College Campus Visits – Some Timely Advice

SC Test Prep

Though it doesn’t feel like it as I write this, huddled up in front of my heater, spring holidays are right around the corner. That makes this the perfect time to talk about campus visits and the role they play in the college search process and admissions. For juniors, campus visits can be invaluable tools, helping students narrow down their list of possible schools and providing them with the perfect opportunity to make a great first impression. For seniors, campus visits are often the last piece of the puzzle a student needs before making a decision on a college or university or to make one last attempt to sway an admission office, realities that make them even more important. With that in mind, here are a few pieces of advice:

1) Visit early!

Though I see examples of it every year, both as a counselor and now as an independent consultant, the last-ditch admissions office visit to have a “conversation” about a decision is rarely as successful as a student or parent hopes. What is typically successful is visiting early in the admissions process to demonstrate interest and gather information, working closely with your admission counselor to gauge and improve the strength of your application relative to a school’s averages and taking advantage of further opportunities to connect with the school and counselor through phone and email, open houses and hospitality days, and college fairs and high school visits.

2) Remember all your options.

Particularly for juniors and their families, spring break can be a good time to make campus visits. It is still early in the college search process, students do not have to miss class time, and it is possible to schedule visits back to back, making comparisons easier. If you can’t make it over spring break or if you simply do not want to fight the crowds of students that will be filling local admission offices that week, make sure you stay aware of other opportunities to see campuses. As I mentioned, most colleges and universities hold a series of hospitality days or open houses throughout the year with many events designed for specific groups such as juniors or accepted students. Some schools also offer bus tours during which they will literally bus students from surrounding cities onto campus for a day. Finally, information sessions and tours are available throughout the week in the admission offices and welcome centers on almost every campus and many schools provide weekend options as well.

3) First impressions matter.

If you are a parent, during a campus visit remember that you are not considering attending that particular institution, your child is. If you are a student, remember that in fact, you are considering attending that particular school, and act like it! Look everyone that you meet in the eyes when they are speaking to you or when you are speaking to them and make a point of shaking hands with them as well. Listen respectfully during the information session and tour and ask questions that demonstrate your interest. Your admission counselor is paying attention and will remember.

4) Pay attention yourself!

A campus visit is the best way for you to learn about a school. While on campus, pay attention to how students, faculty, and staff interact with one another and try to get a feel for what it is like to be a student there. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions that you need answered and to push (politely) until you are satisfied. Attending college is a huge decision and you deserve to make it with the best information available.