Career ExplorationPreparing for College
The College Visit
You don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money and travel across the country to learn from college visits. Here are some tips to make your visits both near and far more productive.
Visiting college campuses is a terrific way to learn more about what you do or do not want in a college. Starting as early as freshman year, setting foot on a variety of college campuses will help you with the decision you will make in spring of your senior year. Does this mean that you and your family need to spend thousands of dollars flying around the U.S. visiting colleges? Absolutely not! Any college campus you set foot on will help you learn a tremendous amount about what is important to you. Start by making informal visits to nearby campuses. Here are some observations you might make, and what you might learn from them:
Get the idea? Visits to college campuses--any college campuses—can help you to zero in on what is important to you.
As a junior or senior, if you have the opportunity to visit colleges that are high on your list, be sure to make good use of your time there.
Call ahead and make arrangements with the Admission Office; schedule an interview if possible. (Some interviews are "evaluative," and will have an impact on admission; other interviews are merely "informative," meant to acquaint you with the college and answer your questions. ASK whether your interview will be evaluative or informative.) Be sure to visit the Admission Office when you arrive. Ask questions!
Spend the night on campus in a dorm if at all possible. This can often be arranged through the Admission Office. Eat dorm food; would you be able to survive? Ask in your high school Career Center for a list of students who went to your school and are attending the colleges you will be visiting; these students will probably be enthusiastic about sharing their experiences with you.
Visit classes, preferably in the disciplines that you are interested in studying. Again, this can often be arranged through Admission Offices. There are often opportunities to meet with professors or students in the departments that interest you.
If you're an athlete, try to meet with a coach and learn about opportunities in your sport.
Musicians, artists, actors, or students with any other "specialty" can sometimes arrange to meet with professors or other key players on campus.
Take a formal campus tour-but try, if you can, to have a more informal, less "programmed" tour with a student who is not on the Admission Office "payroll"!
Check out the libraries—you'll be spending a tremendous amount of time there!
Read bulletin boards, especially those in campus centers such as Student Unions. What's going on around the campus? How are students spending their free time?
Familiarize yourself with the surrounding area—you won't be on campus all the time!
Take notes. You'll be surprised, when you get back home, how your visit becomes a blur: which was the school that had those great computer labs? Where did we see that incredible education library? Which school was it that offered varsity badminton?