One of the most important parts of the college search is the campus visit. We will often talk about finding the right “fit” in your college search. This is your opportunity to interact with people at the college and get a sense of whether this place could be a “fit” for you. Take advantage of your visits by asking a lot of questions and getting a feel for the personality of the institution.
WHEN TO VISIT?
There are many opportunities to tour a campus. Ideally, it is best to see a college campus when students are there and classes are in session (perhaps during spring break in the junior year or during the fall in the senior year). However, it is often more difficult to do this because colleges are generally in session when AOC is also in session. Summer is also a good time to visit colleges. Although classes may not be in session, admission offices are open during this busy season of college visiting, offering tours, group information sessions, and at some colleges, interviews. When choosing which schools to see during the summer, try to avoid smaller, rural schools, which are less likely to have activity on campus during that time of year. The admissions office at the college can help you organize your visit and arrange accommodations, often with students and professors. If you visit a campus in the summer, contact AOC alums who attend that school to get more information about the tone and feel of the community when school is in session.
PLANNING COLLEGE VISITS
Visit schools with a range of selectivity. If you have been focusing on the fame or the national rankings of schools, you may be pre-conditioned to like some of the schools where the admissions odds are very slim. Visits to the campuses of schools that admit a tiny percentage of their applicants will therefore be much less valuable to you than cultivating your interest in the schools that will be likelier to admit you.
Visit the school’s website or call the admission office directly to schedule your visit. Do this several weeks ahead of time to find out when they offer tours and group information sessions. Some schools offer them on a drop-in basis; many schools require that you make an appointment. Most of this information is available online.
Ask if interviews are offered (ask for on-campus if the campus is local!). If so, ask your counselor if you should try to arrange an interview and how to prepare.
Allow plenty of time for your visit. Plan to spend several hours at each college. When planning your visit, find out about directions and driving time. We recommend that you try to see no more than two campuses in one day.
WHILE ON CAMPUS
Attend a group information session. These are usually held at the admission office and are especially helpful if you don’t plan an interview. This is usually led by an admission officer.
Take a campus tour. This is usually led by a current student.
Talk to students. Don’t be afraid to approach someone to ask about his/her experience. If it is in the summer, you may want to look for students who have stayed to do research or who work at the college.
Look at school newspapers and bulletin boards. These things will give you an idea about what is happening on campus and what the political and social climates are like.
Check out the student center. Where do students hang out? What do they do?
Visit classes, if possible. Talk to professors in departments of interest to you.
Eat in a campus dining hall, café or food court. Ask in the admissions office for recommendations about where you can eat on campus as a visitor. Dining spaces will give you a good sense of campus culture...and you can check out the food!
Explore on your own. The tour won’t take you everywhere. Get a good feel for the place by wandering off the prescribed path.