College Campus Visits

Campus Visits

The college campus visit is an extremely important aspect of the entire college preparation and funding process.

Campus visits allow you to get a feel for the atmosphere of the school; while, at the same time, make that all-important first impression with both the college’s Admissions Officer and Financial Aid Officer.

Although campus visits may actually be conducted starting during the student’s high school junior year, most students choose to visit the campuses during their senior year after they have narrowed the choices down to their final six colleges.

Effective Campus Visits …

Campus Visit Overview

It would be nearly impossible for a student to make an attendance commitment to a college or university for four years without first getting an idea of the personality of the institution.  The college campus visit gives you an opportunity to visit with the students and faculty and observe how the students live in the college environment.  This observation and information will give you a much better idea as to whether or not you would be able to achieve your goals and academically prosper at that particular institution.

It is very important to visit as many of your finalists schools as possible.  Campus visits will give you the chance to get a feel for the atmosphere of the college.  Colleges across the country encourage students to visit their campuses.  Colleges realize that a campus visit is by far the best way for the student to become familiar with the school.  These campus visits also give the college an opportunity to show their stuff to the students.

Although colleges highly benefit from the student’s visit, these visits should also be very beneficial to the students as well.  You should prearrange a plan, or agenda, when visiting the college campuses.

When to Visit

Although you may have to miss a day or two of high school classes, visiting a college campus during the week is essential in order to get an accurate impression of the school.  Classes will be in session, activities will be taking place, teams will be practicing, and students will be studying.  These experiences will help give you the true feeling of the college.

As a general rule, visiting a campus on a weekend is not the best idea.  In fact, a weekend visit can have very little benefit.  The admissions staff and faculty will most likely be gone for the weekend, and most of the students will be involved in other activities outside of the day to day college life.

You should also consider staying overnight at the college if at all possible.  Most colleges often encourage overnight stays.  To arrange an over-night stay with a current student, contact the Admissions Office and make prior arrangements.

Try and stay with someone who has similar interests.  For example:  If you will be playing football, ask the Admissions Office if it would be possible for you to stay over-night with a football player.  An over-night stay will give you a much better feel for the entire college atmosphere.

Planning Your Visits

The most important part of the campus visit is to meet with the Admissions Officer and the Financial Aid Officer.  These pre-scheduled meetings will set the foundation for the college’s evaluation and acceptance of the student, as well as start the student’s financial aid file.

You should call and/or write ahead of time to arrange a meeting with both the Admissions and Financial Aid Officers.  The call / letter, should be courteous and contain the expected dates for your visit.  Remember you are making a first impression, an impression that may weigh heavily during the admission and funding process.

After the Interviews

The notes the Admissions and Financial Aid Officers take during the interviews will be placed in your file, a file that was created when you originally requested information from the college.  This file will also eventually contain your admission application.

The Admissions and Financial Aid Officers may refer to your file when it is time to make the all-important admission and funding decisions.  It is extremely important that both the Financial Aid Officer and Admissions Officer remember you as someone who would benefit their institution.  Their decision for your admission, and eventual financial aid package, will be based primarily on your application, your situation, your goals, your achievements, and your personality.

Admissions Officer Interview

Familiarize the Admissions Officer with your goals, aspirations, and achievements.  Keep in mind that the Admissions Officer is usually very busy, and the purpose of this meeting is to make that good first impression, briefly discuss a few of your achievements, and find out all you can about the college.

The interview with the Admissions Officer is a chance for both of you to ask and answer questions.  You are asking questions that will give you a feel for what the college has to offer, and the Admissions Officer is trying to convince you that his institution is the right one for you to attend.

Be sure there is an equal balance between you asking questions about the college, and giving the college information about yourself.

Important things to know about the interview:

  • Be relaxed.
  • Be polite and courteous.
  • Don’t ask unnecessary questions.
  • Show self-confidence.

What to bring to the interview:

  • A list of questions you wish to ask, including:
    • Can I receive college credit for advanced placement courses I take while still in high school?
    • How many freshman courses do graduate students teach?
    • What is the typical class size?
    • Will I be able to earn my degree in four year?
    • How secure are the dorms?
    • What are the most important factors the Admissions Officer takes into consideration in determining a student’s application?
    • Do I get advice from professors on which courses I should take?
    • Do fraternities and/or sororities play a big part in campus life?
    • What are the possibilities of my being accepted?
  • A copy of your unofficial high school transcript.
  • A pen and paper for taking notes.
  • A friendly, outgoing personality.

It is important to dress casually during your interview.  There is no need for a suit and tie; however, short pants would not be appropriate.  Dress neatly and portray a positive self-image.

Items about yourself that you should review with the Admissions Officer during your interview:

  • High school courses you have taken.
  • Any activities you participated in during high school.
  • Positions you have held in high school.
  • Outside jobs where you have worked.
  • Particular areas that interest you / possible major(s).

In addition, you may wish to briefly mention some of the other colleges and/or universities that you have visited, or will be visiting.

The most important part of the interview is honesty.  Being honest with the Admissions Officer about who you are and what you have achieved will certainly go along way towards your acceptance.  In fact, if the Admissions Officer suspects you are not being truthful in any way, your chances for acceptance become very slim.

Financial Aid Officer Interview

Be prepared to briefly discuss the following information with the Financial Aid Officer:

  • The family’s financial condition.
  • The family’s ballpark net worth.
  • The parents’ general income range.

