The College Visit: Top 7 Things You Must Do

Last Updated Mar 29, 2010 11:48 AM EDT

Pretty college campus
It's college visit season.

During spring break, high school seniors are fanning out across the country to visit colleges that have sent them acceptance letters. May 1 is the official day to send in college deposits so the clock is ticking.

Juniors, realizing they are up next in the college admission queue, are also planning college visits.

So what should all these students be doing during campus visits? Here's my to-do list for any college visit:

1. Wander off the beaten path. You need to do more than take the tour, attend an info session, eat in the cafeteria and then dash off to the next college on the itinerary. You won't learn much beyond the canned presentation unless you linger. It's best if you can devote an entire day to visiting one school.

2. Talk with random students. During a college visit, stop four or five students and ask them a few questions. Here are some suggestions:

  • What do you like best about your college?
  • What do you like least about your college?
  • What made you choose this college?
  • If you could change anything about this college what would it be?
  • What is your opinion of your professors and the academics?
3. Take a class. You'll want to attend a class that focuses on one of your academic interests.

4. Visit a professor. If you have an idea of what major you want to pursue try to make an appointment to see a professor in that department. My son's conversations with physics professors during his college visits weighed most heavily in deciding which schools he was most interested in attending. If the professors aren't available -- and that should tell you something -- ask the school to connect you with a couple of students in the department.
5. Consider an overnight visit. Colleges often only allow seniors to stay overnight.

6. Take notes. As soon as possible after your college tour, write down your recollections. Also take a camera. It can help you remember what you saw if the campuses begin blurring together.

7. Keep your eye on the prize. If all this sounds like a lot of work, remember what's at stake. You don't want to regret your college choice a few months from now. Lots of freshmen do. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly one in five students transfer from one four-year college to another.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and you can also find her at TheCollegeSolutionBlog. Follow her on Twitter.
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College visit image by anne.oeldorfhirsch. CC 2.0.