You’ve probably heard from family members, friends, and mentors how valuable it is. Deciding which colleges to apply to? Do more college visits. Trying to get your teen life together? Visit more college campuses to motivate yourself. Finalizing your uber-important life decision after you’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted into one, perhaps a few? Go visit them before it’s too late, period. Trust me, they say, it’ll change your perspective…
Fine, fine. After all, if you’ve already gotten the travel logistics figured out (the hard part), all you need to do is go to their website, click a link to schedule a “campus tour” and off you…
Before you take that college tour, remember that college tours are a mix of marketing and sharing information from the college’s point of view. They are informative, but only show the tip of the iceberg.
So, you look at my picture on a screen, belly-sucked in, chin photo-shopped to look like Tom Brady (not El’s please), arms bulked up…or you can meet the chubby, double-chinned person who is writing this. Wouldn’t you want to know the truth before you picked me for your basketball team? Exactly.
The problem is that the marketing isn’t how you’re going to experience those couple of years. So, do the college tour with a LARGE grain of salt, or ditch it entirely. Instead, spend your own time walking around campus while honoring a few key tips which should give you a real feel for the school.
If you decide to take the campus tour though, make sure that it’s worth it with using this free guide on asking good questions [PDF download].
1. Get lost on campus.
Not literally, because depending on where you are, that could be a bit…unpleasant. But, DO imagine yourself as a baby discovering their first park as you walk around campus. Put your phone down and talk to people, and you’ll get a feel for how personable the students are beyond the tour guides, whose prenatural tendencies towards kindness almost begs you see how much you can annoy them…I’m kidding – don’t do that. Really.
2. Become a college student for a day.
Lose your mom or dad for a bit, eat at the dining hall, try out a club meeting that interests you, sit in a class or two. Yes, once you’re in college you will actually go to class which last more than the 30 seconds you see in the movies. Immerse yourself in the experience and imagine yourself there…for four years. Or more, if you don’t go to class.
3. Pick up a student newspaper or magazine.
Or read it on your smartphone. It’s one of the best ways to get a feel for the general vibe, what people are thinking, what is considered funny on campus (trying to prepare you, folks), and the overall issues that people on campus care about.
4. Visit at different times of the day and week.
If you really want to get a good feel for campus life, you should try to have your visit span different periods (i.e Thurs morning to Friday night). You will get a feel for how students behave…umm…differently during different periods of time. When you’re a resident of the college, you’ll be there every single day, so why only visit on Friday night?
5. Take pictures on campus. And selfies.
Seriously. If you fall in love with a college, it can be great motivation to do well in high school. In addition, if you visit a bunch of colleges, the pictures you took will jar your memory about your feelings towards each school. Once the application process is over and you’re trying to make a decision, you will thank us.
If you can’t make college visits in person, that’s fine too! School websites and online resources provide various ways to get a good feel for each school. You can also use sites like Admit.me to connect with current students and alums at your dream schools to get insider tips and real-life stories!