The following tips will help you get the most out of your campus visits:
- Select several colleges to visit. You will be less overwhelmed if you start making initial visits in your junior year but keep in mind that you may want to schedule a second campus visit to those colleges still on your list during your senior year.
- Be sure to call the college in advance to schedule a visit time. Ask if students will be on campus and if classes will be in session during your visit. (It is best to visit the campus when there is activity. During exam time, summer or holiday breaks, the campus may look bleak.) This is also the appropriate time to inquire about the possibility of sitting in on a class; meeting with a faculty member, coach or other advisor; or scheduling an appointment with someone in the student financial services office.
- Many colleges offer both personalized campus visit appointments and larger group visit events. Think about which type of visit best suits your purpose and schedule accordingly. For those colleges you end up visiting twice, you may want to schedule one of each kind.
- Prepare a list of questions to ask during your visit. If you have a student tour guide, he or she will be an especially useful source of information. However, save the questions about admission criteria, placement statistics and financial plans for an admission counselor.
- Allow at least half a day per campus so you're not rushed.
- Don your best consumer glasses. Kick the tires, ask tough questions. After the campus tour, roam around the campus on your own; spend time with students. Ask directions. (It's a great way to get into conversations and talk to more than one student.) Go to the library, eat at the dining hall, ask a student to show you their dorm room (dorms are rarely included on the tour). Scan student newspapers and bulletin boards, which can be revealing about campus culture and the level of extracurricular activity.
- If you're planning on living in the dorm, one of the best ways to determine whether a campus offers the "right fit" is by arranging an overnight visit. This is a great way for you to really get a good picture of what campus life is really like.
- Take notes. After you've visited a bunch of campuses, you may not remember the unique features of each one. When all of your campus visits are over, you will be able to review your notes and compare your options more objectively.
- Ask about visit reimbursement or other arrangements. Some colleges will pay part of your trip expenses or your hotel stay, as well as treat you to meals in the college dining facilities.