It’s summer and you’re out of school. Beyond vacations, internships and academic or extracurricular programs, if you’re a rising senior, at least a week of your summer should be spent visiting college campuses.
If you’re traveling on vacation or visiting family and you’re a rising freshman or sophomore, a visit to a few campuses can help start the process of evaluating your interests and what kind of college might be right for you. For the rising junior, touring college campuses will help you to create a thoughtful preliminary college list.
Rising seniors, however, will benefit most from a college trip. If you haven’t already come up with a final college list, a visit to multiple campuses at this point may prove indispensable whether you’re an international student, aiming for medical school, or want to get into an Ivy League school. If you’ve been to a particular college before, a second look may remind you of why you liked that school in the first place.
Or, as you’ve researched various colleges, a second look may reveal that you should scratch that university off your list. Ideally, though, you should be visiting new schools that fall within the parameters of your ideal college.
The first “secret” of visiting college campuses is to plan ahead. You may need to make appointments to go on a tour and/or information session. You will definitely need to schedule an interview, if one is available. See if you can schedule a visit with a professor to talk about your enthusiasm for that discipline. Even though it’s summer, you might be able to sit in on a class or two, so ask the admissions office if this interests you.
The second “secret” is to research the college before you go. Review the college web site, course catalogues and subjective guides so that you can prepare questions to ask. This is especially important if you intend to interview at a college.
Another “secret” is to make your time on campus count. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a camera to take pictures. When you’re touring many schools, they tend to blur together. Make sure to take a campus tour, but realize that student tour guides are paid by the university and are told what they may and may not say. The PR delivered may not square with reality, so do your homework and investigate. If there are students around on campus, you may want to ask them their opinions. Question them about why they chose the school, what they love about their college, what they do on weekends, whether they can get courses they need, campus diversity, safety and security, etc.
Finally, consider that you are visiting the campus on a summer day. It’s often hard to visualize a bustling campus in the summer months. Nor, might you be thinking that the weather in December will be frigid and raw. If you’re from California or the South, a Northeast or Chicago winter weather day may be a shock!
So, don’t let the weather effect your ultimate decision. Likewise, don’t base your impression of the school solely on your conversations with one student, an admissions officer or a professor. Remember that no matter how funny your tour guide may be, he shouldn’t influence your impression of the school. Try not to make snap judgments about the school. Most importantly, try to keep thoughts about your admissions chances to a particular university separate from the impressions you formed while visiting that college. Once you have narrowed down your list and are ready to start your college applications, make sure to contact us for unparalleled college counseling services.