Four College Visit Must Dos

By Elizabeth LaScala, PhD

There is no better way to find out if a college is a good match for you than by scheduling a campus visit. Today’s busy families make sacrifices in time and money to tour campuses, so make yours count.

First, work closely with the admissions office. The student should register for the visit using his or her dedicated college email account, one used only for college admissions purposes. Registering allows the college to record your interest and to properly schedule your visit. If you have questions in advance, contact the admissions officer assigned to work with students from your area. Most admissions officers will take the time to answer your questions and help you to make appointments to meet with students who share your interests, speak with faculty in your intended major or meet with a counselor in the career development center. Many keep detailed records of each visiting student’s interests. These records might
make a difference in an admissions decision.

After the campus tour, tour some more. Walk around and find out where students go to socialize and take breaks from classes. You will want to try a meal in the dining hall, find out where students go for medical care, notice campus safety and how students get around campus. It’s easy to walk around a smaller school, but students take shuttles to get around many larger, more spread-out universities.

Next, check out the extended campus community. There are many differences between a school in a large city versus one in a smaller “college town” including variations in cultural life, school spirit and food and entertainment options. Be sure to notice how easy or hard it is to get into the community surrounding campus. Can you walk right into town? Or do you need to rely on public transportation or a car to get around? As you venture on your own, stop and talk to students. Ask them their likes and dislikes about their school. Was it easy/hard for them to get into the major that they wanted? To transfer to a different major? To see a professor for help on a paper or exam?

Finally, it is hard to remember everything about a college when you visit a couple a day for a week on spring break! So be sure to document your visit by taking photos and making detailed notes.

College admissions offices try to make the campus visit experience as pleasant as possible. But it’s up to you to make it a truly informative and memorable experience – one when you gather the information you need to place a school on your final application list and write strong essays. The time to visit is worth the investment, given the investment that you will make in higher education.