An in-person visit while a college is in session will give you the best feel for the place you might be spending four years.
by Martha Green Quirk, M.A.
The campus visit is the best way for you to see a college “up close and personal.” You’ll get a first-hand feel for the students, the dynamics in the classroom, the dormitories, and the social atmosphere. Your visit is a chance to see whether or not the “fit” is good for you and if you would be happy at that college.
Most students visit colleges during their senior year. However, juniors should also make arrangements for visits in the spring. Some students find time to see colleges during the summer, often with parents. Some colleges have specific visiting dates or weekends available to prospective students, so be sure to check their websites for current information.
You might consider visiting colleges that have offered you an acceptance sometime in the spring of your senior year—before the May 1 deadline. Many colleges have “admit weekends,” a time to visit the campus with other admitted students before you make your final decision.
What to do first
Check the college’s admissions website for the reservation form and calendar dates for a college visit. Sign up (for most colleges) online for a tour and an information session by submitting a short reservation form.
It’s optional, but if you want an appointment with a faculty member or a coach or an admissions officer, make that request known when you set up your campus visit date. If you want to stay overnight, indicate that as well.
What to look for during your visit
The in-person campus visit while college is in session is key to your college search. You will be able to see the campus in action, attend some classes, and speak with the students and faculty.
Take a guided tour, but also try to hang out on the campus by yourself. Go to the student union where students get their mail; eat a meal or get a soda in one of the dining rooms or coffee shops; visit the library; walk through a couple of dorms; go to the bookstore; talk to students, and attend a class or two. Listen to what current students say about their college.
Ask current students questions like these:
The campus tour
Taking a guided tour will give you lots of information about the college. Be sure you ask to see classrooms, the inside of dormitories, the student center, library, athletic facilities, the gym and the weight room, bookstore, and the dining room.
Talk to students and ask them why they chose that college and whether or not they are pleased with their choice. Find out what the students do on the weekends. What’s the Greek life like (fraternities or sororities)? Is there racial and ethnic diversity on campus?
Check out the general condition of the buildings and grounds. Is maintenance and new building construction a priority for the college? Read kiosks and information boards to see what’s happening on campus. Find and read a copy of the campus newspaper.
Use this visit to get a feel for the “personality” of the college. How did you feel on this campus? Did students seem friendly? Did you like being in that setting? Could you see yourself attending that college? It is important that you feel confident that this college satisfies you both academically and socially—after all, you could be spending four years of your life there!
After your visit
Now that you have visited a college, here are some questions for you to think about:
Martha Green Quirk, M.A., has been active in the college admissions field for over 30 years. In 2008 she founded her own independent educational consulting company, College Admissions Consulting (CAC), in St. Louis, Missouri. She is an associate member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC).