Today, it seems like you can get all the information you want about any college with a simple Google search. You don’t have to leave your home to get details about the academic curriculum, extracurricular activities or campus facilities. So why exactly do experts strongly advise students to visit prospective colleges before applying? What additional information can you get from a personal visit that you can’t find online?
The answer may surprise you. The biggest advantage of campus visits is that they help you solidify your choice of college.
Here are some of the reasons why visiting a college before applying is so important:
Get a First-Hand Feel of the Campus Ambiance
Campus ambiance is more important than you may realize. Every campus has its own unique dynamics. Some are small and cozy, where all the students know each other by name. Others are huge, filled with lots of people and things to do. Some have an atmosphere of competitiveness, and others a sense of community. These are little but important things that you cannot glean just by browsing the internet. You have to actually visit the campus in person to get a first-hand feel of the prevailing ambiance.
The right ambiance can help you thrive, grow and succeed. The wrong atmosphere could leave you feeling frustrated or out of place.
Get Details Directly From the Source
The information you read online is based on the writer’s perspective, which may not necessarily be the same as yours. When you visit a college, you can form your own opinions based on first-hand observations. This will help you make a more informed decision about whether or not it is a good fit for you.
During a campus visit, you can also get the unvarnished truth from current students. Is the teaching faculty really as impressive as it sounds on their website? What about the extracurricular facilities, the cafeteria, and the dorm? Do they measure up as advertised? How about internship opportunities?
If you’re interested in a particular sport you can check out the facilities first hand when you visit the campus. You even speak to the coach and your potential teammates. This will give you a good idea of your opportunities to participate and excel in your particular sport. There’s no way you can do this by simply browsing the college website. The same goes for extracurricular activities.
Get a Sneak Peek Into a Class in Session
Academics take precedence over all else in college. While you can get details of the curriculum and other academic details online, there are other aspects that require a personal visit. Get permission to attend a few classes in session. At least one of these should be in your intended major. Sit back and observe the class and how you fit into it. Do the professors and students interact with each other? Are the lectures lively and interesting or drab and boring? How you do feel as part of that classroom? Do you see yourself thriving in that environment?
A classroom atmosphere that is conducive to your personality will keep you motivated and help you shine. A classroom atmosphere that is not conducive to your personality will leave you feeling frustrated and unmotivated.
Get a Taste of the Cafeteria Fare
Yes, food matters. As a college student, you should have access to healthy, nutritious food that is also affordable. This is especially important if you intend to get a meal plan and eat in the college cafeteria every day. Does the cafeteria fare meet your expectations? Do they serve healthy, tasty food or is the food uninspiring?
When it comes to food, remember that other people’s opinions don’t count. Everyone has their own unique likes and dislikes. Some students may talk gushingly about the cafeteria food, but there’ll be others who say otherwise. The only way for you to know for sure is by sampling their fare first hand. Put ‘eat in the cafeteria’ on your list of things to do when you visit any college.
Sample the Dorm Life
The dorm is going to be your home away from home—at least for the first year or so. You wouldn’t want to move into a home without seeing it at least once, would you? The same goes for the dorm. When you visit a college, get permission to spend at least one night in the dorm. Does it feel homely and welcoming or cold and impersonal? Do you see yourself living there the next one or more years?
Tour the Surrounding Neighborhood
The college campus may be home for the next four or more years but it doesn’t mean you are never going to venture outside of it. On a campus visit, take time to explore the neighborhood or nearby cities. Is it the right fit for your goals and preferences? Can you see yourself in that area?
Choosing the right college is absolutely crucial. It will impact your college experience and everything else thereafter. Making this huge decision without visiting the campus is like throwing a dice and hoping you get lucky. So, if you can, visit a college before you apply. You may feel right at home, or you may not like the vibe—either way, you’ll be more secure in your choice.
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