Planning the Best College Visitation Experience
College Scoops enjoys reaching out to fellow entrepreneurs and experts in the college space to collaborate and share ideas. We recently touched base with Founder and CEO of Best Fit College Admissions, Jennifer H. Vidmer, who shared her thoughts on college visits below. With over 25 years of experience in higher education, Jenny has a true passion for helping students experience great success in the admissions process. Jenny has a breadth of knowledge and deep insight into the intricacies of college admissions from her many years working in the field at Penn State University and the Yale School of Management. Jenny has the additional complex skillset and expertise in the collegiate athletic recruiting process to assist student-athletes hoping to compete at the collegiate level. Jenny also approaches this pivotal experience in the life of a high school student from the perspective of a parent, having recently gone through the process with her own college-aged children.
Physically getting on college campuses of interest to you is by far and away the VERY BEST RESEARCH you can do and is an interesting and necessary step in your college search process. Nothing will help you clarify more quickly and accurately your sense of what colleges are your BEST FIT schools than by collecting first-hand information that only a campus visit can provide. As an added bonus, I promise you that as a family, you will long remember these adventures to states and colleges and universities near and far. You will create memories that will extend long beyond your college years!
Some important tips for your College Visitation Experience:
1) Campus Tours and Information Sessions
Colleges offer regular CAMPUS TOURS and INFORMATION SESSIONS. It is ALWAYS best to schedule a Campus Tour and Info Session vs driving and/or walking around campus on your own. Families often think that a “drive-through” visit will help them to get a good feel for a campus, but never underestimate the power of a structured tour and information session. You will get so much valuable information and insight into student life and academic culture by participating in these two important activities. To arrange the campus tour and information session, you just need to visit the college website of your college of interest and go to the Admissions Page – then check CAMPUS VISITATION SCHEDULE. Each school handles visitation slightly differently, but it will always be clearly delineated on the website. Some colleges require you to register in advance for tours and info sessions and at others, you are able to just drop in. ALWAYS check things out prior to traveling to campus and be sure to have a good plan in place.
2) Nothing Takes the Place of an In-Person Visit
Being physically present and taking in the sights, students, academic buildings, and surrounding areas will tell you so much more about a school than you can ever pick up through a website or a campus brochure. A visit will give you the chance to “feel in your heart” whether or not you can see yourself at a particular school. You will have the chance to ask questions of students and staff and you will leave with a great sense of FIT for you at that school. It is usually impossible to visit all of the schools on your list, but getting to as many as possible is the best research that you can possibly do.
3) When is the Best Time to Visit?
For many reasons, junior year is often the best timing for campus visitation, however, visits in the sophomore year can also be great in starting to determine the types of schools that feel comfortable. Visits in the senior year can be extremely clarifying as your decision-making time draws near. It is always preferable to visit a campus when students are in session. There is an energy that you will gauge that helps you to determine if this is the type of college and culture that you seek.
4) Things Not to Miss on Your Visit
Always try to get the most out of your visit to a campus. It can be extremely valuable to set up a meeting with a faculty member in your specific area of academic interest and perhaps sit in on a class in that subject area. This would need to be arranged ahead of time and the Admissions Office will often be happy to assist you with this or at least put you in contact with the appropriate faculty member. You will certainly want to also check out the academic buildings and labs in your area of academic interest, which may or may not be part of the scheduled tour.
Ask to see a freshman dorm room – this is often not on the regular tour, but important to get a feel for. Check out the signs and posters on campus that gives you a good feel for the events and activities that you would have available there if you were to become a student. Have a meal in the dining hall- try out the food you might be eating for 4 years and take note of how students interact with one another in a casual setting. Do they seem friendly and inclusive – do students seem happy there? Another great spot for some informal observation is to just park on a bench on campus and use all of your senses to assess if this campus feels like your kind of place. Pick up a campus newspaper and log the campus news. Drive through the town and surrounding area – this gives you a good sense of what would be available to you (restaurants, movie theaters, shops) off-campus when you are not engaged in campus life
5) Don't be Shy to Ask Questions of Current Students
This can be an excellent source of information for you. Ask current students how they like their college. Some examples of your questions might include: If they had it to do over again, would they still attend that college? Where else did they look? What is the academic climate…. is it cooperative or competitive? How would they describe the social life on their campus? You can never collect too much information about this important decision!
6) Send a Follow Up Thank you Email
Make sure to get the email address of your Tour Guide and your Information Session presenter. If you still like the college and want to show strong interest, sending a nice and prompt follow up e-mail is an excellent thing to do. Note some specific things about your campus visit that furthered your positive impression about the school. This gives you strokes for “demonstrated interest” which many colleges measure.
Campus visits take time, planning and can also be expensive, but getting some visitation in will be one of the best things you can do to ensure you make an excellent college choice. Enjoy the unique and special experience of the campus visit and all the fascinating things that it entails!
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