5 Hacks for Your Next Campus Visit
If you understand why you’re on campus and take advantage of the opportunities there, you’ll end up not only better informed, but increase your chances for admission.
More than a right of passage or an opportunity to test drive a college, visiting campuses is a must for the college-bound. After all, how else can you get an admissions officer to answer all of your questions, learn about a college from its surroundings to its programs, and demonstrate interest all in the matter of just two hours? To make sure that you get the most out of your next 300-mile road trip, here are 5 tips to help you prepare:
1. Attend both the information session and tour. You may think that with the proliferation of information on the Internet, you can figure everything out from your couch, but nothing can be farther from the truth. Information sessions can provide invaluable insider information about a school’s admissions process, while tours open a window onto student life from no one other than a current student. Are you wondering how academic expectations differ between the Engineering School and the School of Arts and Sciences? Ask at the information session. Are you worried about what students typically do on the weekend? Ask on your tour. Are you looking for a somewhat competitive learning environment where you won’t be overwhelmed, but will be challenged? Ask at both the information session and on the tour, and see if the answers vary. You won’t get that same feedback on College Confidential or other online forums. And, don’t be afraid to ask an admissions officer, point blank, whether or not you are a good candidate for admission and what you can do to improve your chances for getting in. That information can make all the difference down the line.
2. Interview whenever possible. Whether or not you realize it, some colleges, like Wash. U. of St. Louis and Haverford College, are already offering interviews to the Class of 2017. If a college doesn’t offer off-campus interviews, or you’re not sure if you’ll make it back to campus, seize this opportunity while you have the chance – just make sure you prepare well in advance. Going into an interview underprepared can be just as bad as not interviewing at all!
3. Visit no more than 2 colleges per day or 6 colleges per week. Road trips are an American tradition, romanticized by Jack Kerouac and dozens of Hollywood films. While part of your trip might be fun and carefree, it doesn’t exactly capture all the wrong turns you make while searching for the right parking lot, the admissions building, a decent lunch spot, restrooms, and whatever else you happen to need along the way. As a result, don’t plan to visit more than 2 colleges in a single day. Information sessions and tours typically last 2-2.5 hours, so you’ll need plenty of time to transition and travel. Additionally, the more tours you take, the more they sound the same. Give your mind a break by not overdoing it. By limiting yourself to no more than 6 colleges per week, hopefully your memories of each school will stand on their own.
4. Meet people. Take names. One of the main reasons you want to visit a campus is to make personal connections with the people who live and work there. This can prove beneficial in many ways. First, when you mention your tour guide or your admissions officer by name in your essays, your reader will be really excited that you remembered them. It adds a personal touch that shows you actually care about the school. Second, you’ll want to find out who your local admissions representative is and meet with him or her, if possible. That person will be in charge of your file (read: he or she will determine your future at that college). Make sure that you come prepared with questions and some points that you would like to get across about yourself, so that your gesture comes across as productive yet sincere. The more of an effort you make to become a person, rather than just a name on paper, the less likely you will receive a rejection. If you can do this with professors, coaches, orchestra directors, and the like, as well, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to apply.
5. Ask your parents to sit back and let you do the talking. Have you ever thought that your parents were really embarrassing? If your mom is the one checking you into your tour and your dad is the one asking about the English program, then this is one time when you’re probably right. Applying to college is your first major step into adulthood and you need to show schools that you are up for the challenge. Take charge of your campus visit and ask your parents to be your spectators. Otherwise, colleges might wonder if you’re ready to attend their school.
While all of this requires a bunch of preparation mixed with dash of moxie, you’ll be glad you made the most of your visit – especially next March when your final decision letters roll in.