March is an interesting time of year. The stress of senior applications has started to slip away, we take a moment to sit back and breathe, and...WHAM! The next wave of students is off and running. It’s often during this particular month that I get inquiries about campus visits. Juniors are starting to solidify their college lists while sophomores are beginning to research the types of campuses that are a good fit for them. Campus visits can be the most enjoyable part of the application process, but they do involve forethought and planning. Most of you know to schedule a tour and information session before you step foot in a car or on a plane, but here are a few other hints that you might not have considered:
1. Finances: While it would be nice if every student could visit each and every college on their list, for most families this simply isn’t a financial reality. Instead, consider making the most of one single visit by going to the region where the most campuses in which you are interested are clustered. You can also visit nearby schools—even if you aren't interested in those particular campuses—to gauge whether or not the size feels right. Visit small, medium, and large schools to see which feels the most like home to you.
2. Sit in on a class: During your visit, you will get a chance to tour the campus and will even be able to meet with an admissions representative in an information session. But what some students don’t take advantage of is the opportunity to sit in on a class. This can be a valuable addition to your visit because you can see how engaged professors are with their students, and you can get a good idea of what different class sizes are like—not to mention the fact that you will get a handle on the academic environment.
3. Eat in the cafeteria: That’s right. Test out the food! Not only will a little grub session in the student union introduce you to the quality of food (an important factor for some students), but a little sleuthing will give you an idea of what students are discussing and how they spend their downtime.
4. Take notes: I see it too many times to count. Students visit a bunch of campuses all at one time, but when they’re done, they’ve encountered so much that they don’t remember the nuances of each of the campuses. I can’t say it enough: Record your impressions! That way, you’ll remember even the seemingly small things that distinguish campuses from one another.