College visits: What to look for

Visiting a college campus is a critical step in the application process. While background information can be gathered from brochures and websites, there are many things that you can only learn by visiting the school and interacting with students and staff. If possible, try to plan the visit for a time when classes are in session. This will give you a better window into life on campus. There are several important things to consider during these campus visits.

Size
Some students will prefer to be at a large university while others may want a smaller campus. This is often a personal preference and something that will have a large impact on your college experience. A small school can offer a tight-knit feeling of community, while a larger school may offer a wider variety of classes and extracurricular activities.

Location
It is important to choose a school that is in a place you want to live for a few years. There are colleges in the heart of large cities, in rural small towns, and everything in between. It is important to find out about the relationship the college has with the surrounding city or town, whether students are actively involved in the community or tend to stay within the campus. The location of a college will also impact how students spend their free time. Ask if the majority of students stay on campus over the weekends and what options are available for entertainment and activities.

Requirements
The college’s admissions materials will often print the average high school GPA and SAT scores for incoming students. If the numbers aren’t readily available in printed materials, it’s a good idea to ask. Knowing this can help you to prepare through SAT test prep and maintaining a good GPA. It is also important to find out about course requirements on campus. Many schools will require a core curriculum of classes in various subjects, but the number of options available to fulfill these requirements will vary.

Housing
One highlight of the college visit is often seeing the inside of a dorm room. This is a good time to ask whether housing is guaranteed all four years and what options, such as single rooms, suites, and apartments, are available to students.

Majors
If you already know what you plan to major in during college, you will want to learn as much as you can about that specific department. A campus visit will often allow you to sit in on a class or meet with a professor to get a better sense of the school’s program. If you are unsure about your major, look for a school with plenty of options that interest you. Some schools are better choices for students interested in a double major or pursuing a specific minor or concentration in addition to their major. It is a good idea to ask how many students do this and how well this course load would fit into an academic plan.


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