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8 Things You Should Do at Every College You Visit


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The summer will be here before you know it, and now is the time to start planning your trips to visit college campuses during the break. You have a relatively short amount of time at each school, so it’s import to make the most of it.

ESM Group founder and CEO Billy Downing, an expert on the college admissions process, shares his top 8 tips for college visits:

8) Always call the admissions office of the schools on your itinerary.

Let them know you are coming, and reserve a space on the campus tour. Lots of people will be visiting at the same time, probably, and schools will only accept a limited number of families for each scheduled tour. You should also ask to meet with the admissions officer responsible for working with your high school.

7) Do your homework.

Read up on each college, what they are known for and which programs they tout. If you have a particular major in mind, research those as well so you arrive with detailed questions.

6) Avoid drawing conclusions about the school based on the tour guide.

He or she is just one person out of several thousand, in most cases. It’s easy to sour on a school if your tour guide is especially boring or unknowledgable. But try to look past that.

5) Sit in on a class.

You want to see students in their natural habitat! In addition to going to the student center, bookstore, or athletic facilities, go to a class and see what the student / instructor interaction is like. Even better, stop a few students after class and ask them how they like the school.

4) Explore the neighborhood.

Is it safe? Are there services close by? Malls? Stores? Restaurants? Arts and cultural opportunities? Is there more than just student housing surrounding campus? Do you like the feel of it? As long as it’s safe, walking is always preferable to driving when exploring the area around a campus.

3) Hit up your high school alums.

Ask the counseling office at your school, or the alumni relations office, for the names and contact information of students from your high school who are currently enrolled in the college. Schedule a time to meet up with them and ask them what they think about the school, and how the transition was coming from your high school.

2) Send thank you notes.

Make sure you have the names and contact information for the adults with whom you came into contact during your visit, and send them a thank you note when you get home. Failure to do so is rude, and won’t get you any “I’m really interested in your school” points in the admissions process.

1) Write down your thoughts and ideas.

After each visit, take some time to reflect on what you saw and experienced and journal your thoughts. Consider the school socially, academically, geographically, etc. Were the people you met friendly? Did strangers on campus smile and make eye-contact? Could you see yourself there? How was the intellectual atmosphere?