Campus Tours – Never Buy Sight Unseen

You’ve heard the warning many times; “Never buy sight unseen,” but every year students continue to accept attendance at colleges and universities that they have never visited. Each year students return home after their first semester of college, disappointed in their choice and look to transfer to new colleges searching for that right fit. Changing schools and changing majors are two of the primary reasons that many students do not graduate in 4 years.

Fancy websites with virtual tours, glossy full-color brochures, and enticing college viewbooks indeed contain useful information, but they can also disguise some negative features that are important to you while emphasizing others that are positive, yet have no bearing on your decision.

So how do you know if a college is right? It’s critical for college-bound students to visit campuses to get a real feel for the college or university where they will be spending the next four to five years of their lives.

What you do in preparation for the visit and what you accomplish while touring the campus will determine the value of the trip. Plan ahead and have a game plan and follow it.

Visiting the campus allows you to get a real feeling for a school. By immersing yourself in the school’s atmosphere, you can discover if it’s a place where you will be comfortable every day or a place you can’t wait to get away from. A one or two-day visit can’t possibly tell you everything you want to know about the school, but it does provide an inside look into the different academic, environmental, and social aspects of the university.

Have a Plan:
• Schedule a formal tour.
• Gather as much information as you can before visiting the college.
• Don’t arrange your visit during end-of-the-semester finals week, everyone will be too busy and stressed to pay you any mind, even if  you just want directions.
• Plan on a weekday when classes are in session and the campus in full operation.

Reach Out:
• Find out if the school offers a campus tour during your visit and make an appointment.
• Schedule a meeting with an Admissions and Financial Aid Officer to arrange interviews.
• Ask what materials you will need to bring; high school transcripts, test scores.
• It is an excellent habit to drop off a copy of your high school resume at the admissions office.
• Don’t limit yourself to just strolling the grounds during your visit.
• Go inside the buildings and snoop around.
• Visit different classes, talk to professors and students.
• Taste the dining hall food and hang out at the student commons.

Involve your family:
• Seek their perspective; ask their advice and opinion of the campus.
• They need to feel comfortable with the college as well.
• It doesn’t hurt for your parents to know the area when they visit their full-time student.

Checklist for your visit:
• Make sure the day and the time to visit is convenient and practical.
• Arrange for a campus tour.
• Request an interview if appropriate.
• Ask that school information is mailed to you.
• Ask if you need to bring any information with you.
• Write out the questions you want to ask and information you want to gather.
• Find out if special accommodations are available or make motel reservations.
• Request a course schedule and activity calendar.
• Determine the driving time between your home and the college; or do you need to fly
• Get the names and numbers to contact once you arrive. Remember, the better you’re prepared for the visit, the better the results will be.

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