Junior year is in full swing, and you may not have time for anything outside of school, testing, and extra-curriculars. And that’s perfectly okay.
As busy as you are this winter and spring, we think visiting at least one college deserves a place on your crowded to-do list for a few reasons:
Spring is the best time to visit colleges: students are in session, so your tour consists of more than beautiful, empty buildings.
Visiting a campus can trigger an “a-ha” moment for many students: seeing how much better college is than high school helps motivate students through the junior year slog.
Visiting colleges before you apply can help you get in: you may get to do an optional on-campus interview, and you’ll have more fodder for the “why our school” essays you’ll have to write in the fall.
So how do you make the most of your college visits? We’ve compiled the Top 5 Tips from our former students:
Tip #1 - Announce yourself.
Let the school know that you’re coming. You (the student, not the parents) should contact the admissions office in advance. Colleges often give bonus points in the application process to students who have been on a tour, so make sure you register. Be sure to check when the college offers the group tours and information sessions, and you may even be able to sit in on a class while you’re there. If a school offers an interview, make the most out of your visit by scheduling an interview while on campus.
Tip #2 - Timing is everything.
Although summer might be a convenient time to visit schools, don’t expect to get a true feeling for the campus. Most schools come back to life in late August, so it might be time to rethink your spring break plans! An empty campus may be beautiful, but it won’t give you a feeling for the student body, athletics, activism, or the pace of life.
Tip #3 - Be prepared.
Write down questions you have in advance, so that you don’t forget them during your campus tours. Tour guides are often hired for their bubbly personalities (and the ability to walk backwards without being hit by a bicycle), so they might not have all the answers to your questions. However, they will probably be able to point you in the right direction. Once the tour is over, take time to explore specific areas on campus and find answers to your questions.
Tip #4 - Take notes.
Try to stay in the present and enjoy the moment, but when you have spare pockets of time, jot down what you observe while on campus. If you are powering through several colleges in one trip, the details are likely to run together. These notes will be crucial when writing your essays about why you want to attend that college.
Tip #5 - Live like the natives do.
From dance-a-thons to open mics to intramural sports, campus life is constantly in motion. If the school you’re visiting offers prospective students a dorm stay, you should definitely take advantage. Shadowing a current student and staying overnight on campus are great opportunities to see what the school’s culture is really like, but don’t generalize too much about the school based on your host (the same should be said about your tour guide).
Visiting every school that you might want to attend isn't feasible, but it’s possible to visit a variety of types of schools to get a feeling for what works for you. Most of all - relax and have fun. This is an exciting chance to glimpse what the future holds.