Choosing the right school is no easy task. Normal tours are often so similar to each other that your visits can blur together. Tired of listening to backwards walking guides throw unimportant statistics at you? Take a look at these tips and tricks for making the most of your visits.
There are some important steps you can take to make your experience as memorable as possible, all before leaving the house!
1) Create a place to store all of the information you will receive. This should include a folder for each school you are considering. Colleges will give you tons of brochures, flyers, and booklets, so make a place for them! You should also get a notebook and store it in the same place. Bring the notebook with you on all of your visits, and use it to record your findings. This will be extremely helpful when you are trying to make your final decision and can't quite keep all of your tours straight.
2) Check out the school's website. Look specifically at the majors you that interest you or the sports teams you want to join. Think of a few questions you want answered from this trip. These are things that you cannot find the answers to online. Write them down in your notebook and leave space for the answers.
3) While on the college's website, find the specific department that interests you (business, engineering, communications, etc.) and get the email of the dean. Write them an email explaining that you are a prospective student and tell them your intended major. Ask of there is a possibility to meet with an advisor or professor in the department to discuss the specifics of the program while you are visiting the school. NOTE: Find out of the dean has his/her PhD. If so, make sure to address them as Dr. in the email. This meeting is HUGELY beneficial to your visit, more details on this below.
4) Check the weather! Plan your visit on a sunny weekend, if possible. Nothing makes a campus look worse than a gloom-filled rainy day.
Taking an official tour can help out, but there are many other things to do when a tour just doesn't cut it.
1) Connect with a friend or acquaintance who goes to the school you are visiting, and treat them to a meal. No college student will pass up free food, and they will be able to give you an insider's perspective without holding back.
2) Pay attention to your surroundings. Are students outside tossing a frisbee? Do people look happy? Ask someone for directions to a well-known building to see how friendly they are. Write down your findings in your notebook.
3) Think about what living at this school would mean for you. This includes trying out a dining hall and checking out the dorms, but consider less obvious things as well. Where will you do your laundry or take out your trash? How far is the nearest supermarket or department store? Are there well made bus routes to places you can't walk to?
4) Meet with someone in the department you are interested in entering. After emailing the dean, hopefully they connected you with someone to talk with. Take your notebook, shake their hand firmly, and ask them why their program should interest you. Remember that this person should be winning you over, and not the other way around. NOTE: This meeting should be for you, so have your parents sit this one out. They may mean well, but parents can often take over the meeting and keep you from establishing a relationship with this person. If you end up going to this school, this person can turn into an important contact and advisor for you.
Wrapping up your experience
1) Once home, immediately write down your overall impression of the school in your notebook. This could be a summary of your experiences or a rating on certain aspects from 1 to 10. The key here is to put the "big picture" in writing so you can compare and contrast with other schools later on.
2) Write a thank you email to the advisor or professor you met with. This is a thoughtful way to acknowledge their time and keep open communication with them if you have any questions in the future.
3) Plan for your next college visit!