Before you choose a college, you need to visit it! Planning a college visit is as simple as can be, and often quite a bit of fun too. What do you need to do to prepare for a smooth and educational turn about campus? Here are a few things to consider.
Register for a Visit
This is the easiest bit: go to the college website, and find the button that says “Visit Campus.” This may be under the “About” tab. It will probably take you a digital form asking for some basic personal information and then a calendar on which you can select the day you would like to visit.
What can you register to do on a campus visit?
- attend an information session
- take a campus tour
- have an admissions interview
- sit-in on a class
- shadow a student
- meet with a professor
Pay Attention to Emails
The school will most likely send you an email confirming your visit and giving you a visitor parking pass and all of the information you need where you need to be when you arrive on campus.
Nothing beats exploring a campus with one of its backwards-walking scholars. Many a parent will spend the whole tour nervously watching the tour guide to make sure the poor soul doesn’t walk into a busy street or down a flight of stairs. Don’t hesitate to ask your tour guide any questions you may have about the campus, student life, academics or anything else and ask to see inside of a freshman dorm, if you can.
Wear comfy shoes under any circumstances, and consider the weather! One early January weekend, my family and I toured Case Western Reserve University in a blizzard. That was a visit we won’t forget anytime soon. What kind of weather should you expect at the time of your visit? Consider temperature, precipitation, and sunlight and dress appropriately: nobody will enjoy slowly succumbing to frostbite or reddening to lobster sunvurn status on a trek around campus.
You know that one thing that you just can’t seem to find any mention of on the college website that has been driving you crazy? When you are on campus, you will be surrounded by people who have answers to your questions! Bring a list of your questions to ask your tour guide or the speaker at your information session during the question-and-answer portion. You can also go to campus offices like the financial aid office or residence services if you have specific concerns or questions and would like to get answers in person.
What should you ask questions about
- Roommate selection processes
- Campus safety resources
- Scholarships and financial aid
- Academic options and course scheduling
- Extracurricular activities and sports
- Best campus hangouts
- Dining plans
- Restaurant recommendations for post-tour lunch! (seriously, always ask for the local favorite)
Make it a Family Affair
If possible, schedule a visit when your parents, guardians, and any siblings who might wish to go are available. Drag your younger siblings with you, they will thank you, someday; and your parents will be able to help you evaluate the school and decide whether or not it would be a good fit for you.
Make it a Vacation
If you are looking at colleges far from home, consider planning your family vacation around the visit. Some schools fit into tourist excursions better than others, but most can be nestled into a family road trip somewhere with little trouble. Visiting William and Mary was an obvious campus-visit-vacation option, since Colonial Williamsburg is seamlessly joined to campus. We also used it as a chance to visit family who lived a couple hours away and made a week of it.
Check Out the Bookstore
If the campus has already stolen your heart away, why not tell the world by proudly purchasing and wearing some university merchandise? Get your parents a bumper sticker, they’ll love it.
Take a notebook and scribble down any helpful snippets or things that might help you make your final decisions on where to enroll. My mom helped my brother and I set up spreadsheets to compare features of all of the colleges we visited. I plan to share the template on here soon!
Explore beyond campus, go further afield and see what the neighborhood is like outside of the campus area. How accessible is public transportation? Is it easy to get to grocery stores or drugstores from campus? Is the campus situated in a safe area? You will want to know all of those things before you enroll.
College visits are exciting! Don’t be intimidated by the new environment, just consider it a research expedition and learn all you can. As you walk around the school, imagine yourself living and studying there. Can you see yourself enjoying life there or is something not quite right? You won’t know until you visit!