College is right around the corner! Before you know it, high school will be over and you will need to plan the next chapter in your life. This is an important decision for you as your college choice may impact your career and the rest of your life. Therefore, this step shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Many colleges offer and encourage college tours. We recommend that you make a list of the colleges that you are interested in attending, and then plan a college tour to each of those colleges during your junior or early senior year. You certainly don’t want your college visit to go to waste. After all, some of your college choices may be far away from where you live, so this may be the only opportunity you have to learn about this college. There are certain things you can do before, during, and after your visit to make it worthwhile so that you walk away knowing all about that college.
BEFORE THE TOUR
It’s just as important to spend time planning your tour as it is actually taking your tour. Here’s what you can do a few months before your intended college visit.
- Contact the College – Call different departments at the college to schedule interviews or meetings to ask questions and gain an understanding about certain aspects of the college. A few you should definitely include:
- Admissions office – An interview with an admissions representative will help you understand the process and deadlines for admission. It will also allow you to schedule a guided tour of the campus.
- Financial Aid office – A financial aid officer can advise you with the scholarships, grants and other financial assistance that is available at the school. All of the grants and scholarships are not always made public, so it is good to ask.
- Department Chair – If you know what major you want to pursue or at least have an idea of what you want to do, you may want to see the chairs of those departments. He or she can talk to you about what to expect in the courses for your major.
- Peruse the College Website – Get a look at what the college has to offer. Download and look at the map of the campus, so you will know where to go and will be less likely to get lost when you get there. Pick a few places on campus that interest you. If you are an athlete, it may be the field or athletic department. If it is literature, it may be the library. However, there are certain places on campus that you should definitely check out no matter what… (see “Self-guided tour”)
ON THE DAY OF THE VISIT
- Get an Early Start – Don’t plan on sleeping late on the day of your college tour. Even if your guided tour or scheduled appointments don’t take place until the afternoon, you can still learn about the college in the morning by yourself. Getting there early will give you that time.
- Wear Comfortable and Appropriate Clothing and Shoes – This will come in handy as you trudge over miles of campus in just one day. Plan on your feet being sore at the end of the day. You will likely see officials from the college, so you will need to look presentable as well.
- Take a Guided Tour – Calling the admissions office will allow you to set up a guided tour. Most colleges offer guided tours in order to showcase what their college has to offer. Remember, colleges try to recruit students to come to their school. This does not mean only for athletes; colleges want all students to enroll at their school. This is the time to ask questions about the places where the guide takes you. Look at each place carefully.
- Take a Self-Guided Tour – A guided tour is helpful to answer questions, but the tours are usually short and don’t give you enough time to explore the different areas of the campus. It doesn’t matter if you take your self-guided tour before or after the guided tour as long as you can fit it into your visit. There are certain places on campus that are important to visit on your own so that you can spend more time looking around even if a place was shown to you on the guided tour. Below are the definite places to include on your visit:
- Classrooms – Checking out the empty classrooms will allow you to see the type of technology they use in class, the approximate number of students in these classes, and other aspects about the courses and how they are taught.
- Dorms – Obviously, you don’t want to invade the privacy of others, but you will want to look around the dorms – especially those reserved for freshmen. If you plan on living on campus, this will show you what your next home will look like. Due to limitations and rules, this may only be reserved for your guided tour.
- Bookstore – College textbooks are probably the most expensive used books you will ever find in a bookstore. Therefore, you should prepare yourself for the cost of materials. Thumb through a few freshmen textbooks to get an idea of the material that will be covered in those courses.
- Visit Offices and Attend Interviews and Appointments – If you have made appointments with an admissions counselor, financial aid officer or another representative, then you should arrive on time and ready with questions. If you did not or could not make an appointment, then you should still visit these offices to learn about those departments.
- Talk to Students – College students will most likely be brutally honest in regard to daily life and difficulty of courses at the college. Therefore, it may be intimidating at first, but it will be well worth finding out information about the college that is not covered in the brochures.
AFTER YOUR TOUR
Follow up with the people you met on campus – Once you’ve gotten your fill of the college, make sure to keep in touch with the people you meet. You may have follow up questions, and these people can keep you informed about the college.
- College staff – Make sure to collect the business cards or email addresses of the professors and other staff members you meet on campus. Thank them for their time if you set up an interview, and touch base every now and then with follow up questions. If you stay in touch with admissions officers, they might be able to inform you about any new developments in the process, deadlines, and so on. Some colleges also factor student interest into their admissions decisions, so making yourself known by the administration can be helpful to getting accepted!
- Students – Don’t be afraid to ask for an email or number if you connect with someone on campus. Ask them if you can follow up to ask more questions about campus life or anything else you should know to inform your decision.
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