How to Make the Most of Your College Visit
College visits are among the most exciting components of the college admissions process. Although these visits aren’t technically required, they’re one of the more effective ways to determine which universities are worth applying to.
After all, no amount of information online can replace the experience of actually being at the university’s campus, imagining what it’s like to attend the classes, live in the dorms, hang out with friends in the quad. It’s an irreplaceable asset and one that students should maximize.
In order to make the most out of your college visit, you should have a plan of action. Going in without any preparation beforehand isn’t going to downgrade the experience of visiting one of your desired colleges. However, it will ensure you’re not getting the most out of this excellent opportunity.
Although it is possible to visit the same college more than once, it’s not only a waste of time by keeping you from seeing other schools. It’s also a guaranteed way to lose hard-earned money. No, college visits don’t cost anything, but you have to spend money to get there. These costs add up if you’re visiting an out-of-state school.
Here, we’ll take a look at some practical tips for making the most of a college visit.
What’s the point of a college visit?
Every high schooler is familiar with the concept of student visits. As the name suggests, you visit a university, get a tour of the campus, meet some students and professors. That’s about it, right? That’s an accurate synopsis of these visits, although some specifics vary between universities.
However, it’s important to understand the purpose of a college visit before attending these events. In short, the point of a college visit is to help students determine whether or not the university they’re visiting is a place they could see themselves attending.
Although you’ve been doing a significant amount of research on the universities on your college list, there’s some information that you can only get by visiting the campus.
The advantages of college visits
- It’s nearly impossible to get an accurate idea of how a place feels before you actually visit it in person. Websites, photos, and other resources can only relay so much.
- The on-campus tours will provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the college’s current offerings, making it easier to determine whether or not you’ll be happy attending.
- Investing a few days for a college visit can save you significant headaches and resources in the future by eliminating colleges from your list that you know you don’t want to attend.
- College visits are the only way to experience the intangibles of universities such as the vibe of the campus, the culture of the student body, and the overall atmosphere.
- You’ll have time to ask any questions you have with answers coming from knowledgeable representatives, ensuring accuracy and relevancy.
- These visits give you an opportunity to meet fellow high schoolers who might end up attending with you.
- The first-hand knowledge you gain from these visits overshadows any information gathering you can do online.
- When deciding which colleges to apply to, you can rest assured that you’re making an informed decision after getting all of the information you needed from these college visits.
How to make the most of your college visit
You’ll only have the time and resources to visit a handful of colleges. That’s why it’s important to only visit the schools that are at the top of your college list. Trying to attend too many college visits can end up reducing the quality of each experience. As we mentioned before, you’ll need a game plan before visiting each college in order to make the most of these opportunities. Here are some tips for making the most of your college visit.
1. Choose your college visits wisely.
As a busy high school student, you’re strapped for time during the school year. Even during the summer, you have responsibilities pulling your attention in a variety of directions. As much as you’d love to visit every university on your college list, it’s simply not feasible. If you make an attempt to make too many college visits, you’ll feel rushed and unprepared.
This will lead to unsuccessful visits and won’t get you any closer to determining which university is best for you. Instead, you should try your best to narrow down your list of potential colleges to around 5-7. This will give you sufficient time to visit all colleges in a meaningful manner without having to compromise.
2. Make an official visit.
All colleges offer official college visits where interested students and parents are given an in-depth tour of the university by an expert. Some schools even let potential applicants shadow current enrollees throughout a full day of school to get a firsthand experience of what it’s like to attend the university. Taking part in these official offerings will give you a more accurate and detailed visit than you’d get by going alone.
You’ll have a chance to interact with current students, meet potential applicants, view classrooms, and much more. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll have a dedicated guide to answer all of your questions. Plus, schools that do take demonstrated interest into account will most likely count a college visit, giving you a competitive edge when it comes to applications.
Pro tip: Take your own visit after the official one.
There’s no doubt you’ll be tempted to venture off on your own and explore the campus during your college visit. Do your best to hold that urge until after the tour is complete. You don’t want to miss what the school has planned.
Setting aside time to visit on your own can give you a more holistic and personalized perspective of what it would be like to attend. Interested in doing some sports? Check out the campus gym. Know you’ll be spending long hours at the library? Better check to make sure it’s comfortable and accommodating.
3. Explore the community off-campus.
No matter how large the university, you’ll spend time off-campus throughout your four years of attending. Depending on the university, you’ll most likely be living off-campus after your freshman or sophomore year. You’ll probably get some information about the schools surrounding the community during the college visit, but it’s a good idea to see it for yourself to determine if it fits your needs.
Does it have all of the amenities you’ll need? Are there enough activities to keep you busy and entertained? Is it well-connected to transportation for visiting home and traveling? How big is the surrounding area? Would you prefer it to be smaller or more populated? These are all questions you should be asking yourself while visiting the university’s surrounding area.
