College visits can be scary, especially if individuals don’t know much about the application process. The process can also be difficult for students who don’t know what they want to major in. College visits can be very helpful, but it’s easy to get sidetracked and focus on things that aren’t important or helpful when visiting schools. Below is a list of four things I should have paid more attention to when I toured different colleges before making my decision.
I met with a few professors at some of the schools I toured, but I didn’t do this at every campus I visited. If possible, contact the prospective admissions office or even a professor at the school directly to arrange a meeting or quick chat. If you’re uncertain of your major choice, you can meet with professors from multiple departments. At one campus, I met with a professor who I didn’t connect with at all. After our meeting, I was prepared to cross the school off my list and go home, but I had arranged a meeting with a different professor. After meeting with the second professor, I was much more open to the school and that faculty member’s academic program. While meeting with professors is important, you have to make sure that one negative experience doesn’t ruin the school for you.
Most tour groups at different schools will take you through smaller classrooms or classrooms with really advanced technology. You don’t have to ask anything during the tour if you’re uncomfortable, but you should feel free to walk through some academic buildings after the tour. See how many classrooms have the technology or smaller, discussion-style setup that you were shown. If you’re interested in intimate class sizes and want to avoid larger lecture halls, this is an important consideration.
You can also ask a tour guide or someone in the admissions office how large classes would be for you as a first-year student. Usually, general education classes are much larger and less focused on individual attention, but some schools offer more focused sections of these larger classes as well.
Distance from campus dining to academic buildings and classrooms
Walking around campus may seem exciting on a tour, but having to hike back and forth from the cafeteria to your classes can get old quickly. Ask for a map or see if the tour guide can point out all the different options for campus dining that may be closer to classrooms when they show you around campus. Though a longer walk certainly isn’t enough of a reason to cross a school off your list, a school that caters to the needs of its students can be much more inviting than a school that has no room to grow or expand to fit a new and changing college atmosphere.
The process of advising is different at every school. Some schools open enrollment by credit hours or class standing, while others differ based on GPA or major. Understanding how advising works and what students need to do before they can enroll in classes each semester is helpful when making a college choice, but also is important to know before you have to enroll in your first semester.
Additionally, if you’re applying for specific scholarships at a university, sometimes students in that scholarship program can enroll or be advised in a different manner. You can ask someone in the prospective admissions office this question, or you can ask any professor or faculty member that you meet with.
College decisions can be scary, but visiting the school is usually the first step to making an informed choice. Asking the right questions and knowing what is important to you can ensure that you pick the best school for your interests and needs.