Often one of the anticipated high points of a high schooler's journey towards higher education is the college visit. Nothing can replace that moment of "touching down" on an actual college campus. A physical setting that was formerly an ethereal location suddenly becomes a real, living place: the smells and tastes of cafeteria food, the vibe of the dorm rooms, the teaching styles of the professors, and the general atmosphere of the campus itself. It's important to be able to picture yourself in your perspective new "home" and it's nearly impossible to do that without seeing things firsthand.
Colleges often host high school visitation events throughout the year, and many offer weekly guided tours of the campus. Many colleges are willing to accommodate a personalized visit and tour to suit your needs, so don't be afraid to check if that option is available. Now days, almost every college offers a virtual tour, which offers a helpful precursor to an in-person visit. Though a virtual visit is second best, it's a lifesaver in those situations where an actual visit is just not possible. Most colleges recognize that while these online resources are helpful, there is irreplaceable value in in-person visits. Here are some steps to consider when it comes to planning for them:
- Prioritize which colleges you want to visit. Institutions close to home are easiest to see and well worth visiting by way of a comparative base, even if they're not as high on your list. Likewise, if you can squeeze two college visits into one trip, it may be worthwhile, even if one school is high on your list and the other much lower. The more colleges you visit, the better idea you get of what you're looking for.
- Look at your calendar and your budget, and then schedule your visit! College visits are most often planned for the school year when classes are in session, but summer visits can be productive as well, though there are usually fewer students on campus.
Visits are arranged by calling the college admissions department (usually listed on the website) or can sometimes be set up online or via email. Make sure you know what to expect on your visit. For example: will you be allowed to attend a class, eat in the cafeteria or meet with an enrollment advisor? Approximately how much time will the visit take?
- If you don't hear back as your scheduled visitation date approaches, it may be wise to check in with enrollment personnel a week or two before your anticipated visit, just to confirm your plans.
- Always come prepared with questions for your tour guide so as to glean the most from your time on campus. If possible, check out the city or surrounding area, as this will help you know what to expect if you attend.
- ENJOY YOUR VISIT! Be present and attuned to detail! Afterwards, jot down your impressions, thoughts and observations. This will be helpful as you begin your decision-making process.
If possible, contact students who've attended the colleges you've visited and ask about their experiences, as this perspective will round out your own perceptions.
Ultimately, talking with others can be helpful, but only you can decide which college is right for you. Setting foot on your prospective campus beforehand will be invaluable in helping you formulate your list of "pros and cons." So start planning now for the all-important college visit and begin to envision the exciting future that's just within reach!