The Ultimate Guide To Campus Visits – A Look Inside
You probably have already started thinking about what college is right for you. You’d like to do some campus visits, but where do you begin? You may have 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 are helpful. “More and more students and parents look for virtual options to explore universities they may not have the time or means to physically visit,” explains Olivia Rice associate director for communications at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Texas (SAGU). Every year colleges and universities improve and develop these options which include state-of-the-art components like an online virtual tour a live stream of sporting events and admissions webinars.
In the age of social media you can learn a lot from searching for the college on apps like Instagram or sites like Facebook Twitter and Pinterest. “Most college students will put their university’s name in the hashtag,” says Maura Flaschner the associate director for undergraduate recruitment at Iowa State University. “For students that really want to do some digging there’s a lot more public … [information] than there was five years ago.”
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 on a smaller more intimate campus? Other factors you might consider include academic 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 athletics and student life. 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 possibly an interview and to ask what other programs they have for prospective students. Go while school is still in session—either during the fall or spring term—so that you can meet students and get a feel for the campus experience.
Every college has a different agenda for prospective students but the day will more than likely start with a campus tour. Then you’ll probably get to meet with current students perhaps some majoring in the subjects you’re interested in.
Certain universities are even tailoring their campus visits so that they are more like concierge experiences. “We are in the process of developing a program where our tour guides address every prospective student’s individual academic interests” explains Deborah Bandy director of admissions operations for undergraduate admissions at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (FL). “If a student is interested in engineering then we’ll take them to the … [facilities] and classrooms they’ll actually be exposed to as a student.”
Some tours may end with an interview with an admissions counselor to which you should come well prepared. “Be sure to give the office of admission a heads-up about your visit in advance so that you can schedule some time with an admissions counselor and make a great personal impression” recommends Tim Patterson the director of admission at Sterling College (VT).
After the official visit is over allow plenty of time to wander around the campus without an official guide. Stopping a student who isn’t a paid tour guide and asking him or her questions is a great way to get genuine answers about the college.
Patterson recommends spending as much time as possible on campus: “Sit in on a class eat a meal in the dining hall and stay overnight with a student if possible.”
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. In a recent study of My College Guide readers 38 percent of the students considered the campus visit a “most important” factor in selecting a college.
“Our research has shown that students who visit our campus matriculate at a much higher rater than those who don’t,” Bandy says.
And admissions officers do take note of those students who take the time to visit.
“While it does not directly affect the admissions decision campus visits can have an impact on certain scholarship decisions especially those which are awarded based on character,” says Rice of SAGU.
Universities also understand that the cost of visiting can be debilitating for families already financially strapped which is why many of them either provide aid on a case-by-case basis or refund students with a stipend after they have matriculated at the university.
“Many colleges have programs to help students afford a campus visit,” says Patterson. “At Sterling College for example we reimburse students for up to $500 in travel expenses if they enroll after visiting. Other colleges will even fly students [in] all expenses paid if the students meet certain qualifications. Be sure to ask the admissions office what your options are and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.”
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.
“Try to arrange a phone conversation or make a point of seeking out an admissions rep when they visit your area,” suggests Patterson.
Another option is to contact the admissions office to request that it arranges an interview with alumni in your area or a Skype interview with an admissions counselor at the institution.
Other options include virtual campus fairs on sites such as College-WeekLive (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!
Benjamin Curtis is a writer in New York.
8 THINGS TO DO
TO GET A TRUE FEEL FOR THE SCHOOL WHILE YOU’RE THERE
- Make a list of questions you can’t find answers to anywhere else. Don’t ask the questions that are obvious on brochures and websites—seize the opportunity to ask questions specifically tailored to yourself.
- Talk to other students. If possible visit their dorm rooms.
- 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. Or follow students or faculty members you’ve met on social media to stay updated about events going on at the school.
- 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.
- Read the college newspaper.
- Attend a sporting event a concert or any sort of cultural activity the university has on the schedule for the day.
- Look at the bulletin boards around campus to see what sorts of activities and clubs are active.
- Research a professor in your field of interest before your visit then make an appointment to stop in during his or her office hours. Contact the admissions office for help arranging a meeting with a professor during your visit.