How To Get Ready For A College Visit

college visitationBy this time in the college admissions process you should have narrowed your search down to 6-10 school.  Now it's time to strap on your boots and go experience the colleges for yourself.  This is truly one of the most important parts of the decision process.  Keep in mind you'll be spending the next 4-5 years of your life eating, sleeping, and studying at the school.  Trust us, you don't want to transfer once you've selected your college.  Remember that transferring could tack on another year or two of school and increase your costs upwards of twenty to fifty thousand dollars.  Let's take a look at how to prepare for your visits.

When To Go

You definitely want to start visiting colleges as soon as possible.  We recommend starting at the beginning of your junior year, or at the latest, fall of our junior year.  If you’re already a senior you obviously can't carry out the recommendation, but don't wait any longer.  You also will want to visit when the semester is in full bloom and the students have their routines down.  If you can, avoid going at the start of a new semester or during finals when everyone is in frenzy.  If you can only make it during these times or when schools is not in session still take the opportunity to do it.  Knowing a little is definitely better than not going at all.

Options for Scheduling Your Visits

If you’re going to spend the time and money to visit a college, you might as well make the most of it!  You positively want to schedule an appointment with the admissions office and let them know you're coming.  When you're on the phone with them, be sure to schedule the following:

  • Campus Tour
  • Meeting with the Admissions Office
  • Meeting with the financial aid officer
  • Any Coaches if you’re interested in playing sports
  • Arrange to stay the night (if applicable)

Many schools allow you to schedule your visit from their website as well.  You'll want to schedule your visit 5-7 weeks in advance to make sure you'll be guaranteed meetings with the above mentioned.   

What You Should Bring

Plan to spend most of your day on campus and perhaps some time to walk around the surrounding communities to check out the social scene.  Bring some comfortable shoes and make sure you check the weather forecast so you can dress appropriately.  If you’re staying overnight you'll obviously need to bring a change of clothes and your toiletries.  We recommend a couple small snacks to keep your energy up and focused on the task at hand.  You'll of course want to bring a notebook or recorder of some kind, which leads us to our next point.

Staying Organized

Take good notes.  Whatever way seems best to you.  Make categories, tally markers, or a small digital recorder.  Whatever you need to do to keep your thoughts separated.  After seeing a couple colleges, especially if they are back to back, many of the features will start to blend together.  Bring a camera if it helps you visualize what the facilities look like for later.  We have provided a College Visitation Worksheet to help you keep track of this, but use whatever methods work best for you.  If your parents are with you, have them fill out a sheet and take notes too.  They are looking at the school with a much different set of eyes and perhaps can provide constructive feedback later.

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