All the acceptances are in. You’ve narrowed down your choices to three schools. Where will you be spending the next four years of your life? For a decision this significant, it’s worth a second visit to your top choice schools. Undoubtedly, now that attending college is an imminent reality, your second visit will feel very different from the first.
Make the most of your college visits with these 6 tips!
1. Go with your gut.
Sound cliché? Sure, but going with your gut feeling is likely the most important factor when choosing a best-fit college. As you walk around the campus, you will often have a strong sense as to whether or not you would enjoy attending that school. Listen to your instincts! Even if you can’t put your finger on it, don’t go to a school that leaves you feeling underwhelmed.
2. Plan your visit.
Many schools offer an Admitted Student Day or something similar. These special days are designed for admitted students and their families and provide a more in-depth experience of the school than what you would get from a typical campus tour. Try to schedule your visit on one of these days. Admitted Student Days typically allow you to meet current and future students as well as faculty. The structure of the day will vary from school to school.
For example, Boston College offers Admitted Eagle Day which features continental breakfast, information sessions on academics and student life, residence hall tours, an activities fair, and lunch. University of Michigan offers Campus Day which features a general session on life as a Wolverine, a financial aid session, residence hall visits, a session at your particular college, and lunch. Take advantage of these visits to get as much information as you can about your potential future college.
3. Ask around. Eat around.
Make an effort to speak with as many people as possible. Talk to current students and ask them what they like best about the school. Speak with professors. Start a conversation with the employees at the campus store, library and dining hall. Are there any students who are alumni of your high school? Seek them out! They can be invaluable resources for you since they share a similar background.
Make sure a meal, hopefully a free one, is on your agenda! Even if you have to foot the bill, you should sample a meal at the main dining hall. While it shouldn’t be your primary motivation for selecting a college, it can help tip the scale in favor of one school over another. Plus, at least you will know what you are getting yourself into – this could determine the size of the dorm fridge you need to purchase over the summer!
4. Take your own tour.
Do some wandering. Do you get a good vibe as you walk around campus? Check out the campus center. Grab a coffee at the campus cafe. Look at bulletin boards and see what’s happening around campus. Are there things that interest you? Visit the bookstore. Is it well-stocked? Would you need to travel great distances to find laundry detergent or a notebook?
If you already know your major, check out the buildings where you will be spending the most time. Try to speak to a department head or professor. Walk by the classrooms – are they huge or small? Well lit? Dingy? If you have the time, colleges will allow you a classroom visit, though you likely have to schedule it in advance.
Visit the library. Can you picture yourself studying there? Does it seem like a good environment? Are the computers up to date? Does it seem too crowded or too loud?
Do you anticipate using the recreation complex? If so, check it out and see if it meets your standards. Is it clean? Does it have all the equipment you need? What are the locker rooms like?
Try to see a freshman dorm. Often, in an effort to put their best foot forward, a guided campus tour will feature one of the nicest dorm rooms. They may not show you the freshman dorm that hasn’t been updated in sixty years. Your living space come autumn may be vastly different than a showcase dorm room!
5. Check out the town.
Spend some time in the surrounding town or city. If you think you want to venture off campus frequently, this is important. Are there things to do? Does the university provide transportation to the surrounding town? Would you get bored off campus? This may not matter to you if you attend a large university where you won’t be compelled to leave that often. On the other hand, if you are used to an urban area and find yourself at a college set in the middle of nowhere, you may not enjoy living there on a long-term basis. One student I know was driving to a college for a second visit and when he approached the area, he realized that his car radio was caught in an infinite scan because it couldn’t find any radio stations. He ended up choosing another school.
6. Finally – enjoy the process!
This is one of the first major decisions you’ll make about your future, but it doesn’t have to be stressful.
Taking into account these 6 tips will guide you toward the best possible decision regarding your next four years. You can be assured as you (or your parents) write the May 1 deposit check to your school of choice.