Visiting campus is always a good idea if you're not sure which school you'd like to go to. Consider visiting:
- Before you apply—Visiting schools in your junior year of high school can help you pick the ones you like best. If you don't think you'd be happy on a particular campus, don't even bother applying.
- After you've been accepted—Been accepted at more than one school and just can't decide? You have a small window of time (usually a couple of weeks in April) to visit each campus to see which you prefer.
Schedule Your Visit
Contact the admissions office.
Contact the admissions office at least 2 weeks before you plan to visit. Through the admissions office, you can:
- Sign up for a campus tour.
- Schedule an interview.
- Arrange to meet with the Financial Aid Office.
- Get a class schedule.
- Request an overnight stay in a dorm.
Choose a date.
Schedule your visit while the campus is in full swing, so you can get a good idea of what your day-to-day experience may be like if you go there.
Avoid visiting over holidays or breaks, during exam week, or even on the weekend, when many students are away. You want to be there while classes are in session to get the full picture; Monday through Thursday are the best days of the week to visit.
Prepare for Your Visit
Make a list of what you want to see on campus.
Surf the college's website and download a campus map (or request one from the admissions office). Circle the places on campus you really want to see and then figure out the best walking route to pass every spot.
Make a list of what you want to do on campus.
Pretend that you're a student for a day. What are some of the things you think you'd be doing as a student? Come up with a list.
You may not have time to do everything, so having a list will help prioritize what is most important to you.
Here are a few things to include in a daypack:
- A camera or video camera—Having pictures will help aid your memory once you are home. This is particularly helpful if you plan to visit a couple of schools.
- A notepad and pens—As you tour campus, jot down some notes. What do you like about the school? Get the email addresses of everyone you meet in case you have any follow-up questions.
- Good walking shoes—You may be on your feet for longer than you are used to. You'll be thankful that you're wearing comfortable shoes!
Get the Full College Experience
Sit in on a class.
College classes are very different from high school classes. Check out a freshman core class to get a good idea of the classroom experience.
If you have time, also go to a class specific to the major you're thinking about.
Read the campus newspaper.
Student newspapers are still popular on college campuses. Pick one up (as well as any other student publications) and look at the:
- Editorials—What's on the students' minds?
- Advertisements—What's the community like?
- Campus activities—Do any interest you?
Based on what you read, will the school be a good home away from home for you?
Sleep in a dorm.
An overnight stay in a dorm will give you a good idea of what it's like to live with a roommate and share a bathroom. You can also gauge what daily dorm life is like. Is it loud and busy? Or is it quiet and still?
A bonus: If you do decide to attend the school, your overnight roommate provides a familiar face when you arrive on campus.
Try the cafeteria.
A visit to the cafeteria will not only give you a taste of campus food, it will provide an opportunity to sit with some students and participate in their conversations. These casual encounters can be very informative.
Walk around campus.
No time for a full campus tour? Just walk around and feel the vibe.
There's no better way to become familiar with campus than to just go exploring. Check out the signs and flyers that are posted around campus. Get lost in the crowds of students as they rush to classes. Eavesdrop on some of their conversations. Check out the bookstore. You'll pick up a lot without even trying.
Ask the admissions staff about the college experience.
- What academic requirements do you look for?
- Are certain classes more popular than others?
- Do most students get the classes they want?
- What percentage of students live on campus?
- Do most students live on campus all 4 years?
- How do you determine roommates?
- Are there any sororities/fraternities on campus?
- Is campus safety an issue? What steps do you take to ensure safety?
Discuss ways to pay with the Financial Aid Office.
- What is the total cost?
- What percentage of students receive student aid?
- What types of aid may I qualify for at this school?
- Do you offer any school-based aid?
- Are work-study jobs available?
Start a conversation with a student.
- Why did you choose this school?
- Did you have a hard time adjusting to college?
- What are the dorms like? How big is your room?
- Do you have to share a bathroom?
- What time is the cafeteria open? Is the food any good?
- How much free time do you get?
- What do you and your friends like to do during your free time?
- How do you get around campus? Do many students have a car?
- Do you feel safe and secure around campus?
Interview a professor about the classes.
- Are the classes big? About how many students?
- Who does most of the teaching… professors or graduate students?
- Do students usually keep the same major all 4 years?
- Are professors accessible outside of class?
- Do professors commonly give students feedback? How?
Question coaches about the sports programs.
- Are athletic scholarships available?
- If I play sports, will I miss a lot of class?
- Are there specific dorms for athletes?
- What intramural sports do you offer?
- Are there any sports facilities on campus?
Want to Know More?
- Can't make it to campus? Check out the college website. Many schools offer "virtual tours" on the Web.