While there are many resources you might use during your college search, the college visit is one of the only ways where you can get a true feel of the campus and whether or not you’ll fit into its environment. A visit may take on many forms, from an informal look into classes and campus amenities to school-sponsored guided tours, and all of them are great for gleaning important information as you decide which college to attend. Yet, there are many ways where students and parents alike can underutilize their time during a campus visit. Here are three important tips to think about as you prepare for your next trip to Harvard and beyond.
The school-sponsored tour is a great asset to previewing a campus and getting information from tour guides, especially if you’ve never been to the campus before or are pressed with time. However, school-sponsored tours inevitably have a bias towards presenting the school in its best light. Therefore, it’s critical that you go off the well-trodden path when you can and explore beyond the tour. and visit locations you might not see otherwise
Of course, don’t break any rules during your visit. However, prospective applicants that visit college campuses often have some level of freedom to explore. Do use your time at the college to explore locations that aren’t necessarily on the tour, and be sure to politely ask current students about their experiences while attending the college: what do they like and dislike about the college, and what is the overall environment like for students (academically, socially, and otherwise)? By asking current students, you’ll likely get a candid and truthful response about any questions you may have.
Don’t depend on your memory alone. By the time you’ve visited your third or fourth college, it’s very easy for the information to start blurring together by pure virtue of the amount of information you’ll receive. To avoid any post-visit confusion, take notes on every aspect you encounter during a visit, such as classes, dorms, dining, libraries, and more. Additionally, if you have any questions that are left unanswered from your visit there, write them down so you can refer to them as you conduct further research after your trip.
After your visit, take the time to consider your overall impression of the school and whether or not you can imagine yourself attending and enjoying your time there. Make a list of pros and cons for each institution to quantify your likes and dislikes, or if you’d like, start an Excel sheet with multiple columns for different categories and update it regularly to keep track of all the things you learn. This is especially useful as a tool for comparing colleges, as you can visually see how different aspects compare when you put two or more colleges against each other.
Above all, as you start visiting more campuses, be open to different colleges and different environments. Often, the college that you find your true home to be cannot be quantified by statistics nor simulated through virtual tours. Trust your gut as you make multiple visits, and be receptive to new information as it comes in.
Moreover, with so many other factors to consider, a college visit alone isn’t enough to make a decision. Aspects like cost, type of program, location, and size can all make a difference in determining whether or not attending a college is worth it. This is where online tools become very useful. Use a net price calculator often provided by the school’s financial aid office to get an initial impression of the type of aid you may receive, which is wholly useful to see if you can afford a college or not.
Ultimately, a campus visit is just one component to the overall college admissions process that can be incredibly useful and even exciting if done properly. With time and preparation, you can be sure that your college visit is a success, and you’ll be better prepared to make smart decisions moving forward in the process.
Still unsure what colleges you’re planning on applying to? Check out this post for tips on building the perfect college list, and contact us today to see how we can help boost your chances for admission to top colleges.