Visiting College Campuses
In some cases, the student may already be familiar with the campus of their preferred college. Either their parents went there or perhaps an older sibling. But if not, campus visits are essential in helping the student make a final decision. The best time, of course, is to visit when school is in session, but that may be difficult based on the student’s own academic and extracurricular schedule. Many families choose to make college visits during the months of summer vacation. Here are some things to consider when making plans for campus visits:
- Schedule the visit. Don’t just plan to show up at the campus admissions office and expect someone to give you a tour. They may be able to help you out, but in many cases they’re already scheduled or if it’s the summer months their own staff may be on leave.
- If you can’t visit during the academic year, consider visiting during the school’s summer session so that you can see classes in action.
- You’ve got the dates, now schedule a place to stay and how you plan to get there, and get around once you’re there.
- Set up interviews with faculty and staff in the department(s) that cover the student’s planned areas of study.
- Have a plan about what you want to see? Have a music major? Try to sit in on a rehearsal or lesson. Athlete? Check out the gym and fields and consider trying to make a game or meet.
- Do your research. Check out the website and any available printed materials. Plan some questions to ask.
- If there’s one available, do a virtual tour ahead of time to become familiar with aspects of the campus.
- Confirm your plans before you travel.
While you’re there:
- Take pictures. Make notes. If you’re visiting several schools the information can tend to become a little fuzzy if you don’t record what impresses you at each place. Make your own score card to note “great professors” or “beautiful campus” or even “cafeteria food is not impressive.” All of this helps in making final decisions.
- Check out facilities including dorm rooms, classrooms, the cafeteria, the gym and athletic fields, and the library. It’s a good idea to get a good feel for student center or other areas where students hang out during downtime.
- Talk with current students. Students or staff who give the tour are working from a script and want to present the best image. Find students willing to share some time with you to give a fresh, and real, perspective.
After the visit:
- Make sure you come home with email addresses or other contact information for the people you met during the tour. You’ll need these if you think of additional questions to ask.
- Check out the city or town where the college is located. Does the college feel like it’s a part of the town or just located there?
- Be sure to send thank you notes or emails to the admissions office, the faculty and other staff who spoke with you as well as anyone else who helped with your tour.