It can be difficult to explore colleges from guidebooks and online websites. They only focus on the gorgeous aspects of their campuses and highlight the pros. College experts agree that you can get a much better sense of what college looks and feels like by visiting the campus in person. It is worth making a trip to your top prospects to check out things in person and meet the people who work and live there.
If you can swing a campus tour or a few, keep the following ideas in mind to help you pinpoint your ideal campus.
Take Your Time
Some people try to cram in numerous college campus visits during a single weekend. This can be stressful and exhausting. Plan to take in the campus tour for a few hours and meet with professors and students. View the facilities and aim to enjoy a snack or a meal at the cafeteria or check out the campus bar or coffee shop.
Observe the Vibes
Are the students smiling? Is the campus thriving or isolated? Take note of what kinds of vibes you are picking up and note the activities you see. Notice if the grounds are well manicured and if the buildings are maintained. Are there visible security measures available? Do the staff and faculty seem approachable and friendly?
Consider Wise Questions
Conduct adequate research about each school before you visit by spending some time online. If you can answer your question from the internet, great. However, this gives you the chance to come up with informed questions regarding career resources, internship programs, security and safety protocols and on-campus events. You can find out more information about study abroad options and what kinds of campus jobs and support services are around.
Jot Down Some Notes
Use your cell phone or a notebook to take notes throughout your visit. You may have your college visits all overlapping or spread out throughout the year. It can be tricky to remember all the pertinent details once your deadlines for school applications roll around.
Develop a rating system or some type of format for every visit. This will allow you to compare similar notes when your visits are over. You might choose to keep a list of dislikes and likes. Maybe you categorize vital categories that are important to you including lab equipment quality, dorm room size, common area spaces, food, etc.
Create Your Own Viewbook
Be sure to take some videos and photos during your campus visits. This is a great way to visually track what you like about the campus and things you weren't crazy about. Having a visual reminder can help you create a wholesome view and supplement the notes you have taken.
Explore the Area
The campus tour is an excellent place to start. You will want to find out about the residence hall options and take in a class session. However, it is essential to discover what the local area has to offer too. Check out your potential new city and surroundings. Learn how students travel on public transportation and where people go to have some fun. Where are the nearest grocery store, pharmacy, and other amenities you may need to rely on?
Get your Family Involved
Oftentimes, your parents or one of them will be coming to the college campus visit with you. Speak with your guardian about what your ideal college experience looks like to recognize specific attributes. This can help you match up the schools that will best suit your needs.
Your parents might have some specific questions to ask on your visit that you haven't thought of, and this can help you get more information.
Plan your Return Trip
Some people have two top schools that they are torn between. If decision time is difficult, you can request a second college campus visit to gain a more detailed perspective. This can help shed some light on what student life looks like.
Certain schools may offer you the chance to shadow a student for a day or be open to spending a night in a dorm if there is availability. Speak with your top schools to find out if they have immersive opportunities to help you make your decision.
Of course, visiting every school you are interested in isn't feasible. However, if you can take a couple of college tours that are within driving distance or make time to travel to your top 2 or 3 choices, you will have a better idea of where you want to go.
At your campus visit, inquire if there are any social media groups specifically for prospective students. This is an excellent way to remain connected with additional incoming freshmen. There will likely be some upperclassmen available who can answer any questions or concerns.