Visiting the campuses of the colleges and universities where you are interested in studying is not required for admission. Visiting at least a few colleges, however, will really help you get a sense of what you can expect and where you'll be happy. It also signals to a college that you're interested, and admissions officers are looking for applicants who are excited about their schools.
Summer vacation is a convenient time to visit colleges, but bear in mind that visiting an empty campus will make a very different impression than visiting a campus filled with students. You probably won't be able to visit every school on your list while classes are in session, so here are my three tips:
-If you can only visit one or two schools while students are on campus, choose the schools that excite you the most.
- Check the semester calendars on campus websites — if your spring break schedule is different than that of the college, students will be in class while you're free to visit.
- If you're planning to visit colleges over the summer, try to do so in late August — students will be trickling back, varsity athletes will be on campus for practice and you may get to see some of the pre-orientation activities the school runs for first-year students.
Your campus visit will most likely include a tour led by a current student, in a group with other prospective applicants and their families. This is an awesome opportunity to get insight into daily life on campus, so do not hesitate to ask your tour guides for their opinions on any aspect of the college. Even if you're curious about a department or extracurricular activity the tour guides do not participate in, they may be able to share insights via roommates or friends. The other high school students in your tour group are also assets — listen to their questions and if you have time, ask about their experiences visiting other schools. How your tour guides answer questions will tell you much more about the school than the history and trivia they're likely reciting as they lead you around.
Take Advantage of Q&As, Other Activities
Depending on the time of year when you visit a college, there may be prospective student events available beyond the standard tour, like a question and answer session with deans or admission officers, also known as an information session. This is an opportunity to ask questions about financial aid, career services, academic support, curriculum requirements (many, though not all, schools have some general education requirements that all students must complete, regardless of major) and availability of classes, particularly for first-years and/or prerequisites for more advanced courses.
If you are visiting a college where you know you plan to apply, try to schedule an interview while you are on campus. In most admissions cases, interviews are optional and are available on campus, via alumni in your area or on Skype. An on-campus interview with an admissions staffer is a great opportunity. Alumni interviewers are awesome and the admissions office will absolutely take their feedback seriously, but don't pass up an opportunity to connect with someone who has a hand in shepherding applications along.
In your interview, you'll want to come off as articulate about and engaged with the things that are important to you, and have a clear idea of how this school, above all others, will help you pursue those passions. If you have this conversation when you've just toured campus and the school's unique features are fresh in your mind, it will be that much smoother.