The best way to get to know a school is by visiting. Of course, not everyone will be able to visit a school on the other side of the country or the world, but if it’s not too difficult for you, visiting a college lets you see students who study there, what the campus looks like, how easy it is to get to class, and gives you an opportunity to visualize yourself as a student on that campus. When you visit a college campus, keep in mind that a lot of facilities, like dorms, dining halls, athletic facilities, and research labs, may not be open to the general public. You should take a campus tour, meet with current students, and hear admissions counselors present information about the school.
Sometimes colleges will offer special programs with even more opportunities to learn about different aspects of the school. In addition to the campus tour and information session, many schools will offer panels with current students or professors, a chance to tour additional facilities, or special sessions on specific aspects of the application process or life on that campus. When scheduling your visit, it’s always a good idea to ask if there are any special visit days coming up, or a recommended time to visit.
Even if you have no interest in studying there, it can be incredibly useful to visit a school near your hometown so you can get some experience with visiting. Whether it’s a local liberal arts college, a large state university, or a community college, you can learn a great deal about student life and opportunities by taking a tour, attending an information session, or just spending time on campus. Once you are further along in your college search, you may consider taking a trip to visit one or a few of your top choices. Before leaving for a college tour, you should research as much as you can about each school and make a plan to take full advantage of your time at a school. Identify points of interest, arrange an on-campus interview, or see if you can stay overnight through the admissions office. Information about these options can be found on a school’s website. If you have an opportunity to visit a school, you will learn a great deal just by experiencing life there in-person.
If visiting a particular college is not an option, don’t worry! You can get to know a college very well through the information it shares about itself online, by communicating with people who go there or went there, and by engaging directly with the admissions office or other University faculty or staff.
Meeting School Representatives Near You: Many admissions counselors travel in the fall, visiting high schools and offering presentations to students and parents. These visits are an excellent opportunity to ask questions and learn what sorts of programs and activities each school offers. You might also receive an invitation to a presentation by multiple schools that all have something in common, giving you a chance to efficiently get a glimpse of several colleges at once. Though most of these events take place in the fall, keep an eye out for presentations throughout the year.
Admissions counselors also visit many high schools each fall. If you are able to attend college visits to your high school, this can be a convenient way to learn about them in person, and a setting in which you can ask questions face-to-face. Don’t count on a school you’re interested in visiting your high school, but, just like visiting the campus of any college near you, attending a visit from any college can really help you start to familiarize yourself with the application process and start you thinking about what matters to you in picking a college.
College fairs (link to navigating college fair article), events where many different schools each have an informational booth, can be a little hectic, but can also be a way of getting a brief impression of a broad range of different types of school. They’re not always the best venue for in-depth discussion or questions, though, so feel free to contact schools that have caught your attention afterward for more information.
Contacting the Admissions Office: When in doubt, or if you’re ever interested in getting more information than you can find online, you should always feel free to contact a school’s admission office with questions. Admissions counselors want to make sure you have all the information you need to make the right choice for college. Many schools assign specific admissions counselors to specific regions. Admissions offices will always have a general email address and main office phone number listed on their website. It’s best to have a specific question in mind if you decide to contact them. That way, they can get you connected with the resources you need quickly, which makes your information-gathering much easier.
Some selective colleges take something called “demonstrated interest” into account when making admissions decisions. They want to see that you’ve shown interest in their school at some point during the application process – perhaps through an on-campus interview, attending a high school visit, or by sending your admissions counselor an email introducing yourself. Schools that take demonstrated interest into account usually say so on their website, so if you are interested in attending that school, be sure to demonstrate your interest!
Many schools do not take demonstrated interest into account. This is because things like visiting a campus in another state or attending an information session at night might not be possible for every family, and not every student has questions they need to ask the admissions office.
For more information on visiting colleges, see Making the Most of Your College Visits.