Make the Most of College Campus Visits

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The Unigo Expert Network is a group of top education experts from across the US answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school.
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With several campus visits scheduled, I want to make the most of them – what are some uncommon, but important, things to do, look for, and ask while I’m there? – Jason C., Boulder, CO
Plan well and be observant
Before doing a series of visits, try to outline what you are looking for—besides how well you feel you fit in.  Memorize three to five things that you are going to try to examine at every school. Say you know you need quiet study space; late-night food; and plenty of free events to attend.  You may find answers during your tour, or you may want to wander the campus, observing gathering spaces and reading bulletin boards.  If your questions are specific, ask Admissions for guidance when you book your trip so that you can meet appropriate faculty and students.
          Nola Lynch – Owner, Northwest College Search
The campus visit is to determine if the college fits
To make the most of a campus visit, students and parents should view the college’s website prior to the visit.  The visit is to determine how the college feels.  Does the college seem inviting?  Are the student body/college personnel warm and friendly toward visitors? Do students seem interested and engaged during class?  Are the dormitories and cafeteria clean, orderly and a relaxing place for students?  Other questions relate to what types of student support services are available, types of safety measures in place, types of transportation resources available to go off campus, and percentage of freshman students returning sophomore year?
          Dorothy Styles – Director for College Readiness Programs, Project GRAD Atlanta
Visit in session, attend a class, and dine with students
Visit the campus while in session.  After a formal visit and information session, explore the campus alone. Many schools, like Tufts, will let you attend classes. If you have a sense of your major, attend a core course. Arranged in advance, some will allow you to stay overnight in their dormitories.  Anything is possible; just ask.  Visit the gym, pick up the newspaper and check the bulletin boards, find out about internet access, go to the library, and talk to as many students as you can, especially over a meal in the cafeteria: they’re relaxed and open to honest exchanges. 
          Ralph Becker – Owner & Director, Ivy College Prep LLC
Spend some time during each college visit exploring by yourself
Spend some time alone on campus.  Sure, you’ll probably be arriving with mom and dad and taking the official tour, but if you decide to attend this college, mom and dad won’t be with you and you won’t have a tour guide.  So, at some point during your visit, break away from your parents and the tour and explore on your own.  Grab a bite to eat in the dining hall.  Hang out in the student union. Say hi to a few students. Look around. Listen in. Let yourself experience this campus without anyone else’s filter.  Ask yourself: Can I see myself living here for the next four years?
          Carolyn Lawrence – Founder,
Keep your eyes and ears open and take notes!
Check the proximity of town, note how the students are dressed, what activities are going on (Frisbee? Classes outside?), and certainly eat in the cafeteria.  If you know your major, go to that department and talk to the students and professors.  Looking at the posts on bulletin boards across campus will give you a sense of what’s happening; the friendliness of students towards your tour guide will also tell you something.  When you write your thank you letter, you will begin a dialogue that will allow you to ask questions throughout the process, and they will know who you are!
          Susan Smith – Educational Consultant, Bedford Educational Consulting
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