Exploring college campuses is one of the most exciting aspects of the college search process. You get to discover new places, new faces, new communities. The campus you eventually select will be your school, your playground and your home for the next four years. And while there are a plethora of online resources students and parents can and should use to research different universities, no virtual tour can replace walking the bricks and seeing the mortar for yourself. We encourage every junior and their family to take some time during the spring semester to go on at least one, if not several, campus tours.
Who: Engage with those you meet on campus. Before you go, reach out to the regional dean who works with students from our area. Ask to meet with him or her while on campus. Begin to personalize yourself to those who will eventually review your application credentials. Talk to your tour guide. Ask questions during and after the tour. Follow closely, and listen to the stories and experiences they share about their school. Ask yourself if you are connecting to what and who you see around you. Can you picture yourself on that campus? Are there programs outlined that call to you? Do you feel like you belong there?
What: A traditional campus visit consists of an information session (usually presented by a member of the admission staff) and a student-led campus tour. Many schools ask that you pre-register, and we encourage you to do just that. Take advantage of special visit programs such as open houses, visiting a class, shadowing a current student or overnight stays when they are available.
Where: Explore the entire campus, not just the parts you see on the tour. Eat in a dining hall. Walk through the building that houses the academic department (or departments) in which you are most interested. Go to an evening event on campus (athletic, artistic, cultural, or academic). Spend time simply walking the grounds and chatting with current students who you meet along the way. Explore the surrounding area as well. Stay at a hotel close by. Eat breakfast at an off-campus student haunt. Plan on visiting no more than two schools per day (allowing at least a half day for each visit) in order to give yourself enough time to fully explore the place you may call home for the next four years.
When: The spring semester provides several opportunities for campus visits. The holiday weekends in January (MLK Day), February (President’s Day) and April (Easter weekend) are a few examples. Spring break is another. During the long weekends you can travel to campuses relatively close to home whereas spring break affords you more time to travel more distance. Additionally, in most cases, students will be on campus during these times (spring break and Easter weekend could be exceptions depending on the campus). While visiting a college whenever you can is helpful in this process, we encourage you when possible to visit while classes are in session and students are on campus.
Why: There’s terrific insight to be gained from a campus visit. Hearing an admission officer outline an application process or listening to a tour guide describe their experience on campus is more visceral, more real than reading words on a webpage. Your gut will tell you how you respond to the campus. Your parents’ observations of you will too. Reflecting on what you appreciated, what you didn’t, and how you did or did not see yourself belonging to that community will provide tremendous insight into what you value in an educational community and can help to continually shape your college search.
How: Approach each visit with an open-mind. Explore all possibilities. Remember what compelled you to visit in the first place. Clearly you have enough interest in the school to spend the time and energy needed to undertake a campus visit. Don’t dismiss a particular school entirely because of bad weather or a less-than-eager tour guide. See the campus for yourself. Listen to what the people you meet have to say. Take time to reflect on what you’ve seen and heard. Use a journal to record your observations and feelings. Campus visits can quickly run together. Keeping detailed notes will help you to recall particular points of interest about each school.
If you need help planning or making the most of a spring campus visit, please seek out any one of us on the College Counseling team. We are eager to help you make the most of these wonderful and fun opportunities to explore what awaits you at college.
Mrs. Wendy Livingston, Associate Director of College Counseling