Happy group of tourists traveling with map, sightseeing in city, eating pizza

5 Important Things to Explore Off Campus During a College Visit

You want to see dorms, classrooms, and facilities on a campus tour, but what should you look for off campus? Here are some important areas to investigate!

Most college visits are primarily about what’s on campus: the classrooms, dormitories, student centers, and numerous other facilities the school might offer. It can be easy to travel, do a campus tour, and just go home without exploring anything off campus. But what you find outside the basic tour is often what sets certain schools apart. When you commit to a college, you aren’t just committing to their academics or activities but to their town or city as well. If you’re going to be living there while you’re at college, you should find a place you’ll love to live. But how do you know if you’re going to enjoy a place before moving there? By exploring more than just the school’s campus during your visit! There’s plenty to look for, and you can decide what you want to see depending on your priorities, but here are five important areas to get you started.

1. Food and health care

While an official campus tour will probably cover your dining options, you might find yourself wanting a specific type of food you can’t find on campus, some snacks in your dorm room for those long study sessions, or a fun spot to go with friends. That’s why it’s good to know what grocery stores and restaurants are near the school. Some exploring can give you an idea of where they are, what kind of food they stock, and what their prices are like. And like how there might be things your dining hall doesn’t have, there may also be services your campus health center can’t provide. If you need a specific treatment plan or doctor, you’ll want to know where the nearest medical facilities are. Is there a pharmacy near you in case you need to fill any prescriptions? Walking around the area off campus can help you figure out where these things are in proximity to you and your college should you ever need them.

Related: The Best College Restaurants Across the Country: Part 1

2. Community and culture

Something as simple as walking around your school’s neighborhood can also indicate what the community is like. Is the college located in a rural, suburban, or urban area? Is the nearby neighborhood made up of homes or businesses? If people do live there, what do they think of the college? You can learn a lot about life on campus based on how the community and the college interact. And while there will probably be plenty of activities and events on campus, it’s also worth checking out what the city has to offer. Depending on your hobbies and interests, you can look for different things: If you enjoy outdoor activities, see if there are any parks near you. If you’re more interested in indoor activities, look for libraries or museums. This can give you an idea of what your life outside of class will look like.

3. Transportation

When you find interesting things to do in the city, you’ll have to find a way to get there. That’s why it’s important to look at your transportation options. Is there public transportation near your campus? If so, is it safe? How much does it cost? If you don’t want to use public transportation, you’ll need another option. While walking around the neighborhood, see if the area is pedestrian or bike friendly. Are there things within walking or biking distance? If you’re thinking of having a car on campus, are there enough parking spots at your school? How much does it cost to keep a car there? While often not included in the cost of your school’s tuition, housing, or other fees, transportation costs can greatly impact how affordable a certain school is. If it’s far away from your home, are you going to be driving or flying there? How much will that cost? And what about school breaks—will you stay on campus or travel back home? These expenses can add up, making transportation necessary for determining both your quality of life and the overall cost of your college choice.

Related: List: Colleges and Universities With the Best Transportation Systems

4. Employment opportunities and off-campus housing

While some students can participate in work-study to help cover their college costs, many can’t. That’s why you should also look at employment options near your college while you’re in school and after you graduate. If you choose to work off campus, are there jobs that you can get to easily? It’s a good idea to check what the cost of living in the area is to make sure your income can help cover your school fees or housing costs. Additionally, looking at off-campus housing while visiting the area can help you figure out if that’s an option for you, even if you’re planning to live on campus for the first year or so. Are there enough housing options near your school? How much do they cost? The degree you’re pursuing will ideally help you land a job after you graduate, which will help with these costs. But this is much easier to do in an area with plenty of job opportunities in your desired field. If you’re planning to stay in the same city post-graduation, you should also check what companies, jobs, and internships are available to you there.

5. Safety and potential hazards

The final thing to look at off campus is the safety of the college town or city. While they’ll probably tell you on the tour what safety measures they have on campus, it’s important to know how safe it is off campus as well. If you don’t get a feel for this just by exploring the area, you can look at crime statistics for the location. But your safety isn’t just tied to crime; it’s important to check if the location of the school is prone to natural disasters as well. If so, what does the school and city do to protect students? If you need to evacuate, would you be able to do so easily? Outside of natural disasters, it’s always nice to get a feel for what the weather is like at the college too. Do you want to live somewhere cold or warm? Dry or humid? Sunny or snowy? Even something as simple as the weather should factor into your final college decision.

Related: 10 Uncommon Questions to Ask in Your College Search

These are just a few of the many things you can explore and research off campus during your college visit. While your campus tour will probably clue you in on whether you like the school itself, taking some extra time to explore the local area will clue you in on whether you like the city the school is in. This is where you’ll be living the whole time you’re pursuing your education, so it should be a place that makes you feel at home.

Looking for great schools by the beach? In the mountains? Near a lake? Check out all kinds of options with our featured college lists by landscape!

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About Kaitlyn Gress

For as long as she can remember, Kaitlyn Gress has been passionate about writing, from fiction to nonfiction and everything in between. Through her work, she explores her own voice and experiences while creating thought-provoking stories and articles for others to enjoy. Originally from Colorado, Kaitlyn is currently studying English Writing at Loyola University New Orleans. Her writing has previously been published in Creative Communications: A Celebration of Poets.


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