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Campus Visit To Do's

Campus Visits
Visiting a college campus is a great way to access information as well as to get a feel for the overall atmosphere of a particular school. Schools may feel very different than what is conveyed through their literature and on their website. Therefore, it is very beneficial for prospective students to make a campus visit.
Nothing can replace a firsthand experience. You will get more out of your tour if you do a little preparation.  A good visit will often include a tour of the campus, a meeting with the admissions staff, and a meeting with the financial aid office. You may want to have lunch in the school dining hall or even spend the night on campus. After visiting, write down some notes immediately. After several visits, you will find you get mixed up about what you heard where. Use your list and try to evaluate how well the school matched up with your personal criteria. Try to imagine yourself living on that campus for four years.
Tips For Setting Up A Campus Visit
  • When setting up a visit to a college or university, it is important to set up your visit at least two weeks in advance. Surprise visits are usually not productive visits for you or the college.
  • For many schools, you can schedule a campus visit online through their website. You can also call the admissions office to schedule a visit.
  • Before you contact the school you plan to visit, check out their web page and see if there are certain areas of campus that you are especially interested in seeing, for example: the work-out facility, library, etc.
  • Ask if you are able to meet with a faculty member in the area that interests you.
  • Ask if you are able to meet with a coach.
  • Ask if you are able to attend a class.
  • Find out if it is possible to stay over night in one of the residence halls.
  • Find out if lunch is provided during your campus visit. Remember, you are going to be at this college/university for at least four years so you want to make sure the food is edible!
  • Try and meet with the admissions counselor who works with your high school.
  • Find out about internship and research opportunities students have completed.
  • It can be very beneficial to visit a college or university when school is in session. You want to get the feeling of what the campus is like with students there.
What To Do Before You Go
In order to maximize your college visit, it is important to do some work before you arrive on campus. Before visiting the college, it is important you make a list of questions to ask (see list below). While you are on campus, you want to get as much information as possible. 

What To Do While You Are There

  • Stop a student and talk to them, ask them questions about what they like and don't like about the college.
  • Introduce yourself to everyone you meet - make connections.
  • Pick up a campus calendar or newspaper to see what events and hot topics are taking place on campus.
  • Talk with the admissions counselor and ask them questions. Such as:
    • What are your admission standards/requirements/deadlines?  What is required in your application process? 
    • What impresses you the most in a student's application?
    • What are you looking for when you read students' essays?
    • What are some of the things you hate to see in an application?
    • Are admission decisions need-blind?
    • What kind of student does well here? What kind of student doesn't do well here?
    • What do you think your school is best known for?
    • What changes do you see taking place on campus in the next five years?
    • Are there on-campus jobs available for students?
    • How are roommates assigned?
    • How do meal plans work?

