Last week, I mentioned that the summer is the perfect time to set up college campus visits. It’s a good idea to schedule your trips to a wide variety of campuses — large and small, urban and suburban, private liberal arts colleges and public research institutions. The more places you visit, the better you will be able to assess what you really want in a college or university.
As you plan your college visit schedule, you may not be sure what to expect. Here are five tips for making the most out of your college visits.
1. Take the Guided Tour
When you call the Admissions Office to set up your campus visit, be sure to schedule a guided tour of the campus. Typically, these tours are led by an undergraduate volunteer, who takes groups of students and parents through the main parts of the campus. You will see the major buildings, including the library, campus center and academic buildings, visit a dorm room and maybe even pop in a dining hall. All the while, you will be hearing about campus life, academic requirements, and university history.
2. Meet with the Office of Financial Aid
If you plan to apply for financial aid, it’s a good idea to schedule a meeting with a financial aid counselor. Be sure to ask about financial aid application deadlines and any special scholarship opportunities you might be eligible for. It’s also just a good idea to have a name and number of someone in the financial aid with whom you can speak about any questions or problems that come up in the future.
3. Sit In on a Class
Whether you know what you want to major in or not, it’s probably a good idea to sit in on a freshman class — especially if you can choose one you might want to take yourself. Are classes taught by professors or by graduate students? Does that matter to you? How many students are in the class? If it’s a large lecture hall, does the instructor engage the students despite the class size? Yes, this is only one class from one teacher, but the experience might be helpful to you in gauging whether or not the teaching dynamic is a good fit.
4. Spend the Night
If you are planning to live on campus, you might want to schedule an overnight visit for the top two or three colleges on your list. (It might be worthwhile to wait until you have received your acceptance letters and then schedule your overnight.) Staying in the residence halls will not only show you what dorm living is like, it will also teach you a lot about campus life in general. Be sure to ask your hosts questions about the pros and cons of living on campus vs. off campus, the differences between coed vs. single gender dormitories, etc.
5. Eat a meal
Visit a dining hall or the campus center, and share a meal with a college student. Again, you will not only see what the food is like on campus (which may, or may not, be an important factor for you), but you will also get a sense of how students interact with each other. Be sure to take the opportunity to ask your host about life on campus beyond the meal plan: What do they think of the classes? Do they like their professors — and what do they like about them? Are they glad they chose this school and why?
What tips do you have for making the most of your campus visits? Share your thoughts in the comments section!