Visits — The Key to the Search for Best-Fit Colleges

There’s no substitute for being there. A well-planned visit to a college campus will reveal more useful information about that college than its website, course catalog, statistics, and rankings can provide. 

College Visits Before and After

There are two stages in your college admissions campaign during which you’ll have compelling reasons to visit college campuses. The first is in preparing your “college list”, which is the mission-critical list of schools to which you’ll apply in senior year. Your visits should begin no later than junior year and continue as necessary until October of senior year when your college list needs to be finalized. It’s this stage of college visits that we focus on in this post.

The second stage of college visits can be as important as the first for some students. It begins in late March of senior year if more than one school has admitted you and you’re unclear about which offer to accept. You should visit (or re-visit) the colleges in contention before the deadline of May 1, when you must notify  your chosen college of your intention to accept their offer. These visits have a limited purpose and narrow focus. Your objective is to compare the aspects of the contending colleges that are most important to you.

Planning for Your Visits

Successful college visits require careful planning, so we recommend that you use a proven protocol for each visit. Doing so will enable you to compare “apples to apples” and facilitate making choices for your college list.

First, we advise that you research each college that interests you. Review the school’s website, especially the course catalogue and requirements for your major. Review college guidebooks and similar publications that describe and compare colleges relative to their peer institutions. Search the web for recent articles. If you then visit the school and you have an interview with an admissions official, the information you’ve gathered will enable you to ask questions that show that you did your homework and that you’re genuinely interested in the school.

Activities to Schedule During Visits

Make the time that you spend on campus as productive as possible. Wear comfortable shoes. If you’re touring several colleges in one trip, they tend to blur together, so take notes and photos. You’ll need to call in advance to make arrangements to accomplish the activities recommended below.

  1. Schedule an Interview: The first task for each of your visits is to schedule an interview with the admissions office. This requires the most lead-time, so schedule your interview as far in advance as possible.
  • Go on the Guided Tour: A student-led guided tour of the campus is a great way to begin a college visit. Schedule it in advance and let admissions know if others will be accompanying you. Campus tours usually involve an information session led by an administrator either before or after the tour.
  • Sit In on a Class: During the school year, sit in on a class (with permission of the admissions office) that you would be taking as a freshman. Even in summer, there’s likely to be classes that you can attend to get a feel for the classroom environment.
  • Stay Over in a Dorm: Nothing you do will teach you more about a college than staying in a dormitory and eating in a dining hall. If you have a choice,  stay with sophomores. They know more than freshmen do about the school and they’re not yet as jaded as upperclassmen often are. If the admissions office won’t arrange a stay for you, try to make arrangements yourself if you know students at the school.
  • Meet with Faculty and Student: If you can do so through the admissions office, schedule meetings with a faculty member and a student in your major. You can use the meetings to learn more about the curriculum and ask questions.
  • Attend Events on Campus: For those students with sufficient time on campus, there are activities that you should try to schedule. Attend a student concert, stage performance, or sporting event. Do this just to get a sense of the community even if you’re not interested in the activity. Take your own tour of facilities that are of particular interest to you, such as athletic facilities, labs, studios, and rehearsal spaces.

A Few Tips About Your Experience

Below are a few things to note.

  1. Canned Answers: You should take the campus tour, but realize that the student guides work for the college. They’re trained in what to say in response to frequently asked questions. Their answers are likely to be marketing spin, so independently investigate matters that interest you.  
  • Don’t Rush to Judgment: Avoid judging a school based on one person’s opinion or any single fact. Keep thoughts about the probability of your admission separate from your impression of the school itself. 
  • Weather: You may be visiting a campus during the summer after junior year when the weather is mild and pleasant. Learn about the weather in winter and decide if you’ll also find those conditions agreeable.

At Louis Educational Consulting, we base our value on an understanding of you that we establish through conversation early in our engagement. We integrate your interests, talents, experiences, skills, preferences, and goals into a profile that affects the advice we give you throughout your admissions campaign. This includes suggestions regarding those colleges that we think will fit you best. We guide you in setting up visits to colleges to assure that they’ll satisfy your objectives.

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