Campus visits can be huge influences on prospective students. How students feel after a visit can make or break their decision to apply. With so much information to take in after each visit, it’s important to know how to break it all down. Taking the time to reflect on experiences can help determine what schools could be the best fits!
When I was in high school, I visited schools in clusters. It was convenient to see all the schools an area has to offer around the same time, but seeing four or five schools in a matter of days can make it really hard to distinguish them later. To help combat that, I carried a notebook with me for every visit and took notes throughout my visit and shortly after on the same broad categories. Of course, everyone’s needs are different, so take your own priorities and concerns into consideration!
Your first impression of a school can say a lot. Simply walking around the campus can provoke a strong feeling. While I loved quite a few schools, there was only one school that felt like home moments after I stepped onto campus. When reflecting, I would write down my first thoughts about the school—cleanliness, how easy (or not) it was to navigate, and anything else that came to mind.
If I was able to sit in on a lecture, talk with a professor, or heard anything noteworthy during a tour or presentation, I would write it down in this section. Did the school offer tutoring services, career or internship services, etc? I also wrote about research opportunities, since that was something that was really important to me.
One of the best ways to get to know a school is through its students. Why did my tour guide choose this school? Were the students friendly? How did I feel about the overall student body—their interests and beliefs? Another great way to see what matters to the students at a particular school is to pick up one of the student-run newspapers.
Campus and Surrounding Area
Whether the campus is suburban or rural can really impact both the offerings on campus and in the surrounding area. How easy is it to get from one place to the next? Do students typically live on campus, and what type of housing do they offer? I would also make note of what things students seemed to do during their free time and whether or not it campus-centric.
I would write down the sticker price for the school, average cost of textbooks and housing, and types of financial aid offered. Were there scholarships offered to incoming freshmen? Additionally, I’d write down how expensive the area felt. Would it be crazy expensive to buy groceries and gas at this school?
This would be where I would write down anything extra. Did something stick out to me during my visit and why? I liked to sit down and write this after I was done visiting the school and had time to digest some of the information. How did I feel about this school? What were the pros and cons of the things listed above?
Sifting through all of the information from visits is a great step in narrowing down a college list. By keeping this practice up throughout visits, it’ll be easier to compare and contrast all of the schools later! Choosing your college will take time and careful consideration, so sitting back and reflecting now is crucial!