Visiting a prospective college is one of the most important tools for a student trying to decide where to go to school. You can only learn so much information through brochures, mailings, and phone calls. While potential students will consider different things at different colleges, there are a number of aspects that need to be considered to have a successful visit.
Preparation is a must. Many students will error by putting the entire burden on the college. These students will just show up for the visit, go on the standard tour, meet with the standard officials, and they will come away with little of the information they need.
Prepare a list of questions to ask. These questions should be in-depth and go beyond normal questions like ‘What is the average class size?’ or ‘What is the graduation rate?’ The following are a few good questions to give you an idea:
What is the average workload for freshman classes? Are there writing labs that can help with written assignments? How does the tutoring process work? Does the school use outside sources to connect the classroom to the real world? Is there a career center to help students find jobs in their areas? These are just a few of the many questions that you can ask. Also, make sure to ask a variety of people. Speak with as many people as you can. This includes admissions officials, faculty, and current students to name a few. Current students are a very valuable resource since they can tell you exactly what it is like to be enrolled there. This is why it is very important to take a visit when school is in session. This way you can meet with as many people as possible.
When visiting a college, make sure you meet with people from the department that you are interested in. Meet with more than one member of the faculty if you can. However, sometimes only one professor will be available and this cannot be avoided. Once again, speak with students to see what classes are like within that department. Ask if they are boring or difficult. See if any students changed to a different major because of the program and not because of their changed interests. Sometimes students will meet with the head of the department only to find out later that they do not like classes with other members of the faculty.
Some students will be interested in playing athletics at the school they will attend. If this is the case, meet with the coach and a current player for that particular sport. Find out how much time is needed to participate and how it will affect your college life.
Finally, find out what activities are available outside of classes and studying. College is more than studying and you need to enjoy yourself. While this should not be a large factor, it should be considered. Learn what students do for fun and what activities the college sponsors.
While this entire process can be quite grueling, it is well worth it. You will leave the visit with a good idea of what the school offers and much more information than someone just taking the standard tour.