By Sarah Wright
In-Person Visits Give a More Complete Picture
College viewbooks and websites tend to present the school's prettiest face, making the campus look like a wonderland full of happy, hardworking students. This may or may not actually be the case, and you'll never know what kind of photo editing trickery is in play until you see the campus with your own eyes. Visiting a college in-person can give you insight that you'll never get from photos. If you have the means, you should do your best to visit as many of the schools you're interested in as possible. If you're still not convinced, consider our thoughts on the matter.
A Highway Runs Through It
Let's say you're interested in a school that's in a relatively small city in a Midwestern state. All of the photos you've seen of the campus make it seem idyllic, with old brick buildings and tree-lined lawns. But then you visit, and you find out that behind those brick buildings, separating the dorms from the academic buildings, is a major four-lane road that bisects the campus. This might not be a deal-breaker for everyone, but some students might prefer a quieter campus. Factors like this are often glossed over in official school promotional materials.
High School Part Two
It's common for colleges and universities to tout their academic credentials, which is understandable considering the fact that these institutions do theoretically exist for the sole purpose of providing higher education. No school is going to freely admit that their student body is less-than-intellectual. However, not every institution is going to house the best and brightest, and a campus visit that includes a classroom drop-in is going to reveal more about the student body's academic capabilities than any school advertising. If you're looking for an academic challenge, you should visit a class that's in session and make sure to pay close attention to the depth of material covered and how students act in class.
Not Your Social Scene
Another factor that's difficult to portray in official literature is the social life on campus. Are students at this particular school generally hard-partiers who are more concerned with tailgating than anything else? Maybe that's what you want, and maybe it isn't. But it's going to be difficult for you to tell how you'll fit in to a specific school if you don't spend any in-person time with the students.
Is This a Dorm or a Prison?
Another area that official school advertising materials might glorify is the quality of the on-campus housing. The school might show pictures of beautiful modern buildings that overlook tress and lakes - when in reality, that dorm building is just one of many on campus, and happens to be the newest and nicest option that is also only available to upperclassmen. Visiting the campus and seeing firsthand what kind of housing is available to freshmen will give you a more accurate sense of what life will be like if you attend that school.
Visiting campuses in person will also give you a better idea of whether you want to go to college at all.