High school students preparing to attend college can narrow their selections to a manageable two or three institutions by visiting each campus. A college campus visit can reveal much about a particular school, allowing you to absorb information to help you make an informed decision. You learned a lot about the colleges that interested you online, but a campus visit can reveal if you want to spend your next four years at that school.
1. Plan your visits.
The best time to make your college campus visit is when classes are in session, especially during the traditional academic year running from fall through spring. It is during these months that you can gauge the college’s atmosphere and get a sense for how the school operates when you are a student. You can sit in on classes, talk with students and professors, and visit buildings that are actively being used.
If you absolutely cannot visit a college during its busiest months, a summer visit will do. For many families, summer is the lone option as parents can only arrange trips when they are not working. Try to visit the college when summer classes are being held. The atmosphere is more relaxed, but you should still be able to sit in on classes and meet with professors. You may find a summer visit to be more relaxing, enabling you to take in things gradually without feeling rushed.
2. Walk the campus.
Try to arrange for a formal campus tour, if available. Not all colleges and universities provide guided tours, but if one is available then avail yourself of this opportunity. Your tour guide will take you around campus, showing you classrooms, buildings, dorms and much more. Your guide can answer your questions and show you places you might miss if you made the tour on your own.
If no campus tour is available, head to the college’s Admissions Office and ask for a campus visit guide. You may need to register to gain passes that will give you access to most buildings. If a tour route is not offered, ask the admissions representative for a suggested route. Make sure that you and your parents are wearing comfortable footwear — you will be walking extensively and climbing stairs.
3. Check out the facilities.
Attempt to gain access to as many buildings as you can. Visit the college library, go to the student dining area, observe recreational facilities, find each classroom building and visit a dorm.
If possible, gain access to a dorm that typically houses freshmen students. Ask the resident advisor to show you a room. Take note of the layout of each room and how students set up their sleeping and living areas. Ask to see the bathroom facilities and the common area. Observe the location of emergency exits.
4. Meet with students.
You may not know a single soul on campus, but if you see students hanging around, you can ask to speak to them about their school and campus life. Your questions can give you the answers that you are seeking.
Introduce yourself, get their names and find out a few things about them including whether they are a freshman, a sophomore, a junior or a senior. Also ask about their major, the classes that they take, and find out if they are satisfied with the school. Most students have nothing to hide and can reveal much about a college.
5. Meet with faculty including professors.
If you know your college major, make a point to visit the building where you will take your core major classes. While there, attempt to speak to one or more professors that will instruct you.
If a professor is available, he or she may offer you a list of required classes for your major. If not, you may be able to meet with an admissions counselor. Use this time to find out more about the college and to have your remaining questions answered.
6. Check out the surrounding town.
The college campus may be great, but it may be located in the middle of a busy metropolitan area. You won’t be on campus at all times, therefore check out the surrounding community to see if it is a place you’ll want to spend some time.
Take note of the people that live there and find out where stores, restaurants, culture amenities, recreational facilities and other places of interest can be found. If you feel safe off campus, then this is a positive aspect to keep in mind. If there are security problems off campus, then you must realistically consider how this might affect you. If you plan to live off campus, then local life is of greater importantance to you.
Once you have completed each of your campus visits, you can then decide where to apply to college. Come up with your own criteria to determine whether a college is right for you. Ask your parents for their opinions too, especially if you went together to make your campus visits. With some colleges ruled out, you are now able to focus on a few schools and prepare for the next step — writing your college essay and submitting it with your college application.
University of New Hampshire: Visit Campus — http://admissions.unh.edu/visit-campus/
Petersons: Do You Have a Campus Tour Plan? — http://www.petersons.com/college-search/campus-tour-plan.aspx