As a prospective college student, one of the most important steps in making your decision is to tour the colleges that interest you. You’ll be able to learn more about the academics and activities on campus, as well as get a feel for the culture.
As you think about visiting colleges, you may want to consider the following:
Is college in session?
Visiting a college means more than just seeing empty buildings.
It is the people that give the college its personality. A beautiful campus may lose some of its appeal if it’s not as friendly as you’d like, and an architecturally-mediocre campus may seem much more palatable if the people really give the place some pizzazz.
While it’s not always possible to visit a college with students on campus, make every effort to meet the people with whom you might spend the next four years. You do, however, always have your tour guide as a student. So if summer works for you, it’s not the worst option.
How’s the weather out there?
In upstate NY in January, odds are, it’s going to be cold and snowy. It’s not like that all year long, but it might be hard to remember that if you’re trudging through snow in wind chills that could potentially fall below 0 degrees.
The important thing to remember is to take the weather in context. If you’re visiting over the summer and the campus will receive a lot of snow, you’ll want to also consider how it will be wearing boots and coat as you walk from building to building. On the flip side, you’ll also want to give the campus a bit of extra credit if you’re visiting when the weather is less than ideal.
Plan ahead to get the most out of your tour
If you hope to have a guided tour of campus, you need to reserve a spot in advance.
Most colleges allow you to sign up for a campus visit online, and this is particularly important if you’re going to visit on a high school holiday like Columbus Day or Veterans Day when spots fill up fast.
Of course, if the campus is close to home, you could swing by and walk around on your own any time, but, the full tour experience generally gives you a lot more access to areas and events that you won’t be able to check out if you just show up.
Schedule meetings before you arrive
If you want to meet a coach or a faculty member, or sit in on a class, you’ll again, need to plan ahead…and by that, we don’t mean a day or two before your trip.
As soon as you lock in a date for your visit, coordinate with your campus representative and/or the appropriate people to set up any meetings you’ll want to have while on campus.
Saturday mornings can be a bit interesting
Don’t be dissuaded from visiting on a Saturday morning, but remember that it might be VERY quiet because students are, well, um, busy late on Friday nights. You might also witness some of this Friday night frivolity overflowing from trash cans that maintenance hasn’t quite gotten to clean yet. Just remember, this goes on virtually everywhere, so don’t judge one campus harshly based on its Saturday morning persona unless you’ve seen them all this way.
The bottom line: You’re busy. Your time is precious and your window to schedule campus visits might be limited, so try to schedule your visits when you can meet students and see the campus in action, but if you can’t, just remember that there will be pros and cons to the timing of almost every campus visit, and just recognize that and take it into account.