The discussion with the Financial Aid Officer will allow him or her to at least give you an idea of the possible financial aid package that will be offered by the institution.  This also allows the Financial Aid Officer to become familiar with your particular situation, and make notes to your file.  This may prove very beneficial down the road.

The meeting with the Financial Aid Officer should be short and to the point.  The main purpose of this meeting is to make personal introductions and a favorable first impression.

When it comes to your financial aid package, the Financial Aid Officer will almost always have the final say.  He or she will be dealing with thousands of students who he knows by only a name and number.  The officer being able to put a face with the name, and hopefully have a favorable impression of you, could make a world of difference when it comes to awarding funding.

Guided Campus Tours

Most generally a volunteer or a work-study student will conduct a guided tour.  This tour will consist of prospective students and will be a general tour around campus.

Common stops in a guided campus tour:

  • Library
  • Cafeteria
  • Dorms
  • Student Center

The guided tour is an excellent way to get an over-all perspective of the campus outlay.  If there are particular parts of the campus that are not included in the tour, you may simply ask the guide for directions and they will usually help you in locating it.  A guided campus tour usually lasts around an hour.  Please feel free to ask the tour guide any questions that you may have, either during the tour, or after the tour is over.

Self-Guided Campus Tours

Even though the guided tour may give you an over-all impression of the campus, you will still need to further investigate aspects of the college on your own.  Use your time wisely when exploring the following areas of the campus:

  • Classroom – you may either pick a class from a schedule that may be obtained through the admissions office, or you may pick a class that interests you at random.
    • How big is the class?
    • Are the students enthused about the subject / lesson?
    • Read over the class syllabus, if available.
    • Can you picture yourself as a part of this class?
  • Visit the library:
    • Is it crowded, comfortable?
    • Are quiet places available for study?
    • Can you picture yourself there for four years?
  • Visit a particular department that interests you and talk with a student in that major, and/or a professor in the department.
  • Make a visit to the athletic facilities:
    • Are they crowded?
    • Are trainers available for you?
    • Is all of the equipment relatively new?
  • If you will be involved in sports, go to a practice or game.  Talk to the coach and/or players if possible.  Does the team seem like one that you would like to be a part of?
  • Visit the freshman dorms:
    • How big are the rooms?
    • Are the rooms comfortable?
    • Are the bathrooms adequate, clean?
    • Where are the laundry facilities located?
  • Eat a meal in the cafeteria:
    • Is the food good; is there a wide variety?
    • Is the cafeteria crowded?
    • Are the people / students friendly?
  • Check to see if there are receptive people in the student services and writing centers to help you.
  • Visit the student center and talk with several different students to gain their opinion of the facility.
  • Take a short trip off campus and see what the surrounding area is like.  Check to see if there is adequate shopping near-by.  Check to see if the near-by restaurants are suitable.
  • In addition to visiting the above listed locations, and talking with the people to get a genuine feel of the college’s atmosphere, here are a few things you may do to give you a further indication of the general idea of the type of college life at each particular institution:
    • Read the school newspaper and discover the hot campus topics and the general concerns of the student body.
    • Review the bulletin boards and see what type of events and organizations are advertised.
    • Investigate what the weather is like, and if it is a climate that is appealing to you.
    • Feel free to take pictures of the campus and write down any impressions you may have for future reference.

It’s important to send a thank you note to everyone you talk with during each particular campus visit.  You should take the time to write them a short note or letter thanking them for their time and the pleasure of meeting with them, and allowing you to discuss your possible future at their institution.

Evaluating Your Visits

Your findings during the college campus visits will not be as useful if you are not able to clearly document your findings for future reference and comparison.  In fact, notes from your campus visits will prove very valuable when it comes time to make your final college choice.

Directly after the campus visit is the time to score each college based on your findings.  You should create a file for all of the campuses that you visited, complete with the follow information and ratings (where applicable) for each:

  • College size and location.
  • Time and date of your visit and the weather conditions.
  • Annual college cost including tuition, fees, and room & board.
  • The type of institution – public, private, religious, 4-year, etc.
  • Student body general profile – friendly, smart, dressy, casual, diverse, spirited, etc.
  • Social life – student initiated, college sponsored, clubs, sports oriented, etc.
  • Housing – dorms, apartments, fraternity, sorority, etc.
  • Recreation and activities – team sports, intramural, gym facilities, music, drama, etc.
  • Services – health, career, employment, etc.
  • Library – good, adequate, fair, poor, etc.
  • Outside community – easy access, city, town, rural, etc.
  • Academics – relaxed, modern, small classes, large classes, etc.
  • Faculty – full time, part time, etc.

You may assign a rating, or grade, for each of the above listed topics, and then an overall rating (superior, good, adequate, or disappointing) of the institution. You should also make notes as to what you liked most about the college and what you disliked.

Place all of your college campus visit information into your file, with a separate file for each individual school.  This information file will be used during final college choice decision time to help aid you in making your final college selection.

Combining your findings from each campus visit, and comparing those findings, along with each financial aid package offered, will be the basis for your final college choice decision.

Although campus visits are time-consuming and take careful preparation and planning, they will prove very valuable.  Remember that the college preparation and funding procedure is a highly sequential process.  Thorough campus visits are a vital and necessary part of this sequential procedure.  Be sure and make the most out of your college campus visits, the effort will surely pay great dividends.