A campus visit, even a visit when classes are not in session, is one of the best ways to learn more about a college. Here are five important tips to help you make the most of your summer visit.
Two schools per day is perfect, especially if the two schools are less than an hour apart. Otherwise, schools will start to blur together in your memory, you’ll feel rushed, and you won’t get as much out of your visit.
Yes, your tour guide wants to talk to you. Tour guides want to know where you are from, why you’re interested in their college, and what you are looking for in a college experience. Remember, they were in your shoes just a year or two ago, and they became tour guides to help students like you. Take advantage of opportunities like these, especially during the summer when it might be harder to gauge the social climate on campus. At some colleges, including Puget Sound, you'll have the option to eat lunch with your tour guide or with a current student.
You have a lot of colleges to choose from; how do you know which college is the right college for you? The answer lies within you own unique interests and personal preferences. Thus, it’s helpful to begin by creating your own criteria for your college search.
Here is a good place to START: How many students would you like in your class? Would you like to be near water, in the middle of a metropolitan hub, or in a remote location? Are you hoping to land an internship or research opportunities as an undergraduate? What sorts of clubs and activities would you like available to you?
During a summer visit, you may find yourself in a situation like this one:
Parent: So, what did you think of the campus?
Student: I loved it! It’s amazing! I want to go to school here.
Parent: What did you like about it?
Student: I don’t know, it just felt right.
Parent: Was it the biology labs? The spacious quads? The Tudor-gothic architecture and ivy-clad brick walls? The athletic facilities? The sculptures scattered throughout campus? The way that current students made eye contact and smiled when they passed on the sidewalk?
Student: I don’t know. I just liked it.
Parent: How was it different from the last school we visited? I thought the last school we visited was great, but you hated it. What was the difference?
Student: This one feels right, and the last one felt strange. I don’t know why…
Taking notes during or after your visit will help you more clearly remember each school you visited. Try to figure out why a campus affects you the way that it does. How did this school measure up to your criteria? Did this college challenge your criteria? The campus is a key part of a college’s culture. Massive buildings are inspiring to some and intimidating to others. Maybe it’s the abundance of benches on campus that suggests that students spend more time studying outside at one school than another. If you picture yourself playing pick-up soccer games in college, maybe it’s the lack of quads and green space that turns you off from colleges in urban locations.
All prospective students have questions, but if you don’t write them down ahead of time, you might forget them or lose the nerve to ask. Also, the process of brainstorming questions before you visit campus will generate better questions; when you’re scouring the Web site for details about pre-med, a different set of questions will come to mind than when you’re strolling around campus on a 90 degree summer day. Lastly, a good rule of thumb is that if you don’t have any questions at all, you probably need to do more research on the school.
What’s within walking distance of campus? Would you need a bicycle? What’s the neighborhood like? Is public transportation available? What fun things are there to do nearby?
Although many visitors opt to explore the surrounding area of campus without a specific plan, you will get a better sense of what’s available if you do some research ahead of time and ask members of the campus community what’s worth seeing and where students tend to go. We live here. We know where to find the best Indian buffet, hole-in-the-wall sandwich joints, strongest coffee, and favorite student stomping grounds. Ask us.
Although summer visits are convenient for students’ schedules, visiting a school while classes are in session goes a long way in helping you figure out exactly what a college is like. Missing a single day of AP Calculus may be a daunting and nightmarish thought, but a well-informed college decision is worth the extra effort.