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Choosing a College | College Visits | October 2012

7 Ways to Make the Most of Your College Visit

By Dean Tsouvalas | Editor-in-Chief StudentAdvisor.com

‘Tis the season for the college tour. As sure as the leaves turn burgundy here in the Northeast, millions of hopeful college freshmen, current high school seniors and their families begin the journey to discover the right college or university. With college application rapidly approaching, college tours are an extremely valuable way to answer the elusive question, “do I belong here?”

Dean Tsouvalas gives his best advice for making sure that you walk away from your college tour with more than just a brochure. 

1) Plan a college tour when school’s in session

You want to get a realistic idea of the actual day you might experience at the school you want to attend. See classes in session, visit the cafeteria, try the food and check out a dorm. Is this campus a highly social campus with students gathering in common areas, or do people mostly keep to themselves as they move between classes? All of these aspects can only be discovered during an average day on campus. Learn if you can see yourself at this campus.

2) What should you do before you arrive on campus?

Contact admissions and let them know that you are coming for a visit. Colleges are getting overwhelmed by the number of applications, and they don’t know who is sincerely interested in the school. By taking a tour you can demonstrate your interest in the school and ideally improve your chances of getting in.

3) Ask intelligent questions while on the tour

Research questions that you couldn’t find on Google. The best question to ask on a college tour is “what type of student thrives at your school?” - it gives insight into what the student body and community values and if you can succeed at the school.

Another example of demonstrating interest: ask questions to current students. How often are you taught by a professor vs. a teaching assistant? What is there to do on the weekends? How many students are involved in clubs? Ask as many questions as possible that relate to your strongest interests – and ask as many questions as you can about things you see that stand out to you.

4) Look for the ‘aha’ moment

An “aha” moment is a clear moment when a student can picture themselves joining clubs, eating in the cafeteria, walking to class on the campus they are visiting. One of the most important thing to think about when visiting a campus is “how you feel” while walking around. On a college tour, students can usually refer to their “aha” moment, or lack thereof, to answer the question “do I belong here?”

5) Avoid an overnight disaster

Doug (name changed), a friend and colleague of StudentAdvisor, shared his personal story about how his college visit turned bad. Doug’s parents drove him down to his freshman orientation, where went to a party on campus and drank for the first time. When Doug returned to the orientation dorm, he fell down a flight of stairs and was found inebriated by campus police. The campus police then brought him to the hotel where his parents were staying nearby at 3 a.m. The next day, Doug and his parents learned he lost his scholarship to attend the school that fall.

Many high school students who visit colleges overnight get into trouble. Students can have their acceptances revoked or lose scholarships because of inappropriate behavior. So, if you are going to stay overnight make sure you only visit people that you and your parents trust. Read more about avoiding dangerous college visits.

6) Be Organized

To maximize your benefit from college visits, you’ll want to be as organized as possible. Take notes at each school or use your phone or camera to take photos of the campus. This way, you’ll have valuable information that is easily reviewed when it comes time to make your decision.

7) What if you can’t attend a college tour?

Some colleges will arrange for you to meet a local alum to learn more about the college. Some schools are creating virtual tours and even informational interviews via Skype or Google Plus. Try to get in touch with current students via Twitter, watch student-produced YouTube videos, and read college reviews on StudentAdvisor.com.

See Dean talk about college tours on Fox 25.

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