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Check It Out! A List of Things To Do & See When Visiting Colleges

When visiting potential colleges it’s super important to pack in everything possible in the few short days (or hours) that you spend on campus. Do as much as you can to get a snapshot of the life at the school so you can decide if it would be a perfect fit for you. Besides the obvious – taking a tour and sitting in on an information session – there are a few things you must do when visit a college campus.

Do Your Research
You should do tons of research before your visit so you can bring specific, relevant questions to your tour and not waste your time asking stuff you can get from the school’s website. The admissions office has all the facts, so ask them what percentage of students in such-and-such major get jobs offers right out of college, or what the school looks for in an applicant.

Set Up An Interview
Why not add a face to your application by setting up an interview with a school’s admissions board? A positive interview can often boost your application’s chances. This process differs from school to school, so make sure it is a possibility for the schools you are looking at by calling the admissions office ahead of time.

Make a Lunch Date
Let’s do lunch! If you’re interested in playing a sport, joining a team or becoming a member of a club, make a lunch date out of it. Abigail Smith, a junior at Stetson University, says she was looking at schools with crew and field hockey teams. Abigail says, “I arranged ahead of time a chance to meet with the coach and also tried to have lunch with the team to get a better feel and inside scoop of how the students like the school.” Don’t be afraid to email the head of the department you’re interested in to get a better feel for the people involved in your specific activity; you will learn a lot. Make your lunch date in a dining hall of school to see what kind of food and service the school has.

Visit As Many Schools As You Want
Jamie Ritter, a junior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham visited 13 schools on recruiting trips as an athlete. She says, “Other than hanging out with the team, meeting the coach and checking out their golf facilities, I sat in on a lecture, sat in the student section of a basketball game, and stayed overnight in a dorm room. These activities helped me get a feel of what my typical day would be like attending the school…and made my decision much easier!” Some people feel like the more schools they check out the harder their decision will be, but if you have the slightest interest in a school, give it a shot and set up a tour. You will get a better idea of what you’re looking for by the end of all the visits.

Take Home Souvenirs
No, we’re not just talking about sweatshirts and foam fingers. Michelle King, a junior at Emerson University made sure to take home all of the publications that her school offered while she was on tour: “A lot of tours will only give you the school paper, but a lot of schools have a lifestyle magazine or a literary magazine or comedy journal. I found out about EM Magazine, my school’s lifestyle magazine, this way and now it’s one of my favorite things about my school.” If you want an inside look on the school you might choose, consider taking a few publications to get a better feel for each school.

Check Out The Facilities of Your Choice
If a school is known for their basketball team, check out the arena where they play, and where the students go to cheer them on. If you’re interested in the arts, make sure to check out the theater or catch a performance. If they pride themselves on a great recreational center, check it out and get a list of workout classes they offer. I visited Clemson University in South Carolina on a football game day and really felt the sense of school pride the students had. Their football stadium, Death Valley, was completely overflowing with Tiger enthusiasts. It was a great day to visit because I could really picture myself in that scene.

Walk Through Your Major
Literally, though, take a walk through your major’s building when you get on campus, if you know what you’d like to study. Jessica Salerno, a junior at Ohio University says, “It helps you see the class size as well as get a feel for what kids in your major are like!” You will also get a better idea of how the department is run and what the faculty is like.

Sit in on a Class
Ask the admissions office prior to your visit if you can have the opportunity to sit in on a class. A lot of smaller schools often offer a potential student the chance to shadow a current student and follow them to their classes. If you’re looking to attend a big school, ask about sitting in on a large lecture hall to get a feel for the bigger classes. If you are already set on a specific major, make sure to check out a specialized, higher-level class that will give you an idea of what to expect in your classes over the next four years. Make sure to talk to a professor before visiting. If you can get in contact with a professor of a class you’d love to take, ask her questions about her class and material and see if you can get a better idea of the course.

Check Out the Freshman Dorms
If you get the chance, take a look at the freshman dorms. A lot of times school tours will give you a glimpse of what a dorm looks like in a prepared sample room, but it’s better for you to check out the real deal. Hang around outside the freshman dorms and ask the freshmen what they do and don’t like about their dorm, how the food is, how the showers are and what the policies are on visitors and staying out late. Students will give you the truth without the sweet candy coating of a scripted school tour.

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Find Your Niche
Laura Maddox, a junior and the Her Campus Campus Correspondent at Appalachian State University, scoped out the coffee shops of each school she toured. “That’s where I spend a lot of my time studying and meeting with friends!” she says. If you’re a gym junkie, check out the rec center. If you love to cook, check out the local grocery stores. If you’re a bookworm, it doesn’t hurt to check out the library, too.

Stay Overnight
If you can set up an overnight stay with an older friend, take the chance! If you don’t know anyone at a particular school, check the school’s website for programs regarding overnight visits. Makena King, a senior and the Her Campus Campus Correspondent at Bryant University, made her final decision after going to an overnight visit her college held for accepted students. Bryant even reimbursed half the cost of her plane ticket (up to $300!) when she got there and then the other half when she enrolled. Makena says, “Visiting for an overnight gave me a much better feel for the school than just taking a tour or walking around. I was able to stay in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, sit in on classes, take a tour, and most importantly, talk to students about their experience at Bryant. I made my final decision to attend before I left to fly home, and talking with other students helped me to solidify my decision to major in International Business, which I am so happy I did.” If you decide to visit overnight, make sure to have fun, but not too much fun; you don’t want to attract negative attention from the faculty or leave a bad impression.

Eat at a Local Restaurant
The school’s website or tour guide will most likely give you a list of popular places to eat around campus. You can also do some research to see what hotspots the campus town is known for. Ask students where a visitor must eat before leaving. Can you imagine yourself eating there for the next four years?

Visit the Surrounding Town
Get an idea of the town that surrounds the college campus. Will your future college have city life, a remote town or a campus town? If you love to shop, are there great stores around? Is there a movie theater nearby? Do you want to live amongst beautiful scenery? Is it easy to access or a far trip from your hometown? Remember that you won’t be staying on campus all the time and it’s important to get a good feel for the place you may call home someday.

Take Notes
Write down anything and everything about your visit to the school, and take pictures so you’ll remember everything you liked in detail. The college visit process is arduous and sometimes all the schools can blur together, especially if you’re packing it into a short period of time.

Good Luck! ?

Caroline Finnegan is a rising junior in the College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying news editorial journalism. She is the Contributing Editor and Weekly Columnist of  U of I’s branch of The Odyssey, a Greek newspaper, as well as the leader of ceremonial services and ritualistic practices of her sorority Kappa Alpha Theta. She is currently working for a music promotions company and at her mom’s clothing store. Caroline hails from the Windy City and prefers everything Chicago style, including sailing on Lake Michigan, Jonathon Toews (and the Blackhawks), Wrigley Field and of course, Oprah. Some of her favorite things include: biographies, New Orleans. singing cards, and elephants. She aspires to become a writer for a television show like Saturday Night Live, or her favorite, Modern Family. Next Spring, she plans on studying in her Grandpa’s homeland of Italy. 
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