Why You Should Visit College Campuses
When it comes to deciding where to go to college, every student wants to be sure of the choice they are making. They want to be hit by the wave of certainty and excitement each time the school’s name is mentioned and know when they set foot on campus that this is where they belong. For parents and families, this is equally as important; not only are they often providing the financial support for their child’s education, but they want their child to have a home away from home at their chosen university. So, how necessary is a college visit?
Visiting a college allows students and their families to get a first hand glimpse of what the next four years may look like for them. It’s usually in the unplanned moments–a conversation with students and faculty or a trip off the beaten path–that you learn the most about a university. When you get the chance to visit the school(s) of your choice, follow these tips to make the most out of your visit:
1. Do your research. Before leaving home, visit the school’s website and review campus and program information based upon your interests. This will not only help make your trip more meaningful, but you can be more specific in the questions you ask.
2. Ask good questions. The tour guides and admissions counselors are there for you, so take advantage of them. Go beyond questions that may be answered in a brochure or online. If you are interested in a specific major or club, or if you are an athlete or interested in other extracurriculars, come prepared with challenging questions that will help make your decision more clear.
3. Give yourself time. Whether this means going off the beaten path after the tour to explore on your own, striking up a conversation with a student or professor, or venturing out into the surrounding area to get a feel for what it's like off campus, give yourself time. Do not rush your visit, let alone your decision, and make a “pros and cons” list for every school you visit.
If visiting all the colleges on your list is not an option, a number of alternatives can be considered. To start, narrow your list down to your top choices. Doing so gives you the chance to see if the school is really a good fit for you and allows for a more solid decision in the future.
If traveling or flying is not an option, a great way to find the best fit is to think globally, but act locally. James Montoya, vice president of higher education for The College Board, says that “visiting a few local colleges will provide you with a better understanding of what's important to you, as well as what questions to ask.”1 This can be especially useful when comparing small liberal arts schools with large research-based schools. Research schools in your area, see how similar they are to those of your interest, and go ahead and visit them.
If the last two options are not within your reach, many schools offer virtual tours on their websites. These tours give you an inside look of almost every building, residence hall, and dining venue on campus.
Whether you personally experience a campus or view a virtual tour, being informed about your top choices for college is crucial in the decision that will change the rest of your life. Take advantage of every opportunity that you have to help with your decision.
Posted: February 29, 2016