The Importance of the College Visit
Visiting colleges on your list is one of the best ways to prepare for the college application process. When you make the effort to visit a college, you have the opportunity to "try on" the place for a day and see how it feels. You can find out if a college is too big, too small, too crowded, too rural, too serious, too quirky, or just right.
Web research is a great way to begin your college search. But savvy applicants are taking the next step by experiencing the campus for themselves. They are finding out if the students are as happy, the buildings are as beautiful, and the faculty are as engaged as the website claims.
Of course, it is not always possible to visit every college on your list. If that's the case, there are other ways you can engage meaningfully with the college. Most colleges, including F&M, offer a wide variety of visit alternatives, including virtual campus tours, online chats with students and faculty, Skype interviews, webinars, and others.
College tours and virtual visits serve an important purpose. It is no secret that colleges like applicants who do their homework. When you make the extra effort, you're saying, "Hey, look at me, I am a serious applicant who always makes the extra effort!" Colleges also know these students are more likely to submit thoughtful, high-quality applications.
At F&M, we hope you get out there and check out as many schools as possible. To make the most of your college visit experiences, here are a few Dip Tips to help you along the way.
Visit as many schools on your list as possible
Visiting only one college is like walking into a giant superstore and buying the first thing you see. Why not check out what else is available? Your college search is about comparison shopping, and experiencing multiple colleges is the best way to figure out which one is the best in relation to the others.
Of course, you can't visit 100 colleges, so you'll have to make some choices about which colleges to visit and which ones to engage in other ways. Use your web research to narrow the possibilities.
Going on vacation this summer? Google some schools that are along the way. Going to visit your dream school in Pennsylvania, Kansas or New York? See if there are some other colleges close by that fit your criteria. You can't spend all summer and fall visiting schools, so plan those campus visits around your other activities.
Don't limit your possibilities. Maybe you're not sure you would enjoy an urban college experience? Try one out and see. Think you're not interested in a small school? Test that theory by checking out a small school. You may be surprised to learn you like the feel of a small campus environment. If not, you've learned something important about what you're really looking for.
Be ready with questions
College tour guides are trained to tell you and your family what the college wants you to hear. If you don't ask questions, you may not learn about the things that are most important to you. Ask about the special programs or facilities available to someone with your unique interests. Also, be sure to inquire about the strengths and weaknesses of the student experience at that school. Get the tour guides off-script, and you'll likely learn valuable information not available on the website.
Strike out on your own
Campus tours and virtual visits are great, but they're often scripted. Try walking around campus and striking up a conversation with a random student or professor. The reception you get and the unscripted answers you receive may tell you more about the character of the college than any campus tour ever could. If you can't visit, trying emailing a recent graduate from your high school or a professor and see how they respond.
Immerse yourself before applying
Don't apply first and ask questions later. Interact with a college to gather information and use what you learn to improve the quality of your application. Many colleges include your overall expressed interest as a factor in the application process. By visiting or interacting with a school after you've applied, you aren't maximizing the benefits of your outreach efforts.
Take advantage of opportunities
Throughout the year, every college features a range of visit options. At F&M, you can tour, attend an open house, participate in an information session, meet with coaches, and talk with current students. When classes are in session, you can attend observe a class, have lunch with a current student, schedule an in-person interview, and meet with a professor.
The bottom line is that you have a lot of options, so use the ones that will help you make figure out if the college is the right fit for you.
Good luck taking your college search to the next level!