It’s extremely hard to make a final decision on which college to go to, especially since you can only base your decision on reputation before visiting a campus. The reality is that the visit to the campus gives the student a great opportunity to investigate a little further and to test the waters. It’s a wasted opportunity if you don’t include the following elements. If the college allow an overnight stay for visiting students, then this is a wonderful opportunity because the student gets more time to assess whether that college is one which suits their needs.
Take a walk through the common parts of the college
This gives you a feel for the place. Be nosy. Read bulletin boards to see what kind of activities are available or what kind of people are in that college. A bulletin board gives away a whole host of secrets about a college. It also shows you the kind of things that college students do outside of the class and that’s valuable information. If you are going to become a student of that college, these activities will be very relevant to you.
During a campus tour of common parts of the college take a look at the kind of setting the college is cited in. Is it a calm setting which encourages study? Are there areas for leisure? What kind of classes are there and what’s the layout? What’s the library like and does it provide you with Internet access? The tour that you do gives you so many clues without even asking questions and often these clues are missed by anxious students who fail to look beyond the surface. Often campus tours are organized and potential fellow students show you around.
What accommodation is offered?
If you can spend a night in the college campus then you have a better opportunity to assess what people do after hours, and what standards are in place for the accommodation. Is it going to be shared? Who is paired off with who and can you change over if you don’t get on with a roommate? These are all relevant things because the atmosphere in which you live will affect your study.
If you or your parents call up the college in advance, you may be able to sit in on a class which covers your chosen major. This gives you a clue as to what to expect when you study there. You will be able to see class layout, discuss any problems you may have with the professor and also get a feel for the way the college classes operate. If you do want to talk to a professor in your chosen area, then an appointment should be made in advance. These are busy people who may have to change their schedule to accommodate you.
Talk to students
The best recommendation for a College is word of mouth. Talk to the students you meet there, and be careful to talk to a whole cross section of students because views will differ. What you need to glean from these conversations is the overall impression students have of their college, the staff, the life on campus and anything else you feel relevant.
Students are easier to talk to than college staff may be and the advantage of talking to students is that they are not trying to sell you the idea of becoming a student at that particular college, so their recommendation probably means more than the standard college staff answers you get to questions posed.
Go and have a coffee or meal in the cafe area, as this is a good place to talk to people and to observe what’s going on. You can normally tell the kind of place a college is by looking at the students and talking with them to see how they feel about college. You can also ask them for tips about moving in to the college campus. They will all have experiences and will be glad to relate these to you, offering you a wonderful insight into college life. The students that you meet really do give you a better insight into what to expect than officialdom can.
Read the campus newspaper
If there is one, reading this gives you another insight into college life. Ask to see a copy and if there are student representatives within the college, try to hone in on them and have a talk with them. These are people who work within the structure of the college and who know the ropes. Ask staff for an introduction, even if just on a casual basis, because they are good people to talk to, in order to learn how the college ticks.
Find out about special needs
If you do have special needs of any kind, you need to find out what aids are available. For instance do you need wheelchair access or special readers? Do you need help with anything which is out of the norm. If you do, make that known and find out if help is available and what that help is. This is very important to those who have handicaps and who need extra support.
Avoid visiting with your parents
If you visit with your parents, you instantly distance yourself from the other students, and won’t get a chance to mingle with them. College can be a place your parents visit later, but at the moment, the initial impression you get of the college really must be something you experience through your own eyes. Gather information, by all means, to give to your parents.
Take photographs of the facilities available to students or different areas that your parents may be interested in, but avoid going with them. As a college student you may be leaving the security of home for the first time ever. By approaching it as an individual rather than a parent supervised child, you open yourself up to discussion with students on a peer to peer basis, and this provides valuable insight into whether that college really suits your needs.
Taking all of the above criteria into account during a college visit is essential. You will be spending several years at college and it’s important that you make a good choice. Once you do, there’s no looking back, and you can look forward to your classes and making new friendships with people in a similar situation seeking to build their futures.