It's spring, the perfect time for rising seniors to visit the top colleges on their list!
Here are a few tips to make your college visits productive, interesting, and fun.
Before you go – Schedule your college visit(s) as soon as you can! The spots fill up rapidly, especially in the spring when newly admitted students are also touring campuses. On the day of your tour be sure to arrive early, properly dressed, and ready to take it all in!
Prepare – Research the university before your tour! Look at their 4 and 6 year graduation rates, freshman retention rate, academic programs in your major, career placement center, student to faculty ratio, professors vs. teaching assistants, average class size, study abroad programs, educational mission, sports, community service programs, arts/theater programs, dorm life, safety. If you can’t find this information on the website, make sure you ask!
Read While You Wait – Grab a copy of the school newspaper or magazine and read about what is happening on campus! This will allow you to ask more targeted questions. And don’t skip the information session since it is a great opportunity to listen to questions asked by other students and will help you better understand what the college is looking for from applicants! Make sure you have a list of your own questions prepared, and if they are not covered in the session or tour, be sure to ask them.
Take the Tour – Ask lots of questions to your student tour guide! By learning what motivated your tour guide to attend that university and hearing about their experience on campus, you can get a good feel for the university's atmosphere. This is also a great time to ask about the best dorms, restaurants, if you need a car, fun activities and events on campus...
Take pictures during the tour and immediately write down your impressions while they are fresh in your mind. What did you think of the campus, diversity, size, students? How did you feel on that campus? Can you see yourself attending college there?
Remember that for many selective universities, their application includes a Why? supplemental essay. It’s best to jot down ample notes during and after the tour so that you remember everything about the campus and are able to identify the reasons why you would like to attend that specific university.
Talk to Students – Find a way to talk to students on campus! You can ask them questions in the quad, the union, or the local book store. Ask what they love or don’t love about the school. This is the best way to get honest opinions ….but talk to several students to get multiple and different points of view.
Sit in on a Class – if you are interested in seeing what a class is like in your major at a specific university, know that with advanced planning you might be able to sit in on a class. Know that on the day of the tour, you would have to arrive prior to the class in order to speak with the professor and must stay for the entirety of the class.
Visit Career Services - if you have already decided on your major, or even have narrowed it down, stop by the career services office of each university. Ask the important questions: what services do they offer to students looking for internships and employment; what companies recruit in your major on campus; what is the average salary of graduates in your field of study; what percentage of graduates in your major are employed in their field within 6 months of graduation?
Other Things to Consider – if this is one of your top schools, schedule an appointment with the admissions officer from your area by emailing them a few weeks prior to your visit! At the majority of universities, your designated admissions officer is very likely the person who will be reading your application. If you are interested in a specialty (sports, music, etc.), see if you can meet with the coach or director. Before your meeting with the rep or coach, write a list of questions - the answers to these questions should not be available on the website! Even if you go with your parents, you should be the one asking most of the questions and conversing. Within a week of the meeting, make sure you send the person a thank you note via email, including any follow-up questions that you have.
Visiting a university is the best way to understand all of the opportunities offered at each university and will also allow you to find the perfect place for you to spend the next four years!!
Enjoy your college tours!!
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