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5 Things to Consider When Planning a College Visit

A good school is like a well-oiled machine. It isn’t just the campus, it isn’t just the location, it isn’t just the academics, it isn’t just the student body and it isn’t just the athletics that make a college what it is. All of these factors combined make a college ideal for a collegiette.

To make sure you’re more impressed than McKayla Maroney when you visit a school, it’s a good idea to make sure certain factors are in your favor.  While you can’t control everything about a school, there are some ways to ensure you’ll visit it at the perfect time. Here are some ways to make sure you visit a school on the best day possible!

1. Go on the Day (or Weekend) of a Big Game

From football to basketball, sports are a huge aspect of most major universities. Planning a visit around a big game is given. School spirit drips from the students and fans at the games, and it gives prospective students a unique insight into the enthusiasm the student body has for their school.

“There is no other stadium as wild and fun as Assembly Hall,” says Indiana University freshman Julie Konners about basketball at her school. “There is seriously no better way for a potential student to see how much spirit a school has.”


2. Research the Typical Weather Patterns

While a northern school may seem absolutely glorious during a visit in the midst of summer, you might need many, many layers in the winter.

“It’s easier to love a school in the summer when it’s warm than in the winter when it’s freezing, but you’ll be there for both seasons,” says Julia Sullivan, a freshman at the University of Florida. “If you’re applying to a school that has extreme weather—for example, somewhere in Indiana or Michigan—make sure you visit there in the winter.”

Although it’s more alluring to visit a school in ideal weather, it would be better for you to see a school in the height of its longest season to make sure you’re willing to endure it for long periods of time.

When University of Alabama freshman Kaitlyn Elgart visited Alabama, “the weather was awful. It was raining the entire time and it was disgusting. … It was really warm in November, which is much different than at home in Pennsylvania, where it’s cold by then, so I knew I was willing to endure all types of weather.”

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3. Make Sure People Will Be on Campus

Spring break might sound like the perfect time to take a tour of schools since you won’t have to miss class, but it won’t be perfect if it means an empty campus! Sure, campus tours will still be going on, but double check to make sure you don’t have the same break as the school you’re visiting. If you visit the campus during a break or long weekend, a lot of the students won’t be there, so you won’t have an accurate idea of what the school is like on a typical day.

The great thing about people being on campus is you can go up to virtually anyone and just ask them about the school. Shari Bush, a college adviser at Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida, says, “I always think the best thing to do is to go by yourself, or with your parents, to the bookstore or food court area and talk to some random students. Ask what they love or don’t love about the school. This is… the best way to get an honest opinion.”

According to Bush, “the best day to visit is a normal school day so a potential student can see everything as it really is. The worst days are holidays or exam days since it doesn’t give a true representation.”

Your best bet is to go on a weekday!


4. Take Note of Surrounding Colleges

If you’re applying to a decent amount of schools, it can be difficult to visit all of them. Your best bet is to note how far apart schools are, and then visit a few in the same day or weekend.

That’s what Julia did to be more efficient. “Always visit colleges in the same area at the same time,” she advises. “It makes travel easier and you can compare schools in similar parts of the country. I visited New England schools on the same trip as well as California schools on a separate visit.”

Torn between two schools that are close by? The easiest way to have them both fresh in your mind is to see them within the same week. That way, you can tell which atmosphere suits you best. Open up Google Maps or dig up the GPS and see how far apart the schools are. To make sure you don’t mix up which things you liked about each school, Bush recommends you “write down your impressions immediately while it is fresh in your mind. Think about the campus personality, diversity, size and student interaction. How did you feel on that campus? Could you see yourself fitting in?”

Make an extended road trip out of it and hit up as many schools on your list as you can in one weekend!       


5. Pay Attention to Events Happening on Campus

Aside from hitting the books, you’ll want to get involved in other activities while you’re at college. Many clubs and organizations hold events—see if you can make it to one!

For example, if you’re interested in joining a philanthropic club in school, see if the school hosts an event like Dance Marathon and try to visit that weekend. The event at the University of Florida raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Rachel Wiener, a junior at the University of Florida, says, “It would be a really good time to visit because students would be able to see a specific, really amazing event that they could possibly become involved in while they’re a student, and it’s also an event that shows an incredible sense of student unity and school spirit.”

It is important to get involved on campus, and whether you join a club, do philanthropy or get involved in Greek life, make sure there will be something for you to check out when you need a break from library tours!

 

College visits can be overwhelming, but if you keep all these factors in mind, the perfect visit can be within reach! As long as you keep organized, visiting your perfect university won’t seem so daunting.

Rebecca Rubin is a freshman at the University of Florida, where she is majoring in Journalism.
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