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Finding a match: 6 tips for making the most of your campus visits

Why should you visit colleges? Visiting a college is the best way to determine if the college is a good match for you. In addition to learning more about the college, you’ll also a gain a sense of the community, vibe and culture – something that’s difficult to gather without stepping foot on campus.

Some colleges utilize demonstrated interest in their admissions review process which is how you show a college that you’re sincerely interested in attending. Visiting a college campus is one of the best ways to show your interest.  Having been on campus also helps if you need to write a “why us” supplemental essay as you’ll be able to state specific reasons why you and the college are a match.

Here are 6 tips when visiting college campuses:

  1. Arrange a visit when the college is in session. This will allow you to interact with current students and faculty, as well as see campus when it’s in full swing. Remember that a college may be in session on a holiday when you’re off school (Labor Day, Columbus Day, President’s Day are good examples). Also, your high school spring break is a great time to visit, as college spring breaks are generally earlier in the spring.
  2. Experience as much as possible during your visit.  Most college campuses will offer at a minimum a campus tour. Many colleges will offer quite a bit more for you to do and experience during your visit. Take advantage of all that is offered to you! Here are some examples of what some colleges will offer during a visit: information session, observing a class, chatting with a professor, lunch with current students, admission interview, and meeting with a financial aid counselor.
  3. Research and ask questions. Before you visit a college, be sure to do your research and ask specific questions that are important to you. Do you want to learn more about study abroad opportunities? Are you interested in undergraduate research and want to better understand opportunities available to students?  What is the advising system for a student who is undecided about their major? Are you curious about internship opportunities?  Think about the factors that are important to YOU in your college search and ask specific questions while you are on campus. This is your time to learn about the college and understand if it’s a fit for you.  A great guide to asking college questions is, A Pocket Guide to Choosing a College, by the National Survey of Student Engagement.
  4. Begin your networking skills. Get the business cards or name and email addresses of those you meet with while on-campus. If you don’t meet individually with the admission counselor who typically reads the applications for your state/region, ask the admissions office for that individual’s business card so you can connect personally with your specific admission counselor. Be sure to follow-up with a thank you email to those you met after your visit and continue to stay in touch as questions arise.
  5. Explore on your own. Don’t be afraid to explore campus on your own. Strike up a conversation with students – you’ll be amazed what you can learn by talking with students while waiting for a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop!   Pick up a student newspaper. Look at the bulletin boards around campus.  What’s happening in different academic departments? What social events are being advertised?  Walk around the area surrounding the campus to get a sense of the community and what would be available to you as a current student.
  6. Take notes.  Take notes as soon as possible. Be sure to take notes on the facts and information you learned but also take the time to be reflective about your interactions and observations while on campus. Consider the following questions:
    • If you observed a class, were the students engaged and interested in the class discussion or was it lecture based?
    • Did you observe students interacting with one another?
    • How would you describe the types of students attending the school?
    • What did you think about the location of the campus? Size of campus?
    • What impressed you the most during your visit?

Many students find it helpful to make a pros/cons list as well. You’ll be able to reference your notes later when you’re deciding on the final list of colleges you’d like to apply to based on the right fit for you. These notes will also come in handy as you prepare for any supplemental essays and admission interviews.

In our upcoming classes, launching in July 2017, we will discuss campus visits in more detail. 

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