Make the most of college visits with these tips
Visiting a prospective college in person is still one of the best ways to determine if it’s the right school for you, says Carol Allen Covino, associate vice president of enrollment at Berkely College in Paramus, N.J.
“With the Internet, many (students) are making their choice from electronic information only,” she says.
While virtual tours can be helpful, there’s no substitute for a campus tour, especially if you’re not sure what’s a good fit. “Visit a range of colleges from large, urban research institutions like Northeastern, to small rural colleges, and others in between,” says David Hautanen, associate dean and director of admissions at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.
Once you’ve scheduled your college visits, do some preparation:
• Look up connections: Your current guidance counselor can tell you if any recent graduates are attending your prospective college. Asking the college to do so may be more difficult, says Tom Weede, vice president of enrollment management, Butler University, Indianapolis, Ind.
• Clear the air: Naturally, your parents will want to do the college tour with you. But some students hesitate to speak up in front of their parents or don’t want to be influenced by their parent’s first reaction. If you’d like to tour solo the first time, discuss the issue at home, promising second college visits for any strong contenders. “Choosing the right college is a family process. The more eyes, the better!” says Hautanen.When tour day arrives, make the most of your college visits:
• Keep records: It can be hard to keep your information straight, particularly with several visits in a short time span. Snap some pictures as you walk around. Jot down questions, impressions or areas to re-visit.
• Ask questions: Your tour guides may look official, but just a few short years ago they were standing in your shoes. “It is absolutely OK to ask questions of the tour guide—they love it,” Weede says.
• Bring your questions: At home, questions probably flood your mind. Caught up in the buzz of campus, you may draw a complete blank. Make a list ahead of time.
• Soak up campus life: “Arrive early,” suggests Hautanen. “Walk around campus prior to your college tour to find facilities, read posted bulletins, peruse the campus newspaper, spend some time in the student center and interact with the students on campus.” Raise any questions you generated during your own explorations on your formal tour.
Once you’re ready to think about the college tour, remain objective. Don’t let isolated issues—such as a grumpy tour guide or bad food—overshadow your visit. If a tour has left you uncertain about a previous front runner, review what had attracted you to the school in the first place.
“If you can, make another visit. You may confirm your first experience or you may see something that is completely different—and better,” says Weede.
On the other hand, if you return thrilled about a school you loved on paper, even better! Personal impressions can go a long way in making a decision. College selection is a complicated time, but seeing your choices up front can make things clearer.
Debbie Swanson has published more than 100 articles in national and regional magazines, including Dog Fancy, The Christian Science Monitor and Highlights. Visit her website at: swansonwriting.com.