Making the Most of a College Campus Visit

Maureen Schick, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Spring is a great time for juniors to go on visits to the colleges they are interested in applying to in the fall. After my recent college visit to Santa Clara University, which is in Santa Clara, California, I came up with a list of the things you should and should not do while planning and going on your college visit.

DO plan ahead.

Make sure you plan ahead before you even start considering your visit. Make sure this is a school you could really see yourself going to before you spend a lot of money with travel arrangements only to find out that the school doesn’t have your major, or has only 3,000 kids when you wanted to go to a big school. Do your research on how big the school is, if it is urban or rural, if it is an academically strong school, college-oriented city, the majors it offers, etc. You may even want to make a list with the ideal school in mind and find schools that match your list before deciding to make the visit.

DON’T let your parents ask all the questions.

This visit is for YOU, not your parents. You should be the one asking the questions and finding out everything you want to know about this college. It should not be your parents’ job to take over, and this is a chance for you to start being in control. After all, you’re the one going to college, not them. However, once the visit is over, you should let them know your opinion about the college and what you liked or didn’t like about it. It’s also important to keep in mind that they do have experience and good insight with the college process, and they can give you some good advice.

DO go on a campus tour.

Once you decide this is definitely a school you could see yourself going to next fall, you are ready to start planning your visit. Be sure to schedule a college tour before you arrive as there are some colleges that don’t give tours on certain days and others that require reservations. During the campus tour, make sure to ask any questions the tour guide doesn’t answer. The tour is for you, so ask your questions.

DON’T go on a campus tour when classes are not in session.

Make sure you are going to the campus at a time when there are classes going on, and you can really get a feel for what the atmosphere of the campus is like. You won’t get a real feel for the college if all the students are on a break or holiday, so take a look at the campus calendar before you visit.

DO take notes about each college you visit.

Keeping a notebook or notes about each college you visit can help you narrow down your college list in your future. Keep notes about the things you really liked about the college as well as the potential drawbacks.  You will be able to look back at the different pros, cons and overall opinions of the colleges on your list, and this will ultimately help you make a final decision.

DON’T make your college choice without visiting the campus first.

This is so important–you really cannot get a feel for what a college is like without visiting it.  Although you could get lucky and love it, more often than not you will get to campus and find that it is nothing like anything you expected. You may have done hours and hours of research on the college website, but that website also doesn’t tell you everything. College websites do their best to promote their college, so they won’t be telling you anything negative–such as certain dorms are extremely old and leaky-you will have to experience that for yourself, and you don’t want to be experiencing that for the first time on move-in day.

DO spend some time exploring around campus.

Once the tour is over, stay a little while longer and eat lunch at the cafeteria. Get a feel for the food on campus. Check out the athletic facilities. If you are interested in a certain field of study, go ahead and visit that building. Maybe talk to some of the students that study there, or even a professor! Finally, ask yourself, “Can I see myself here?”

DO speak to students on campus.

This is the absolute best source of information about the college. The students will be able to tell you why they decided to choose that college, what they like about it, what their schedule is like, what clubs and social activities they are involved in and what their classes are like. They are able to give you all of their opinions on the college that others may not be able to tell you.

DO take advantage of College Night at NDA.

Before you go on your campus visits, do your research on the different colleges. Notre Dame is hosting a college night on Monday, February 23, at 6:30 p. m.

According to the College Corner, College Night is an informative event specifically designed for juniors and their parents. Guest speakers from area colleges will present on the college application process, strategies for visiting colleges, the financial aid process, scholarships and more.

Ms. Becky Bain, NDA’s college counselor, will give an overview of the 2015-2016 NDA College Handbook, Mrs. Jill Gerl, director of Student Services,  will present on testing for college, and there will be college information material to browse through and take home.

Registration for this event is required. Please call or e-mail Ms. Bain ([email protected]) to register.