Flickr user Luke Jones

Flickr user Luke Jones

When school searching, it’s always a good idea to get a tour of the campus and dorms if possible. This allows you to get a feel for the place where you might spend four or five years of your life. While guided tours are informative, you should also consider sitting in on a class if you have the time. Sitting in on large lectures is pretty easy (so long as you aren’t disruptive), whereas it’s always good to ask permission to sit in on smaller, more intimate classes. If you happen to meet any advisors during your visit, you can always ask them which classes to sit in on.

Here are 5 reasons why this is a good move during your college visit:

1. Take a sneak peek at your major

There is a good chance that a lecture is going on during your visit that you will be interested in. Looking at that history major? Sit in on a history lecture. Psychology? There’s probably a few lower-level courses to choose from. If you are trying to decide if a program is right for you, sitting in on a lecture or two within that department can tell you if the information seems interesting enough to study for your college career.

2. Test out lecture halls and smaller classrooms

Some people do not like the large lecture setting. It simply is not conducive to their learning, and that’s okay. Plenty of schools or specific programs do have small class sizes. However, if you are touring a school where many of the lower-level classes are large lectures (I believe at least one of my psychology courses could have up to 300 people), it will be good to know whether or not you can learn well in that environment.

3. Get a feel for homework

You can get an idea of the workload for classes. For example, if you want to sit in on an honors seminar because you are interested in doing an honors thesis, you’ll hear about the work that is expected for the next class. The same goes for regular courses.

4. Talk to current students

You might be able to ask current students what they think of the program they are enrolled in. Talk to a few people for a variety of responses. Most students are happy to talk about what they enjoy about their major, and even what they dislike about it. It’s always a good idea to get the perspective of someone who is experienced in what you’re interested in doing.

5. Experience a real class

You can understand how small classes are taught in a specific program. Are those English courses open discussion between students and instructor, or are they more of mini-lectures? How much of that art course is technique or theory, how much is actually working on projects? Do the math professors fly through formulas, or do they spend time working through examples? Of course, within each department, individual instructors have a say in how they run their classes. But if that major is small, there is a good chance that you would see that same instructor again.


Getting some first-hand experience is a great way to earn a feel for academic life at a particular school. It will help determine which colleges are the best fit for you, and make comparisons easier. Of course, College Raptor can help you out there as well! Use our match tool to see which prospective colleges pop up for you!