BIGWORDS HIGH SCHOOL: College Visit DOs and DON’Ts
When trying to select the college that’s right for you, getting a feel for the campus can go a long way. The best way to do this is to put yourself in the shoes of an actual student and physically set foot on the campus exploring everything the school has to offer – from campus life to campus facilities and even the community that surrounds it.
If you’ve developed your short-list of schools, you’re probably ready to take the next step and mosey around some of them. That’s great! But please read through our College Visit DOs and DON’TS first, just to make sure you’re prepared and that you’re getting the most out of these tours and experiences.
DON’T Just Show Up to a Campus Unannounced or Without Planning Ahead
Don’t drive several hours or take a plane across the country and pop onto a campus unannounced. During normal times, a campus may have certain days and hours devoted to prospective student tours. But during a pandemic, there can be many additional rules and guidelines to follow. Some schools may not even offer in-person tours. Check the school’s website for information on tours and campus visits–BEFORE visiting the campus.
DON’T Ask Generic Questions
You can find the answers (yourself) to a lot of “typical” questions just by visiting the school’s website or in their brochures. Now’s the time to get the answers to tough questions, such as campus and area safety, job placement, costs, financial help and academic rigor. Pay attention to how your questions get answered, it’s important to see how a school handles tougher questions and how they treat those asking them.
DO Speak to Other Students
One of the best ways to find out honest information regarding a college you’re interested in is to approach and ask several students how they feel about their school. Ask what they like about their campus and their classes or what they would change if they had the chance to. Obviously, a current student will probably be less biased than your college guide or admissions officer.
DO Keep an Open Mind
Whether the school falls lower on your narrowed down short-list or it’s a school only your parents are aggressively pushing for, don’t prejudge a college before you even set foot on the campus. Go into your visit with a positive, open mind, as you may find out some of your preconceptions about the college or campus were incorrect or dated. Or worse, AGH! You too might actually fall in love with the campus your dad wouldn’t shut up about.
DON’T Be in A Rush to Leave When the Tour Is Over
When the tour ends, don’t jump in the car and hightail it off campus. Take the time to really get a feel for the school by visiting classrooms, student lounge areas, dining halls, sports fields, construction sites next to dorms and any other place your guide didn’t show you.
DO Try to Separate Yourself from Your Parents
See the campus through your own – unbiased – eyes. Ask your parents if they don’t mind grabbing lunch nearby or exploring the area, while you do a little solo exploring yourself. You may feel more comfortable interacting with and asking students questions (and vice versa) without feeling like your parents are judging your every move. Remember, it’s YOUR comfort that’s important, as you’ll be the one attending the school for years. Choosing a campus should mainly be YOUR decision to make, not everyone else’s.
DO Explore the Area Surrounding Your College
Again, don’t end your campus tour at the end of the official campus tour. Explore the community around your college as well. Do you feel safe and comfortable in the area? Are there extracurricular places nearby for you to enjoy, like parks, trails or bars and restaurants? In the words of Hamilton’s Schuyler sisters, “Look around, look around!”
DON’T Forget to Turn Off Your Phone
This one’s easy. Turn off your phone to avoid any embarrassing interruptions and to stay completely focused on your guided tour.
DO Send A Thank You Email
This really isn’t a suggestion, but a must-do. Before you leave your tour or meetings, ask for the email address or business card of the campus colleagues that you have spoken to, or find their email yourself online. This includes campus guides, a department secretary, or admissions officers. Keep the thank you note short–let them know how helpful the information was that they provided you and, of course, thank them for hosting you. A simple thank you email will not only leave a good impression, but it will also show them you have a good understanding of other people’s time and that you appreciate their efforts.
Does an in-person campus tour make you feel uneasy in today’s climate? Most campuses understand this and are offering virtual tours for prospective students. Check the college’s website for more information on virtual tours.