Compiled by Katherine Cohen, Ph.D., CEO & Founder and the team of counselors at IvyWise
You’re nearing the end of junior year, and at this point, you’ve hopefully started to research schools, create a preliminary college list, and visit prospective colleges. If there are still schools on your list that you want to visit before senior year, you should make every effort to do so now. This will allow you to talk with current students and professors, see dorms, dining halls, and other campus facilities in use, and gain an overall impression of the school’s atmosphere and community. College websites, brochures, and catalogs offer lots of information, however, nothing beats the insight you can gain from stepping onto a college campus. But, what happens once you’ve come home from your visit? To help you out, the expert counselors at IvyWise have some advice on what to do after you visit a college.
Follow-up and Follow-through
Following your visit, write a note to each college representative you met, including a professor if you sat in on a class, your tour guide, and the person (often an admissions officer) who led your information session. In addition to thanking these people for their time, it’s a good idea to reference a specific aspect of your tour or information session as a way of reinforcing your enthusiasm about the school and keeping your interest fresh in their minds. It is best to email these notes because you’re more likely to get a response this way. Once you have made initial contact, aim to keep in touch again before sending your application. This is a great way to pose any questions that you wish you had asked during your visit or ask any new questions you may have upon further research.
Review and Expand Your Research
Research is perhaps the most important aspect of the college admissions process, and firsthand impressions play a major role. Review and expand upon the notes you took during your visit while details are still fresh in your mind. Read the college’s newspapers to get a sense of what is going on on campus and which issues are important to students. Peruse the course catalog and read articles or books written by professors you’re interested in studying with.
Many college applications will specifically ask, “why do you want to attend this school?” When it comes time to write your essays, the more detail you can provide, the better. The research you have conducted will help you articulate why a school is a good academic and social fit for you. If you still have trouble picturing yourself at a school after visiting, then perhaps it doesn’t belong on your list. Hang on to your notes even after you’ve submitted your applications! They may be useful later as you prepare for an interview and they will ultimately help as you decide which college to attend among all of the schools that have admitted you.
Talk it Over with Your Parents
If a parent accompanies you on your visit, try to take some time to explore the campus on your own. This will help you get a feel for the life you’ll have without a parent in this new environment. At the end of the day, however, it is a good idea to reconnect and discuss your impressions. The alternate perspectives and useful suggestions that a parent can offer on a city, location, or school may surprise you. Also, the more included your parent feels in the process, the more likely he or she is to listen to your opinion when it comes time to make your final college choice. Although it is ultimately your decision on where to attend college, it is important to have open conversations about your priorities and whether a school is going to be an academic and social fit.
By the time you sit down to write your applications, chances are course offerings, libraries, dining halls, and dorm rooms from several schools will be overlapping in your mind. Putting in the extra effort now to record details, ask questions, establish lines of communication, and have open and honest discussions with your parents will pay off in the long run. Not only will you save yourself a lot of work later on in the application process, but you’ll also be better prepared to identify, apply, and gain acceptance to the schools that are the best fit for you.