Visiting a college is a great way to find out if you can imagine yourself as a student there. It can also be helpful in determining and evaluating your criteria for your good fit. Many schools now value demonstrated interest from applicants to help admissions officers figure out which students are serious about attending the institution; a college visit is an excellent way to demonstrate interest.
A few tips about college visits:
- If possible, visit while the college is in session. You’ll likely have an opportunity to attend a class and talk to students. But the college visit is still worthwhile, even if it can only be scheduled during the summer or other vacation time. (Remember that public high school breaks usually don’t coincide with college vacations and can be a great time for a college visit. Check the college website for the academic calendar.)
- Be sure to check in with the admissions office to tell them you’re there. You’ll most likely have a chance to take a tour and attend an information session. Sometimes these activities require advanced registration-check the college website. Even if you don’t attend an official admissions event, checking in will ensure that you are added to the school’s mailing list and also will get “credit” for the visit with respect to demonstrating interest.
- Keep a notebook for your visits to record observations and impressions, both positive and negative, about each school. Try to include anecdotes and/or features that are unique and specific information about individuals you’ve met. You might also want to take pictures. It might be hard to keep track of the similarities and differences among schools after several visits, and notes will helpful. In addition, many schools require an essay answering the question, “Why do you want to attend this college?” A personal response, based on your visit and notes, is most effective.
- Pick up a copy of the school newspaper.
- Drive or walk around the neighborhood in which the college is located to get a sense of what’s there and the role the community might play in college life.
- If you don’t have time and/or financial resources to visit colleges on your list, don’t despair! There are many ways to learn about schools, and also other ways to demonstrate interest. Look for local college fairs. Some colleges also offer regional and/or high school visits. You can always visit colleges’ website for virtual tours and extensive information.