If you’re a high school student now is a great time to be making your campus visits. Many students wait until the summer months to visit schools and, on the surface, this may seem like a logical decision. But why this is not a good idea is because students aren’t on campus. A prospective college applicant cannot get a true feel for a university when its students aren’t tossing around a Frisbee in the quad, eating chicken nuggets in a dining hall, or performing in a flash mob Gangnam Style.
Without seeing students on campus, a prospective applicant cannot get a sense of whether or not the students tend to be jocks or geeks. Or whether they have purple hair or crew cuts. The makeup of the student body, in the end, is going to be a whole lot more important to the vast majority of college applicants than how many volumes are in the campus library. Sure, it’s impressive that there are over 5 million non-fiction books lining a college library’s shelves, but really? It’s more important that students find colleges where they’d fit in and be happy and successful. And that has nothing at all to do with the number of books in the library.
Visiting a campus is, in many ways, like taking a car for a test drive. You wouldn’t buy a car – or a house – site unseen. Well, maybe you would if you had Jay Leno’s car collection or Donald Trump’s collection of properties, but the vast majority of college applicants want to take the time to make sure that they’re making the most appropriate choice. So when you are visiting a college, make sure to stop by the admissions office first. That’s typically where the information session is held, and where the tour begins.
Then when you’re on the tour, listen to what the tour guide is saying. But also look around. Look at the students. See if they’re smiling. Ask them questions. If you’re too embarrassed to ask questions yourself, put some fellow visitors in between you and your parents and then let your parents be who they are and ask what they want, to paraphrase a little from Dr. Seuss. While on a tour and you happen to be in a dorm, ask a student if he can show you his room. Ask a student if she likes the school she attends. Ask her if she knows of many students seeking to transfer. Ask her what she thinks of campus life, what courses are like, what her professors are like, what the overall vibe of the school is all about.
Instead of having a meal in a restaurant off campus, have lunch in the campus dining hall. You won’t be eating at that restaurant off campus should you actually attend the school so try to mimic what it would be like to actually be living on campus. If you’re a tennis player, check out the tennis courts. Find out if it’s possible to get court time or are they always in use. If you enjoy working out, check out the fitness center. If you’re interested in joining a fraternity or sorority, check out what Greek life is like. If you’re not interested in Greek life, make sure it’s not a dominant force on campus.
So make your college visits now –- it’s the perfect time to get a sense of what it would be like to attend that college or university.