If you are even thinking about going to college in the next few years, visiting your potential colleges is one of the most important steps that you can take. Just like you wouldn't buy a car without going for a test drive, you would be amazed at what you can learn about a school in just a few hours. So, to help you get started, here are some tips to make the most of your visits:
-Start by visiting one type of each college you are considering. For instance, if you are not sure whether you would like a smaller or larger college, visit a couple of schools that are close by that represent each type, like a large public school and then a smaller private school. At least now, you'll have something to compare.
-Do your homework before you go, and narrow your choices by using a good school selection program. You can find some good ones online or contact my office at the address below for our suggestions. Also, make sure that the schools you are considering actually have the major you are interested in. I know it sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised at how often people skip this step.
-Schedule your visit when school is in session. I can't stress this one enough, but it is very important to see not only what the campus looks like, but what the students and faculty are like as well. We want to make sure that you will feel like you 'belong' once you are there, so we want you to see the student body and not just a bunch of buildings.
-Make an appointment to take a tour. Schools will have certain times of the day or week set aside to give new people tours. This is always a great place to start. However, don't be afraid to go with your instincts. If you pull up to the school and realize you just don't like it, there's no point sticking around. Also, staying overnight in a dorm, if the school offers it, is a great way to get to really get the college experience.
-Ditch the tour guide. Once you've learned some of the main features of the school, the best way to see the campus is by wandering around on your own for awhile. This will give you a chance to see what everything is really like. Be sure to sit in on a class or two, or at least poke your head in the door.
-Get a soda or coffee in one of the student lounges. While you're at it, get something to eat as well. You might as well find out now what the food is like now. Some schools are known for having 5 star cuisine, while others have food that is barely edible. You're going to be there for four to five years, so this is an important step. We don't want you to starve!
-Check out the library, computer lab, gym, and laundry. Even though this isn't directly related to what you'll be studying and your major, you'll be spending plenty of time at all of these areas, so be sure to take a look at them as well.
While this list isn't comprehensive, hopefully it will give you a real good feel for what each campus is like. You will do much better at a school that you are happy at and enjoy attending, so don't assume that all schools are the same and that this step isn't necessary. Or, worse, don't make the mistake of waiting until you hear if you're in or not before arranging a visit. We want to make sure the schools that you apply to are schools that you actually want to attend. Most of all, be sure to have fun.