As universities and colleges around the country continue to lift and ease COVID-19 campus visit restrictions, in-person campus visit experiences are becoming a normal occurrence once again. Traditionally, campus visit experiences consist of an information session, usually led by an admissions officer, and a campus tour, which is almost always led by a current student. If you are planning in-person campus visits this coming summer or fall, it’s always best to consider strategies for maximizing your visit to ensure you leave even more knowledgeable than when you arrived. One suggested strategy is to evaluate schools according to the 3 P’s – Program, Place and People – to determine if a school is a good fit for you.
Program centers on the academic programs offered at the institution, specifically departments or majors that can support your academic pursuits and curricular needs. Even if you are unsure of what you want to major in, you should still take note of any unique program offerings mentioned on your visit and then later draw comparisons across schools. This exercise demands a bit of introspection and some understanding of what you may want to major in and why. When considering programs of study, a few good questions to reflect on during and post-visit include: How feasible would it be to add a major, or possibly take courses outside of your academic department? Does the curriculum have the level of rigor you are looking for? Will it help you become career ready?
Place refers to both the geographical location of a school as well as its local environment. On-campus and off-campus environments can both influence the campus ethos and social life. During an in-person visit experience, be observant of local amenities and accessibility of resources that are important to you. When you are on a campus tour, pose questions to get a sense of how current students interact with the surrounding area. Ask how the location of the school has an impact on the campus social environment. Ask what types of opportunities exist for students to engage in activities on or off campus. Finally, consider how comfortable and safe you feel at each school. Note that “safe” can describe your overall physical, mental or emotional health and safety. You’ll want to think about which schools foster environments where you can see yourself succeeding and thriving as a student.
People refers to interactions with faculty, students and administrators you meet during your visit. Actively seek out conversations with faculty members, current students or staff while you are on campus. Pay close attention to how all of these groups describe or talk about their institution. The more conversations you have, the more likely you will be able to develop a holistic impression of a school. Prior to your visit, you may want to check with the admissions officers to see if there are opportunities to visit in-person classes or attend on-campus events hosted by student groups or administrative offices. Ultimately, you should develop a general awareness of how members of a campus community feel about their school.
The 3 P’s are not exhaustive evaluation criteria but offer a starting point. Develop your own criteria for what matters most to you during your next campus visit experience.
Obi has a BA in psychology and Asian studies, as well as an MPA, from Clark University. Additionally, Obi received an MA from Columbia University Teachers College, focusing on international educational development. Obi worked as an admissions reader at Johns Hopkins University and an admissions consultant for EducationUSA.