visiting colleges

5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your College Visit

Little Miss Sunshine. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. National Lampoon’s Vacation. The history of the silver screen is chock-full of interpretations of the great American road trip. And while Hollywood tells us it’s the journey that counts and not the destination, when it comes to college visits, sometimes the destination is important. So how do you make the most out of your arrival at your figurative Walley World U? Is there a method for learning about a college beyond the admissions info session and student tour? With just a little bit of planning, the answer is yes. The following are a few tips that will help ensure you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your college road trip.

  1. Don’t pull a Pee-wee: do your research ahead of time. It’d be a shame to travel across the country, reach your destination, and to your horror, find out “there’s no basement at the Alamo!” If you do your research before visiting your schools, you’ll end up asking smarter questions as a consequence. Besides, your time on campus should not be spent learning things you can find on the Internet. Use your visit to immerse yourself in the school’s culture and confirm your gut. What is it about the place, the people, or the classes that make your prospective college a good fit?
  2. Sit in on a class. Are you trying to figure out if that College Confidential post got it right when it described the University of Timbuktu’s lectures as intellectually riveting? See for yourself! Don’t be shy about asking if prospective students can sit in on a class or two. The worst thing that can happen is they’ll say “no.” The best thing that can happen is you’ll learn about the school’s scholarly vibe and academic rigor.
  3. Shadow a student. Are you itching to live a day in the life of a student at the University of Katmandu? Some colleges can match you with a student whom you can shadow during your visit. This gives prospective students the perfect opportunity to taste the campus fare, see how long a trek across campus really takes, and sample a diverse set of course offerings.
  4. Sleep on campus. In order to experience an overnight at your prospective university, you probably won’t have to pitch a tent on the campus green, scout benches comfortable enough to sleep on, or know someone with a guest room who attends the school. During certain seasons, some universities can lodge you on campus with a current student. It’s a great way to find out if students do indeed need to pull all nighters to get their work done. But because “this ain’t no Holiday Inn,” make sure to pack a toothbrush and a sleeping bag.
  5. Visit your prospective academic department. Did US News & World Report forget to rank your school of interest? Why trust a set of rankings when you can get the information you need straight from the source ? Universities are filled with friendly people who are eager to educate the world. So ask the admissions office if they offer any tours of the university’s academic departments or if there’s a departmental representative you can meet while on campus. You might just get a friendly person who can tell you a bit more about the course offerings within your major. Take that US News!



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Written by Zaragoza Guerra
Zaragoza Guerra is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Zaragoza previously worked as a senior admissions officer at MIT, Caltech, and The Boston Conservatory.