Probably one of the most critical steps of the college search, your campus visits need to be scheduled early on with plenty of time to spare. These visits are pivotal points in your decision-making process, as there is simply no better way to get a real handle on a campus than by spending some time on it.
But with so much to do in the period of college application insanity, how can you possibly make sure each of these visits are scheduled appropriately and made use of in the best ways? Moreover, how do you know which campuses you need to visit? All of these questions that might be asked in a panic before quickly-approaching deadlines are more the reason to think about this important college search element well ahead of time. Don’t leave yourself in a bind at the last minute; get these plans figured out now!
A handful of steps are useful here:
#1: Pick the schools – From the very beginning, when you start compiling the list of colleges you like, put them into categories. There will be schools you’re extremely excited about and genuinely want to see, there will be those that you like from what you’ve read about them but don’t know much about first-hand, and there will be some that you’ve been told you should check out but have no idea what they have to offer. To take a little shortcut here, schools in all of these categories should be visited. It’s up to you to identify which ones you see yourself definitely taking the time to apply to and then going from there. The point is, you have a lot to learn about each of these types of schools. The school that you love, the school that you know a little about, and the school you know nothing about, all have secrets to be uncovered and benefits from in-person experience to be had.
#2: Determine application deadlines – Every school has different requirements and guidance for deadlines, so make sure you get this step taken care of promptly. You’re going to want to adequately set up your visits around these important dates so you never feel pressured to rush through a tour or skip an informational interview. Additionally, spread these visits out as much as you can. Although this will sometimes be out of your control, do everything in your power to schedule them far apart from each other. You don’t want two visits to blend in because they are so close together and then forget which campus had what. Or worse, you don’t want to be so exhausted from the adjacent trips that you lose focus and don’t pay strong enough attention to the colleges you’re visiting. Try to give each of these visits their own span of time so you can take in and process their information separate from the others. Here are 4 tips to help you manage the college application process.
#3: Call an admissions officer – Visiting a campus blindly with no guidance as to what you should be doing or seeing is pointless; you must speak with an admissions representative before you make your trip. An integral part of their jobs is to prepare students for these visits, so make use of their valuable resources. Ask when scheduled tours are and sign up for one. Ask about possible over-night programs with current students and set one up if you are interested in learning about the college experience in that way. Ask about any other opportunities that you might not know about because that is what the admissions officers are ready to inform you of. They know all the ins and outs of campus visits and what you need to do to make the most of them. You might get to sit in on a class, get a free meal at the local dining hall, or a multitude of other interesting things that will help you feel acclimated to that college’s unique scene. You may also want to check out these tips on how to prepare for a college visit.
#4: Make a checklist – In addition to the events you’ve signed up for and made note of from the admissions officer, jot down everything you personally want to accomplish and make sure the length of your trip accommodates all of it. More importantly, figure out if and how you’re going to be able to accomplish those things. You don’t want to waste a good amount of time on your visit wandering around aimlessly, looking for ways to accomplish your list item, especially if it’s something that it turns out can’t be done. You must determine if these list items are even possible to accomplish before you go. Do you want to talk to a current student? Experience an evening at a local venue in the town? See an off-campus apartment? Tour the library? Many things will be taken care of through your campus tour, but many won’t. Settle these things now. You may also want to check out these top questions to ask at a campus information session that you may not have thought of yet
Now that you’ve taken in these steps, you should be ready to go. Get those visits planned and search away!