The campus visit Everything to know about visiting colleges
About the Visit Visiting a campus with your family is one of the most powerful things that you can do during your college search. It allows you to get the “feel” of a campus - the personal impression that you can’t get from websites, brochures, and college fairs.
About the Visit It often allows you the chance to meet individually with faculty, academic advisors, and athletic coaches and get your questions about the application process, scholarships and financial aid, and campus life answered by the admissions staff. What’s more, you can talk to current students and get a first hand view of campus life. Think of your visit as your “test drive” of the school.
Where should you visit? Decide what’s important to you, and then narrow your list down to the schools that meet your criteria. Here are a few key ones to consider before scheduling a visit: Does the school meet my academic profile and is it the type of school that I’m looking for? (2 year, 4 year, technical, etc.) Is it close enough to (or far enough away from) home? Does it have the academic program or major that I want? How big is the campus and student body? If you’d like to play a sport in college, does the school offer it?
WHEN should you visit? Summer is great for an initial visit - you don’t have to miss school and the weather is usually nice. However, campuses feel different during the summer: there are far fewer students on campus and it can be more difficult to meet with faculty or sit-in on classes. In terms of opportunities and access, there is no better time to visit a campus than on a weekday when classes are in session.
What about visit days?
Many schools offer larger visit days built to accommodate dozens and dozens of families. These visit days are most often held on or adjacent to the weekend: Mondays, Fridays, or Saturdays. They will be a wealth of information and are specially created to give you a feel for a campus. But you must beware: your tour of campus will be larger and your chances for one on one contact with faculty and coaches will be more limited. If you want more personal attention, schedule an individual visit.
Scheduling your visit… Most schools will want you to schedule your visit on their website. They really want you to visit, so it’s usually very easy to find the right page. While the process may be slightly different, you will need to register for large visit days just as you would for an individual visit. While web registration is most common, some universities and colleges will want you to call or email to schedule your visit. Remember that even if a school wants you to register online for a visit, a phone call is still the best way to find out more about your schedule and the optional activities available.
Plan ahead! No matter what, SCHEDULE YOUR VISIT AHEAD OF TIME. A good rule of thumb is to schedule your visit at least 2 weeks beforehand, especially if you are going to be requesting any special meetings or appointments. Registering for a visit is not only courteous, but it also ensures that your trip won’t be in vain – there’s no guarantee that a school will accommodate you if you walk-in unannounced. There are certain times of year that you will be unable to (or at least discouraged from) visiting a school. These include major holidays and the finals week at the end of each semester.
The Campus Tour
The tour of campus will be the only constant when it comes to visiting schools. Often times these tours will be led by student tour guides who are more than willing to answer questions from the student perspective. The size of your tour will be determined by the season – schools are typically very busy with visitors in the fall and during Spring Breaks so your tour will likely be larger at these points.
No matter what, expect to be on a tour with other visiting families. Campus tours usually take an hour or more and involve a great deal of walking, so dress accordingly and wear comfortable shoes.
What else can you expect? A common visit type involves a group presentation in which your family and several others will be given information about applying, scholarships and financial aid, academic programs, etc. Another type of visit will involve a more intimate meeting with an admissions counselor, where you and your family can get your questions personally addressed before going on tour.
Come prepared. There is no better time to get your questions answered, so arrive on campus with a list of what you want to know. Not sure what to ask? Check out our database of campus visit questions here: http://collegeaccess.truman.edu/visitquestions.asp
And don’t worry, if more questions come up after your visit, you can always call or email to follow up.
Make the most of your visit Take advantage of all of the opportunities offered. If you want to learn more about an academic program, ask if you can sit in on a class and/or meet one on one with a faculty member. If you’re hoping to play a sport, meet with the coach or take in a practice. Throughout the day you’ll encounter current students at the school – use them as a resource. Ask them questions about student life and academic experiences. If your first visit only increases your interest in a school, do not hesitate to visit again. Choosing a college is a huge decision, arm yourself with all the information that you can.