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Ten tips for making the most of your campus visit

Once the holidays are over, it's time for high school juniors- and seniors-to-be to think about visiting colleges. With that in mind, we offer a quick list of things to remember as you make your way to campus.

  1. Research the college before you visit. Doing a quick skim of a college or university website will help you gather quick facts, and help to avoid surprises when you are already on tour or speaking with your admissions counselor. Don't forget facts like campus size, academic programs or majors, athletics, fine arts, and student organizations.

  2. Be in the driver's seat. Most likely, you'll visit college campuses with one or both of your parents. But don't forget, this is where you may be spending the next 4 years of your life. Be invested and interested in your entire visit, while still making sure your parents' questions are getting answered. This is a great conversation to have with them in the car on the way to your visit.

  3. Stay open-minded. You may have heard great things from a classmate that goes to the college currently, or maybe you've heard some not-so-good things from your cousin's friend's boyfriend's sister. Either way, you never know how you'll feel about the campus unless you make your visit your own. This especially is true if you're still deciding between a big university or a smaller private college.

  4. Wear comfortable shoes, but not pajamas. Most campus tours can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. You'll want to stay comfortable while you're out with your tour guide. At the same time, you're also making a first impression in the Admissions Office and with your counselor. And that's important! On your visit, you're putting your face with your name (and all of your paperwork) for admissions. Give a good handshake, don't chew gum, and leave the ball caps outside - standard job interview or class presentation stuff.

  5. Meet your admissions counselor. It's important to make a connection with your admissions counselor (or an admissions counselor, if yours is out of the office) so you know who you can follow up with after your visit. Typically, this is the person who will work with you throughout your college search process, from first visit to application to registration.

  6. Observe a class or meet with a professor. Because you've done your research, you know that the college has the academic program or major that interests you. Find out more - what's it like to be in a small class versus a lecture hall? Do professors lecture for the entire class or do teaching assistants (TA's) do the talking? Not sure about a major yet...don't worry. Try to arrange a meeting with a first-year faculty advisor or a counselor in the Career Center.

  7. Ask questions that pertain to your interests. Sure, historical musings and building construction dates are interesting, but you're visiting college for you! Ask about the English department, ask what intramural soccer is like, ask how late the library is open, ask what students do on a Friday night. That's why your tour guide is being paid!

  8. Don't let the little things get to you. If your lunch from the cafeteria is bad during your visit, don't assume that it's terrible every day. That's a great question to ask your tour guide - and it gives you something to talk about too. Admissions counselors often invite open and candid conversation about your visit and your views on the day, so if something little did get to you (or your parents), don't hesitate to talk about it! Most importantly on this topic, try not to go home with unanswered questions about those concerns.

  9. Avoid sticker shock. Today, cost and value is on the top of everyone's minds, especially when it comes to choosing a college. After your visit, if you enjoyed your day and plan to apply, complete the entire application process. This includes the financial assistance portion of the paperwork, too. Between scholarships, grants, and loans, the cost of attending an institution could be dramatically different than the outright price of attending the institution. Then, when you get "the bottom line" in the spring, you can ask yourself, is it worth it?

  10. Visit again (and again, and again). Many students reserve their first campus visits to Open House or Visit Day events or general tours and information sessions. By visiting a second or third time, your visit can become more customized to your interests. Even better, the more time you spend on campus, the better idea you'll get if this is the right place for you.