Campus visits are an important aspect of the process of selecting a college or university to attend. It can be quite difficult to determine if a college environment will meet you academic and social expectations. Taking a virtual tour of the campus or getting an idea of the college environment from current students through online chats or email can be informative. However, nothing can take the place of experiencing the campus first hand. The feeling a person can get from seeing the campus for the first time or interacting with students, faculty, and staff throughout the visit. One of the great takeaways from a campus visit is the experiential learning the student undertakes while on-campus and determines if the environment ‘fits’. Students can be on campus for a short period and know that is not the right environment or they can fall completely in love before the campus tour.
It is important to research a wide variety of colleges & universities to determine which colleges meet your selected criteria (type of school; location; size; academic programs and organizations/activities, campus life). The next step should be to plan a campus visit to help future refine your college list and get a true feeling of each institution. Most institutions have standard campus programs, such as information sessions, college tours, and open house events. Most will have a program for students who would like to be matched with a current student and stay overnight in the dorms to get a “day in the life” experience.
Here are some tips when planning a campus visit:
- Review the college & university Admissions Office schedule for admissions presentations, campus tours and special programs for prospective students. Day programs, such as Open House are great opportunities to see the campus, speak with students, faculty, and administrators. Students should also consider participating in any overnight program that matches prospective applicants with current students.
- If financing a trip to a college or university is cost prohibited, check with the Admissions Offices to see if there are programs to defray your travel costs.
- Plan a campus visit when classes are in session. Important to see what a real day in the life of the campus is on a Wednesday. Best time is fall and early winter for seniors and those who may be considering transferring to another college.
- Always check the weather in advance of traveling to ensure you have the appropriate attire. If you are visiting a school in the Northeast in the late fall or early winter, always bring a warm coat/gloves. Feeling personally uncomfortable during your visit may leave you with a negative impression of the college. For those seeking to attend college in a warm weather climate, you too need to be prepared.
- When on campus ask lots of questions! A campus visit is your time to learn about the environment that you may spend your college years experiencing. Ask questions of everyone you meet. Getting a diversity of perspectives will help you determine if the college you are visiting may be the right fit for you to attend.
Benefits of College Overnight Programs
If you can participate in an overnight program, it is one of the best ways to get totally immersed into the campus environment in a short time. Check with each Admissions Office to learn about their individual campus overnight programs.
Here are some reasons why planning an overnight stay at the colleges can help you decide which institution fits you.
- Experience the college as current students
Spending a day in the life of a college student provides you with the chance to see and experience what life is truly like at the college. You can compare the information you have received from the Admissions Office and the admissions materials with your experiences.
- Ask questions of yourself
As you are on the campus, take the time to check in with yourself. Think about how you are feeling as you walk around campus; talking with students; eating in the dining hall and taking in the campus after dark.
- Ask questions of all you meet
You have the opportunity not only to experience campus life but to talk with current students, faculty, and staff to get their perspectives about the campus community. Find out from students what life is like outside of the classroom? Is attending the college all they hoped it would be? Faculty interactions can elicit if they have time to be accessible to students.
Colleges and universities receive many applications from highly competitive applicants. What admissions committees cannot always tell is an applicant’s true interest. Highlighting your demonstrated interest is key to helping the admissions committee learn more about you. Communicating with your admissions officer prior to and immediately following your campus visit can help. In the world of Snapchat, twitter and many other social media platforms, take the time to write your admissions officer a letter about your recent visit to the campus sharing your overall experience and how you see attending the college aligns with your future goals/plans.