Additional Questions to Ask 

  • What are the majors and best programs offered at your school?  What is the most popular major?
  • How easy or hard it is to change your major?  At what point do I need to declare a major?
  • What is the cost, including tuition, room and board, books and supplies, etc?  What is the average debt upon graduation?
  • What percent of students receive financial aid? What is the average financial aid package? What information is needed beyond the FAFSA?
  • How accessible and supportive are the faculty?  What percent of classes are taught by professors?
  • What type of advising program do you offer for students?
  • What type of academic assistance do you offer for students?
  • What is the four-year graduation rate at your school? Five year? What is the retention rate of students from first-year to sophomore year?
  • What do students like most about your school? Least?
  • What is a typical freshman academic schedule?  How does the school help freshmen adjust to college?
  • Are first-year students required to live in the residence halls? Do most upper class students live on or off campus? Are residence halls co-ed?
  • What is the average class size? How many classes are taught by teaching assistants?
  • How would you describe the typical student here?
  • What role does technology play in the curriculum?
  • What is the social life like on your campus?  How often do students typically go home?  What activities are available on the weekends?  How do students get around?
  • What types of extra-curricular activities does your school offer?  Do you have fraternities/sororities?
  • How common is study abroad?
  • Are there Division I, II or III athletics at your school? Are there club or intramural sports? Do you have athletic facilities available for student use?
  • What changes do you see taking place on campus in the next five years?
  • What makes your school different from other colleges that are similar in size and reputation?
  • What types of extra-curricular activities does your college offer?  Does your college have a greek system?
  • Where do most students live?  Is housing guaranteed?
  • What activities and services are available to help students transition from high school to their freshman year of college?
Final Thoughts
  • It is hard not to, but try not to let the weather (especially bad weather) impact your impressions of the school.
  • Don't worry that everyone will think you are a high school student, you will fit in just fine.
  • Ask yourself: "Can I see myself here?"
  • Consider visiting a school more than once if you really like it. Your opinion of a school may change as you go through the process.
  • Journal-During the college search process, you will be taking in a lot of information in a short amount of time. Therefore, it is important to document your thoughts about a school immediately after you visit. What did you like about the school? What didn't you like? Try and pinpoint the things that provoked a positive, or negative reaction. You can take pictures or make lists of the positives and negatives of the school. Do whatever necessary to be able to accurately remember the important things about the schools and how you felt about them - just don't become too involved in documenting your visit that you don't really experience the college!
Virtual Tours
If you are unable to visit one of the colleges you are considering, see if they have a virtual tour on their website or through one of the websites below.
Campus Tours
eCampus Tours
The College Sleepover: Overnight Visits
By Jennifer Gross, From the NACAC WebsiteYou remember those childhood sleepovers: a rainbow of sleeping bags (the coolest ones had the latest fad cartoon character on them), lots of eating and laughing, maybe even a silly prank phone call. You may be too mature to call strangers and ask them if their refrigerator's running (all together now: "you better go catch it!"), but you're just the right age for the high school equivalent of a sleepover: the college overnight visit.
Many colleges offer prospective students the chance to spend the night in a dorm room. Some colleges set aside specific weekends (usually in the spring) for prospective students, but many others will work with you to schedule an overnight that fits into your timetable.
If you're already planning a visit during the day, why spend the extra time on an overnight?
"Day visits are pretty much 'canned,'" says George P. Lynes, II, a college admission consultant. "The admission office has set up tours to the best campus spots, the nicest dorm rooms, etc., and the tour guides have been programmed to say all the right things."
Of course, there's nothing wrong with a college showing you its best side. You're not going to show up at a college in your most raggedy clothes and uncombed hair, either. But to get the real scoop on a college, you need to spend some time on campus without a tour guide at your side. And overnight visits are a fun way to get an inside view.
Perfect timing
The two best times to plan overnight visits are before applications are due and after you're accepted.
Most students don't have time to spend the night at ten different colleges, so try to wait until you have your list narrowed down. One strategy is to spend a night at the two colleges on your "possible" list that are the most different (for example, the big urban university and the small rural college). That way, you get an idea of what environment appeals to you more.
If you're thinking about applying early decision (ED), an overnight visit is a must (if the college offers them). You're making a commitment to attend your ED college if accepted, so spend as much time as possible on campus to make sure this is your clear first choice.
Looking forward to spring, overnight visits can be helpful in making that final decision between two or more colleges that accepted you. (Just something to keep in mind as you plan your spring schedule.)
Planning Ahead
First, do some research. Read the college's catalog, Web site, and any other information you have. Think about what you want to do while you're on campus. If you want to sit in on a particular class or meet with a faculty member or coach, make sure to ask the admission office about it when you schedule the trip.
As with all college visits, call the admission office a few weeks (or even months) ahead of time. Ask whether overnight visits are an option. If family members will be traveling with you, make sure to find a place for them to stay (the admission office can help with that, too).
While you're packing for the trip, throw in a notebook and pen, a book, and some homework. You may have some time on your own while your host studies or goes to class. You can use that time to jot down your impressions of the college or get some of your own homework done.
On Campus
When you arrive on campus, take a tour, attend an interview or information session at the admission office, and participate in any other activities that are part of a day visit.
At some point, the admission office will introduce you to your student host, and the "overnight" part will begin. You'll have a different experience depending on the college and the particular student you're paired with. But think of this as your chance to get a feel for what life at this college is like. Make an effort to be friendly and meet as many college students as you can.
Some things to do while you're on campus:
  • Eat at the cafeteria.
  • Check out a favorite hangout on campus.
  • Read the student newspaper (or stuff it in your backpack for later reading).
  • Visit the library.
  • Sit in on a class.
  • Hang out in the dorm with your host and his/her floor-mates.
  • If it's the weekend, check out the social scene.
  • Attend a lecture, play, or other campus-wide event.
  • Ask a lot of questions.

The Most Important Question

Try to find out as much as you can about a college while you're on campus. After all, the students you meet are THE source for inside information. They are doing what you are now planning for and dreaming about. Here are a few questions to get you started:
  1. Why did you choose this college?
  2. What is your favorite part of being at college?
  3. What do you do on the weekends?
  4. How many hours do you study per week?
  5. What are the toughest/most popular/least popular majors?
  6. How many times do you go back home during the school year? (for residential colleges)
  7. What student groups are the most active?
  8. What do you do on a typical weekday?
  9. How many hours of sleep do you get per night?
  10. But the most important question is one that only students- not the admission office- can answer: What's wrong with this place?
"Aside from the usual comments on the food--it ain't Mom's cooking at any college-the answers from honest students can be helpful, but not necessarily devastating," says Lynes. "After all, they're still there, so it can't be all that bad."
But don't go with just one answer. Ask several different students. You'll probably get several different answers, but each one will give you a clearer picture of campus life.
Taking a Test Drive
In short, an overnight visit is the closest thing high school students have to a college test drive. Go ahead- kick the tires, check the transmission, drive it around the block. Collect as many impressions as you can about the college. After all, you're thinking about spending four years of your life here. Make sure you'll still love it when that "new-college" excitement has worn off!
"Aside from the usual comments on the food--it ain't Mom's cooking at any college-the answers from honest students can be helpful, but not necessarily devastating," says Lynes. "After all, they're still there, so it can't be all that bad."
But don't go with just one answer. Ask several different students. You'll probably get several different answers, but each one will give you a clearer picture of campus life.