January 22, 2018

Visiting Colleges – Why On-Site Is Best

As you prepare for college, one of the things that you will want to do is visit college campuses.  You can learn a lot about a college from its website; some sites will even take you on a virtual tour – but before you start making decisions about where your student will spend much of their time over the next several (and still very formative) years, you want to feel the environment, check out the food and living options, watch campus life and of course, confirm that the college will meet the academic requirements that you are seeking.  And an on-site visit is the best way to get this done.

Visiting Colleges

Covenant College – named one of the most beautiful Christian College Campuses.

If you’ve never done this before, it can feel a little daunting.  Just where do you start?   All colleges have a visitor’s office.  Start by contacting them and scheduling a campus tour.  Sometimes this is just a three-hour-tour while other colleges will have full weekends where a student can spend the night in dorms, eat in the cafes or student unions, and sit in on a class.  [Side note – these tours all involve a lot of walking, so wear comfortable shoes.]  If the weekend option is not available, ask to participate in some campus activities like classes or student life events.  You will also want to schedule time to meet with administrators or professors in the area of study that your student wants to pursue.

You want to make the most out of your visit so before you go, make a list of questions you want to ask and areas you want to explore.   The Collegeboard has a campus visit checklist you may want to take advantage of. When the official visit is over, hang around on campus for a while.  Visit the library or grab coffee in the coffee shop and watch the students.  Even stop a few and ask them about the college.   A friend of mine recently visited a college campus and before they could even get to the visitor’s office, several students had already spoken to them.  The friendly students became one of the selling points in their decision making process.

You can visit a college campus year round, but my recommendation is that you visit while classes are in session if possible.  This will give you a true feel of what campus life is like.  Your junior year in high school is the ideal time to start these visits.

Definitely visit more than one campus.  Even if you’re not planning to attend your local college or university still make that one of your visits.  It’s an inexpensive way to feel out a campus setting and get an idea of questions you may want to ask other colleges.

Be sure to record your impressions and even take photos.  After several campuses, you won’t remember which campus had what feature – so write down the high and low points shortly after each visit.

And, don’t forget – while you’re there, visit the finance office and ask about available scholarships and grants on their campus!

~to your success


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