Get out and tour some campuses over spring break – it’s a perfect time to understand the atmospheres & personalities of each college. With students on campus, you have the chance to ask questions, eat in dining halls, stroll among the locals so you can better glean the campus vibe. Current college students can give you a pretty good idea as to what they think of the campus life, organizations, academics, sports, etc. So ask them questions! The same goes for tour guides – pepper them with questions about their personal experiences rather than asking generic questions about the college itself. That way you can avoid the canned responses they have worked hard to memorize!
We arm our students with tips & organizational tools to keep colleges straight. Take pictures and keep good notes on what you like on each campus. (those will come in handy when writing essays!) Imagine yourself on each campus and ask the questions that matter to you. Having a couple of key questions ready to ask each campus to compare responses is a pretty good method. For example, we had one student who asked every tour guide, “how would people here react if I were to show up in a onesie to class?” She wanted to get a sense of the “fun vibe” and responses to this question helped clarify that! Remember, your college will be your home for four years,so YOUR needs trump everything else.
Get on the college websites and look for details about how to plan a visit. Tours can fill up so be sure to sign up early. Be proactive & seek out dates for college tours and info sessions ahead of time. With virtual tours and info sessions readily available online, you can also do some of those things ahead of visits, or even in lieu of personal visits, so take advantage of all those resources.
One final note – be sure to visit a few “target” schools rather than visiting all “reach” schools. It’s important you see a wide variety of what is out there in all categories!