Making the Most of College Visits
Spring Break is an excellent time to visit college campuses - especially if the schools you’re touring are in session so you can see the campus in action. Here are some tips to get the most out of your day on campus.
Sign up for a Campus Tour
As a former campus tour guide, I may be a little biased, but I really think tours are the best way to see a campus. Tours are typically student-led and will give you a broad overview of the school. During the tour, you’ll learn about admissions and hear about the school’s traditions, culture and personality.
In addition to a broad campus tour, some schools offer supplemental smaller tours focusing on a specific department, facility or residence hall. These interest-specific tours are typically geared toward students interested in areas like Engineering, Arts, or Athletics.
Reservations for tours should be made in advance by visiting the college's admissions website. If the tours are full, ask if the campus offers Q&A sessions, has a visitor’s center where you can drop in, or provides a self-guided tour.
Talk with Students
In addition to talking with your campus tour guide, talk with other current students. Ask what the student loves about the school, what he/she’s studying, what activities he/she’s involved in. Inquire about a typical day on campus and a typical Friday night out.
Observe & Experience Student Life
Spend time people-watching in the main quad. What are the students like? How do they interact with each other? Do they seem like people you would be friends with?
Read the student newspaper - What issues matter to students?
Eat in one of the dining halls (if that’s an option).
Tour a dorm room to get a feel for where you’ll spend most of your time during your first year as a student. How big (or small) are the rooms? Do the residence halls have any unique features - like a rec room, a theater, a game room, etc.?
Step inside the rec center, library, and student store. Can you see yourself pulling an all-nighter in the library? Does the rec center offer the types of workout classes you like to attend?
Visiting a big school? Take note if students seem to be connecting with one another on campus. Often a really big school can actually have a smaller community than you think.
Think about the Setting
Exploring the community surrounding the campus completes the picture of what life is like at that university.
What is there to do on the weekends?
Where do students who choose to live off campus live?
Can you continue doing your favorite hobbies in this new place?
How’s the weather? If you visit a campus during the spring, ask students what the weather is like in the winter. If you love warm weather, attending a school that has a chilly winter season may not be the right fit.
Is there an industry nearby that’s related to your interests?
Ask about Support Services
If you are a student with a learning disability or ADHD, visit the Disability Support Services Office while touring each campus. Find out what types of support services they offer to meet your needs.
Visit the Admissions Office
Stop by the Admissions Office to meet and ask if you can speak with an admissions officer. Be prepared with a few questions to ask. Making this personal connection can go a long way toward demonstrating interest in the school while also giving you insight into the school’s admissions review.
Check the School’s Application Essay Questions Before You Go
Eventually, it will be time to apply to colleges, and many schools will ask you to write essays specifically about their campus like “Why School X?” or similar variations (“What encouraged you to apply to School X?” or “What about School X’s mission makes you a good fit for our program?” or “What will you add to the School X campus?”) Thinking about these questions while you’re touring the campus may make it easier to answer them in the future when you’re working on your applications. Make sure you add your thoughts to your post-visit notes.
Journal Your Thoughts
Reflecting on your campus visit is one of the most important things you can do. Take a moment after seeing each school to write down your thoughts and impressions. Don’t wait. Pretty soon, all the campuses you visit will blend together. Writing notes while the school is fresh in your mind will help you immensely down the road when it’s time to write supplemental essays about demonstrated interest and campus fit.
Say Thank You
After your visit, send a quick note to the tour guide, admissions officer, or other campus representative you met while touring. Mention specific details about why you think you’re a good fit for the campus. Keep it short and sweet, and if you’re writing to an admissions officer, keep it formal.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself! This is an exciting time in your life to be deciding what life after high school may look like for you.
College & Career Advisor
Suggested questions to ask of your Tour Guide & Admissions Officer:
Please review this link for suggested questions to make the most of your interaction with your tour guide or an admissions officer.