There are a number of reasons why you may want to visit a college in person before you send in your application. While it may seem more efficient to visit schools after you have been accepted, visiting before filling out your application can help you, too.
Why is the campus visit so important? Visiting a college can help you figure out if it’s the right place for you and if you should apply. You’ll have a chance to see how things look and feel in person. It’s hard to get a sense of the campus community from a website.
Visiting a college also gives you the opportunity to connect with some important people who may be a part of your application process to answer any questions you may have. Many schools also track what we call “demonstrated interest,” essentially trying to guess whether or not an applicant would attend if admitted. A visit never hurts in terms of demonstrating your interest to attend a school.
The College Visit and Social Media
Chances are if you’re visiting a school, you’ve done a little bit of research to figure out what about that school makes you think it would be a great fit for you. But you’d be surprised by the number of students and parents who show up to a college tour and know absolutely nothing about the school.
To be able to get the full experience, you need to know what you’re looking for and what makes that college or university appealing to you. Research is key, but the outlets where students get their research information are steadily shifting. What used to be college guides, brochures, and university websites has now shifted to more interactive platforms.
In a recent survey of over 7,000 high school students, 68% reported that they use social media to research schools during their college search process. Of those students who use social media to research schools, 55% said their go-to social media research platform was a school’s Facebook page.
Reviewing a school’s social media profiles is a good pre-visit research method in that it’s a great way to get a feel for a school’s level of informal interaction with students. Following their Facebook and Twitter accounts can also keep you up-to-date on school news and what may be going on around campus during the time of your visit.
What to Expect On Campus
Larger universities generally have a visitor center staffed by a few members of the admissions office. Group information sessions are often held there, followed by a student-led campus tour. You’ll have the opportunity to learn more general information and ask questions specific to you at a group information session.
Small liberal arts schools generally have an office of admission and group information sessions may take place there or at another space on campus, and conclude with student-led tours. The campus tour also offers you the opportunity to ask a current student questions specific to you and your interests, in addition to seeing the key buildings on campus.
Typically, campus tours last about an hour, and include the library, an academic building, the student center, a dining hall, and a dorm room.
But the visit isn’t only about seeing the sights. It’s also about seeing how you relate to the campus and the students, and if you feel like you’d fit in. In addition to a formal campus tour, spend some time in the student center, library, or dining hall. You’ll be able to see how members of the community interact with one another and get a better sense of what the daily routine for students is like.
Finally, a well-planned visit can help answer the question on the supplement about “Why you want to attend _______ College/University,” You’ll now be able to cite specific examples from your visit to campus, which will make your answer more comprehensive and convincing. You’ll be able to take full advantage of a campus visit with a little preparation. Below are some quick tips to maximize the time you spend on campus.
- Do your homework. As we mentioned before, you need to have some background knowledge before visiting a school. Research a school’s website, publications, blogs, and social media. You’ll be able to get more out of a visit by asking specific questions.
- Schedule your visit well in advance. Group information sessions can fill up very quickly depending on the time of the year. The general rule of thumb is to call at least three weeks in advance to schedule your visit. It’s always best to visit a school while it’s in session. Spring break of sophomore and junior year is ideal.
- Ask for the email of the admissions person in charge of traveling and reviewing applications for your region. This is the person who will be reading your application first.
- Be ready to take notes and pictures of campus. Chances are you will be visiting more than one school on the same trip and it’s easy to forget what you saw at each college or university. We advise visiting a maximum of two colleges in one day.
- Try to sit in on a class in an academic area you want to pursue. Most schools allow you to do so with advanced notice and some planning beforehand. Many schools request that a prospective student arrive to class before it begins, inform the professor, and also require a visiting student to stay for the entirety of the class.
- Explore your interests. Scan club and organization web pages or their social media outlets to try to connect with students from the clubs and organizations of interest. Perhaps you’ll be able to meet one of the members of the group when you are on campus to find out more information.
It’s important to get a feel for the campus and school first-hand when deciding which college is the best fit for you.