College visits may be one of the most exciting aspects of the college application process. You get to go to schools, talk to the student body, and decide whether you can see yourself living there. It is the best way to get a first-hand look at the campus and its life.
Although college tours are fun, they do take some planning. The better you plan, the easier it is to enjoy your peek into college life. Consider some tips to help you make the most of your college campus tour.
Why Visit Colleges?
You are about to make a critical decision, one that will impact the rest of your life. When piecing together the puzzle of your college education, one of the first questions you have to answer is whether a school is a good fit for you. You can only get so much information from the school website or their marketing brochures.
The campus visit allows you not only to see where you will be spending a good part of your life over the next few years but talk to administrators and current students face to face. You will visit lecture halls, student unions, and the admissions office to learn about your financial aid options.
When to Start College Visits?
There is no set rule as to when you should start scheduling college tours. Many students and their families begin during freshman year of high school. This gives them plenty of time to see every campus they want to consider.
Starting that early allows you to dig deep, too. You can schedule a few a year until you are ready to begin filling out applications.
What to Expect During a College Visit?
Most universities and colleges begin their college tours with an information session held by members of the admissions office. They might also include a current student to answer questions about life there and act as a college tour guide.
Each school has its own process for tours, but you can expect to visit the library, at least one academic building, the student center, possibly a dining hall, and a dorm, as well. It is important to remember that this visit is not just about seeing the campus.
Your goal is to get a sense of college life there. If there is anything specific you want to see, ask. If it is not part of the tour, they can point you in the right direction or give you a map. However, some schools may limit where you can visit on campus for security reasons.
What Should You Do Before Your College Visit?
It does take some planning to ensure you get the most from your visit to the campus.
Research the School
You will want to do your homework about the school to explore the things that interest you. For example, what clubs are available? What about fraternities and sororities? The more you know about the campus, the better.
Also, gather up supplies that you can use to remember key points about the school. For example, you will probably want to bring a notebook and a pencil. You may want to carry your phone or a camera with you, too, to get some pictures.
If you are traveling to the school from a distance, do your homework about the town, as well. Decide if you want to stay a few days and make arrangements for lodging.
Explore Virtual Tour Options
If they offer a virtual tour, take it before going for the in-person visit. This will give you a different perspective of the campus. It will also help you decide what questions to ask and where you want to visit.
Make Appointments for Your On-Campus Tour
These information sessions can fill up quickly, so book your appointment well in advance. Ideally, you will want to make your plans three or four weeks ahead of time, especially if you are going during spring or summer break. These are popular times for tours, and they will likely only book so many appointments.
Have Notes and Questions Ready
Make a list of questions you want to ask. For example, you might want to audit a lecture to see what it is like, so ask if that is possible. You may also want more information on the application process and financial aid. Prepare those questions in advance.
Questions To Ask on a College Tour
What questions should you consider asking?
Questions About Academics
Some common questions would include what is the student-to-teacher ratio? How about what is the average size of each class or lab?
You might also want to ask about the different majors available. Which ones are the most popular? When do you have to declare your major, and what staff support is there during the process?
Also, cover details about the semesters. How long are they? How many credit hours do you need to be a full-time student? What is considered part-time?
Questions About Admissions
The admissions process is complex, so you will want to make sure you understand it fully. Ask what the various deadlines are for admission and what their prerequisites are currently. Some schools require you to take entry tests, for example. Which tests do they want to see?
Also, ask what they consider when reviewing applications. Is it strictly about academics, or do they look at things like extracurricular activities such as clubs, student government, and sports?
Questions About Campus Life
There will likely be some rules about your life on campus. For example, if you do not live at home, are you required to live in the dorms? Can you live off-campus in an apartment? What kind of dorms do they offer? Are there any other student housing options?
How about transportation? Can you have a car or a bike on campus?
You might want to know more about the diversity of the student body. Ask about the security on the campus, too. Many large universities have their own police force.
Questions About the Community
There is so much more to going to college than the campus. You are joining a community. So, you might ask what the town is like. What attractions are around? How about the local social scene? Are there rules for when you must be on campus if you do go into town?
Ask about coffee shops and other things to do in town. What is the employment situation? Does the school have any rules about students holding jobs off-campus?
What Are the Next Steps?
Once you are satisfied that you have seen everything and gotten answers to your questions, the next thing to know is what you should do now. How soon can you apply, for instance?
What do you need to do before you can apply? How do you go about looking into financial aid? What information will you need to apply for funding and to the school?
After your tour ends, take a few minutes to write down your impression of what you have seen while it is still fresh in your mind. Chances are you will visit more than one campus, so write down something unique about this one to help you remember the tour. It might be a landmark or a specific club that stands out to you. When you sort out your notes about each school, this will help you keep them separate in your mind.
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