In the final segment of my four-part series dedicated to making the most of your campus visit experience, I want to leave you with some remaining tips for contextualizing your time on campus.
Oftentimes we approach the campus visit in a way very similar to house hunting: Are the neighbors nice? Does the doorbell work? How far is my commute? This isn’t a bad thing, per se. In fact, my second post explicitly discusses the need to have a keen eye for the degree to which campus facilities are maintained. There is, however, a distinct difference between “house hunting” and evaluating “right fit” on a campus visit. This can, perhaps, be best explained through a story.
I once was accompanying a mother and her daughter who had scheduled a visit to the campus I was recruiting for. I had caught up with them right after lunch and asked how the visit was going thus far. The mother complained that campus was not as “beautiful” as she would expect based on the cost of tuition. She mentioned that her daughter had recently visited a school that had a “lazy river” for students and that she was disappointed with the amount of construction she saw on our campus.
We’ll skip over the fact that the mother saw an amenity like a “lazy river” as a value-added item and focus on the other, far more important part of her complaint that raised a red flag. The campus had “too much” visible construction. Her specific complaint was that her daughter would most likely see dirt and construction trucks outside her dorm window all four years, which would be rather unsightly.
I responded with an important anecdote that someone had told me years before: a college or university without construction on-campus is a college or university that is no longer growing. And that’s a bad sign.
You might be thinking, That was a pretty drawn-out story for such a simple observation. But the reality is that many students and families visit campuses with the wrong perception of what they’re seeing.
- If you’re visiting campus on a Saturday morning and you don’t see students out-and-about throwing Frisbees and playing guitar on “the quad,” don’t assume it’s a suitcase campus. If it’s before 11:00 a.m. it may simply be that the students aren’t up and about yet.
- If you eat lunch in the student center and only see five or six dining options, ask current students where they eat. It might turn out that local restaurants also take flex-cash on your meal card.
It can be very easy to get distracted by neat amenities or proximity to an exciting city, and that’s why it’s so important to go into your visits with a plan and make sure you’re looking to evaluate the schools on the factors that will be a priority for having the right college experience for you.
If a “lazy river” or the school colors are truly important to where you end up attending, then be aware of that ahead of time. If your top priority is a quality education or landing meaningful internships, prepare for your campus visits in a way that will give you exposure to these aspects. Whatever priorities matter to you are the parts of campus that you should seek out for more information when visiting.
This four-part series is by no means an exhaustive list of how to make the most of your visits, but hopefully this will help contextualize why you’re visiting schools, and maybe you’ll learn something about those institutions that ends up being a difference maker.