You’ve applied, been admitted and now you have to decide where to spend your college years. If you’re not 100% sure about your college choice, this is a good time to visit or re-visit.
Even if you’ve already visited a college before you applied, visiting a college after you’ve been accepted will help you focus on the different experiences you could have at each college.
As an admissions counselor, I often hear the same questions such as “what is your study abroad like?” or “does your school have internships available?”.
While these are great questions you’ll soon realize that every college has study abroad, every college can help you get an internship, and so the answers to those questions won’t really help you finalize your decision.
So, what are some ways you can make the most of your college visit?
1. Visualize yourself on your ideal campus
Forget all of the glossy images of smiling students on green lawns under luscious fall trees that you’ve been seeing in college catalogs you. Try to take all of the images out of your head about the schools you are considering.
Now take some time to imagine your ideal college and college experience:
- What kind of classes are you taking?
- How are your professors interacting with you?
- How do the other students spend their free time?
- What kind of activities can you participate in when you’re not in class?
- How is the city/town where your college is located?
- What kind of food are you able to eat?
The list can go on and on and is determined by what you value in your college experience. I don’t mean to get crunchy granola on you, but it might help to close your eyes or draw a picture. Or, you could just talk it out with a friend, parent or counselor.
Figure out what you really want. You may not find the “perfect” college, but knowing what you want can help you ask more pointed questions and view certain parts of campus as you figure out if a college is the right fit for you.
2. Talk to real students
I really value the students we hire to work as ambassadors and feel they strike a great balance of being authentic and expressing what we want them to about our university. However, they do work for us and are naturally going to speak glowingly about the school.
While you’re on campus, you should talk to current students and ask them questions about their experience, what they like and what they would change. How students respond to you might also give you an indication of the campus culture.
3. Attend a class during your final college visit
Check in with your schools to see if they offer class visits. Sitting in on a class will give you a better understanding of how the professors interacts with students, how students engage with the material and more. It’s important to keep in mind that this is one class out of hundreds available at the institution but you can still gain some helpful insights from a visit.
If there is a specific type of class or subject in which you are interested, you can certainly ask, but often the type of class you attend will depend on your schedule and class availability, so remain flexible.
4. Have an idea of where you want to be at college graduation
This is a big one and can often breed anxiety.
Some students have their major and career figured out while other students are CLEARLY undecided (which is absolutely fine). Many students change their majors and career path during and after college, so there shouldn’t be any pressure to have it figured out.
However, college is meant to prepare you for something else and is not the final stop in your journey. For that reason, it’s important to have some idea of what you want to do after college and if the college you choose can get you there. On your final college visit, learn about what alumni are doing, what options are available for students who are undeclared, if the program you’re interested in has a lot of opportunities for you and other factors that help you understand if the school will get you where you want to go.
5. Experience the town in which the college is located
You’ll not only be attending a new college, you may also be living in a new town. Take an opportunity to learn more about the city/town where your college is located and check out surrounding areas as well.
How is the downtown area? Is it safe? Do a lot of the alumni stick around in town (might be a great connection for an internship/job)? While you’ll most likely spend a lot of time on your campus, the city where you’re school is located will have an effect on your college experience.
These are great starting points, but they are only guidelines.
There might be many factors you are considering as you narrow down your choices. Maybe all of your schools are alike and the quality of the living spaces is what will tip the scale for you? Totally fine. Make it a priority on your final visits to see the residence halls. Ultimately, trust your instincts and take the time to understand what you want out of your college experience. Use those wants and desires as guideposts when asking your questions, and then ask people with the knowledge and experience to help you (counselors, admissions reps, friends, current students, parents, etc.)
Most importantly, take time to celebrate your accomplishments! You’re almost ready to start your next adventure!