Your first campus visit is a big deal. And without the right resources, it can seem a little overwhelming. But don’t worry—this advice will help!
Jessie Vergel, a high school junior who recently visited the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, shares some of her preparation tips for a successful first campus visit.
Do lots of research
When you visit colleges in person, it’s best to have an idea of what you want to learn while you’re there. So beforehand, gobble up all the information you can find!
First, scroll through the school’s programs. Keep in mind that colleges sometimes call the same major by different names, so don’t panic if you cannot find your exact major title. Does the university focus special attention on your academic areas of interest? Determining this can be subjective, but a simple method is to check the number of professors in your program, research the program’s reputation, and look for alumni and their outcomes.
Then check out if the college fulfills your unique requirements. Will they let you live off-campus? Do they accept dual enrollment? Is there a good rugby club? Look for anything that’s important to you in your college search.
Lastly, look for other opportunities to boost your college career. For example, see if nearby organizations offer internships for college students (this is especially if you’re entering a competitive field, like law or medicine). Although this may not be a deciding factor for you, never underestimate the value of experiential education and networking in college.
In addition to helping you ask valuable questions on your visit, this extensive research will confirm that you’re interested enough in the school to merit actually spending time and money visiting the campus in person.
Reap the most value out of your visit by asking questions whose answers are unavailable on the school website or elsewhere online. When your research is complete, write a list of questions to ask. If you’re visiting multiple colleges, draw a chart with the school names above each question. Then you can simply check off the answers as you visit each school. This direct comparison will benefit you later as you decide among the colleges.
Contact the school and plan in advance
“Get in touch/reach out to the admissions office weeks before you go,” Vergel advises. Colleges often host designated visit days, but separate visits may also be available. You can typically register for these events online, through e-mail, or over the phone. Sometimes you can discover more information over the phone, so even if it looks as if none of the tour dates work with your schedule, or if all the tours are booked, don’t give up! Give the school a ring and ask if they have a different opening.
Also arrange any activities that you want to experience at the school. Just ask an admission representative to help you plan. Definitely try to sit in on a class if you can, and preferably one in your potential major program. “It helps to understand the vibe of the school and the students,” says Vergel. Arrange to meet with professors if at all possible too.
Beyond academics, if you’re interested in sports or music, ask if you can watch a practice and/or see if there are any games or performances open to the public during your visit.
The big day
When your first campus visit day arrives, give yourself extra time to familiarize yourself with the campus. It’s not pessimistic to plan on getting lost! Being early will prevent any unnecessary fluster or panic, and it will boost your confidence and poise. Sit in on a class, ask practical questions, and make the most out of every meeting.
“After you visit, e-mail them thanking them,” Vergel recommends. “Also send a hand-written note—they’ll remember you.” Think of that first campus visit as a kind of admission interview. The school will notice your thoughtfulness and recognize your name when it shows up in the applications pile. Then when you’re compared against an academically equal candidate, sometimes the simple details can tip the balance in your favor.
Your first campus visit doesn’t have to be stressful; simply prepare as best as you can. Make sure you dress appropriately to make a positive impression. Act comfortable and calm, don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, and most of all, be yourself!
Got any questions about planning your first campus visit? Leave a comment or get in touch!