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Making a College Visit
By Linda O’Brien
The best way to find out if a college is going to be right for you is to make a college visit!
College reference books, along with the Internet, make it easy to get information on any college. There is, however, no substitute for actually visiting a college.
If you’re just beginning to think about college, you might want to visit a college and just walk around. That way you can get a feel for what it’s like to be on a college campus. If you have time, you could visit the library, the student union, the recreational center, and maybe look at a dorm. During your visit, try to picture yourself as a student there. Ask yourself, “Do I feel comfortable here? Would I fit in here?”
If you are a junior or a senior in high school, you should schedule a longer visit and take the time to check things out more thoroughly. If you visit a college during the summer months, be sure to go back and visit the college when it’s in “full swing”.
To plan a college visit, call the college’s admissions office. Explain that you’re a high school student and that you’d like to visit their campus. Ask if they have any “visitation days” or “open houses” scheduled. If they do, try to attend one. These programs are set up for high school students and their parents, and they’re a great way to learn about a school.
If you want to visit a college on a day when no specific program is planned, tell the admissions office that you’d like to take a tour, and let them know about any programs or majors that you’re interested in learning about.
The following tips will help you make the most of your college visit:
Take a tour. Note the cleanliness, atmosphere, and size of the campus. Check out the library, the computer labs, and the recreation/sports center. Note how the students look and act.
Meet with an admissions counselor, and if possible, attend a group information session
Sit in on a class, and talk to someone in the department you’re considering as a major.
Visit a dorm and, if possible, eat in one of the student cafeterias or dining halls.
Visit the student union and talk to students. Ask them what they think of the school, what they like about it, what they don’t like, and what they do on the weekends
Check out the city or town where the college is located
Check on the cost of the college. If you need help paying for college, make an appointment with a counselor in the financial aid or scholarship office
Ask what the average GPA is for the entering student
A good way to find out how well students like a college is to ask what percentage of the students return after their freshman year. Also ask what percentage of freshmen graduate in four years.
Choosing a college without making a college visit is like buying a car without taking it for a test drive. Just because a college looks great in a brochure, or because they have smiling students on their website, doesn’t mean that the college is going to be right for you. Don’t choose a college before you’ve made at least one visit.