Tips on College Visits – What, How, When, Why

No college search is complete without college visits. You’ll get to know a college best by visiting it. Touring different campuses will also give you a chance to see if you prefer a small campus or a big one, a city school to a rural one, etc. Also, seeing the area around a college can make a big difference. Starting visits as early as sophomore year can make the process easier.

Getting the most from a college visit requires preparation.  Below is a checklist for parents and their students.

  1. Do research. Review a college’s website before you visit. Look at social media and see what places on or off campus get the most buzz. Get an overview of the school and decide what you want to see.  Knowing about the school also helps when speaking with a college representative. You want to ask questions, but not ones with answers that can easily be found on the website.
  1. Plan the visit. Call ahead to schedule a college tour. In addition, make an individual appointment with a college admissions counselor and/or a financial aid advisor.  Schedule time so you can eat on campus or nearby at a place college students frequent.  If possible, arrange to meet a professor, attend a class, and-or stay overnight on campus in a residence hall.
  1. Visit when school is in session (if possible). Colleges and high schools often have different break schedules. When the college classes are in session, you’ll get a better idea of academic and student life.
  1. Make a list of questions to ask admissions officers, financial aid reps, faculty, and students. Thinking through questions before you visit will make the college search easier. You’ll less likely leave wishing there were things you knew.
  1. Note “must see” places on campus and visit them. Student-athletes should visit the practice facilities and the weight room.  Art majors should visit the studios.  Everyone should visit the dorms, common campus areas, libraries, and places to eat.
  2. Make sure you’ll feel safe. Review campus security procedures. Some things to consider are a system for alerting students to emergencies on campus and in the surrounding area, “blue-light” telephones placed liberally throughout campus that are direct lines to campus police, well-lit pathways and facilities, campus police who patrol the campus regularly, and an official school security escort service with people who will accompany you at night or anytime you feel unsafe to places on-campus and even close to campus. Also ask your guide about the frequency of shuttle buses running at night, who has access to dorms, and overall campus safety questions.
  1. Pack the following items
    1. Your smartphone/camera. During your tour, take a lot of pictures. If you’re comparing several schools, photos can help you remember the details. While colleges may seem unforgettable at the time of your visit, by the third or fourth tour, they will blur together. Your first photo at any school should be something with the college’s name, especially if you’re visiting multiple schools on one trip.
    2. Your smartphone/recording device. Group information sessions provide many facts and details about a college. Recording what is said will make it easier to focus on the information and your surroundings rather than getting all the words on a page. The information will also be easier to review while working on your application or personal statement.
    3. A journal and pen. Make note of important pieces of information during your info session or campus tour. In addition to numbers and facts, jot down your likes, dislikes, and feelings during the visit so you can remember which schools felt right to you and why. Write down the names of speakers you liked, details about the school and programs you may want to research further.    In addition to helping you, details are good to drop in any future interviews or correspondence with the college.
    4. Comfortable clothing and shoes. A tour is the main feature of a campus tour. This means a lot of walking. Also, do a weather-check before your visit and bring anything you may need, like an umbrella or sunscreen.
    5. Copies of resumes, test scores, and transcripts. Rising juniors and seniors who have scheduled a campus interview should being their resume. Strongly consider also bringing your transcript or score report.  On some visits you won’t need these documents, but for the times you do, it’s good to have them.
    6. An ID card or passport. Many schools request identification in order to access certain buildings, such as the library.
    7. Appreciation for adventure. Maintain a positive attitude. Stay open-minded. A school may not meet your expectations or it may surprise you and exceed them. Enjoy the journey!

For more information on college visits, or for help with applying to colleges, contact International College Counselors at http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or 954 414-9986.