You wouldn’t buy a house without walking through every room or purchase a car without at least one test-drive. The same applies to selecting a college. You can research online until your heart is content, but there is something to be said for an in-person tour. Below are some tips on how you can make the most of college campus visits.
- Start locally.
Even if you are unsure of your major, the type of school you might like to attend, or any other deciding factors, setting foot on a college campus can tell you a lot about what you like and don’t like. Choose a few colleges that are close to your home and plan a visit with family or friends. This can give you a first-impression feel for campus life and help you get your feet wet before you venture out of town, or even out of state.
- Schedule a tour.
It’s a good idea to contact the admissions office of colleges that peak your interest after you have researched them online. Make an appointment for a guided tour of each campus. Often, student tour guides are a wealth of insider information, and you can ask them candid questions about life at the college of their choice.
- Ask the same questions on every campus.
If you have a list of criteria that is important to you for an optimal college experience, make sure you have this list with you so you can ask the same questions on every tour. That way, all other factors being equal, you can compare answers and really get a feel for the atmosphere, academics and other important determining considerations.
- Wander around after the formal tour.
Of course, a formal, guided tour of a campus means the faculty, staff and students are putting their best foot forward. Once the tour is over, wander around the campus on your own. You may even be able to sit in on a class or check out the dining hall. Talk to other students and see what they have to say about the school as well. Ask questions like:
What do you like best about going to school here?
What do you like least?
Why did you decide to attend this particular college?
- Take notes.
On each campus tour and visit, take notes. What is it that impressed you? What types of things didn’t you like? Are the facilities up-to-date or in need of a makeover? Notes will help you recall what you liked about each college so you can compare them later or discuss with your family.
- Talk to professors.
Even if you have yet to determine your major field of study, try to speak with professors and other faculty members who teach classes in subjects that interest you. This first-hand experience can give you an idea of what to expect if you choose to study that particular subject.
- Stay overnight on campus.
Many colleges offer a buddy program in which you can stay in a dorm with a current student. Or, if you have a friend in college, spend a night or a weekend on campus so you can experience life outside the classroom. That is often just as important as academics, because you want to be happy attending school and living away from home.
Sometimes, when making a major decision like where to attend college for the next four years, it all boils down to the intangibles. You just know whether or not it is a good fit for you as an individual. When a college meets all your other requirements, trust your inner voice to guide you to a great experience.