While you’re a junior, you’re busy with course work, exams, and extracurriculars. But you have one luxury that seniors don’t — time. Use the time wisely by visiting as many of the colleges that interest you as you can. This will add substantially to your confidence in selecting the colleges to which you’ll apply in senior year. But successful college visits require careful planning.
We advise that you research each college that you’re considering. Review the school’s website, especially the course catalogue and the requirements for your intended major. Review college guidebooks and publications that describe and compare colleges relative to their peer institutions. In addition to gathering valuable information, your research will enable you to ask questions in interviews that show that you did your homework and that you’re genuinely interested in matters not covered in the school’s material.
Activities to Plan for Visits
Information Session – For each of your visits, your first task is to schedule the visit. Simply go to the website and see when campus tours are available and reserve your time. Your visit will most likely begin with an Information and Q&A Session led by an administrator. Be aware that many dates fill up months in advance, especially those related to Professional Development days in the surrounding areas or holiday windows of time so plan early!
Guided Tour – A student-led guided tour of the campus will often follow the information session. This is a great way to gain an understanding of the campus environment, location of academic buildings and dorms, as well as traditions. When you make an appointment for a tour, let the admissions office know if others will be accompanying you.
Academic Building Tour – A visit to your academic building can provide an inside look at the area where you are likely to spend a lot of your time and give valuable insight into your potential area(s) of study. Many colleges now offer this as an option when you book your tour. If it is not part of the campus visit sign up page, call the academic department and see if they offer student tours.
Faculty Member – If you can, schedule meetings with a faculty member and one or more students in your major. You’ll learn about the curriculum and be invited to ask questions about it. This is also an opportunity to convey to the faculty member your enthusiasm for the college and the major.
Admissions Interview – Know beforehand if your school offers admissions interviews. If so, it is a good idea to plan this into your window of time. This meeting can be instrumental in gaining admission, so remember to schedule your interview as far in advance as practical. Note that not all colleges conduct admissions interviews and some that do don’t consider them in admissions decisions. Peruse their website ahead of time to gain insight into your potential majors and other features on campus. Plan some questions that cannot be answered on their website and can help you learn more about your areas of interest both inside and outside of the classroom.
Attend a Class – If your visit is during the school year, sit in on a class (with permission of the admissions office) that you would be taking as a freshman. Even in summer, there’s likely to be classes you can attend.
Stay in a Dorm – Nothing you can do will teach you more about whether a college fits you than staying overnight in a dormitory with students and eating your meals in a dining hall. If you have a choice, stay with sophomores. They know more than freshmen about the school and they’re not yet as jaded as upperclassmen can be. If the admissions office doesn’t make arrangements, try to make them yourself if you know students at the school.
Extras – For those students with extra time, and especially if you’re visiting a school that’s bound to end up on your college list, there are other activities that you should try to schedule. Attend a student concert, stage performance, or sporting event. Do this to get a sense of the community even if you’re not interested in the activity. Tour areas of campus that are of particular interest to you, such as athletic facilities, labs, studios, and rehearsal spaces. Arrange to attend a research conference, seminar, or symposium if you can.
Make the time you spend on campus as productive as possible. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. If you’re touring several colleges in one trip, they tend to blur together, so take notes and photos.
Although you should always take the campus tour, realize that the student guides work for the college. They’re trained in what to say in response to certain questions. The marketing message that they convey may not be entirely accurate, so further investigate any matters that really concern you.
Avoid forming your impression of a school based solely on your conversation with one person. Also avoid making snap judgments based on a single factor. Do your best to keep thoughts about the probability of your admission and the college’s affordability separate from the impressions you form about the school itself.
Aspire College and Career Consulting partners with both the student and family to develop a plan that will best position the student for success and help them reach their aspirations for college and beyond. While this is a time of self-discovery and growth for each student, we provide advice, encouragement and guidance every step of the way. We embrace each college applicant as a unique individual. Students are often better than they see themselves to be and they have a great story to tell. We help them bring their story to life so that it will work to their advantage in the college admissions process.