Ask Cappex: What Should I Do During a College Visit?

on August 12, 2016

Our college expert Mark Kantrowitz answers your questions about college and financial aid.

Q: What should I be doing during my college visits to get the most out of them?

A: Bring a notebook with you on your college visits, to take notes about each college. Otherwise, all the college campuses will tend to blur together, especially if you visit them in rapid succession. It can also help to bring a camera with you, since pictures can help jog your memory.

Here’s a list of standard things to do during a college visit:

  • Go on a campus tour.
  • Sit in on an information session in the admissions office. If the opportunity presents itself, do an interview with the admissions staff. Send them a thank you note afterward.
  • Sit in on a class.
  • Arrange with the admissions office to meet with a faculty member in a field of interest to you. Ask about opportunities to work with faculty.
  • Stay overnight in the dorm with a student.
  • Visit the college library and athletic facilities.
  • Visit the financial aid office.
  • Visit the dining hall. Does the food taste good?
  • Visit the student center and campus bookstore.

There are, however, several less typical things you can do during your visit to give you a better sense of whether you’ll be happy at the college.

  • Wander the campus to get a feel for it. If you’re into Pokemon Go, this can be a good way to explore, so long as you look up from your phone from time to time.
  • Get lost and ask someone for directions. This will tell you how helpful and friendly people are on campus.
  • Talk to a few students. Stop a random student at the student center who doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry and ask him or her about the college. Ask why they choose the college and what they like the most and like the least about the college. Unlike the tour guide, they aren’t paid to praise the college.
  • Visit a few restrooms. If they are poorly maintained, smell bad or are disgusting, it may be a sign of problems at the college.
  • Visit the career services office. Given the high cost of college these days, you want to be sure that you’ll be able to get a good job after graduation.
  • Explore off-campus too. Is the college surrounded by chain restaurants or by unique boutique restaurants? Are there any used bookstores?
  • Get a copy of the student newspaper and read it.
  • Find a place to sit and watch people as they walk past. Do they seem happy? Are they walking by themselves, in pairs or in groups? Are they wearing stylish clothing or more comfortable clothing?

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