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College Visits 101

High school juniors are deep into college visits right now.  Summer break will see those college visits increase by leaps and bounds.  If you are starting now to explore colleges, you have just a few months to learn a lot about your colleges.  Make the most of those visits by following these suggestions.

Get an Idea of What You Are Looking For

Obviously, one of the reasons you are visiting colleges is to learn what matches you, but you want to go with some self-awareness.  In particular, know about your learning style; think about what environment you need to succeed.

Visit Locally First

If you think you want to attend college far from home, but don’t know which ones, you can save time and money by visiting several types of colleges close to home.  In this case, your college visits are to explore different aspects of types of colleges—sort of checking out the “personality” fit of the colleges.

Arrange Your Visit Online

You’ll need to register your college visits by going to each college’s “Visit Us” page on the website.   Here is what the Goucher College Visit page is like. Most colleges will let you customize your visit.  Always arrange to meet with a professor in your preferred major.  You may need to call the admissions office to arrange this.  Large universities are less likely to include this in a standard visit.   Don’t simply “show up” for a college visit; that’s a very poor use of your time.

Research the College Before You Go

Don’t visit your college cold—check out some of the details online first.  You don’t need to know everything, but get an idea of the class size, student-to-faculty ratio, the highlights of your possible major.

Meet Your Admissions Counselor

Your admissions counselor will want to know who you are, and you will likely learn some very helpful information from him or her.  If you can’t meet with the representative from your high school, another rep is just as helpful.

Talk to Random Students

This can be the most informative part of your visit.  Go to a location where students gather—the dining hall, the student center, the campus lawns. Of course, during the summer break, this may be more difficult than during the school year.   Watch how students interact.  Are they always alone?  Do they look happy?  Then, step out of yourself, and actually talk with a few random students.  Ask them what they love about the college, what they would change if they could, what has surprised them, and if they have been disappointed by anything.  Ask them what kind of students are happiest here.  Ask them if they have any advice for you as you explore.

Meet With a Professor or Attend a Class

This may be difficult if you are visiting in summer, but do request this of the visit coordinator.  This can be one of the most helpful aspects of your visit.  This is not an interview, and this professor will not be determining your admission.  He or she should tell you a lot more about your major, their department, how they teach undergraduates, what kinds of research their undergraduate are doing.  You should be very comfortable asking them questions or telling them about your interest, but you are not obligated.  Mostly, you want to get an impression of how the faculty engages with you, an individual. Hopefully, you’ll be very excited about the opportunity to study with this professor!  If not, you want to notice that as well.

Write Down Your Impressions

You’ll go on several college visits over the next few months—maybe many!  Even if you have a fabulous memory, the details will run together.  Do yourself a favor and TAKE NOTES after (and during) every college visit!  Here’s what you want to know: How comfortable and excited do I feel on campus?  Do I feel like I can really connect with the students here? Will I thrive in this academic environment?

Write a Thank You

After your visit, DO write a thank you to your admissions representative and the faculty member with whom you visited.  A polite individual email is fine.  Keep it simple, but be sure to do it!  It really can set you apart in a positive way!

Need More Advice?

We specialize in helping families arrange and evaluate really useful college visits. And we can help you with your college search and applications.  Contact us for more information.

 

 

Stephanie Kennedy

Stephanie Kennedy is president of Kennedy Educational Services and co-founder of My College Planning Team. Stephanie holds a Masters in Counseling and College Student Development. A former admissions counselor, she has read hundreds of college applications and assisted thousands of students in their college adjustment and educational path. With her hands-on perspective, she guides students and families in a successful college search that goes far beyond the acceptance letter.

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