As admission season comes to a close and acceptances roll in, many students find themselves invited to campus visits for admitted students. I attended one of these visits at Johns Hopkins University and quickly realized it was different and more in-depth than any prospective student tour I’d been on. Here are some tips I gathered through my own experience to help you with yours.
Planning which schools to visit
If you were accepted to multiple schools, chances are you’ll have just two or three weeks to attend several conflicting campus visits and overnight stays. Choosing which colleges to visit, or if you should even go at all, can be complicated. First, consider if you’re actually ready to commit before attending admitted students events. While you’ll learn some valuable information about the school and get a chance to make some friends, the purpose of the event is to convince you to commit—so if you’ve already made up your mind, skip the expense and time commitment of a visit. For those on the fence, arrange your tours, prioritizing favorites when event dates conflict between one or more schools.
It’s definitely an interesting experience to be recruited, and the attention you get while touring proves helpful in ultimately picking a college. I found that nearly all my visit peers were trying to decide between Hopkins and another school. I was already pretty convinced I wanted to attend the University based on its programs and reputation, but given the 2,816 miles between home and Baltimore, Maryland—a city I had never seen—I felt I needed to experience the campus to be sure it was the right fit. Meeting students and faculty really solidified my decision and I realized I felt at home on the campus.
Benefits of each type of visit
While I chose an overnight visit, there were also day visits for admitted students as well as off-campus meetups offered. Overnight visits are exactly what they sounds like: you get to stay on campus with a student host and are offered lots of information about the student experience. Not all schools offer this, but if you have the opportunity, I would recommend this option. I stayed in a dorm room with two freshmen, met many current students, and had an in-depth campus tour. Spending time with my host gave me an opportunity to really learn about the Hopkins experience.
If an overnight visit isn’t offered or doesn’t fit your schedule, a day-long visit also works well. Though you won’t get the same type of face time with students and faculty, you’ll still get a great feel for the campus and all the critical information about the academic and social opportunities the school offers if you choose to enroll. Finally, admitted student “meetups” are usually not on campus and are hosted by alumni in your area. These are casual meet and greets that allow you to meet other accepted students near you. If you can’t visit campus, this is another great way to learn more about the school and make some new friends.
Decide whether or not to bring your parents
About two-thirds of the students on my visit brought their parents with them. In chatting with students in both situations, all seemed equally happy. My mom and 15-year-old sister traveled with me because we turned my visit into a vacation, as it conveniently happened during spring break. Although I technically didn’t need adult supervision on my first trip to Baltimore, given the many nights I spent in the city beyond my campus visit, it made sense to have some partners in travel fun—including one happy to pick up the dinner and lunch tabs.
Keep in mind that your family won’t be able to stay overnight with you on campus. They can, however, take tours with you throughout the day, so make sure to assess your situation and imagine how your parents will act. Remember, you won’t have your parents with you at college, so this is the time to practice your independence. Parents generally were seen, not heard on my visit, which was different than the convention of helicopter and bulldozer parents on many of my prospective student tours last year.
Make the most of your visit
Take every tour you can to get the feel of the campus. Believe me, you’ll learn things that aren’t on the website! If you have dietary restrictions, make sure to tour the dining hall, as they may have staff members present you can talk to. Even if you don’t have dietary restrictions, it’s a good idea to try the food! If you can, find the opportunity to sit in on a class. Unfortunately, my schedule was so full of tours I wasn’t able to observe one. In speaking to those who did attend classes, the consensus was that it was interesting, valuable, and refreshing to find students and professors eager to answer any questions they had.
Talk to current students
Take advantage of the students around you and ask any questions you have. Introduce yourself as an admitted student to random people and ask if they like the food or where their favorite place is on campus. The more information you get, the better. Not so long ago they too were in your place, trying to decide where to commit, and something made them choose their school. Learning about why they chose to enroll can help you make your decision. During my dining hall tour, a current student noticed my name tag that identified me as an admitted student and asked if I had any questions. We talked for almost an hour, and I got to learn so much about what freshman year is like and his experience on the Debate Team, which I am interested in joining.
Get to know the area
I had never been to Baltimore prior to visiting Hopkins, so I had quite an adventure exploring the city. Even if you’re only going to be visiting for a short time, try to get to know the area around your school, because it could become your home for the next four years or more. Research beforehand and make a plan for your visit. Thanks to some research, I learned that the art museums in Baltimore are free to the public but are only open on certain days, so we planned accordingly. If you’re going to be touring a school in an area you’re familiar with, ask around to find out people’s favorite places to see if you can find something new.
Reflect after your visit
Immediately after your visit, write down your thoughts about the school. How did you like the campus? How did you feel talking to current students? Could you picture yourself being happy there? Was there anything you didn’t like about the school? Think deeply about your experiences individually and as a whole, and use the reflection to help you make a decision. Some students (like me) will have a strong feeling that they’ve found the right place just by visiting campus (for the first or second time), but others will have to look to the little things to make a final decision. Whatever happens, make sure to congratulate yourself for all your hard work, and rest assured that whatever decision you make will be a good one.
No two admitted students visits are going to be alike—for two different student or two different schools. You don’t need to necessarily need attend every college you were admitted to get an idea of what you like and don’t like in a school, especially if you went on initial campus visits to any of them. Plan your trips wisely with your finances and goals in mind, and you’re sure to find you’ll gain a lot of insight from the schools you visit that will lead you to the right final decision.
Looking for more advice on how to have the best college visits? Check out our Campus Visits section.