College visits are an extremely important part of the college decision process. Often, visiting a campus can help you form an idea of what you are looking for in a college. Standard tours and sitting in on classes are pretty common, but there’s much more you can do while on a college tour.
We’ve talked to collegiettes and Judi Robinovitz, a certified educational planner and founder of Score At The Top, to let you in on the best things you should do during college visits. Don’t miss your chance to make the most of your on-campus visits—because trust us, you can always do more!
1. Stay overnight
Many colleges offer overnight visits, which can help you get to know the real feel of the campus. You can stay in a dorm, get to know other students applying and find out more about how the college works. If a school you’re applying to doesn’t offer overnight visits, reach out to a friend who goes there to see if they’ll let you crash for the night! Staying over allows you to process what you saw during the day, and it can help you decide whether or not the environment is for you.
“There are two ways to do overnight visits,” shares Robinovitz. “You can set one up on a personal level with a student you know or through the admissions office. Large state universities will likely turn you down, so you can do some networking to get in touch with a student.” Doing an overnight visit from a Saturday to Monday is ideal so you can see the social scene as well as the academic side of things.
Erin Crabtree, a senior at Belmont University says, “As an admissions representative, I have hosted multiple students who stayed with me in my dorm, hung out with my friends and went with me to classes. If you're unsure whether or not a college is right for you, this is a great way to get to know the campus and the community a bit better.”
Lauren Antonucci, a sophomore at the University of Rhode Island, did an overnight visit before committing to the school: “I did an overnight visit at the University of Rhode Island, and it was definitely the deciding factor that made me want to go there,” she shares. “Seeing the dorms and campus from a student’s perspective got me thinking how awesome it would be if I went there.” If you’re almost ready to commit to a school but want to be 100 percent sure, an overnight visit is a great tool to help you with that.
2. Shadow a student
Shadowing a student will show you what a day in the life of a student at a particular college is like. Walking tours can be tiring and overwhelming, especially after hearing a ton of information about so many different colleges. If you’re really considering the school, shadowing a student will help you feel out the campus, learn more about student life and even experience college classes. Most colleges offer this option, and it can be an awesome way to see if you see yourself attending said school. College websites have this information and it’s a simple online registration process!
“If the school doesn’t offer an overnight, shadowing a student is the next best thing,” Robinovitz says. “Remember that the student you’re shadowing likely works for the university, so it’s important to be positive, intellectually curious, ask questions and take notes during classes for an in-depth visit.”
Liz Sidaros, a sophomore at James Madison University, participated in the school’s shadowing program and had an awesome experience: “Shadowing a student with the Duke for a Day program was an awesome way to experience a JMU classroom environment. We all know the statistics and the average class size, but it was helpful to actually see firsthand.” What better way to see if the college is right for you than become a student there for 24 hours?
3. Attend a club meeting
Attending a club meeting is a great way to meet students with similar interests as you and see what the school has to offer. If you can participate, that’s even better!
“If you’re only visiting one university in a day, make arrangements with a club,” Robinovitz shares. “Cultural heritage groups (CCM, Hillel, Asian Students Union, etc.) tend to be amazingly welcoming.”
Brianna Susnak, a freshman at Indiana University, decided to check out her school’s newsroom since she knew she wanted to write for the newspaper. “I started talking to a girl [who] worked there and was involved with the newspaper, and we ended up becoming good friends,” she says. “I kept in touch with her after and she helped me through a lot of the decision process. Even now that I'm a freshman, we still talk, and I can still go to her with questions or for advice. Plus it's nice going into your freshman year with an upperclassman friend that has interests similar to yours.” Don’t be shy about getting involved—upperclassmen love showing newbies the ropes!
Club schedules can often be found online, or simply check out the posters around campus! If you contact the president or editor-in-chief, they’ll be happy to help you out.
4. Sit in on a class (more than once!)
If you live near the college you’re thinking about attending, you may be able to sit in on a class that interests you more than just once. If you don’t want to register (and pay) for the class, talk to the college or the professor to get permission to observe. Sitting in on a class for an extended period of time can help you see how you like it rather than simply sitting in on a class one time. Seeing the progression of the class will help you get a feel for if the dynamic is right for you.
If you want to audit a class, the first step would be contacting the professor. Classes and professors’ emails can be found online. If they give you the go-ahead, you’re pretty much set! Sitting in on a late afternoon or night class is a great way to experience a college without having to enroll in the school.
5. Talk to a student in your major
Talking to a student in the major you’re considering is a great way to find out more about how the program works at that specific school and see what opportunities lie ahead. Information sessions are helpful, but getting a student’s perspective is the best way to find out the truth. If you’re unsure what you want to major in, talk to a few students in different majors to see if something catches your attention.
“Talking to a student in the major you’re interested in is very helpful,” shares Robinovitz. “In addition to the information session and campus tour, talking to a student or professor in your area of interest is important.” You can set this up through the admissions office, a friend, Facebook or even Yik-Yak!
Brianna talked one-on-one with a student in her major and says, “I found it really cool to hear their perspective on classes [and] how they made their college decision, and it was a nice change from hearing from a bunch of adults/admissions officers.” Talking to a student in your major is a great way to learn how the program really operates, and whether that’s a good fit for you. If you contact the department you’re interested in, they can put you in touch with a student in no time!
If you’re unsure of what to talk to them about, ask about the best professors, requirements for that major, study abroad opportunities, or cool classes to take!
Whether you’re pretty sure you know what school you want to attend or are still narrowing it down, taking advantage of these options will help you get the most out of college visits. Finding out more about the student life, academics and activities will make your decision process much easier! The next time you’re going to book a college tour or sit in on a class, ask about one of these options for an even better experience. College visits should be enjoyable, so don’t stress—relax and have fun!