Don’t neglect visiting your top college choices. The college visit will provide you with details that you can’t get from a college’s website . You want to be smart about when you go. Visiting during Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter is generally a bad idea. Students won’t be on campus. Even the campus admission’s officers might be on vacation. This is important because colleges are much more than buildings and lawns. They have personalities and cultures that can only be experienced through observing and interacting with the people who live, study and work there.
Ask the Right Questions
You want to pick a college that fits your needs and personality. During your college visit be prepared to ask questions concerning the issues that are important to you. Here are some basic questions that you might consider:
- Safety: What is college campus safety like? Are there emergency call boxes throughout campus? What kind of training do campus security personnel receive?
- Dorm Rules: Can students have overnight guests? Are there rules about visitation by members of the opposite sex? How about substance-free dorms? Is a quite atmosphere maintained? Are the dorms open during holidays? Can you have a car? Do all freshmen live on campus?
- Dorm Security: What security measures are in place in the dormitories? How is access to the dorms controlled?
- Roommates: How does the dorm pair roommates? What is the process for handling conflicts or incompatibility between roommates?
- Support: What academic and emotional support systems are available to students? Do you have a counseling center? Is there tutoring available? Is there a freshman orientation program?
- Medical: What medical services are available on campus? Where is the nearest hospital? How are students billed for medical services? Is student health insurance available?
- Parties: Is there “partying” on campus? Are there certain activities that are grounds for expulsion?
- Retention: What is the return rate for second-year students? What are some of the reasons students leave or transfer?
- Financial Aid: What is a typical financial aid package like? Do most students receive financial aid? Can you help us with the financial paperwork? Under what conditions might my you lose financial aid?
- Placement Services: Does the school offer job placement services? How do students in your major fair finding a job when they graduate?
- Class Size: Are the classes big or small? Are they taught by professors or Teaching Assistants? Do professors make themselves available to students?
Here is a video that gives you some college visit advice:
Talk to Students During your College Visit
Be sure to talk to students and ask them about there experiences at the college. What fun things is there to do? Are people friendly there? Is there a strong campus spirit? What do they do in their free time? Ask about the reputation of your intended major. Do the students you meet seem happy or stressed?
Be an Observer
Beyond asking questions during your college visit be a keen observer. Look at the buildings and classrooms — are they well maintained? Is the technology up to date? What does the typical student look like — someone you might be friends with? What do the dining facilities look like? And, perhaps more importantly, is the food something you’d enjoy eating? What type of extracurricular activities are available — are there tennis courts, ball fields, etc.. ? Check out bulletin boards and the college newspaper to get a feel for what is happening on campus. What about the surrounding community — does it offer opportunities for recreation, entertainment or employment?
Be sure to take pictures of what you see — both the good and the bad. You’ll likely be visiting several campus and the pictures will help you recall what you have seen at each campus.
Here is another good video from a student’s perspective that explains the things you should check out on your college visit:
Robin Farris is a College Admissions Advisor at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, TX. MMA is an all boys private college preparatory boarding school. For more information about MMA visit our website: http://www.mma-tx.org