By Ariella Reidenberg, College Access Counselor
When you set foot on campus, you’re not just visiting a college—you’re exploring your potential new home. You’ve already researched the academics, the rankings and the resources, now it’s time to see how you fit in.
- Get resources from your tour guide. Of course, you should take a campus tour and see every section of the school that’s advertised. However, remember that this is rehearsed and designed to sell, so make sure you ask questions that help paint a genuine picture about what campus life is like. Your tour guide will be equipped and happy to answer any and all questions, so take advantage of that!
Some suggested questions:
– I’m interested in [a specific subject/topic]. What kind of resources are here for me?
– What kind of career counseling is available?
– What’s a unique tradition that most students take part in?
– What events are happening today/this weekend?
– What have you found the most enjoyable about being a student here?
– What have you found the most challenging?
– What sort of student wouldn’t be happy here?
– What are the college’s most important values?
– How does the institution handle crime?
– Have there been any recent student protests? How did the staff/faculty respond?
- Eat a meal on campus. If you’re visiting with your parents, now’s the time to part ways with them for a bit. Perhaps they’d be willing to scout out something a little less exciting, like the student parking situation. Your job is to find out what it’s like to be a student at this particular campus. Ask your tour guide to give you some recommendations and then head to a café or dining hall for lunch, or grab food to go and visit one of the school’s most popular hangout spots.
This can be intimidating, but it’s worth it! If you’re bold, sit down at a table and introduce yourself to current students. Start a conversation about how you’re a prospective freshman, and see what kind of feedback about the school you can get. Or if you prefer to interact from afar, bring a book and sit alone as a fly-on-the-wall to overhear some of the lunch conversations taking place around you. You can really pick up on a lot by doing this, but adult chaperones are a dead giveaway.Parents, trust me, let your child tackle this on their own.
- Sit in on a class. Get a feel for the academic nature of the school by dropping into a class. Your tour guide should be able to recommend a few excellent classes that you’re invited to sit-in on, but note this is something that may need to be scheduled in advance.
- Go to the library. This campus could be your home for the next four years or so, which means you should visit the library. It will be a completely different flavor from the cafeteria or dining halls, but it’s equally as important. The library will also have many resources available for you to explore potential majors, programs or even on-campus events.
- Go to an event. If there’s a party or concert, see if you can make an appearance. If you’re planning on playing a sport, definitely reach out to coaches ahead of time to see if you’d be able to sit-in on a practice. In fact, you should drop in on any club you intend on joining if you can. From Greek life to acapella groups to ethnic clubs, you can learn a lot about the culture of your future communities from one visit. Make an effort to arrange this deeper dive into campus life before you arrive on campus.
Some colleges will feel like home right away, while others might take a while for you to see yourself there. That is, until that fateful moment when you overhear a lunch conversation about whether or not the newest Star Wars movies should be considered classic Disney films. Remember that your peers and professors also play a considerable role in your college experience, so weigh your interactions with everyone into your decision. And don’t forget to take notes—this will be a helpful reference when months later it’s time to sit down and make a decision about which college you’d like to attend.
Chyten’s College Endeavor Program is demystifying the college process for high-school juniors through a 5-step program that helps students establish a personalized college admission blueprint. Want to learn more? Email or call Academic Director Vicki Jones at Vjones@Chyten.com or (617) 487-4401.