Campus Visits

Campus Visits

How to prepare for your visit?

  • Timing: Search every school’s website, sooner rather than later, to see whether you have to sign up for a tour and an information session, and whether or not on-campus interviews are available.
  • Preparation: The more you have researched a college before you arrive on campus, the more you will know what it is you need to know. If you walk away from a visit being able to say only that, “It is a good school,” “It is a pretty campus,” “They do research” or “They have a study abroad program,” then it has been a wasted opportunity. So arrive on campus ready to find answers to the questions you have prepared!
  • Accommodation: Many colleges will have a section about local accommodations on their admission website – try to stay close to campus so you can spend the evening in the local neighborhood or even attend an event on campus. Keep in mind that winter weather in parts of the US can have a big impact on any travel plans!
  • Directions: Print out a local map or use your phone for directions, since campuses are confusing hives of activity. Make note of public parking and bring along some quarters for parking meters!

What to do when you visit?

  • Arrival: Leave time to find parking, sign in at the admission office, and pick up the business card of your regional representative.
  • Interviews and classes: Check if a college offers on-campus interviews – these are mostly informational (to tell you about the college) and conducted by senior students, and fill up quickly. Check if you can attend a class (if school is in session), and observe the classroom dynamic.
  • Admission session: As the centerpiece of a campus visit, the info session will usually be presented by an admission officer with the assistance of a student. More formal in approach, these events are helpful in describing the application and financial aid processes; in giving you an opportunity to listen to and learn from the questions of others; and in exposing you to both the platitudes that are the stock of the admission profession but also to deeper insights into what makes that college distinctive and a good fit for your own aspirations. Here are some questions to ponder:
    • what is the relative acceptance rate for Early Applications and Regular Decision?
    • is admission need-blind or need-aware?
    • what proportion of students are local, and how many come from elsewhere in the US and the world?
    • how will winning outside scholarships affect your financial aid package?
    • when do you have to declare your major?
    • how easy is it to switch between majors and programs?
    • how extensive are the general education or core requirements?
    • which are the most popular and the strongest majors offered?
    • how extensive is the advising system?
    • how extensive are the study abroad options and how many students participate?
    • what are the interesting community service opportunities on and around campus?
    • can non-arts majors make easy use of the school’s arts and theater resources?
    • how long are you guaranteed housing on campus?
    • how many students stay on campus over the weekends?
    • how hard is it to get into the courses you want and the ones required for graduation?
    • what is the graduation rate over four or six years?
  • Campus tour: If the information session presents the formal face of the admission office, the campus tour will give you the perspective of an engaging and informative current student, share fun facts that an admission officer will not, and give you a brief taste of life on campus. You may want to ask the tour guide these types of questions:
    • what they like most about their school, and like least?
    • what they wish they had known when they first chose that college?
    • what the classes are like, both in faculty-student interaction and size?
    • whether they have ever been locked out of taking a class, and how they resolved it?
    • whether the advising system has lived up to their expectations and met their needs?
    • how often they meet with their professors outside of class?
    • where students hang out on campus, and study?
    • how important fraternities/sports/alcohol are to campus culture?

The role of Parents?

  • College visits are tiring, but this may be the last extended time to spend with your child before s/he leaves for college. Enjoy it!
  • Don’t feel compelled to give them harsh reality checks and put a damper on their dreams – the application process will do that very effectively!
  • Don’t argue about seemingly ridiculous criticisms of every college you visit, but accept that their comments may in fact be a screen for another set of unspoken concerns and anxieties.
  • Above all, enjoy their company and take pride in the fact that this is your reward for those Sunday nights gluing together a school project, the endless cupcakes you made for class events, the early mornings next to the ice rink, and the weekends spent alongside the soccer field!

Have a WONDERFUL time visiting some outstanding educational institutions, and carry that excitement with you into the application season!