Ten Ways to Make the Most Out of Your College Visits
10. Know why you’re there. What academic and extracurricular programs do you want to know more about? What questions do you want to get answered?
9. Take a tour. And stay up front with the tour guide. Ask questions that can’t be answered on the college website. Maybe have your parents hang in the back or even divide up into two different tours and compare notes later. (You may take the visit a little more seriously when your parent(s) aren’t around.)
8. Do more than the tour! Eat in the cafeteria. How’s the food? Who’s in there? Any teachers? Eavesdrop on conversations. Or if you have the courage, ask questions of friendly looking students. You’ll get GREAT information this way.
7. Find out what’s going on. Pay attention to the flyers that are posted around campus or in the student center. Does it look like there is are a lot of on-campus clubs and activities or do you get the impression that students leave campus on the weekends? This is especially important if it’s a school far from your home.
6. Take a moment to stop and look around. What do you see? How do you feel? Observe the students. Is there a wide range of looks or is there an overarching student “type”? Do the students seem happy? Can you picture yourself as a student there?
5. Check out the program or department that interests you. Or at least make note of where it’s located. Ideally you’d like to be a part of a program that gets school resources and attention. If you sit in on a class or talk with a professor, a follow up thank you note or email is a GREAT idea.
4. Leave your mark. Make sure the admissions office knows that you took the time to visit their school. Fill out an inquiry card (if they have those) or ask to meet or get the card of the admissions representative that works with students from your high school. Many colleges, though not all, track demonstrated interest and campus visits and it can help during application review.
3. Take notes. It is easy to forget everything you saw, learned, or thought. Don’t do more than two visits in a day. This would more than likely lead to a jumbled mess in your memory— even if you are staying organized. You want to be able to remember your visits and differentiate between them as you move on in your college application process.
2. Think about the question you’ll probably have to answer if you apply: “Why do you want to go here?” How would you answer this? What are three things that stand out about this school that make it a good fit for you?
1. Have fun! And don’t let weather or tour guide influence you.
About Catherine Gaston
Catherine is an independent college consultant in Seattle, WA. Before venturing out on her own she was an academic advisor at the University of Washington Business School, a stay at home mom, and the Assistant Director of Admissions at Menlo College in California. Catherine earned a B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego, and then completed her M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Boston College. She has volunteered with College Access Now (CAN) and Summer Search, both programs serving first generation and low income high school students make their way to college. In the past three years, Catherine has visited over 100 colleges and universities and has worked with many students on their college search and application process. She really enjoys helping students stay organized and motivated to take charge and enjoy each aspect of this meaningful time in their lives.
Catherine Gaston, M.A.
Member: PNACAC, HECA
The imperfect science of finding the perfect college or alternative learning path.
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