours and Amazon’s The College Tour. Google Earth is another way of investigating the area surrounding campus and estimating distances to airports and train stations.
12. Combine your virtual tours with reading university social media accounts.
Notes you take from campus visits, virtual tours, and your online research will be helpful to you in writing the many essays where universities ask why you are a good fit for their campus.
An IECA member educational consultant is a skilled professional who provides guidance to help students and families with the entire process of finding a college that is a good personal match: one that will foster the student’s academic and social growth. Independent educational consultants can provide a student and family with individual attention, firsthand knowledge of hundreds of colleges, and the time to explore all of the options.