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Campus Visit Dos and Don’ts

March is a great time for high school juniors to visit college campuses. Here are some “Dos & Don’ts” that students and their parents need to know before visiting universities.

Do visit campuses during your junior year, but don’t miss any classes.
Holidays, spring break and weekends are a perfect time to plan those college road trips. Before you leave, check to see if there are tours and information sessions available on the dates you plan on visiting. Regardless, walking on campus while school is in session will give you a true sense of campus life. But don’t skip school to visit a college. You need to keep up with your academic obligations. Many universities have open houses on weekends and holidays to work around your academic schedule.

Do research the college before you visit and don’t visit without knowing the school’s basics.
Research the school’s academic programs and facilities before your campus visit. This will allow you to focus on elements of the campus that you are most interested in. You’ll not only impress the admissions officer during the information session if you ask educated questions, but you’ll also remember the visit. Bring a checklist of your expectations and questions you want answered. Keep in mind, though, that asking generic questions will not make a positive impression.

Do explore the campus on your own, but don’t leave a campus tour without informing the tour guide ahead of time.
Tours are designed to show visitors different facets of campus life. However, if you need to leave early for any reason, know that you may miss some important details. Also, let the tour guide know before hand; leaving abruptly can be distracting to both the guide and the group. When you do have time to explore on your own, make time to:

  • Have lunch in campus dining hall to meet current students. They are a great resource regarding life on and off campus. Imagine yourself as a student on that campus by interacting with students as much as possible.
  • Sit in on a class in a subject that you’re interested in: If you have time to stay for the full duration of the class, ask to see if you can see how professors and students interact. Choose a class that you’ll have in your first year. Sitting in on a senior seminar would be intimidating. Also, make sure that you ask permission from the professor, so introduce yourself before the class begins. Finally, you are there to observe and imagine yourself in that class next year.
  • Check out the surrounding community. You’ll be living there for four years! Now’s the time to explore nearby restaurants, movie theaters, malls and places even for employment.

Do introduce yourself to your admissions officer, but don’t monopolize his time.
When you meet your admissions officer, have a brief five-minute conversation about your interest. Ask one thoughtful, well-researched question; this will make a positive impression. Remember, this is not an interview, so don’t dominate the admissions officer’s time. Admissions officers are very busy and you don’t want to come off as a nuisance.

Parents: Do listen to your child’s opinions, but don’t ask too many questions.
Let your student do the talking. Overbearing parents are not only embarrassing, but they often prevent the admissions officer or tour guide from sharing some important information. Often, your questions will be addressed organically throughout the information session or the tour. Or course, if you still have personal questions, you can always send an e-mail.

Do send a thank you e-mail only if you are genuinely interested in a school and made a personal connection. don’t send thank you notes that your parents have written.
A sincere e-mail leaves a positive impression. It may even turn into a great relationship as you start applying. Be mindful not to be insincere or over the top (like asking the tour guide to be your friend on FaceBook or MySpace) in your correspondence, as it may make you look desperate. Also, parents-do not write any of these letters for your children. Remember, this is their college search process.