The college visit process is incredibly exciting. For the first time, you’re really stepping into the world that you’re soon going to inhabit. During your visits, you’ll get to experience a taste of university life that’s likely to leave you hungry for more.
Of course, that’s the best-case scenario, and the one that involves some planning in advance. If you just show up without any forethought, you’re likely to spend your time wandering around with your parents, awkwardly peering into random buildings and feeling bored out of your mind.
To get the most out of the experience, follow our tips for things you should do before (and during) your college visits.
Before You Go
- Contact the college admissions office and let them know you’re coming. This serves a dual purpose:
- First, it lets them help you organize your visit. They have lots of resources and experience in helping high school students visit their campus, and they’ll be able to put all of this to use for you.
- Second, by contacting them and arranging an official visit, you’re doing an excellent job of demonstrating interest in the college. This may help your chances of getting in when you actually apply.
- Read everything you can about the college. This will help you get a good sense for it, so you’ll be less surprised by what you encounter there and more able to focus on the experience once you get there. It’ll also impress the people you interact with when you show off how much you already know about the school.
- Talk to the college counselor at your high school. While this isn’t absolutely necessary, your college counselor may have some great insights or recommendations into things to do either at the university or in the university's greater area.
- Prepare a list of questions about the college. These can be anything from basic factual questions (as long as they aren’t things you could answer with some basic research) to more subjective topics, such as the atmosphere or overall experience at the university.
During Your Visit
- Take a guided campus tour (often by a current student) and attend an information session about the college. These are standard activities that the admissions office will help you set up when you contact them in advance.
- Talk to everyone! Professors, staff, undergraduate and graduate students… chat with anyone you can. How people in general react to you will give you a great sense for the campus’s overall atmosphere. Are people friendly? Approachable? Happy to help? It also gives you a chance to ask those questions you prepared!
- Accept any other activity offers the admissions office presents. You’ll probably be able to attend a class, for example -- and you’re well within reason to ask if this could be one within the major you plan to declare, if you know what that is. (The college may not be able to accommodate this request, but it’s definitely worth asking.) They might also give you the chance to spend a night in a dorm, which will give you great insight into real, day-to-day life at the university.
- Explore independently. If the school has a dining hall that’s open to the public, go there during lunch time to check out not only the food, but also the student body. Wander the aisles at the campus bookstore, browsing the textbooks on the shelves. Read the college newspaper. Stop by the office hours of a professor in a department you’re considering.
- Check out any other part of the campus that’s particularly important to you. If you’re into sports, go to the health center and check out the stadium. If you’re planning to major in music, take a look at the practice rooms. Remember that the school needs to be a good fit for you, so check out how it measures up in the aspects that matter to you.