College Visits Dos and Don'ts

Are you planning to visit colleges, either to decide where to apply or to decide which admissions offer to accept? The main goal of a campus visit should be to find out if you like the setting and feel comfortable there. During your visit, there are some things you should definitely do - and some others you'll want to avoid.

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DO Research the Campus Before Arriving

Though most schools provide plenty of information for prospective students, it can't hurt to have a good idea of what you want to see before you get there. Be prepared to find dorms, academic department buildings and recreational areas you're interested in. The campus visit is your time to check out these facilities, and you can maximize what you see by knowing where to go beforehand.

DON'T Be Afraid to Go Off the Beaten Path

During your visit, you might notice an interesting building, or hear about a cool meeting place for students. Even if these features aren't part of your original plan, don't be afraid to check them out. Ask a student or school official for more information if you see something that you can't identify.

DO Sit In on a Class

While in the class, pay attention to the dynamic in the room. Are students talking? Is the professor engaging? Does the material seem relevant? Is the class format, whether a large lecture or a small discussion group, something that suits your learning style? If you don't get enough information from a single class, try to sit in on another. Remember that you're going to college to learn; it's important to feel comfortable with a school's academic culture.

DON'T Be Rude

Even if the professor in a class invites you to participate, you should probably just sit back and observe rather than join a discussion. Students are there to take the class as part of a degree program, and to chime in on an unfamiliar topic would be unnecessarily rude. It might feel nice to be invited to participate, but you're not there to teach the class about you. You're there as a guest to see if the school is a right fit.

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DO Check Out the Social Scene

Socializing is an important part of college life. Some schools have a pervasive social climate, but it's rare to find a campus that doesn't offer at least some variety among students. Smaller groups, though, might be hard to identify and locate. If you have specific interests - like religion, hobbies or lifestyle preferences - try to find out if there's a student group that aligns with them. They may be able to introduce you to a social scene that is better suited to you.

DON'T Go Overboard

Being in a new social situation is often fun, and it can be tempting to indulge in some partying while you're on a college visit. It's a good idea to see if you like the social climate, but it is definitely not a good idea to treat the visit as a wild party. Particularly at small schools, being irresponsible at a party can lead to a bad reputation that will precede your enrollment at the school. Have fun, but do so with the knowledge that you're on a campus visit to learn about the school, not to let your hair down.

DO Attend Pre-Organized Events

If you have the opportunity to visit an official prospective student event, like a lecture or campus tour, you should make sure to attend. These events are designed to introduce visitors to the school, help you understand what to look out for and answer any questions you might have. Even if you tend to be more independent, these events are a great way to get basic questions answered.

DON'T Limit Your Fact Finding

Even if you attend an organized event, you still may not be getting the whole picture of what it's like to attend a particular school. If there are questions that go unanswered through official channels, don't hesitate to seek the information you want. Visit specific departmental buildings and try to talk to faculty - or talk to an admissions counselor to see if he or she can address your concerns.

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