How many times have you been asked the question?
“What are you doing after graduation?”
That question can be energizing or draining depending on if you have a plan. With lots of schools to choose from, it’s helpful to go and visit the campus to see what it would be like to be a student there.
I remember visiting a few colleges my senior year of high school. I had no idea what to expect, what questions to ask, or what to do while visiting. So, let me share a few things that are helpful for a college campus visit.
1. Think Before You Visit
A successful and meaningful college visit is all about the pregame. Have an idea of what some of your “deal breakers” are. You may not find exactly what you’re looking for, but you could get pretty close.
Think about what you are looking for in your college experience. Do you value quality social activities and community life? Is there a specific program of study you’re interested in? Is the college an expert in a certain field? How about study abroad, internships or research opportunities? Is good cafeteria food and a great fitness center a must?
2. Have a Plan
Make arrangements for your college visit. I recommend visiting while school is in session. I know it would be convenient to go on your school break, but an empty campus won’t help you get a feel for student life.
There are often official dates for group tours and overnight stays. You can usually arrange to attend a class, meet with a professor or coach or talk with an admissions counselor as well. Take advantage of these opportunities!
3. Learn Before You Go
Before you go, visit the college’s website and learn as much as you can about the school and program and student life. Most of your basic questions can be found online. Start there so you have some foundational information when you visit.
Be sure to research financial aid information too. That way you don’t get to the campus and fall in love with the school only to find out it’s financially not an option.
4. Ask the Right Questions
Don’t be shy. Talk to current students! You’ll learn the most by talking to people and they would love to help. Have a list of questions to ask staff and students.
If you make an appointment to meet with a professor or coach, send them a little email thanking them for their time. Bonus points for you!
5. Take Notes
Write down your thoughts, feelings and impressions as you visit. If you’re visiting a few schools, this will help you remember details about each one. If you’re attending multiples school’s information sessions, they tend to blend.
Take pictures too! This will give you a visual to refer to as you’re making your decision.
6. Go Off the Beaten Path
Go on the official tour, but take some time on your own to explore the campus and get a feel for student life and the community. Also, pay attention to how you feel walking around. Do people smile and say hi? Do you feel safe? What posters and flyers are around to show you what’s going on?
The cafeteria and student union will give you a good idea of the school’s atmosphere and environment. Another ideas is to read the student newspaper or listen to the student radio station to learn what the students are passionate about.
7. Save the Best for Last
If you’re going to visit a few schools and one of them is your favorite, save that campus visit for last. That way you’ll be more campus visiting savvy, have quality questions to ask and other visits to compare your experience to.
Finally, take your time deciding and don’t let little factors get in the way like uncomfortable seats in the cafeteria, a cloudy day or a weird interaction with a student or professor (Warning: weird people are everywhere).