With the season of college apps quickly approaching, now is the best time to visit schools and see the future for yourself. Most schools offer campus tour registration online, and tours are usually done in small groups led by actual students. Aside from seeing how big the school is or how pretty the campus might be, there are more subtle things underneath the surface that you should look for when visiting colleges that will help you make the best decision in the end.
1. Student atmosphere
The college visit is the only way to get a true feel of the campus atmosphere, and the best way to determine this vibe is to visit the main student building. Every college has a building that is the center of all student activities on campus. When I visited Wilson Commons at the University of Rochester, I liked how relaxed and bright the main student center was. I especially liked the flags in Hirst Lounge and felt that it was a school that was accepting of diversity, a quality that was important for me. Take a walk around the student center and even order coffee and try to imagine that you are one of the students.
2. Prospective major buildings
You may not know what you want to major in yet as a high school student, but you should still visit specific buildings that are related to your academic interests. By visiting specific buildings and seeing what kind of facilities they offer, you can see how well your major or academic program is being supported by the school. When signing up for college tours, you can also request to meet with specific programs to learn more about them. Whether you’re unsure of what you want to do or completely confident in the major you want to pursue, I still recommend meeting with a specific program and asking about academic courses, research opportunities, and even study abroad programs.
Many people might think that dining hall food does not really matter, but this is what you’ll be eating for four years, and life gets sad with bad food. Try the food and also see what other options are nearby (markets, grocery stores, restaurants, etc.). If you have allergies or are on a stricter diet, always ask if the school can accommodate to your needs.
4. Residence halls
Usually on a college tour, they’ll only show you the most popular and cleanest room in the first-year residence hall. But there is so much more that goes into dorm buildings than the size; is the hall close to academic buildings where your dream major is? Does it have fast wifi? A kitchen? Does the building have study rooms inside? Laundry? Ask the current students for more accurate information.
5. Talking to students afterwards
Most of the time, student tour guides are more than happy to stay after tours and answer questions that you might have about the school. During this time, it is most efficient to ask questions about student activities, Greek life if you’re interested, and the student’s academic life. Less useful questions to ask might be the tour guide’s SAT score and their high school GPA. Numbers can easily be found online, and they’re never an accurate representation of how students get accepted.
Visiting colleges can be one of the most helpful factors in helping you choose the college you want. It wasn’t until I actually visited the campus and met current students that I realized Rochester was the school for me. Good luck, and maybe I’ll see you when you come to visit!