From Brown to the University of Wisconsin, many institutions of higher education offer a visiting student program. What being a visiting student entails varies from institution to institution but on the whole, the term refers to a college enrolled student who wishes to spend a semester, quarter, etc. at another institution. Usually the maximum amount of time a student can visit another university is about a year. In that amount of time the visiting takes classes at the university and partakes in campus life. This is an opportunity available to both domestic and international students. There are many reasons why you might want to consider this path, so here is a rough overview of the application process and the benefits of visiting another institution.
The application process varies a lot. One example is New York University, it offers many programs year round and provides a different application for each one. Meanwhile, Cornell asks its visiting students to apply through the Transfer Common App. Therefore, your first step in the application process is to find a short list of schools you are interested in visiting and looking at each schools requirements. There are countless ways to go about choosing the schools you might want to visit. You might look at the colleges that rejected your application or colleges that you decided not to attend. Maybe you want to visit a college close to home or maybe go abroad. Or perhaps there is this one class you are dying to take but your institution doesn’t offer it. These are all valid reasons for wanting to visit a university.
And while the applications differ, most of them ask for a few key elements: letters of recommendation, a transcript, and short responses. That’s why it’s smart to start putting your application together early, make connections with professors and obtain copies of your latest transcripts. Just like with the college application process, it’s competitive and time consuming and rewarding.
Pros and Cons
First I will list some of the bumps in the road in the path to becoming a visiting student. Many universities cannot guarantee housing for visiting students so it’s up to you to have alternative plans. Some universities like Brown offer residential programs only during the summer, browse your options! Another pitfall is that there is no financial aid available for these programs. It might be possible to fund your visit through scholarships or through transferred aid from your own institution but it is something that must be carefully considered. It is understandable for students to fret loosing contact with friends back at their home institution and campus life in general. In the end this a decision only you can make.
On the flip side, there are many great things about visiting another institution. It’s an opportunity to meet so many new people, both peers and professors. Sometimes it feels difficult to make friends past freshman year on a familiar campus. As a visiting student you will be once more thrown into the confusion of figuring out how things work alongside your fellow visitors. It is also an opportunity to get to know a new city or state or country for an extended period of time. Meanwhile, you will be able to take advantage of the new campuses’ unique resources, classes, and experts. Visiting another university is an opportunity to be adventurous and take risks.
In the end every student should make their own decisions about their college trajectory. Hopefully this article has presented a less known option that can be just as fun as a program abroad. The application may be time consuming and the experience has both its up and downs. As long as the benefits outweigh the costs, my one piece of advice is: be bold.