Summer is the prefect time to schedule some college visits. Whether your student is just starting high school or trying to finalize a college list before senior year, campus visits are the best way to learn about schools and determine which ones are a good fit.
If you have an extra couple hours, you can add a college visit to your summer travel plans. You can schedule a visit through the college’s admissions office. Most schools allow you to do this through their websites. There are a few things you should bring to make the most of any college visit.
Before the final college decision is made, you are likely to visit a few campuses. They can start to blur together in your mind. “Is that the one that had the…” Taking pictures can help you remember details and distinguish one campus from the next. Sometimes I bring my digital camera on visits, but other times I just use my cell phone camera.
College Visit Tip: Make your first photo of a school something with the college’s name: a campus map, sign, or just the front of the brochure you were given in the admissions office. This is particularly helpful if you are visiting multiple schools on one trip.
Campus Visit Checklist
Before you leave home make a list of the “must see” parts of the campus. Potential athletes may want to visit the practice facilities or the weight room. Film majors may want to visit the film school or campus cinema. Often the admissions office can arrange for you to visit classes while in session or meet with professors in a particular department. Students interested in campus athletics should consult the NCAA “Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete” to determine what type of visits or contact with coaches is permitted.
I have some standard places on my college visit list for families: admissions office, financial aid office, student center, place of worship (if important to your family), and surrounding neighborhood.
If you have specific questions, write them down and bring them. Make sure your questions are answered before you leave. Just as you should take pictures to help remember, you should take notes to help remember key points too. Within two days of your visit, make notes of likes and dislikes. Save these notes for later. Sometimes students forget what they liked or disliked about a school, so these notes may come in handy.
Documents (for serious visits only)
Rising juniors and current seniors may want to bring copies of resumes, test scores, and transcripts to a campus visit. Some colleges host special visit days where they will make admissions decisions on the spot for students who come prepared. Even if a school won’t evaluate a student for admission during your visit, it can pay to bring these documents. Students who have scheduled an interview on campus definitely need a resume, but may find questions come up where it would be convenient for the admissions representative to look at a transcript or score report. On some visits you may never take these documents out of your bag, but for the one or two colleges when you do, you will be thankful you brought them.
Campus visits don’t need to be intimidating. I see many families with freshman and sophomores when I visit schools. You can make the most of your visit at any age by preparing in advance and taking time to document your experience.