4. Sit in on a class within your area of study.
It’s easy to get caught up in the various factors that make a university unique. But it’s important to remember the whole reason you’re even considering attending these colleges: academic opportunities. One of the best ways to determine whether or not a school meets your academic needs is to sit in on a class.
You can usually set this up through the university’s admissions office. Make sure the class is within your area of study to get the most accurate picture possible.
Speak with students who are in your desired field of study and ask them about the school’s degree program and what they like and don’t like about it. Feel free to speak with the instructors too.
This is as close as you’ll get to the real thing before you get accepted, so make the most of it. Envision yourself attending the school with the types of students you meet, the classes you attend, and the professors teaching. Ask yourself if it’s a place you feel can help you reach your academic goals.
5. Take photos and notes during your visit.
Even if you’re only able to visit a handful of schools, it’s easy to forget the specifics of each. In order to make the most accurate decision possible, it’s imperative that you remember each college visit accurately.
The best way to do this is by taking notes and photos during your visit. Your smartphone camera should suffice, although you can bring a high-quality DSLR camera for better results. In terms of notes, you can rely on a smartphone note app or an old-fashioned pen and paper.
Regardless you want to make sure you’re getting key pieces of information down so you don’t forget without getting too distracted. Try to take short-hand notes instead of writing down entire sentences. It’s also a great idea to write down questions as they pop up in your mind during the visit.
There’s no doubt that some queries will arise, but you might not have an opportunity to ask until the end of the college visit. You’d hate to forget about them in the process. It’s a good idea to let the people in charge of the visit that you’ll be taking notes, so they don’t mistakenly assume you’re simply not paying attention.
When you’ve finished visiting all of the colleges on your list, you can compare your photos and notes to accurately compare each option. Without this information, you’d have to rely on your memory which might not provide you with an accurate representation of each college.
6. Save the best for last.
Everyone has that dream college they would love to attend. You know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s the ideal college for you. You’ve been thinking about it for years, and you’ve worked incredibly hard to increase your chances of getting accepted. While you’ll naturally be tempted to visit this college first, we highly advise that you schedule it as the final stop on your list of college visits.
Why would you do that? Well, even if your dream school is justifiably one of the best schools for you, you’re still viewing it through rose-colored glasses. Visiting it before other universities might cause you to make up your mind before even giving other colleges on your list a chance. Saving the best for last makes it easier to keep an open mind as you visit various universities. You might realize that one actually outshines your desired college.
Still, these college visits might reinforce your initial thoughts. However, it’s important to leave your preconceptions at the door during college visits in order to put yourself in the best position to find the university that matches you best.
7. Keep an open mind.
It’s easy to rush to judgement when making a college visit. You’re bound to come across poor weather conditions, a boring class, an annoying student, and other minor hiccups here and there when visiting universities. Making your mind up solely based on these small annoyances won’t do you any favors in the long run. Try your best to keep an open mind throughout the whole college visit. Remain engaged, positive, and inquisitive.
Don’t forget the whole reason why you’re there in the first place: to determine which universities you want to apply to. Even the absolute worst college visits are a success because you can cross a potential university off your list. Each time you eliminate an option, that’s one fewer admissions process you have to go through.
It’s not just important to withhold judgments in the middle of a college visit, but you should also wait to draw conclusions until you’ve visited each university on your list. Something you might not like about the first visit you make might be true for all colleges. If you’re able to remain non-judgemental throughout all visits, you’ll have an accurate and objective perspective on all colleges. This will make the decision process much easier after you complete all visits.
8. Talk with current students.
University-organized college visits are going to show the college in a positive light. While there’s definitely a time and place for this angle, you should get a complete picture of a university before making your decision.
That includes the advantages of the university as well as its downsides. Although tour guides and other official school representatives mean the best, they’re not going to be able to give you a holistic perspective of the school.
That’s where students come into play. No group will be able to give you a more accurate view of what it’s like to attend the university for a few reasons. First and foremost, students have no reason to play up the college, making it easier to trust their opinions. Secondly, if you do end up attending the university, you’ll have similar experiences as current students, increasing the relevance of their input.
Although some students might be hosting the college visit, you might get better results by speaking with students outside of this official capacity. Most college students would be more than happy to spend a few minutes giving you their perspective on the school. Just ask around and mention your desire to attend the school.
Your committed college admissions expert
Once you’ve narrowed down the number of colleges you want to apply to, it’s time to begin the admissions process. Many students feel anxious and uncertain about this process due to the weight of the decision, the sheer number of requirements, and the general lack of information available.
Fortunately, you don’t have to face this daunting process alone. AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get accepted into the colleges of their dreams. We have a track record of success with over 755 of our students getting into Ivy League or Top 10 colleges.
We’ve developed a deep understanding of the college admissions process and have tailored our services to help students drastically increase their chances of successfully applying to any university.
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