College visits are extremely valuable in the college application process. You can gain insight as to what qualities and features of a school may be important such as on-campus housing, student activities, athletics, honors programs and academic opportunities. As you visit colleges, these tips can help you make the most of your experience!
Take the official tour
Official tours are useful; it can be helpful to really listen and interrogate what the guide is saying. For example, if the guide says, “The average class size is 14,” know that this is the average of all classes including graduate/upper division classes which are normally quite small; sometimes even a single student is enrolled in a class. What is the average size of freshmen classes? The guide may say, “In your freshman seminar, classes are capped at 20 students.” Ok, but what’s the average size of a freshman lecture class or the size of most freshmen classes? These types of questions can help you get accurate information.
Take an unofficial tour
Official tours will usually show you the best facilities and rooms on campus. This is why it is important to visit the parts of campus you will use regularly. If you have a have a major in mind, go to the building that houses that department. Look in the classrooms. Look at the labs/facilities/lounges. See if you can look at the dorm where most freshmen stay. Go to different floors of the library and student union (not just the lobby/atrium which is the nicest part of these buildings).
Explore the areas just off campus
You will be living here for four years. Is there a movie theater/pizza place/coffee shop/grocery store/whatever easily accessible? While many freshmen barely get off campus, everyone eventually gets stir crazy, and there are three years after freshman year.
Sit in on a class
This is often set up through the admissions office. While many students jump at the chance to sit in on an upper division class, it may be useful to also sit in on a lower division class to see what classes might feel like as a freshman.
Talk to people
Ask the tour guide why she or he decided on this university. Eat in the cafeteria, and ask a student nearby what the student body is like at the school. If there is a first-year experience/orientation/freshman life office, talk to one of the people there about what life is like for freshman. If there is a special program/club/extracurricular that you are interested in, see if it could be arranged to speak to someone involved with it. Inquire about meeting with a professor in an area of interest. Talking to people on campus can help with understanding the college environment as a whole.