Here’s what an ideal campus visit looks like:
You may not be able to achieve all of these goals during a single visit, and some of them will require you to make a special request of the admissions or financial aid office in advance. But the ideal checklist of what to see and do on a college campus looks something like this:
- Attend an information session. This is when admissions representatives talk to you or a larger group about the college and provide essential information about their community. This usually takes place before any formal tour.
- Take the campus tour. Not only will you get a look at the main parts of the campus, but the tour guides are usually students who can give you a good first-hand opinion on what the personality of the college is like.
- Hang out at the student union or wherever students gather on campus. While you are there, check out bulletin boards to see what kinds of activities are sponsored on campus and if there are many internships being offered to students.
- Check out the student media outlets. Student media is what keeps you informed about events on and off campus, so be sure to listen to the student radio, read the student newspaper, browse the campus blogs, and check out other student publications.
- Talk to students you see about what they think of the college, their professors, and the classes they are taking. Most will be happy to answer your questions.
- Be sure to visit the admissions and financial aid offices so that you can pick up any formal materials such as catalogs and financial aid forms. Try to get the business card of staff members you meet so that you have an actual human being to contact should you have questions later on. Many colleges have admissions officers assigned to specific geographic regions. Find out the name of the person assigned to your area and make contact with them—this helps indicate your interest in the school and he or she can often provide you with more valuable information.
- Visit both large and small classrooms while you are on campus, ideally while classes are in session and for topics that interest you. Almost every college is forced to offer large classes, especially for popular prerequisites. Make sure larger classrooms have the technology to support a lot of students at one time and convey the instructor’s energy. Then see how the smaller classrooms are planned out. Pay special attention to the ratio between large and small classrooms. Will you feel physically comfortable in the classrooms you found? Do the classrooms feel welcoming to you? What is the interactivity between and among students and instructors like?
- Meet with a professor or professors, if you can, especially in your area of planned study. He or she can give you a good idea of the strengths of the college in that field and the future opportunities open to you.
- Schedule a visit with a financial aid officer if you have any lingering questions about support opportunities the college offers.
- Check out the student fitness centers and athletic fields. Try to attend a sporting event, practice session, or club meeting. Look into the schedule of activities and classes offered to students. Exercise is essential to your overall well-being and you want to make sure the college offers activities you will enjoy. If you plan to play a sport, talk to coaches or assistant coaches involved in that program.
- Visit the residence halls open to both freshmen and upperclassmen. How close are they to where you will be attending class? Will you feel safe where you will be living? Some colleges offer the option of staying overnight in a residence hall with the student, or you may have a sibling or friend who can arrange for that as well. If you like a particular residence hall over another, mark it down so you will be ready to request it down the road.
- Be sure to check out all support facilities and see how close they are to where you will be living and attending class. These include the dining facilities, libraries, bookstores, fitness centers, career center, student health services, and athletic fields.