The Ultimate Guide To Campus Visits
It’s time to start thinking about what college is right for you. You’d like to visit some campuses but where do you begin? You’ve probably started to put together a list of colleges to consider but visiting every one could be expensive. Not to mention that you’re busy with school extracurricular activities and friends; you don’t have the time to spend every weekend traveling to a different campus! So what’s the best approach to ensure that you’re targeting the best schools to visit?
START YOUR RESEARCH
Start by looking at the website of each college or university you’re interested in to get an idea of what the campus looks like and if it’s in an urban small-town or rural setting.
Virtual tours on a college or university’s website can also be helpful. “Virtual tours are a positive thing because they help you narrow down the search,” says Joe Havis, the Director of Admissions at Millikin University (IL). Some schools also have student blogs that serve as a show-and-tell about daily life on campus.
As you explore the websites and virtual tours ask yourself some questions. “On what type of campus will I be happiest? Am I the sort of person who wants a big fraternity or sorority scene or would I prefer a more free-form social scene? Do I want to live in an urban setting or would I feel more at home in a cozier traditional environment?” Other factors you might consider include major offerings financial aid options sports programs and dorm culture.
ZERO IN ON A SHORT LIST
After visiting a number of websites and doing other research you should have a pretty good idea of what colleges you might be interested in based on factors like academics strength in your intended major cost and financial aid availability size location and student life.
“Students should make sure to [consider] different types of colleges [when doing] their list,” advises Katie Mattli, the Associate Director of Admission and Campus Visit Coordinator for Agnes Scott College (GA). Consider whether you want a large or small school and the type of campus setting (for example in a small college town versus an urban or suburban location). There are also faith-based and single-gender schools. Thinking through the various options when compiling your list will help you narrow down your target schools.
You have your list of top choices. Now it’s time for you to start making campus visits.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR VISIT
Set aside a full day to visit each campus. Call the admissions office in advance to schedule a tour and to ask what other programs they have for prospective students such as open houses. Make sure to go while school is still in session—either during the fall or spring semester—so that you can meet students and get a feel for the campus experience.
Every college has a different agenda for prospective-student visits but the day will more than likely start with a campus tour. Then you’ll probably get to meet with current students some of whom may be majoring in subjects you’re interested in. Some universities will even let you sit in on a class and talk with faculty members.
The tour will more than likely end with a meeting with an admissions counselor to which you should come well prepared. “Prospective students should be ready to talk about themselves,” says Jenny Peacock, the Director of Admissions at William Peace University (NC). “Take this time to show the counselor who you are as a student and as a person so that they know you are more than just a black and white piece of paper.”
After the official visit is over you should allow plenty of time to wander around the campus without an official guide. Try out one of the dining halls for example.
“Stepping away from the official program really allows a prospective student to get a feel for the vibrancy of a school,” says Carmen Pérez, Associate Director of Admissions at Georgia State University. “Ask a student who isn’t a paid tour guide questions and you’ll get genuine answers.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF A CAMPUS VISIT
With most institutions offering virtual tours and direct access to admissions counselors you might opt to save time and money by skipping a campus visit. However if you can swing it campus visits can be very worthwhile.
“A student that visits campus is seven or eight times more likely to enroll at our institution,” says Ben Hagan, the Assistant Director for recruitment services at Oklahoma State University. “We use it as an indicator of a student’s interest in our campus. Whether they get on an airplane from 3000 miles away or drive 30 miles from their hometown it is really important.”
And admissions officers do take note of those students who take the time to visit.
“Every college treats the tracking differently—but every time a student visits Agnes Scott we make a note in our file,” says Mattli. “Showing that you’re interested in the college by showing up on campus helps build a case for an application.”
Havis says a campus visit is worth the money—even from out-of-state families. “Having the nicest cafeterias and dorms only matters to a certain extent when you’re spending four years somewhere. The way you feel when you walk on campus counts for a lot more.”
Showing initiative gets the admissions team fighting for you. “If you tell me that when you visited campus you had that gut feeling that it was right for you I’m going to do whatever I can to help you out financially,” says Havis.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU CAN’T VISIT
Sometimes students really can’t get to a campus to visit due to distance cost or other factors. If that’s the case take the extra initiative to show the school your interest.
“Families shouldn’t put themselves in financial strain,” advises Sandra Hayes, the Dean of Admission at Santa Clara University. “If they can’t visit a school however they should make a point of trying to find alumni in their area who will meet with them.” The admissions office should be able to coordinate an alumni interview.
Many schools offer ways for students to connect with admission counselors virtually. “If they want more inter-action the admission counselors will set up Skype interviews,” says Mattli of their process at Agnes Scott.
Other options include virtual campus fairs on sites such as CollegeWeekLive (www.collegeweeklive.com) a vast online community that connects colleges with students parents and counselors.
Ultimately no matter how you gather the information as long as you put time and effort into learning about different colleges you are sure to choose the right one for you!
Brienne Walsh is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY.
8 THINGS TO DO TO GET A TRUE FEEL FOR A SCHOOL
1. Make a list of questions you can’t find answers to anywhere else. “A lot of prospective students ask things that are very obvious on our brochures and our websites,” says Sandra Hayes of Santa Clara University. “I think it’s a wasted opportunity. Seize the chance to ask questions specifically tailored to yourself.”
2. Talk to other students. If possible visit their dorm rooms.
3. By the time you get home from your college visit you might forget what the university was like. The next school you visit might seem equally as awesome. Take some photos and notes of moments or places you really loved. They’ll serve as a handy reference when you begin to make your final decision.
4. Meet with someone in the financial aid office. Keep in mind that the earlier in your junior year you start the more beneficial it will be to you in the long run. Financial aid officers at each school can provide you with information about scholarship deadlines and help you make a timeline. “You don’t want to miss out on the money,” advises Katie Mattli of Agnes Scott College.
5. Read the college newspaper.
6. Attend a sporting event a concert or any sort of cultural activity the university has on the schedule for the day.
7. Look at the bulletin boards around campus to see what sorts of activities and clubs are most active.
8. Research a professor in your field of interest before your visit then make an appointment to stop in during his or her office hours.