With spring breaks soon approaching, now is the time when many families will begin planning college visits. As you’re busy preparing an itinerary for where you’ll be traveling, it’s just as important to focus on what you can do to maximize each visit.
What makes a college visit successful is doing the very things that you would be doing every day as a university student. In other words, spend a day in the life of a student on that college campus. The majority of these activities will be available through the admissions office, but if they’re not, go on your own “unofficial” tour after the campus visit program.
- Talk to current students. Ask them questions about their experience as a student – their likes, dislikes, favorite activities and campus spots. Feel free to talk to students hosting the campus tour and other students hanging out on campus.
- Visit a class. Most colleges will offer a class visit or can arrange one for you if it’s not advertised. If you have an academic area in which you are interested in majoring, then you should do your best to sit in on a class in that department. However, if it is not possible to visit a class related to your academic interest, don’t underestimate the value of exploring a completely new subject. You might like the class so much that you decide to take it as an undergraduate!
- Eat in a dining hall and do some people watching. You can not only get a taste for the campus food, but also observe student life and culture during a short lunch. Don’t be surprised if a current student offers to sit with you – use this opportunity to learn even more about campus life!
- Talk with faculty members. Ask admissions to arrange a meeting for you or feel free to politely drop by the department in which you are interested in studying. If there’s a faculty member available to speak with, it can be a great way to learn more about the academic opportunities available to students. If there is one professor in particular you want to meet, reach out via email before your visit to see if they have time for a more formal appointment. Remember to come prepared with a list of questions about the subject they teach, and be ready to share your own experiences and future goals.
- Go off-campus and explore the surrounding community. This will be your home for the next four years (or longer), so it’s important that you get to know the environment, as well as the resources available in the greater community. You’ll also get a sense for how current students interact with the surrounding area.
Lastly, if you’ll be visiting many different schools, don’t forget to take notes or snap photos. At the end of a long college trip, things can feel like a blur – even the colleges you loved. Writing down highlights can help you reflect on the school visits – and might serve as inspiration for a great college essay in the future!