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How Not to Seem Like a High-Schooler When Visiting Colleges

Visiting college friends is the stuff that dreams are made of. Dreams of totally ready to graduate high school students, that is. A break from the stress of test scores and application deadlines to actually step foot on one of those big, exciting college campuses? Pure bliss. But before you visit, there are a few things you’ll want to know.

No, we aren’t about to list the 20 most important questions to ask the admissions office or anything along those lines. Mom, Grandma, the school counselor and every other well-meaning adult you’ve spoken with in the past three months have already prepped you on that front.

These rules are a bit more, well, socially important. Though you may still have a few more months left as a high-schooler, we’ve got your guide to seeming like a collegiette when visiting schools. Parties, clothing, friendships — they’re all covered. Whether you’re staying with a friend you’ve known for years or being hosted by a randomly matched student, read on to learn how to drop the wide-eyed look and have a totally fun, totally college weekend.

Do get a feel for the social scene…

Let’s be honest. College isn’t all about academics. Sorry, mom. Take advantage of the chance to witness and participate in the, ahem, extracurricular activities when visiting. Sure, your first frat party will be a slightly intimidating eye-opener, but a tip from the wise, if we may: fake it ‘til you make it. If you act as though you know what you’re doing, people will be too preoccupied to notice that you don’t. (Read: take cues from fellow party-goers; don’t look shocked at the couple grinding against the wall; don’t jump at every hand, hip, butt that accidentally brushes against you.)

Plus, this is the perfect opportunity to see what you kind of a social atmosphere you’ll want your future campus to have. If you had an awful time at the frat party and one of your prospective schools is dominated by Greek life, you might want to rethink your stance. …

But don’t party too hard.

College will provide you with countless opportunities to drink too much and make out with the wrong boys. (Hey, some things just have to be learned the hard way.) Save the bad decisions for once you’re actually in college — especially if you’re being hosted by someone you don’t really know during your visit. Your friends will understand your incessant pining for that one guy, and they won’t judge you when you need them to hold your hair back after a long night. The same can’t be said for the girl you met five hours ago. Get your fill of experiences in, but don’t go overboard. You don’t want to start a pattern of bad habits before you even get to college.

Do break away from your standard T-shirt and jeans attire…

If your fashion taste is dictated by the cool kids or passing fads, go ahead and experiment with what you like. In general, there isn’t just one way to dress on a college campus. Mind you, there are certain situations in which you’ll want to follow the unspoken rules, starting with the bathroom. Shower shoes should always be worn while in the shower. (Trust us — this is for your own good.) Wear a bathrobe or towels to and from the bathroom. There’s no need to change in a confined, damp shower space when you can do so once you get back to your room. (We promise, everyone else does it.) But, no matter how liberal the college is, keep your terrycloth coverings, well, covering you once you step into the common area of the bathroom. You don't want anyone to get a look at your goods first thing in the morning.

Outside of the ladies’ room, the choice as to what to wear is yours. But, in a last-ditch effort to impart a tiny bit more of our sage wisdom: Parties are not the best time to try out the runway’s currently hot turtleneck trend. In this case, less is more. And if you attend a sporting event during your stay, show a little spirit, and don the school colors. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t your school, that you don’t have an athletic bone in your whole body, or that the basketball team totally sucks. Just do it.

…But don’t turn into a walking mascot or a total copycat. 

You may be tempted to really show how well you fit in on the campus by purchasing a bag full of logoed paraphernalia. Don’t. A T-shirt is fine. Or maybe some sweatpants are more your style. Choose one piece to serve as a memory of your weekend, not the entire store. Despite what movies show, students don’t walk around decked out in head-to-toe campus clothing so it’s probably best you don’t either. Plus, you don’t want to be saddled with a bunch of NYU gear if you end up going to UCLA.

