In my blog “Making the College Selection” I stress the importance of the college visit. In research with first year college students, I asked them what their biggest fear was about college. By far the prevailing answer was, “Will I fit?” The Campus Visit gives you the opportunity to put yourself on campus and take in what it feels like, what the students are like, the faculty, the classes, the dorms, the cafeteria, the advisors. You may have a great recruiter from the Admissions team, but nothing is as authentic as being on campus yourself. The visit is usually coordinated with your admissions contact. Often they will provide you with a schedule. Make sure the schedule incorporates your objectives, not just the college’s.
When setting your objectives for the college visit, remember that you want to answer the question, “Could I see myself on this campus?” I recommend four areas that you make sure are a part of visit. In these Covid times, campus visits may not offer the extensive access they have in the past, but many colleges are still offering the visit and will accommodate these things virtually if not in person.
YOUR ADMISSIONS COUNSELOR
Most likely when you arrive you will be greeted by your admissions contact who will tell you about your schedule. This person is an excellent resource to bridge what happens at the visit and pulling together the details once you have left. Your counselor will cover a lot of valuable material with you but make sure you get your questions answered as well.
- Why should I choose this college?
- How does advising work?
- What are the scholarships and grants I could be eligible for?
Are there specific applications?
What are the deadlines?
Are there auditions or interviews required?
- When are financial aid packages awarded?
THE CAMPUS TOUR
This may be done by the admissions counselor but if possible ask for a current student to give you the tour. And be prepared with your questions – examples:
Why did you choose this college?
What’s your favorite thing about it?
What was the first week on campus like for you?
What are the opportunities to get involved?
What do you do for fun here? Are there things on campus or do you have to go off campus?
How safe do you feel here?
Why did you pick the dorm you are in?
How do you get along with your instructors?
Most importantly, ASK ABOUT THE THINGS THAT MATTER TO YOU!
MEETING WITH A PROFESSOR
Ask to meet with an instructor in the field of study you are interested in if you know. (If you don’t yet know what area of study you want or have a couple you are torn between read this). These are some questions you might want to ask:
What are the courses that are specific to the major?
What kinds of jobs are your graduates in?
What support is available from the college for career placement?
What should I know about this college?
Sometimes you may even be able to sit in on a class. If this feels intimidating to you, you might be surprised to find out how friendly the other students in the class can be. When I accompanied my niece on her college visits, one of the colleges blew her away while sitting in on a class. Even before the instructor walked into the classroom, students were coming up to us and introducing themselves and talking with my niece. The instructor was welcoming and made my niece feel she belonged.
MEETING WITH FINANCIAL AID OFFICE
This is when you can get a complete picture of all the elements that will comprise your total price tag – not just tuition. Sometimes this is covered by an admissions persons or it might be someone in the financial aid office. This is your opportunity to find out about all the scholarships, grants and loans you are eligible for. Make sure you’ve done your homework before you arrive by reviewing any materials sent to you in advance. If the website has a cost calculator, be sure to do that and take the results along. When you meet, ask to see a cost estimate.
- What is included in the cost?
Tuition – based on what range of hours?
Room & Board – are all dorms the same cost or do they differ by dorm?
Meal Plan – are there different options and flexibility?
- What are the miscellaneous costs?
- What scholarships and grants am I eligible for?
- What is the payment schedule?
- What are the terms of the loans?
If you haven’t already read “Financial Aid – What you need to know,” I encourage you to download it.
The campus visit is an integral part of zeroing in on the right fit. A helpful tool for comparing colleges you are visiting is the College Selection Checklist.
Gaining clarity on your area of study or major helps to ensure you are matched to a college/university that offers your area of interest. Whether you think you know what you want to study, or whether you have no idea yet, or whether you have multiple interests and don’t know which to pursue, the Strong Interest Inventory will put you on the right track.