Deciding what college to attend is likely the first major “adult” decision that young people make in their lives. So the college visits you make are not only fun trips to take while getting excited about your future, but also your first serious exposure to comparison shopping for a major life experience.
Here are Five Things to make sure You Do when you go to visit colleges–and Five More NOT to Do.
DO call ahead and plan for your visit. If the college knows of your interest, the schools will do everything they can to make sure you get to do, see, and meet with everyone and everything necessary during your visit.
DON’T show up unannounced and expect the school to drop everything and organize a visit for you. You’ll probably be able to take a tour and talk to admissions with no notice, but do not expect much more with an unplanned visit.
DO ask tough questions. If you’re concerned about cost, safety, academic rigor, job placement, work/school/life balance, location, or anything else, now is your best chance to get your answers–and also to see how the school handles difficult questions and treats the students who ask them.
DON’T go in unprepared. If you’ve set up a visit in advance, you’ll probably be meeting with the admissions and financial aid offices as well as a faculty member in your department of interest. Know who you’re meeting with and what you want to ask them before you get there.
DO talk to students other than your tour guide. If possible, schedule an overnight stay in a dorm so you really get to know the school, not just the parts they want you to see. Ask the students what they like about the school, but also ask them what they would change if they could.
DON’T be in a hurry. Even if you have scheduled multiple visits in quick succession, don’t just take the tour and leave. Take the time to get to know each college as best you can. Visit classes, dining areas, student lounges, the surrounding area, everything you can.
DO spend at least part of the visit without your parents. Staying over in a dorm is a great way to do this, but if you can’t do that, at least take a couple hours to wander around and talk to students as a fellow student, without parents looking over your shoulder. As helpful as your parents will be in making this decision, it’s still YOUR decision, and you need some time to form an unbiased opinion.
DON’T prejudge a college if it doesn’t seem like a 100% fit before you get there. Don’t have a negative outlook with statements such as, It’s (not) a state school/private school/D1 athletic school/anything else? Let that go until after the visit and stay open to the experience you have while you’re visiting. Afterwards you can weigh your misgivings against what you learned on the visit. Don’t focus so much on your one hangup that it spoils the visit–or, if that hangup is a potential dealbreaker, consider whether visiting that school is the right choice to begin with.
DO get to know the community around the college. If you attend a specific college, you’ll be spending a lot of time in that community. Make sure it’s one you feel comfortable living in during your college career.
DON’T focus on a school’s name brand, prestige, or cachet over its fit and feel with and for you. You’re not looking for the BEST college(s), you’re looking for the RIGHT one(s), and four years at an Ivy League you can’t stand is not in any way better than four years at a liberal arts college or state school that you absolutely love.
- These are only a few of the ways to make your college visit experience effective, helpful, and fun for you, but they will give you a very solid start.
- For more information, you can meet with your high school’s college counselor for additional assistance in finding the proper fit for your college experience.
- With the proper preparation, you can choose a school that you will fall in love with during your tenure as a college student.
About the Author
Johnny Rogers is the creator of CollegeTidbits.com – The Online College Planning Guide. If you found this article useful, please consider Liking My Facebook Fan Page or Following College Tidbits on Twitter.
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