As spring and summer breaks approach, many high school students will start to go on campus visits. Around this time during my junior year, I was planning out visits at colleges I knew I would be applying to in the fall. Doing research on their websites was great and all, but I knew student life would not just be my three diverse friends and me sitting on the quad with big, cheesy grins on our faces. A campus visit is a perfect way to get a real feel for the college before you send in that application. Here are six secrets you need to know to have a great campus visit.
1. Plan for the season
As I mentioned before, many students are going to spend their breaks visiting colleges. It’s important to visit a school whenever you can, but try to visit during the seasons you’ll be enrolled. Visiting the college during the fall or spring is great because you’ll be able to see the college in its normal routine, you can gauge the amount of students accurately, and you’ll get a feel of what the weather will be like when you’re in school. Weather can play a big role in your campus visit. I love my hometown, but we only have the seasons of hot, hotter, and less hot, and that was evident when I visited the University of South Carolina. I visited UofSC in the summer, and walking around the campus in the dead heat of summer is not fun—trust me.
2. Prepare and do your research
Nothing’s worse than being unprepared for a campus visit. Make sure that you have all your materials ready for a smooth registration process. You also want to make sure you have directions and parking information ahead of time. Doing all that stuff the morning of the campus visit can be very stressful, so to avoid all of that, just prepare in advance. Moreover, make sure you do your research. What places do you want to explore? What questions do you have? What’s the weather going to be like? Finding out all this information will help you feel totally ready when you arrive on campus.
3. Budget enough time
Feeling rushed never makes for a good campus visit. I really liked Emory University, but my visit was ruined because I had so much other stuff to do that day. It would have been amazing to explore the city more, but I didn’t budget enough time. Learn from my mistakes. Make sure you have enough time to explore campus and beyond. College is more than school; this is where you could be for the next four years, so you have to make sure that you like the campus and the surrounding area.
4. Manage your entourage
This is a simple tip that can make a biggest difference. Keep in mind that your visit can feel very different based on whom you go with, whether it’s with your school, your friends, or your parents. Also, sometimes colleges limit the amount of people you can bring with you on a tour. One or two is usually a good number of guests if you’re going with friends or family.
5. Take notes
Campus visits will give you a lot of information, and sometimes it can blend together. You won’t remember everything, so it’s important to take notes. Write down your thoughts about each school’s academic programs, student attitudes, campus environment, activities, and dorms. This has been extremely helpful to me when applying to college. When I attended Duke University’s North Carolina/South Carolina Open House for students from those states, there were so many different sessions. So my parents and I split up to cover more ground and collect all the information we could. I kept folders for every school I visited, where I stored all my notes, plus pamphlets and cards I received. It came in handy when it came time to write all my “Why College X” essays because I had all the information I needed in one place.
6. Engage in the campus visit
The most important thing to turn a campus visit from good to great is engaging with the visit. Ask questions during the tour. Cater the tour to your needs by seeing if you can visit certain buildings, professors/coaches, or classes. If you want to experience dorm life, try to schedule an overnight visit. Go to special events like diversity programs or major-based open houses. One of the things that I loved most about my visit to Davidson College was that I actively participated. I got the opportunity to explore student clubs, talk with currents students, and talk to other prospective students. Oftentimes people forget to speak to other students on the tour. But it’s always good to see the type of students a college attracts—plus, these could be the people in your graduating class. Who knows, you could even meet your future roommate. So make sure you actively participate in your campus visit. I know that colleges have a lot of photo opportunities, but don’t be on Snapchat the whole time (although I did check the geofilters at every college I visited).
Remember that campus visits are the best way to get a feel of the colleges you want to apply to. The visit should be informational, but also remember to have fun. College is a big decision and you need to make sure you have all the information you need. Campus visits are probably the best part of the college application process too, so be sure to enjoy them!
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