In part three of my ongoing four-part series regarding the camps visit, I’d like to give you one of the most important pieces of advice there is for learning about a campus firsthand:
During formal campus visits at most schools in the United States, the itinerary you’re going to take part in is highly-scripted. From the hand-picked tour guide involved in eight clubs with a perfect smile to the faculty member that asks you to sit in on his or her class, the institution has made it a point to create a certain experience for you. This is a good thing: it means you’ll get to see how the school wants to be perceived by potential incoming students. Enjoy this experience and take the opportunity to engage in the first two items on this list . . . then go rogue!
- Wander campus aimlessly.
- Observe what the random students who are not trained as ambassadors of the school are doing.
- Walk into buildings unescorted (if you stumble onto a choir practice in session or an administrative meeting, just confess you’re lost . . . it’s actually true).
What you observe while trekking off the pre-approved path, who you encounter, and how they treat you can be very revealing. These unscripted moments can tell you a lot about the school.
It is important to note, however, that while “going rogue” you may encounter a current student who is incredibly disparaging of the school or a staff member on their break who doesn’t appear to be acting out the “serve-first” experience you’ve seen during your formal visit. Be sure to take this with a grain of salt and not as a full reflection of the campus you’re visiting. Much like any other potential part of your life, there are bound to be a few individuals present on any college campus who are the exception to the rule. Spend enough time observing students, faculty, and staff in their element to get a sense of actual consistencies in behavior. Don’t let one interaction (good or bad) dictate your impression of an entire institution.
Stay tuned next week for my fourth and final installment on campus visits! I'll be discussing why you shouldn't confuse finding the right college with "house hunting."