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Make the Most of Your College Visits This Spring Break With These 8 Tips
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As you enter your spring semester, particularly as a 10th or 11th grade student, you may start to think about visiting some colleges in order to demonstrate your interest in a college and narrow down your college list for your senior year. In fact, you’re not alone. Many students use their spring semester, particularly spring break, to do college visits.
The spring semester, and spring break, in particular, is the perfect time to do college visits. By then, you’ve gotten into the groove of all of your classes, you’re starting to think about next year and your college future, and you have a long week in the middle of the semester with absolutely no school obligations to keep you from going.
When you go visit a college, don’t just take the tour and come back. There are some things you can do during your college visit this spring break to really get an accurate sense of what life at that college would be like. Here are some off-the-beaten-path suggestions for what you can do on your college visit.
Talk To Students
It’s one thing to get the official, scripted admissions tour from a student who has been trained to say all the right things about the university. It’s a much more telling and valuable experience to get an unscripted, honest opinion from a student who is not required to sell the university to you. By talking to a regular student at the university, you’ll get the true student’s perspective about what is good about the experience at that university and even what is not so great about attending that college.
The best strategy for talking to a student is not to just grab any student on campus and ask them a few questions. Try to find some people in your community that have family/friends at that university or perhaps even an alumnus of your high school who attends that college now. Get in touch with them before you go visit the college and set up a time and place to meet on campus while you’re there.
Talk With Faculty/Staff
If you can arrange it beforehand, try to get a meeting with a professor in the department that you are planning on applying for or even a department head if you can. They can give you an inside look at what the academic programs at the university are like and what will be expected of you if you attend that college.
You could also try to arrange a department tour where you go around and see all the resources that will be at your fingertips in your department of interest in that university. This could consequently give you the chance to network with some key professors in the department.
Many students take the basic admissions tour, and it is certainly beneficial to do so. However, don’t just stand in the back and listen to the tour while it is happening. Try and engage with the tour leader as much as you can and pick their brains about the campus, the university, and student life.
It’s best if you prepare some questions beforehand to ask your college tour guide. Try to keep these questions broad so that a student in any major department could answer. Questions about overall campus life, expectations, extracurriculars, and other things that apply to all students, are recommended. If you need some ideas for questions to ask, check out 5 Questions to Ask Your College Tour Guide.
Regardless of what you end up doing on campus or who you end up talking to, make sure you’re either recording or taking notes while you’re doing it. You may remember a lot of the big points from the admissions presentation and campus tour, but you may easily forget some important details that you may need to know later on. Having something to reference will definitely help you out later when you’re trying to narrow down your college list and start your applications.
You don’t have to take notes on a basic pad and pencil. You can have your phone record the presentations or meetings you have. You can also take photos while you’re exploring the campus to help you jog your memory later on. You can even type out notes on a convenient hand-held electronic device like a phone or mini tablet.
Attend a Class
Nothing will give you a better idea of what it is like to be a student at a university than attending an actual university class. Check the class scheduling website at the college in question beforehand and try to find a class in your department of interest that you will have time to sit in on.
If it looks like the class is a smaller one where the teacher will notice your presence, make sure you email the professor ahead of time and get permission to sit in on his/her class. If the class you want to attend has hundreds of enrolled students and appears to take place in a giant lecture hall, you can ask permission to attend, but you don’t usually have to. The professor has so many students that they may not even notice that you are there.
While you’re attending the class, try to ask a few students what they think of the class and the major they’re studying. Try to do this before or after the class so that you don’t disrupt any student’s ability to learn. This will give you a good idea of whether the major/department you want to study in is really worth it at that university.
Don’t Just Check Out the Academic Buildings
On a campus tour, you’re likely to be taken to the major academic buildings on campus, such as the libraries, the most impressive classrooms, and more. However, what they may not show you are buildings and places that are necessary for everyday life, like the dorms, the cafeterias, the gym, etc.
These buildings for everyday use are as important as the classrooms. You might be living on the campus you attend, so you need to get a good idea of what resources and facilities would be available to you as a resident. Make a list of all of the facilities and buildings you think you’ll need for everyday living and try to find them and check them out while you’re on campus.
Here are some places to look out for:
- Dining Halls
- Student parking (if you plan on bringing a car)
- Non-dining hall food joints either on campus or off campus
Consider Staying Overnight
If you’ve been accepted to a college, check with the university to see if there are any host overnight programs for you. Oftentimes, a university will let accepted students spend the night in a dorm with a currently enrolled student either on a designated night or on your own schedule if you give the university enough notice.
Staying overnight at the university is the best way for you to truly immerse yourself in the student experience at that college and see if it’s right for you. While you’re there, consider things like the quality of the dorms, the proximity to food, what the other students you encounter are like, and other things you think are relevant.
Try to get as many details about the university as you possibly can. Don’t just listen to the tour guide talk and soak it all in. While you’re exploring, think critically about whether you think you can see yourself at this university and what the pros and cons of attending this college would be. If you find yourself asking questions about the campus and student life, don’t keep it to yourself. You’re at the campus, so find the answer while you can!
If you walk away from the college feeling like you know everything you can to make an informed decision about where you want to attend college, you’ve done a good job. Make sure to keep
an open mind and try not to make a rash decision about where you want to attend college.
For More Information
Need some more help planning your college visits? These previous blog posts may be able to help:
Feeling like you need a little boost in high school? Check out CollegeVine’s Neer Peer Mentorship Program, where you will be matched with a successful college student who is on the same path as you are when it comes to your academic, career, and college goals. This mentor will meet with you and your parents to provide helpful advice on all topics from college admissions to career goals, and they’ll make sure that you are poised to succeed throughout high school.
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