Falling into the stereotypical college visit is easy.
You stumble into an information session earlier in the day than you would like to be awake. A peppy admissions representative overloads you with facts until an even peppier tour guide parades you around campus. By the end, all you remember is your tour guide’s affinity for walking backwards, whether or not you saw a residence hall, and the statistics you managed to write down.
Campus visits have a tendency to blend together, particularly if you plan them back to back. Yet, if you have the opportunity to visit some colleges that excite you, a visit can give you the clarity you want from the college search process. Trust me on this one. After my own college search process, I became a campus tour guide as an undergraduate at Tufts. After graduating from the School of Arts and Sciences, I joined Tufts Admissions as an admissions counselor and coordinator for tour guides and our campus visit program. And while I've maintained my early-morning peppiness along the way, I’ve also picked up on a few tips that could help you have a meaningful campus visit.
Academics will be the core of your college experience, and making sure that you attend an institution that is an academic fit for you is vital to setting yourself up for a successful four years. Make sure you are visiting a school with academics that excite you. If you are considering a university with more than one school (like Tufts, hint, hint), research what majors or programs are offered through each before you visit. While looking through department websites and majors lists, create a list of any specific questions you have so that you can ask one of the school representatives once you are there.
Standardized testing ranges, acceptance rates, and student to faculty ratios are all easily accessible numbers that you can find with a quick Google search. To make the most out of your visit, instead pay close attention to stories, highlights, and the campus vibe--things you can’t easily find online. Instead of compiling a list of numbers, compile a list of feelings, reactions, and reflections. What resonates with you?
Who doesn’t hate walking around for an hour on a rainy day? A bad day of weather can significantly impact how you view a college. When you find yourself thinking negatively about where you are, catch yourself. Are you disappointed by what you are hearing or just disheartened by the weather?
Use what you know about yourself to your advantage. You might be eager to have a spirited student body or a college that emphasizes volunteering. Maybe you’re thrilled about conducting research with a professor or want a robust Sociology department. Asking a specific question at each school can help you weigh their values against yours, and help differentiate schools that look similar in print.
Almost every college tour will include a final story about why the tour guide picked their school. After listening to them, consider why you would. Do you have an answer, and how does it stack up to other schools you’ve visited? (An added bonus: this might end up being your response to the "Why ___?" supplemental question, and a more personal response than citing the location or naming a few majors.)
Finally, never hesitate over asking a question. This is your college visit and you have a limited amount of time to imagine whether you could see yourself at that school for four years. Make sure it feels right, and take advantage of the opportunity you have to experience the campus before applying.