Visiting College Campuses
Probably the best way to both figure out what you’re looking for in a college AND decide if a particular one is right for you, is to spend time on that campus. Official campus tours, attending activities (including sporting events) there, summer camps, spending the night with friends at college, going to Open House programs, and even just wandering around on a college campus, are all great ways of learning about a school and what it would be like to be a student there. Each is valuable in its own way, to help you make your college decision.
You’ve checked out their web sites, read the e-mails and brochures they’ve sent you, seen the TV commercials during their basketball games, and maybe checked out their podcasts. You think you might be interested, and want to go for a visit. But what should you do while you’re there?
Ideally, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the school(s) you’re considering more than once, but if that isn’t possible, you’ll need to accomplish a lot on one visit. You need to look at the surroundings (living areas, classrooms and study areas, recreation facilities, the campus overall, what’s near and around the campus, etc.), the people (other students, faculty, advisors, the people you’ll live and study with, how you are treated, etc.), and the academic situation (they either offer your major (and it’s good), or they offer lots of majors to choose from). Based on those factors, plus about a million others that are different for each person, you’ll get a feeling when you’ve found the right place (It’s pretty tough to describe, but you’ll know it when you get it).
If possible, go back several times to visit, and accomplish different things on each visit. Your first visit should be light and fun – a sporting or arts event, an open house, maybe the standard campus tour. Your second visit should be a fact-finding mission – meet with faculty, advisors, financial aid folks, students, sit in on a class, tour labs or other facilities, stay overnight, talk scholarships, etc. If you need another visit, it’s probably because you want to make sure of what you already think you know about the school, or are trying to compare two or more schools. This visit may be “under the radar”, as you may not visit with any school officials. Often you’ll be answering questions like “It was summer when I was here last. I wonder what it’s like during school?”, or “Is this school THAT much better than that school, that it justifies paying out of state tuition?”
Only visit one campus a day (unless it’s unavoidable). You won’t really see what the school has to offer if you rush. Oh, and plan to visit your parents’ alma mater – and give it real consideration.
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