Visiting Colleges 101

A huge part of college research and selection is the college visit... of course, if you can afford it. Many prospective applicants usually come back from a college visit with a solid understanding of whether or not they want to attend a university for all of four years. Why? Because it gives you some first hand insight on the look, the feel and even the culture of the school you're visiting.
Bonus points: it counts as demonstrated interest too (for schools that take that into account).
Before going any further, we want to make it very clear that school visits are NOT mandatory in the college research process. If your parents cannot afford airfare and accommodations just for you to go and visit a prospective school, it's okay! There are tons of other ways to research and so many other ways to show demonstrated interest.
But for those of you who can make the trip, we advise that you don't go in blindly. This is not just a walk around a park. We urge you to take these college visits seriously by planning BEFORE, being super alert DURING and evaluating AFTER.

Making an assessment about whether or not a school is the right fit for you boils down to really knowing what you want out of your college experience. 

The college visit is your version of an admissions interview. The school is trying to impress you! Make all your observations. Ask all your questions. Leave no stone unturned. Find out if this school is really a good fit for you.

There are several considerations to make here. The first being logistics. How will you be getting to the visit, where will you stay and what will you eat? Then there is the financial consideration. How much will it cost? View this blog by Living with Landyn and get some insights into the logistical considerations to be taken in your college visit planning.

Most (all) colleges have arranged visits for prospective students. Find out about how these are arranged at each institution. If you and a few of your friends are applying to the same college, look into arranging a group visit/ group tour with the school's admissions office.

Before you get there, we also urge you to think deeply about what you want in a college experience. Think about what kind of life you want to live for the four years there, then write down some questions to ask the tour guide while you're there. Things like:

  • Are there fun things to do off campus / near by?
  • What's the party scene like?
  • Is there a [insert interest here] club here?
  • What does weekend life typically look like here?
  • Am I allowed to have visitors stay with me if my family or friends come to visit?
  • Are there a lot of sporting events on campus?
These are just examples, of course, but really think about what your interests are, and what you want your late nights / weekends / free time to look like... and ask questions!
Once you've sorted the logistics and arranged your visit, it's now time to actually make your way to the various campuses and start making your observations.
Use your smartphone to take pictures and videos of the campus, and take notes on the things you loved the most and things you hated the most. Did you spot anything that made you feel like you could NEVER see yourself living there? Did you spot anything that made you feel even slightly uncomfortable / annoyed / bothered? Write it down.
What you are looking for ultimately hinges on what is most important to you in your college experience. However, a few overarching considerations to keep in the back of your mind include:
  • The college's commitment to the physical safety and social wellbeing of its students.
  • The classroom setting and the teaching environment, including student-teacher dynamics.
  • The college's commitment to professional development and career placement for students.
These are definitely not the only considerations to make and as previously stated, your college experience is your own; so, only you can know what you would make your college experience ideal.
Don't just leave the tour and never think about it again. After a day or two, revisit all of your notes and pictures. Sometimes when in the moment of the tour, you get caught up in the novelty of the visit and aren't able to think deeply about envisioning yourself on the campus. So spend some time off campus thinking about what you liked and didn't like, and how that will affect whether you choose to apply or not.
So, how do you ensure that your college visit was worth? Follow this checklist:
  • Take a tour! Outside of the scheduled tour organised by the admissions office, you would find it beneficial to scope out the campus grounds for yourself and get to know the truth of the campus, not just the pretty parts that they want you to see during the guided tour.
  • Visit your intended faculty and speak to a professor or student (ideally both)
  • Sit it on a class from your intended major
  • Visit the faculty office and browse through course offerings
  • Talk to students on the campus. They have no incentive to lie about their experience. You will get the raw, whole truth about the college you are about to apply to.
  • Gather all necessary information. This is a perfect opportunity to ensure that all your informational needs are met. Ask questions, collect pamphlets and read everything you see!
  • Grab a copy of the campus newspaper/ newsletter and give it a good read through. This will give you good understanding of what makes news in your prospective school.
  • Visit social/ recreational areas, such as the fitness centre, pool, dining areas etc.
    If possible, visit the dormitory facilities, specifically the freshman dorm.
  • Visit the career placement office.
Need further guidance in preparing for a college visit? Here at the AIM Online Academy, we are ready and raring to help you WIN!
Author: AIM Online Academy
AIM Online Academy (was AIM Educational Services) is the leading college prep provider in Jamaica, that helps students maximize their potential as they make the journey towards college in the US, UK and Canada. For over a decade, AIM's team of College Experts & Essay Coaches have assisted students from all over the Caribbean, the USA and Canada get into the college of their dreams with enough scholarship and financial aid to actually attend.

You can find out more about how AIM Online Academy can help YOU here:

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