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"How To Make The Most Of College Visits"



The best way to decide which colleges to apply to and which to attend is to see them. Visiting colleges is often a hectic experience traveling from one city to the next. It also isn’t cheap--especially if you are traveling to the opposite coast of the country.

Unfortunately, most students have no idea what it is they are supposed to be looking for while on a campus. Often it’s only after they finish their visits that they realize what they should have paid attention to and what matters most to them. But by then it’s too late to go back.

After speaking with students who had visited colleges, we asked them what they would look for if they could do it all over.

What follows is a checklist of what to look for while visiting a college. Use what the students we surveyed “wished” they had known to help you make the most of your college visits. If you are going to visit more than a handful of schools (and you should try to visit as many as possible), you should invest in a notebook to jot down as many details as you can. When it comes time to make your decision, which may be several weeks or even months later, your written comments will be invaluable in helping to jog your memory.

The College

• Size of student body: Do you feel lost in the crowd, part of a small family, or somewhere in between?
• Size of campus: How long will it take to get from class to class? From dorm/home to class?
• Aesthetics of campus: Do you like the way the college appears? Do you like the layout and architecture of the buildings?
• Safety: How safe do you feel on campus? Off campus?
• Ambiance: How lively does the campus feel? Do you like the mood or environment of the campus?

Surrounding Community

• First Impression: What does the area around the campus seem like?
• Services: What services are offered in the community? Nightlife? Entertainment? Restaurants?
• Transportation: What public transportation is there for you to use? If you have a car, where can you park?
• Religion: Is a church or temple nearby that you would like to join?

Academics

• Libraries: Are there sufficient resources, especially in the subject areas you might be interested in studying?
• Your likely future department: How large is it? What programs does it offer? Are there any special requirements? Does it offer scholarships, fellowships, or summer funding? What kind of advising does it offer?
• Classes: What are the requirements for classes? How interesting are the professors? How large are the classes? How much student participation do you see? How likely are you to get the classes you want?
• Difficulty: Ask students how much they study and how much of an academic focus there is.

Social

• Parties: How big and how often are they? What is the school’s reputation for parties? Are they a major part of what goes on at school?
• Greek: What kind of presence do fraternities/sororities have on campus? Is there a Greek row? What about students who prefer not to go Greek?
• Entertainment: Ask students what they do on weekends. Check out the school newspaper to see what activities there are on campus and in the surrounding community on weekends.

Activities

• Extracurricular: What activities are there that you might be interested in? Speak with current members to find out more about the activities. How active are the groups you might be interested in joining? Make sure there is an active group for your extracurricular passions.
• Publications: Get a copy of the various newspapers, magazines, and journals. Even if you have no interest in working for them, they offer good insight into what’s happening on campus.

Living

• On/Off Campus: Do most students live on or off campus? Ask students what housing is like.
• Costs: What are the costs of living on or off campus? Look at the newspaper or student housing office to check out the prices.
• Availability: How available is housing? How many listings are there in the newspaper? Ask students how difficult it is to find housing.
• Dorms: What are the dorms like? Don’t forget the bathrooms!

Miscellaneous

• Weather: Do you like the weather? Ask students how the weather is during the winter and summer. Will you like the weather then?
• Support: What kind of academic and/or personal counseling does the school offer? What kind of resident advisory system is there?
• Admissions and Financial Aid: What kind of financial aid does the school offer? What does a typical financial aid package look like? Make an appointment to speak with a financial aid officer and admissions officer.

Overall

• Do you think you will be happy as a student at the college?
• Do you feel comfortable?
• What is your overall impression?
• On a 10 point scale, how would you rate this school? Why?

This is a lot to keep in mind when visiting a college and of course you probably won’t be able to answer every question. But do highlight which questions seem important to you and make sure that you answer them at every college you visit. Talk to everyone and take pictures to remember where you have been, and keep them with your notebook.

Thank you for visiting,

Al Brouillard

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