College Visits: What to do, What to Ask

Students often say visiting the campus of a potential college is one of the most important factors in determining which college they want to attend. So you've got to get on campus. But when do you visit and what should you do when you get there?

When to visit
Anytime is a good time to visit a potential college. Your summer break is a great time to take an extended road trip to see some campuses, though there will be fewer students on campus than usual. Weekends in the fall, winter and spring work great, too.

Some students prefer to visit a college before sending in an application. Others will apply to several colleges, see which they are accepted to and then take visits to decide which one fits best. Both are correct.

Colleges only want to admit students who are seriously considering attending. If you plan on meeting with the college's admissions staff you may want to visit before you apply. Visiting a campus and speaking with the staff, or even a formal interview, may help your chances of admission by showing expressed interest.

Contact the college's admissions office to see if they have any special visitor days or events planned. These special events might offer more resources to potential students.

What to do
All college campuses have students and buildings. To see what makes each unique, and to see if you might be a good fit with this college, you've got to mix it up on campus. Here are 16 things you should do before you conclude your visit.

  • Talk to professors
  • Talk to students
  • Visit the library
  • Visit student housing
  • Tour campus
  • Tour the city around campus
  • Read bulletin boards
  • Sit in on a class
  • Check out recreational facilities
  • Check out student activities
  • Eat at a cafeteria
  • Talk to the admissions office
  • Eat at an off-campus student hang-out
  • Read the college newspaper
  • Check out computer labs
  • Picture yourself living there

What to ask
Your trip isn't all about sightseeing. Here are the six questions you should ask a current student at the college.

  • What is the best part about this college?
  • What is the worst part?What is a typical day like?
  • What do students do on weekends?
  • How are classes structured?
  • Why did you choose this college?

Weather note: Be careful to let weather influence your decision too much. You may have just had a rainy day on an otherwise sunny campus. But, be wise if rain  or snow or hail or whatever is normal. Can you live in this climate?