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Importance Of The Campus Visit

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					One of the most important things you can do before selecting a college is to visit the
campus. You wouldn't buy a car without test driving it first, and the same goes for
your college choice. Every institution of higher education works very hard to select
the photos that highlight the best view of their campus to put into their viewbook.
Many hours are spent trying to get the correct angle, best slant of light and greenest
grass to provide the graphic representation of what their college is 鈥?or would like
to be! Often upon arriving at a campus, prospective students are hard pressed to see
the same beauty and warmth portrayed in the recruitment publications. There are
several reasons why a campus visit is critical. You must determine if the college is the
right fit for you. Is it someplace to which you can commit the next four years of your
life? Does it have the academic and extracurricular facilities to provide you with the
best learning/living experience? Is it in the setting that appeals to you (urban,
suburban, rural)? Does it feel safe? The visit also demonstrates your level of interest
to the school. The visit can sometimes be a deciding factor for admission or getting
off the wait list. Although visiting a college at any point is helpful, the most
productive visits occur toward the end of your junior year and the beginning semester
of your senior year. This is either when you are forming your "short list" of colleges
or making your selection from that list. It is important to spend some time thinking
about what you want to get from these visits so that you can be prepared to see the
appropriate things and ask the best questions. You may want to visit the college(s) of
choice again after you've been admitted, this time with a different intent and set of
questions. Try to visit the college when it is in session, that is, when students are on
campus. You want to see the types of students who attend and try to get a feel for the
energy generated by the student body. Are these the types of students you would like
to have as your friends? Does the campus have a party school vibe or a more serious
tone? Does it cater to an older population? Also, you'll want to speak to some students.
Ask them questions about what they like and don't like about the school. What do they
do on the weekend? How is the food? Be sure to call and schedule your visit at least
two weeks ahead of time. You'll want to give the college time to schedule your
specific requests. Ask to sit in on a class in your intended major, speak with a faculty
member or a coach, spend the night in the residence hall, meet with a financial aid
counselor. A usual campus visit will simply involve an information session or
interview with an admissions counselor and a tour led by a current student. Depending
on the size of the college, this could be in a small or large group setting. You will need
to ask for any "extras," such as the visit with the coach, and don't be afraid to ask. You
need to make sure that the visit really does provide you with the necessary
information to assist in your college selection. The traditional college visit lasts about
two hours, but allow for more than that, as you will want more time on campus to get
the feel of the school and campus. When you meet with the admissions counselor, be
prepared with questions you want answered, not just what you think they want to hear.
Getting to know your counselor is a very important part of the application process.
Sometimes an admissions committee has to make a choice between two students.
What can tip the scale in your favor is if the school knows that you are serious about
attending. Committees try not to admit students who they do not think will attend.
Your admissions counselor can be your greatest ally during these discussions, whether
it's in first-round decisions or determining who will come off the wait list. Make sure
to get the business card of everyone you meet. After your interview, take the time to
write a thank you note or send an e-mail. These will be very much appreciated. Stay
in touch with your counselor, but don't stalk her or him! Occasional e-mails or calls
are appropriate. Every day is not. On the same visit, take the tour and ask questions of
the tour guide. Take notes and photos. While you are on a campus, you think you will
remember all the details, but after your fifth visit, details become blurred. You do need
to remember that the guides are trained to take you to the best places on campus and
put a positive spin on all aspects of the college (rather like a human viewbook). One
of the best things you can do after the official tour is over is to take your own tour.
Visit the academic buildings that you didn't get to see, talk to the students and try to
see the inside of the freshman residence halls. Read the postings on bulletin boards
and other public spaces. Do they describe things that you are interested in and
activities that appeal to you? Before you leave, take the time to stand in the middle of
the quad and try to imagine yourself being a student at that college. How does it feel
to you? You'll often hear people say that when you are on the right campus, you will
just know. To a great extent this is true, and the same goes for knowing a school is not
the right place for you. In the end, be prepared, don't stress out and most of all enjoy
your visit.
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