What’s the benefit of visiting colleges and universities?
College visits allow prospective students to get a sense for what a college campus looks and feels like as well as a chance to interact with students, faculty, and administration. If possible, students should consider visiting colleges that they are strongly interested in and are within driving distance from home. No website, guidebook, or testimonial will give you a better idea of whether a school is a good fit for you than by seeing it for yourself!
How do students arrange college visits?
All colleges have admission offices that can help you plan a visit. Most have online resources to help students make appointments for information sessions and campus tours. Online admissions resources also provide students with information on directions to campus, campus maps, details on admission’s programs for specific schools within a university, such as engineering or arts programs, and options for sitting in on a class. If students cannot find all the information they need to plan a school visit online, they can contact admissions offices by email or phone.
What can students expect from a college visit?
Campus visits can range from a few hours to an overnight stay and from a casual guided tour to a formal presentation. Most campus visits will include an information session where an admission representative talks to groups of students about academics, housing, student life, and financial aid. Either before or after the information session, visitors can take a student-led campus tour that is often spiced with anecdotes about the school’s culture and history. Tour guides frequently share their perspective on college and life on campus. At some colleges, students can also arrange to attend a class, meet with a professor, admission officer, financial aid officer, and/or a student. Some also allow visitors to attend a club meeting or a sports practice session, eat in the dining hall, or spend the night in a dorm.
How can student prepare prior to taking a college visit?
- Explore the college’s website and review any materials the college has sent.
- Make a list of questions to ask both staff and students.
- Review the campus visit resources that are available on most college admissions’ web pages. Take a look at the campus map and identify the location of the admissions office.
- If you know any current students, you might want to reach out to them to have lunch or a cup of coffee together. Speaking with students is often the best way to get a real feel for a school.
How can student make the most of their college visits?
- Schedule a visit while school is in session. The days during Regents week when our classes are not in session and February and spring breaks are ideal times to plan college visits.
- You won’t get a realistic idea of student life during holiday breaks. For students who can only visit colleges during the summer months, be aware that the campus might be very different during the school year. Most schools offer summer sessions that are attended by a smaller number of students or high school students in pre-college programs. Also note that the weather during summer visits might be very different than during the fall and winter!
- Speak with current students. If they have a problem or complaint, they will probably share their thoughts. If they love their school, they won’t be shy about it. Ask them specific questions—current students will often provide more honest, interesting, and helpful answers than other resources.
- Stop by the admissions office and office of financial aid. Introduce yourself and ask questions. Collect contact information and send a brief, friendly email thanking them for taking the time to talk to you.
- Be sure to sign up online for information sessions and tours. Some schools track demonstrated interest and check records to see if you made a visit to campus. Some smaller schools will let you interview with an admissions rep during your campus visit. If this opportunity is available, don’t pass it up.
- Take the official campus tour, but also wander around the campus on your own. While you’re walking around, check out the flyers and bulletin boards and pick up a school newspaper to get a sense of what’s going on. If there are any facilities that are important to you, find them and have a look for yourself. Make sure your destinations include the library, the dining halls, and the student centers. Be aware that because of privacy concerns, many campus tours no longer include a visit to the dorms, so get all the information you can on housing from the residential life office.
- Ask to sit in on a lecture. Most schools will allow students to observe a class and some even have overnight “student for a day” programs. Ask the admissions office what classes are available to prospective students.
- Take notes after each visit! You might think that you will remember every school but the memories start to blend over time. Keep a log and write down the highs and lows of each visit. Take photos and videos so that you can recall the schools you saw when you’re back home
- You might have to visit schools twice. Often people forget what they liked about a school they saw at the beginning of the college process or they might want to revisit to make sure their first impressions were accurate. Most students get better at visiting colleges with practice.
- Don’t rush to judgment but trust your gut. Try not to base your opinion of a school on bad weather, a tour guide with an annoying laugh, or a boring information session. At the same time, trust your instincts. Sometimes it’s love at first sight. Other times, something feels wrong (even if you can’t put your finger on it) and that is ok too.
What if I can’t visit all of the colleges I want to? How do I learn more about colleges?
Colleges and universities recognize that visiting schools as a prospective student can be time consuming and expensive. If you and your family cannot make all the visits you would like, there are several other options.
- Attend a college fair close to home. Be sure that you have personal conversations with admission officers. Let them know who you are and get your questions answered. Take their contact information and follow up with a thank-you note.
- Be sure to attend the in-school information sessions that will be held regularly at Clinton during lunch, beginning in the 2017–2018 academic year. If there is a specific school that you are interested in, let Ms. Schaffzin know so that she can reach out to them to try scheduling a visit.
- Some networks of colleges (Exploring Educational Excellence, Colleges that Change Lives, etc.) hold group panel discussions at hotels and other public venues. Ask Ms. Schaffzin about these events which typically occur in the fall and spring.
- Take a virtual campus tour. Online services such as eCampusTours, YouVisit, and YourCampus360 allow students to have the experience of a college tour in the comfort of their own homes.
- Go online. Yes, review the college’s website but don’t stop there. Check out other online resources such as NACAC, Unigo, Big Future, and College Compass as well as student blogs, chatrooms and testimonials on sites like College Confidential and Niche, to name a few.
- Explore the College Library at Clinton. What? Clinton has a College Library, you ask? Yes, we do! Head straight to room 319 and Ms. Schaffzin will give you a personalized tour and walk you through our available resources.
College Visit Resources
Princeton Review: https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/college-visits
US News and World Report: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/slideshows/10-tips-for-an-effective-college-visit
BigFuture by College Board: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/find-colleges/campus-visit-guide
The Choice blog from the New York Times: https://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/college-visit/?_r=0
Adventures in Education: https://www.aie.org/pdf/Campus-Visit-Checklist.pdf