An effective college visit

Written by BFIS Staff

Helpful tips for an effective college visit

By Rhonda Leshman, College Counselor and Grades 11/12 Counselor 

It is wonderful to again hear about the plans of students and parents to visit university campuses around the world. To assist with your planning, here are some helpful tips:

1. Plan early

Planning a college visit itinerary can take a lot of time in order to organize all of the logistics – which colleges to visit on which days, how to get from place to place, booking hotels and transportation, figuring out where to eat, etc. That’s all hard to do at the last minute. Also, many colleges require you to register for college tours and information sessions ahead of time, and spots can fill up quickly. Start planning early to avoid disappointment. Check the websites (under admissions) for helpful information and ask for the ‘university rate’ at nearby hotels. Get dining recommendations from the admissions staff. 

visiting universities high school families

2. University website

Use the university website – Google – ‘Undergraduate admissions visits to XXX university’ to find the visit schedule and helpful information to sign-up online.  Avoid walking around campuses without a schedule. At the least, ask for a ‘self-guided tour.’

In Europe, visit programs are often called ‘Open Days’. 

In the US, there are Information sessions and campus tours typically 6 days a week in a 2-hour block to do both activities.  Depending on the distance, families may be able to see two campuses a day.

3. College visit

On the day of the visit, get there early to find parking (directions are often on the website) and the location of the session.  Take the time to park close to the admissions office, campuses are huge places. 

Take notes. Take photos.  If you are seeing multiple campuses, it is easy to quickly confuse what you heard here.  Check out bulletin boards to see what activities, events are happening on campus. Pick-up the school newspaper to read about the news. 

For admitted students – consider asking if you can attend a class. Visit the places that are important to you. If you plan to study science, be sure to see the labs.  If athletics is important to you, go see the athletic center.  Also, in the US, some colleges arrange overnight visits with host students. 

Dress comfortably. Check the weather each day and dress appropriately. There is no need to dress up. Wear normal clothes, selecting those that present a neat and clean appearance. Heavily ripped jeans, short shorts, and graphics that could be viewed as rude or annoying will probably be noticed (in a negative way). Nice shorts and a t-shirt are fine in summer. 

4. Reach out to other students

If you know students who attend the university, reach out to them for information. Student guides are more than willing to answer questions, but keep in mind that they are trained to promote the college. Plan extra time on campus so that you can ask questions of students who are hanging around at a coffee shop, eating in the cafeteria, reading, or playing frisbee. These quick conversations can shed important light on campus life and academics. Ask, ‘if you could change something about your university, what would you want to change?’   As time allows, spend some time walking around independently. You’ll find that you observe different things than you did on a guided tour. 

5.Tour guides and recruitment officers

Tour guides. Remember that your guide is just one person, not a representative of everyone who attends that college. Listen to what they SAY about the college.

If possible, ask if there is a particular admissions officer/recruitment officer who is responsible for covering Europe (Spain) and see if you can meet that individual to introduce yourself. If so, get their business card and follow-up with an email thank you.

Regardless of first impressions – get out of the car and check out the university for yourself.

6. Good questions

Good questions to ask during a university visit:

Of a student:

  • ‘If you could change one thing about the university, what would it be?’
  • ‘Did you change your major once you started?’
  • ‘What is a typical weekend like for you?’
  • ‘Do you get off-campus much?’

Of an admissions officer:

  • ‘How would you describe your student body?’
  • Does your university expect students to do super curricular activities outside of class? Can you give me some examples?
  • Can you tell me about your admissions process and the most important factors?’
  • ‘What is the area like around your campus?’
  • ‘Can you tell me about the international population and where students are from?’
  • “I will be doing the IB Diploma, what are the entry requirements if I want to study XXXXX?’
  • ‘What are you looking for in the personal statement?
  • ‘Is it possible to come to campus for a visit? If so, how do I arrange a campus visit?’
  • ‘What makes your university unique or distinctive?’
  • ‘Do you recommend that I take the SAT?’ (for US campuses only)

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