Written by: Lisa Phelps for Student Choice
Congrats, you’re in your final semester of high school and eagerly waiting for the end of the year so you can head off to college. But don’t forget one important step – the college visit. Now is the perfect time to start planning your college visits. Whether you’re waiting to hear back from all the colleges you’ve applied to or you’ve already been accepted, don’t skip this important step.
Visiting your top college picks is key to the decision-making process and figuring out which school is right for you.
Why is a college visit so important?
If you’ve never actually visited a college campus, your idea of what it’s like might come from movies, a glossy brochure or staged pictures on the school’s website. An in-person visit is essential so you can determine if you and the school “click.” You might be surprised by the affect a college visit can have on your decision. In fact, you may start to consider a school that wasn’t necessarily high up your list after visiting it and realizing what it has to offer. A college visit can be eye-opening and it gives you a chance to get to know the environment where you’ll spend the next four (or so) years of your life!
When is the best time to visit campus?
Some students do their college visits before they even apply, but if you’re tight on time, it’s ok to wait until you’ve been accepted and received your financial aid information, narrowing the list of schools you need to visit. If you can, plan to visit a couple of different schools so you can compare them. Since the size of the school can really affect its atmosphere, try to visit both a large and small campus so you can experience the difference. If you’re only going to be able to visit the college once, I recommend visiting when you can walk around campus (when it’s not covered in too much snow) and interact with the students. If you’re planning to start school in the fall, you should plan your visits for early spring to give you enough time to decide.
What kind of visit is the best?
Your best option is to schedule an overnight visit. The school will pair you with a student who’s currently enrolled, and you’ll stay in the dorm, eat in the dining hall, and have the opportunity to spend time with other students and ask lots of questions. You’ll get a great feel for the campus and the kind of students who attend. You’ll also get the chance to sit in on a few classes, which will give you a good idea of how the professors and students interact. Not to mention, it’s a good experience to be “on your own” for a day or two to see how you may adjust to your new home.
While you’re on campus, be sure to ask about the following:
- Social activities, intramural sports and clubs on campus
- do they fit with your expectations?
- Sororities and fraternities
- How large a role (if any) do they play on campus?
- What percentage of the school is Greek?
- What is the housing like if you decide to join?
- How diverse is the student body?
- Are most students from in-state?
- Do students stay on-campus on the weekends or go home?
- What’s the surrounding area like?
- Public transportation?
- On and off-campus job opportunities?
- Are they plentiful?
- What’s the academic atmosphere like?
- Lots of pressure?
- Very competitive?
- How is the faculty engagement for your program of study?
Visiting your college choices will pay off in the end
Taking the time for a college visit is the smart thing to do before committing time, energy and money to a college. Think of it like dating – you want to feel that “special something” with the college you’ll be attending. With some hard work and planning, you’re sure to find your ideal school that will make your college life that much more enjoyable and rewarding!