At some point in your high school career, you’re going to need to start visiting colleges. An increasing amount of universities are taking a student’s interest in the school into account during the admission process (aka “demonstrated interest”), meaning it’s beneficial to interact with a college and visit the campuses of your top choice schools if possible. Here are 11 tips for maximizing your college visit experience.
1. Sign up for an information session and tour at least a month in advance
These can fill up quickly, especially during spring break, so register early to make sure you get a spot. If they’re filled, try calling the admission office—they'll usually be able to fit you in.
2. Make sure you see a variety of schools
Even if you have your heart set on one type of campus, your mind may change. If there are a lot of schools in one area, check out as many as possible, even if you aren’t interested in those specific schools. It can also give you a sense of what different kinds of colleges look like. Try to see an urban, suburban, and rural campus, in addition to a small, medium, and large school.
3. Talk to your parents beforehand to find out what’s important to them
For all of the ideas and opinions you have, your parents have just as many (if not more), and they may not always coincide. Have a discussion before your visits to find out what they’re looking for and let them know what you want in a school. This may prevent you from being surprised by the questions they ask on your tour.
4. Find a class you want to visit
One of the best ways to see what a college is really like is to attend a class. Some schools will provide a list of classes that prospective students can sit in on, but if you're visiting one that doesn't, go into their course listings and find your own. Just make sure you email the professor at least two weeks before your visit to ask if it’s okay.
5. Pay attention to how the students interact with each other
At some schools the students are very social, while at others the students are quieter. Find out which type of environment you prefer. One of the most important things about visiting a school is deciding if you could see yourself as a student there.
6. Eat on campus
You’ll be eating on this campus for four years, so make sure you like the food! Ask some of the students for recommendations, or just explore to see if anything looks interesting. It’s also a good idea to check out the dining hall(s).
7. Look at the dorms
This is where you’ll be living, so make sure they’re comfortable. Look at the size of the room, the amount of storage you’ll have, and the way the furniture is layed out. Also think about what type of dorm you’d like. How many roommates do you want? Can you live with a communal bathroom or do you need a private? Do you want a co-ed or single-gendered floor? Also find out if the rooms have heating and air conditioning, if you can have a fridge or microwave in your room, and if you can arrange your beds to be loft style
8. Schedule meetings that are specific to your interests
If there is a certain program, team, religious organization, or club you know you want to be a part of, set up an appointment with the person who runs it. This will help you learn more about the activity and ensure that you are on their radar.
9. Check out where students spend their time outside of class
College isn’t just about academics. Make sure you visit the student union, study spaces, and the local area. It’s also a good idea to find out how students get to movie theaters, shopping centers, and sporting events, and how accessible research, job, and internship opportunities are.
10. Don’t feel obligated to get a shirt from every school
Apparel from the bookstore can get expensive, so save your money for tuition and get another souvenir. Collect pens, keychains, or frisbees, and save the clothing for the school you ultimately choose.
11. Keep notes on everything
After every campus tour, class, and appointment, write down a few thoughts on your experience. This will be helpful when you’re comparing schools and will stop them from blending all together later.
Find tons of additional tips in our Campus Visits section.