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College 101

What to See, Do, and Ask During College Visits
Article Type: Checklist

It's the day of your campus visit. There are crowds of prospective applicants milling around, smelling of nerves...just like you. There are roving parents, each one ready to slit your throat if that will increase their kid's chance of getting an acceptance letter. There is information everywhere, on the admissions process and financial aid packages and campus housing and extracurricular activities and on and on and on.

 Your brain is about to go into overdrive. Prepped as you are, it's still possible that you will forget to see, do, or ask something that's really important to you. How do you avoid that?

Hit these high points, and you should be fine.

"You’re a deer in the headlights no more! Shmoop’s got your back."

Five Things You Must See During Your College Visit

1.     The classrooms. The only thing you will learn in a windowless, moldering basement is that it sucks to have class in a windowless, moldering basement.

2.     The dorms, both on-campus and off-campus. Are there bars on the windows to prevent students from jumping out? That's an important safety feature!

3.     The library. Yes, you'll do a lot of stuff online in college, but there is no better place for a pre-class catnap.

4.     Sports or recreational facilities. Some schools have an Olympic-size swimming pool. Some schools don't have an Olympic-size swimming pool. It matters if you're trolling for a swimming scholarship.

5.     The campus. Believe it or not, trees matter.

Ten Things You Must Do During Your College Visit

  1. Sit in on a class that interests you. It may make you question your chosen major. Better now than midway through your last year of college.
  2. Talk with current students about what the school is like. They'll happily share what they know, and they'll even more happily try to scare the bejeezus out of you.
  3. Eat the cafeteria food. Tall order, we know.
  4. Spend the night in a dorm. See what life is like with a roommate who is your complete opposite. “Eye-opening” is the descriptor you're looking for.
  5. Take a housing tour. It's the next best thing to spending the night in a complete stranger's room.
  6. Attend a cultural event. Choose something non-controversial, like a play or concert,if in the company of a parent. You don't want to listen to them complaining the whole way home.
  7. Checkout the neighborhood surrounding the school. It's probably a happenin' place...unless the school is in the middle of an Iowa cornfield.
  8. Interview with an admissions officer. They've got lots of good information and advice,and the more you ask now, the less you'll ask later, when every other applicant is busy driving the admissions office insane.
  9. Wear comfortable shoes. Yes, stiletto heels make your legs look good. No, they were not designed for wandering around the Quad.
  10. Arrive early for tours, information sessions, interviews, and chats. It's just polite.

People You Must Talk To During Your College Visit

You may be shy. You may be anti-social. Doesn't matter.

A college visit could be the swing vote that decides where you attend school. It may actually alter the course of your life. Your future is on the line, and you need to speak up.

  1. Ask students what it's like to attend school. They are guaranteed to say something that will surprise you and is worthy of your consideration.
  2. Ask students what life is like outside of school. College isn't just about lab work and exams. It's about the people you meet and the ridiculous things you do whenyou aren't sweating your way through Calculus IV.
  3. Ask students what they love and what they hate about the school. Again, prepare to be surprised.
  4. A professor in a field of study that interests you what their teaching style is like. If she uses the Socratic method, you have some mental conditioning to dobefore your first day of school.
  5. A professor what traits will help you succeed at the school. We guarantee he won't mention beer pong.
  6. An admissions officer for financial aid information. There may be a super-secret full-tuition scholarship floating around.
  7. An admissions officer for a copy of the student newspaper. Are the school's budding journalists editorializing on “Why You Should Spend Your Spring BreakVolunteering” or “How the Board of Trustees Lost Our Endowment in a Massive Ponzi Scheme”?
  8. A coach about sports you might be interested in. Your future may lie in rugby, not marketing.
  9. Ask yourself… is this school a good fit for me? Can I see myself as a student here?And be honest when you answer these two, because self-delusion won't benefityou.

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