College visits can be daunting. You’re thrown into a place for just a few hours and forced to decide if you'd like to spend four years of your life there. Everyone else on your tour is your “competition,” and they all look so much older, wiser, cooler and less stressed out. But visiting doesn’t have to be stressful, and it can also be one of the most helpful tools for picking out where you want to go. Here we have a “to do” list to aid you in making the most of every visit.
1. Start early and make a list of all the colleges you want to visit. Plan to visit colleges near each other in the same day or weekend to minimize the amount of time you’re stuck travelling.
2. This one seems like a no brainer, but always check when and where tours and information sessions are. Sometimes the information changes, so double check the day before your visit.
3. Many schools offer both information sessions and campus tours, and some require pre-registration—make sure you register if necessary.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—this is a big decision you’re making, and you need to be well informed.
5. Look up classes you’d want to check out, especially large lecture ones where you won’t feel awkward walking in. It could also be beneficial to email professors beforehand not only to make your presence is acceptable, but also to put you in touch with someone at the school who is an expert in something you’re interested in.
6. This might be the only time you get to talk face-to-face with a student at the school, so make sure to ask things that admissions officers wouldn’t be able to answer—inquire about dorm life, dining halls, social events, etc.
7. If the school allows it, schedule an on-campus interview, even if you have had another interview. It doesn’t hurt to have more people speak about how amazing you are to admissions committees.
8. Go on specialized tours of things you’re interested in. Sometimes schools offer engineering tours, arts tours or other categories that highlight what facilities and programs are especially good at the institution.
9. Make sure to leave time to wander around. Try to get a feel for not only the campus but also the surrounding area. Are there cool shops nearby, good date spots, convenience stores in case you run out of shampoo? Ask your tour guide where students like to hang out and ask for lunch recommendations.
10. Stay with a student overnight, especially if you’re a senior. This will really give you a feel for what it is actually like to go there.
11. Eat a meal at a dining hall. If you’re going to spend a few years somewhere, hopefully you’ll like the food. Or at the very least, know how many instant noodles and canned soups to stockpile in case you go.
12. Consider what students are wearing, what events are happening on campus and other aspects of student life. It will help you understand what it is like to live there in addition to just taking classes. Don’t underestimate the vibe of a campus; if you feel uneasy and overly nervous, then chances are that school isn’t the right fit for you.
—Staff writer Indrani G. Das can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @IndraniGDas.
—Staff writer Brianna D. MacGregor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bdmacgregor.