5 Mistakes Students Make During College Visits (and How to Avoid Them!)

A college visit will help you understand a college better, and there are a few mistakes you should avoid making

Flickr user York College of PA

College visits are a great way to get a first-hand feel for what different colleges are like. College brochures present only one side of the picture and usually it’s restricted to the good side. While they are a great way to start, it is important to get the whole picture before you decide on the school. You are after all going to be spending a significant amount of time here and making the right choice is crucial. A visit to the classrooms, a sneak peek into the dorms, a walk around the campus, and a friendly chat with current students and staff can tell you so much more than any information you can glean from the website or brochure. But there are some mistakes students can make when they’re visiting.

What happens during a campus visit?

From a quick couple of hours to an overnight stay, the duration of campus visits vary widely from one college to another.

A college tour will include an information session during which you listen to an admissions representative highlight the college’s different features and facilities. This is followed by a campus tour where a student will take you around to the main parts of the campus.

Some colleges also allow prospective students to attend a class, eat in the dining hall, attend a sports practice session, and spend the night in a dorm.  Others may allow you to arrange a one-on-one meeting with a professor, admissions officer or financial aid officer.

Find out how long the visit is likely to be and what you are allowed to do so you can make the most of the experience.

Here are some of the most common mistakes students make during their college visits and tips on how to avoid them.

Mistake #1 – Not taking time to explore the campus

Taking the time to explore every aspect of the campus is well worth the time and effort. It will help you determine whether or not the college is a good fit for your personality and your short and long term goals.  It’s impossible to imagine what the dorm feels like or what facilities the classrooms, labs or gym areas offer without actually visiting these areas.

When planning your campus visits, make sure to allow time to look around at all aspects of the college, from the academics, library and sports facilities to the living areas, dining hall, library, and recreational facilities.

Some colleges allow you to stay overnight in a dorm. If this is something you would like to do, apply for permission in advance.

Mistake #2 – Not asking relevant questions

Most campus visits are arranged as group tours, which may not feel conducive for asking questions. Some people hesitate to ask questions because they are afraid they may sound foolish. Others hesitate because they do not want to annoy the others in the group by holding up the tour. Neither fear is warranted. In fact there’s no better time to ask questions than during a campus tour.

If you have any must-ask questions on your mind, don’t be afraid to speak up. It is only by getting your doubts clarified that you can make an informed decision.

When it comes to asking questions, don’t stop at the person conducting the tour. Meet up with admissions staff, teaching and laboratory staff and even students and ask them whatever questions you have on your mind.

Do you play a particular sport and are you keen on being a part of the college team? Make it a point to talk to the coach of that particular sport. Asking questions will give you a better feel of what your sports life will be like in that college.

Mistake #3 – Getting impressed by the bells and whistles

Campus visits give colleges a great opportunity to sell their services to eager students and their parents. While most colleges do deliver on what they promise, they inadvertently highlight their best side while downplaying their shortcomings. The landscaping along the driveway will be immaculate so you are likely to be swayed by your first impression. As you progress with your tour, everything will be impeccable and you are likely to hear a lot about the extensive library, the hi-tech classrooms, and fancy sporting or recreational facilities.

Don’t get swayed by all of these extras. During your campus visit, it is important to stay focused on what matters most to you. Pay attention to the things that will make a difference to you. If you are looking for a college with high tech research facilities, don’t get caught up in the hype about the fancy juice bar. Instead, spend more time checking out the research lab and speaking to the lab staff to ensure that it meets your needs.

Mistake #4 – Not making the effort to gather ‘insider’ information

If you limit your campus visit to only listening to what the facilitator has to say and going where the facilitator takes you, you will come away with an overwhelmingly one-sided view of the college and its facilities. The truth is, just because the class rooms look state of the art, it does not guarantee that the classroom sessions are top notch too. The same goes for the dorm, cafeteria, and all other facilities.

To find out how things really work, spend some time getting insider information from those who have nothing to gain by glossing over the true state of affairs—current students. From current students you will be able to get valuable insight into things that will really matter to you as a future student. Before the day of your campus visit, make a list of questions to ask students.

Some questions to ask could be:

“What do you like most about the college?”

“Why did you choose this college?”

“Does the college deliver what they promise?”

“What is like to live in this college dorm?”

“What do you not like about the college?”

“What do you think about the teaching and non-teaching staff?”

Mistake #5 – Ignoring the surrounding area

Ignoring the surrounding area is a big mistake that could impact your whole college experience. The community around each college is completely unique. Some communities may be more rural, others may be more urban. Some communities make you feel at home immediately while others may not make you feel so comfortable.

Surroundings do matter. You are after all going to be spending a few years in college and it is important not to be stuck in the wrong settings. Spend a couple of days or at least a day discovering the restaurants, cultural centers, museums and other facilities that the neighborhood offers. Is this a place you’d be happy to call home for the next few years?

Try to avoid these mistakes.

Done right, a campus visit can give you great information you need to make the right choice of college.

Do you have any other tips that will help students get the most out of their college visit? Let us know in the comments below.

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