I’ll never forget the weekends I spent visiting CU, CSU, Colorado School of Mines, and Colorado College. I remember driving around the state with my mom, taking tours, checking out the dorms, and the like.
There’s a way to make those college visits count, and it starts with this: plan ahead. Make a list of what you want to learn and put together a pros and cons list about each school when you get home.
Here are seven tips to make your college visits as effective as possible.
1. Make a list of questions.
Sure, you want to know how fun the school is and what size classes are. But think hard about what matters to you in a college, and ask those questions when you’re visiting places. If you’re unsure about your major, perhaps you should ask about general education classes and assistance you could receive at the career center. If doing undergraduate research is important to you, you may want to investigate this further during your visit.
…but do your homework. There’s no need to ask how many students attend a college you’re visiting when you could easily find that information on the college’s website. As you develop your list of most important questions, spend time on the websites of your prospective colleges to see what information you can dig up. Use your time at the campuses wisely.
2. Visit the classrooms.
Sit in on a class if possible, but at the very least, ask to see inside a few different classrooms. Get a sense for their size, equipment, seating, and the like.
3. Go beyond the campus tour.
It’s a great idea to take a guided tour of campus, because you’ll have a student tour guide at your disposal for questions, but walk around on your own, too. Try walking from the dorms to the buildings where you’re classes will be held—how long does it take you? Check out the student union, the dorms, the areas where students hang out, and the buildings. Are there plenty of social spaces on campus, too?
4. Get the real deal from students.
The tour guides and admissions officers will have plenty of valuable information, but try talking to students you see hanging around campus. If you’re visiting on a weekend or over summer break, sure, the place may be quiet, but you can still find people to chat with informally. I once had a friend in higher education tell me that the best way to determine a college’s “friendly factor” is to stand in a busy area (like the student center) looking lost and see how long it takes for someone to ask if you need help. Not a bad idea, right?
5. Arrange meetings ahead of time.
If you know what you’ll be studying, your college visit is a great opportunity to meet professors in that field of study and check out the buildings where you’ll be spending time. Can you meet with any current students in the major in which you’re interested? Are there any part-time jobs available in the academic department, and how could you apply for those jobs? If you’re an athlete, make sure you arrange to meet the coaches of your sport so you can discuss what opportunities might be available to you.
6. Don’t forget the library.
OK, the library might not be high on your list of priorities, but in college, you’ll be spending a lot of time there. Arrange a tour of the library when you’re visiting so you can get a sense of the breadth and depth of resources available, the librarians’ availability, and more.
7. Trust your instincts.
Probably the most important thing when visiting colleges is to go with your gut. Does the place feel like you? Do you feel at home? Make your visit worthwhile, but remember to also trust your instincts about a college.
If you’re in higher education, or you’ve recently made a few campus visits, what ideas do you have?