In my last installment, I talked about choosing the standardized test that’s right for you and when to take it. Once you have you’ve reached your desired test score (or are on your way to achieving it), it’s time to venture on the best way to gauge which colleges are right for you: the campus visit!
For some students, campus visits are a fairly simple process: they are looking primarily at local schools or a school they know well, maybe one their friends or siblings attend. However, we all don’t have that luxury. Personally, I made my first round of college visits the summer between my junior and senior years. This worked best for me because I didn’t have to worry about missing class. However, I made sure to go back to my top choices during the school year to get a feel for what the campuses were like when there were more students around.
Before your college visit, be sure to make lists of questions and of things you would like to see, such as dorm rooms, the dining hall, or where students commonly go to hang out. (Note: If you visit during the school year, you may not be able to see dorm rooms because the rooms used for show rooms during the summer may be filled, but it never hurts to ask!) In addition to the usual tour, which may be private or with a larger group of people, colleges often give you the opportunity to talk with admission counselors and representatives from the financial aid office or other departments, so make sure you have any questions you need answered written down. Also, if you have the time or desire, ask beforehand about shadowing a class in your prospective major or eating in the dining hall, both of which can help give you a better idea of what being a student at the school would be like.
Related: 10 Things to Do on a Campus Visit
Another type of college visit is a more open-house style visit. These are generally days where large numbers of high school students come, and there are often sessions in which you can talk to representatives from different clubs and organizations, as well as those from housing, financial aid, admission, etc. You should also try to talk to current students at these sorts of events, as they can give you an even better idea of what a typical student’s day-to-day life is like. Regardless of which type of event you attend, being able to talk to current students is invaluable, as they can tell you things that admission counselors can’t, and they may shed a more practical light on things if you ask. (Not to say that the information you get from the school won’t be helpful, but occasionally you might have questions about students life that are best answered by, well, students!)
If you have friends or older siblings who are already in college or recently graduated, be sure to ask for their help. Even if they don’t go to a school that you are interested in or don’t share your major, they can be helpful in explaining how to transition from high school to college, both academically and socially, or in sharing advice on how they chose a major, got involved, etc.
In my next article, I’ll discuss how to tackle admission essays and more!