Planning Your College Visit: Tips for Before, During, and After Your Trip
Visiting a college is the best way to find out if it’s the right fit for you. If you’ve always imagined yourself going to a large school in an urban setting, or a small school in a rural setting, taking the time to visit will solidify your decision.
Here’s what you need to know about college visits:
Before the Campus Visit
Schedule a tour. Going on a tour through the admissions office will give you a great overview of the college. Don’t worry, if tours aren’t available on the day you’re planning to visit, you can always do a self-guided tour using the maps around campus.
Schedule an appointment with an admissions officer. Contact the admissions office and check if any admissions officers are available to meet with you. If you’ve already been in contact with an admissions officer, reach out to them directly and see if they’d be willing and available to connect while you are visiting.
Schedule an appointment with a professor. Email a professor you’re interested in and see if they’d be willing to talk for 15 minutes. The more people you talk to, the better you’ll understand and get to know the campus culture.
What to bring
Notebook & pen. You might be tempted to write your questions and notes down in your phone’s note app. But having a hard copy of your notes will keep you more present. (How many times have you opened your phone and checked all your new texts instead of heading straight to the Notes app where you intended to go?)
A list of questions. As you’re researching the school beforehand, list any questions that come up in your notebook. You’ll see a list of suggested questions for students and admissions officers below.
Comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking around a lot, so be sure to wear sneakers or other comfortable shoes that will get you through the day.
Umbrella/Jacket if necessary. Dress for the weather. You don’t want to be the only one in a t-shirt when the weather calls for rain and wind.
What not to bring
College gear from another school. Keep college gear from other schools at home. Rather than giving an impression that you’re more interested in another school, you want to bring your best self to the campus visit and represent yourself as someone who is interested in this school (remember, some colleges keep note of demonstrated interest so don’t let your Yale sweatshirt hinder that).
Tip: take a few photos on your phone to remember what the school looks like later on. But don’t go overboard, you want to be as present for the tour as you possibly can.
Places to Visit on Campus
Be sure to visit the places you’d be spending the most time. Check out the student union, bookstore, library, and academic buildings. Try to eat at the dining hall before or after the tour. (Some campus tours might include a dining ticket - check beforehand!).
In addition, make sure to visit the buildings where your classes for your major will be held.
Questions to ask current students:
How did you decide you wanted to attend this school?
What’s your favorite part about living on campus?
What do students usually do for fun?
How would you describe the professors?
What’s one thing you would change about the school? Or, what’s one thing you wish you knew before you moved on campus?
Questions for admissions officers, professors, or administrators
What are the deadlines I need to be aware of?
How would you describe the student body? What characterizes them?
What is the retention rate?
What are some of the most popular activities and clubs on campus?
For more question ideas, take a look at this Pocket Guide by the National Survey of Student Engagement. If you’re trying to figure out how to narrow down your college visit list, check out this post to get started.