by Lisa Thompson
These days, there are many ways to learn more about colleges or universities—from school guidebooks to websites to college fairs. But one of the best ways is the campus visit. You might be surprised at your options.
Visit the Campus Online
Online "visits" can help you narrow down the list of schools you are considering to a more manageable number. It can give you a good overview of the school's programs of study, facilities, admissions requirements, and the types of students they generally admit. Many have text or video interviews with students and sometimes even faculty. They can also include photo or video tours of the campus, blogs, live webcams, interactive maps, and more.
Visit the Campus in Person
In-person visits give you the chance to get a feel for what college life would be like at that school. There is no real substitute for actually being on campus. You can use and explore the facilities, meet students, and talk with admissions and financial aid staff.
- Most schools have organized visit programs. Visit the school's website for information or call the admissions office.
- Many allow you to sit in on an actual class.
- Some have overnight visit programs that allow you to stay overnight in the dorm (usually in a sleeping bag) and use the campus dining service like the college students do.
- Some hold special open houses or events for prospective students during the year.
If possible, visit when students are on campus attending class (not during holidays or other “down” times). Don't be afraid to wander a little on your own. Make sure you pay attention to the neighborhood around the school, too.
Evaluate Your Visit
It's a good idea to take notes on your visit. Don't rely on your memory alone! Come prepare with a list of things to consider during the visit to help you evaluate the school and compare it to any others you might visit. Consider taking pictures or video to help remind you of those things you liked (or didn't like). Make the best use of your time on campus by asking questions that can’t be found in a guidebook or online.