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College Admissions: Tips for Fantastic College Visits

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


If you took my prior advice and visited some colleges close to home to understand your preferences, you may be ready for a college road trip. Spring is a great time to visit colleges. When you go, you want to get the most possible benefit out of your experience. Seeing a college yourself is the best way to get a feel for the campus and determine whether it is a perfect fit for you. When possible, visit while school is in session so you can sit in on classes, meet students and professors, attend a sporting event or performance, eat the dorm food, and perhaps arrange an overnight stay in the dorms with a student host. 

 The logistics of college visits can be a shared responsibility. Parents, feel free to make the travel plans including transit, lodging, and calculating the driving distance between schools. Students, your job is to interface with the colleges and admissions officers. Use the school’s admissions website to book a tour and information session. If you want to sit in on a class, look up the admissions rep who covers your geographic area and email him or her saying what day you will be there, the type of class you want to observe, and whether you are available to do so in the morning or afternoon. Sometimes the rep will arrange it for you, and sometimes you will be given contact info for the professor to make the arrangements directly.

One of the best ways to figure out whether you consider a school a good fit for your personality is to eat lunch in the cafeteria with current students. No, you do not need to know someone there—just grab a lunch tray, walk up to a crowded table and say, “Hi. I’m a prospective student and wondered if I could join you.” (This does not work if your parents insist on eating with you.) Then ask the students what they do and don’t like about their school and why they picked it. You will get great unscripted information that may differ from what you hear on the tour.

Here’s a plea—take good notes! If you see a lot of schools, they may start to run together and what seems memorable as it happens may in fact become jumbled in your mind. Be sure to write down the date of your visit, the name of your tour guide, the name of any admissions rep you met, and the name of the professor if you sat in on a class. All of that information will be essential in the future when you need to write your “Why I want to go to this college” essay. It’s also a great idea to bring a box of thank-you notes and some stamps, and to send your thanks each night to the folks you met during your visit.

Jodi Walder-Biesanz is the founder of Portland, Oregon-based College Admission Coach LLC, which helps students identify and gain admission to right-fit schools where they will thrive academically and personally. Contact her at [email protected].


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