In a recent blog, we detailed ways to manage college visits in order to keep your sanity – and budget – in check. In today’s follow-up, we’ll share some tips for maximizing your time on campus and making a great first impression with the admission staff you’ll meet that day.
As we stressed in our previous post, college visits require careful planning. Merely showing up on campus won’t cut it. You’ll need to consider when you can visit (most students select days off from school), and you should contact admissions well in advance to book a spot in an information session and tour, or other similar event. On the day of your visit, leave plenty of time to locate parking and the admissions office/visitor center. (A parent who shall remain nameless vividly recalls taking an inadvertent tour of the small but lovely town of Hanover, NH, while searching for Dartmouth’s visitor parking lot – fortunately, they arrived early enough so as not to miss any of the tour!) Once at the information session, don’t sit in the back of the room or hide behind the family in front of you. Sit in the front row and wear a bright shirt. Even if you’re bored, it’s important that the keen-eyed admissions presenter sees you as incredibly interested as you take good notes in a small notepad (instead of your phone, which would make it appear as though you’re texting). Have a few questions planned that aren’t easily answered by a quick online search – questions whose answers other students in the audience would also be interested in − and stand up and confidently introduce yourself before asking. Address the presenter by name (the presenter’s name and title should be the first note you take!). Good impressions matter. The presenter is making mental notes, too.
Following the information session, you will likely take a tour of the campus with an enthusiastic student who will highlight academic and extracurricular features of the school, all while walking backwards. Again, don’t hide at the back of the pack: walk towards the front and ask questions. It’s okay to pull out your phone and take pictures as you stroll along. It’s always best to schedule a visit during a time when classes are in session, and the tour is a great time to figure out the campus vibe. Do the students passing your tour group look happy? Do they seem friendly? Are the buildings and grounds well maintained? You can learn a lot about the campus culture through careful observation. Can you see yourself walking these same pathways for the next four years?
A few more tips and ideas: before you go on the campus tour, be sure to approach the admissions rep leading the information session and ask for a business card. Ask if your area admissions rep – or even the presenter − is available following the tour to meet so you can ask more personal questions. Regardless of availability, send a polite follow-up email or handwritten thank-you note. After the tour, unless you have another event scheduled, spend more time on campus. Grab a meal or snack at campus dining; check out the career services office or library to see what they offer students. Visit the bookstore, a religious or spiritual center (if that is important to you), the financial aid office, a classroom. Some colleges and universities will allow you to attend a class or even stay overnight with a host student. Ask admissions in advance (when scheduling your visit) if these options are available to prospective students.
Finally, a word on questions. We noted earlier that you should ask questions both during the info session and the campus tour. So, what are good questions? Here are a few of our suggestions:
- What are some of the specific internship and research opportunities available?
- Is there an advantage to applying early action or early decision?
- How does a student whose major is the ever-popular “undecided” truly find her passion? What’s the advising component like?
- Which GPA do you use when evaluating applicants: GPA on transcript (weighted or unweighted) or a recalculated core GPA (weighted or unweighted, and how much weight)? How do you evaluate AP, IB, AICE, and Dual Enrollment courses?
- How do you take a student’s high school into consideration in admissions?
- What percentage of your undergrads complete their degree in four years?
- What’s the largest class I’m likely to have as a freshman?
- What other colleges did you consider and why did you pick this one?
- How much time do you spend studying every night?
- Are students more competitive or more collaborative?
- What do you like best about this school?
When your visit is complete, take note of your impressions and any questions that remain – and write these down! If it’s a college that takes into account “demonstrated interest,” you should have plenty of material to write an effective “Why This College?” essay. You’ll also have a few key questions to ask the admissions rep in your follow-up email.
Want more help planning effective college visits? Schedule an appointment with us today! We’re here to help you successfully prepare for college visits and interviews.