Visiting a college campus is the best way to get a real sense of what that campus life is like. When you are choosing the place you will be spending the next four years, it is important to spend time on that campus before making your decision.
Step 1: A great way to take an initial look at the campus during junior year or early senior year is by attending an open house program. Most colleges offer open house programs in the fall and spring with multiple dates available. Open house programs are most worth your time because all campus resources are available that day. Usually, you will be able to meet faculty, current students, coaches and admissions staff during this day. The open house will typically include a campus tour as well as helpful sessions on financial aid or even student panels. If you are going to make the trip out to visit a campus, the open house is most worth your time. Some colleges offer online virtual open houses and tours if you are unable to visit campus.
Step 2: The down side to attending an open house program is that those days are very crowded on campus, and you don’t receive a personalized visit. If you are unable to attend an open house, or would like to plan a second visit, the next best time to visit a college campus is any time during the week when classes are in session. Most colleges offer tours and information sessions daily. You can even plan to visit 2-3 schools in one day, if you have to. Information sessions are a great way to get a basic overview of the school, usually led by an admissions counselor. At the end of the information session, make sure to introduce yourself to the counselor, and ask who would be your regional representative on the admissions staff. It is important to find out your regional representative, because most likely that person will be reviewing your application. On-campus tours are typically lead by current students, who can give prospective students a view of what campus life is really like. Your student tour guide is your best resource! Make sure to get the contact information of your tour guide at the end of the tour and feel free to ask questions even after you get home. Try to talk to other current students on campus during your visit. I always recommend for prospective students to grab coffee in the student union and listen in on conversations around you, read posters announcing campus events, and feel free to ask questions. Talking with current students is the best way to find out what your experience might be like on campus.
Step 3: After you have toured the majority of the schools you want to apply to, the next step is to schedule interviews. Not all colleges offer interviews, so read the institution’s admissions website to find out more information. The best time to interview is during the fall of your senior year, since it is closer to when you are applying. Some interviews are conducted by admissions counselors on campus or in your local area, and some are conducted by alumni of the college. Interviews are not scary, they are a way for you to showcase who you are, ask questions, and make a connection with a counselor. Remember, counselors are trying to find a reason to accept you, not a reason to deny you. Some campuses offer a day visit or overnight visit program on campus where you can follow a current student for the day, sit in on classes, try the food, and see the bathrooms…the important things. Take advantage of these visits if a school is high on your list. After you have received your acceptance letters, make sure to attend the accepted students’ days which typically take place in April of your senior year. This may be your last chance to get all of your questions answered before making your decision by the May 1st national deadline.
If you take the time to visit and ask questions, you will certainly find the right fit!