Fall is the time of year where many students and their parents begin planning visits to prospective schools. While there is a wealth of information available online, sometimes there is no substitute for seeing a school in person and getting a feel for the campus and environment first-hand. We’ve pulled together some quick tips to keep in mind as you’re scheduling and making these important visits.
Go While School is in Session
While tempting to visit schools during a vacation, seeing a campus while they’re on break takes away the biggest part of what makes up a school – the students! Whether a big school or small, watching the way the student body carries itself and interacts will give you a good sense of how the school operates and if you see yourself fitting in with all these potential classmates. While you’ll still be able to see the physical campus during a break, you won’t get a full picture of what life is like unless you see the hustle and bustle of a thriving college community in the wild.
Take the Official Tour
Do some research ahead of time to find out what types of official visits are offered at the schools. If there are opportunities to register ahead of time, do it! You want to leave a record of your visit and registration in tours or prospective student events are a great way to do it. At many schools, visit data is recorded and admissions officers are able to access the information to verify that you have demonstrated interest in attending and have put forth the effort to show it.
Leave Some Time to Explore
The official tour is just that – official. Make sure that you’ve penciled in enough time to explore campus on our own – as well as the surrounding town or city. When they’re off campus, where do students go to study, have a snack, or play pickup basketball? While you’re in school, you’ll be on campus quite a bit – but that doesn’t mean you won’t also be living in the city surrounding it – try to picture yourself there and see how it feels.
Experience Student Life
Eat on campus! And in a dining hall, if that is an option. Read through the student newspaper and take a look at what has been posted on bulletin boards. These are a little window into the inner workings of the school and its students and can give you an honest look at what’s going on.
Even if you’re only visiting a few schools, many experiences can start to blend together. Snap a few pics while on campus and in town and spend a few minutes after each visit to jot down some notes. Even some generic categories like Love It / Hate It / Not Sure will be helpful. All of your notes and pictures will be invaluable when you’re trying to make a big decision down the road.
Of course, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to maximize this experience. You don’t want to waste it, but at the end of the day, you’ll have a “vibe” about each school – sometimes a gut feeling will show you the way!