What should I be looking for during my campus visits?

Jeff RickeyJeff Rickey
Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
St. Lawrence University

The campus visit is the most important action you can take to determine whether a college is a good fit for you. You should spend four years there, so it is worth investing some shoe leather, rubber, or plastic in checking it out! But the campus visit is important for another reason: it allows you to determine the soul of an institution. Use some sole to find the soul!

Here are the things to look for and do during your campus visit:

What is posted on campus bulletin boards? Posters, messages, and announcements about upcoming events all give you an impression about the soul of the college. They inform you what people care about. What are the issues?

What events and speakers are planned? Events and campus guests are another lens through which to evaluate and judge the soul of the college.

Are answers to your questions consistent? You can determine a lot about whether a college has a certain culture if you receive consistent answers to your questions whether you are asking them of students, admission personnel, faculty, or administrators.

Are people asking questions of you? When you meet people during your visit, you can find out a lot by the questions they ask you. 

What are students doing or talking about when they are not in class? As you walk across the campus, get near students who are speaking to one another. What are they talking about? A campus issue? What just happened in class? That afternoon’s sporting event?

What student organizations exist and which have the largest involvement? Find out about the different student organizations and ask which ones have the greatest attendance or membership. Activities that capture students’ time and energy are a gauge for what’s important to them.

Answers to these questions will lead you to better understand the college you are visiting and allow you to evaluate the differences between schools that may seem alike at first. I hope this will encourage you to use some sole to find the soul!

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