How Can I Make the Most of My College Visits?

Applying to colleges is one of the most important steps you’ll take, but experiencing each campus through college visits is just as important. While you can view classes and see what the campus looks like online, you won’t know how you fit in until you visit that campus for yourself. That visit lets you see how the students dress, what they do and even how they act. You’ll also learn more about campus activities and things to see and do on campus. Spending time on campuses helps you decide which school is right for you.

Plan an Extended Stay

If you really want to make the most of your campus visits, plan an extended stay. Many colleges offer potential students the chance stay in a dorm room overnight or for an entire weekend. There is only so much you can do and see when you visit for a few hours. Staying overnight lets you experience dorm life and get a feel for where you might like to live. Most schools partner you with a current student and let you stay in his or her room.

Go Where the Students Go

College visits give you the opportunity to experience life in the same way that current students do. Instead of sticking to the traditional tour that teaches you the history of the campus and where some of the departments are, try following other students around and going where they go. This might lead you to the dining hall, an intramural football game, a drama club meeting or dozens of other places around campus. While the tour gives you some information about the campus, when you go where students go you’ll get a feel for the things you might like to do.

Visit Your Department

A large number of students enter college without knowing what they want to study. If you already know your major, make sure that you visit the department associated with your major. If you aren’t quite sure what you want to study, take the time to visit multiple departments. You can meet with professors, talk with students and even sit in on a few classes, too. Once you see how each department operates, the way students act in classes and the materials they cover, you’ll determine if you want to study there.

Talk with Other Students

Ryan Lytle, of U.S. News and World Report, recommends that you take time to talk with other students while you are on campus. You never know when you might make a friend who will help you adjust when you move to campus later. Talking with students also gives you an idea how others feel about the campus, classes, student organizations and activities. While you can get some information from the guide on your official tour, strike out on your own and chat with students you see on the quad, in the library or in the dining hall.

The more people you talk to, the more you’ll learn about each campus you visit. Using only the information available online may result in selecting a campus that doesn’t meet your needs. Use college visits as a way to gain a better understanding of each campus and how you might fit in there.

For more information on preparing for college life, please see: How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?