Another sartorial no-no? Taking, or rather stealing, a little bit too much inspiration from your host collegiette. Just because she’s wearing skinny jeans when the two of you go out to explore the campus doesn’t mean your skirt and tights will be completely out of place. Don’t change into an exact replica of her ensemble because you think it’s what all college students wear. Fashion in college is about experimenting, so your weekend visit is the perfect time to start wearing what you want to wear. Still unsure what to wear? Here's more advice on how to not look like a high schooler.

Do keep in touch with the people that you really liked…

If you click with someone, exchange numbers as a way to keep in contact. If you’re entertaining the idea of attending the university you’re visiting, it will be great to have a few names and numbers in your little black book for your first week of school. Though she’ll probably be fine with it, make sure you aren’t stepping on your friend or host’s toes. Pull her aside and ask a simple, “You’re okay with me asking for Becky and Jessica’s numbers, right?” Having been in your shoes, she’ll no doubt say yes and appreciate the gesture.

Know when to draw the line, though. Just because your friend’s roommate let you sleep in her bed while she was gone one night, doesn’t mean you need to ask for her number as a thank you. And do you really think you’ll ever see (or ever want to see) the guy you kissed at your friend’s roommate’s friend’s birthday party again? Probably not. Those numbers won’t boost your reputation; they’ll just clog your phone book.

…But don’t go home and friend everyone you met on Facebook.

Forcing barely-there connections over a social networking site is the quickest way to make it onto someone’s bad list. Of course, it isn’t wrong to stay in the loop with a few of the people you could see yourself becoming friends with, particularly if you plan on attending the university next fall. But, keep in mind, no one wants their news feed dominated by someone they hardly know. Not only is it annoying for them, but also if you end up not going to the same school, there is a big chance your connection might fizzle. You'll be stuck with a ton of random Facebook friends you only met once. Keep the friending to a minimum and wait until you make it onto your own campus next year to develop some actual, rather than online, relationships.

Do pick a collegiette’s brain…

You’re visiting a college, so you might as well learn a few things! Don’t be afraid to ask a question or two when the opportunity arises. They’ll be more than willing (and probably overly excited) to give their opinion. People love talking about themselves and sounding like an expert on something, so take the chance to get some useful information. Steer clear of dry subjects that your school counselor or a tour guide could answer, though.

Want to know what it’s like being away from home? After your friend’s mom calls, slyly say something like, “Is it hard being so far from your friends and family?” Want to know the best way to meet friends? Indirectly ask your host, “Are a lot of your friends in the same classes as you?” She’ll likely expand on a “yes” or “no” and let you in on how she met everyone.

…But don’t ask a million questions. (Even after you leave!)

We know you’re inquisitive and itching to learn more about college life, but refrain from playing an hourly game of 20 questions. Yes, you do have a great resource in the person you’re visiting. Does that mean they want to spend the whole weekend filling you in on how their meal plan works or how long it takes them to walk to and from classes every day? Not likely.

Don’t assume you have free reign to text, call, email, or Facebook chat your friend or host with tons of questions after your stay either. If all you do is hound the person you’re visiting with questions during and after your visit, she’ll start to think you’re overusing her. Half of college is learning to just figure things out on your own. Do so by saving a few of your inquiries for once you arrive on your own campus next year.

College is all about learning, so study this list of social do's and don'ts and you'll be sure to impress once you set foot on campus!

Sarah Weinberg is a student at San Diego State University, Class of 2012. She is attempting to overcome her aversion to multitasking as she pursues courses in Liberal Studies, Spanish, and Journalism. Sarah has always been interested in the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of the fashion and lifestyle industry with journalism being a prominent prospective path. Now, much of the time that she should spend working on homework and writing papers is instead spent pouring through magazines and lusting over ridiculously priced shoes, impeccably styled pictorials, and the glamorous lifestyles of the cover models. It isn’t unusual to find Sarah baking (anything with a large amount of chocolate), traveling (last stop: summer abroad in Granada, Spain), playing in her closet (never too old to play dress up), or hanging out with friends and family (how cute and cliché). She is currently a Style Guru for CollegeFashionista.com and is thrilled to become a writer for Her Campus.
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