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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Seniors’ guide to college visits

Standing+in+front+of+a+college%2C+William+soaks+in+the+visit.
Anamika Anand
Standing in front of a college, William soaks in the visit.

As juniors move closer to senior year, many find themselves scrolling through a multitude of websites, confused and nervous as they grapple with the daunting decision of where to apply from the plethora of colleges and universities worldwide. 

As seniors currently in the midst of our applications, we highly advise visiting colleges in person whenever possible. Dedicating even an hour to exploring a college campus, its environment and surrounding areas can provide a good sense of what life might be like when attending that institution for the next four years of your life. 

Many colleges and their dorms are open to the public, allowing prospective students to easily walk around and absorb the environment. However, from our experience, attending an official campus tour and information session offers the best picture of both academics and student life. 

The process of signing up for a visit is simple and convenient, as you can easily register for a campus visit through the college’s website, provided there are still tours left with space for the more popular colleges. The best time that you should schedule a visit is during school breaks, such as winter or spring break because, though summer break is the most convenient time, it may not offer you the best sense of the college environment due to the lack of students. 

What really makes a college special is the student life, which obviously is hard to get a sense of when there are few students around. For example, when Anamika visited USC two summers ago, the campus was mostly empty and was hard to differentiate from the many other colleges she had already visited. But when she revisited it during the Labor Day weekend, there was a lively buzz of students as they walked from class to class talking or relaxed with friends at coffee shops. 

Another key aspect of college visits are the college representatives you can talk to. It’s important to make a good impression, and sometimes the demonstrated interest you show by visiting can be the deciding factor of your admission. Every college visit typically begins with an information session at the main lecture hall conducted by admissions representatives or deans that typically lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. The representative will give a presentation that covers the specifics of the college application process. 

The last 15 minutes will be dedicated to a Q&A. This is where you should ask any unanswered questions related to the presentation or toward your major. We recommend building your knowledge of the school before the visit by doing initial research on background information about the college. Our favorite resources to gather information besides the college’s official website are Reddit threads and YouTube videos featuring current students. Doing preliminary research helped us prepare more personalized questions for the college representatives and current students, such as “How competitive is the academic environment?” “What are the best ways and places to meet new people” and “What have been your most memorable moments at this school?”. 

After info sessions are campus tours, which are typically at least an hour long and are led by college students themselves. You will likely be placed randomly in a group of around 10-15 students and parents, led by one student who will walk you through the campus while telling you about their own experience and hopefully include a few jokes. 

During the tour, it’s important to absorb your surroundings, watch the students as they walk to class and gauge the overall feeling of the campus to see if you can picture yourself living in that environment for four years. Take note of the location (rural, city, urban) and make sure that the opportunities and events nearby will satisfy your needs. For us personally, adequate internships, a Starbucks and a stadium to catch local basketball and football games are a must. 

Aside from the tour, see if you can visit the building of your major and take a look at the classrooms and hallways. After politely emailing or asking the lecturer first, you might even be able to sit in a class! This way, you can get a real sense of how classes at that specific college function and if you like it or not. 

At Northeastern University in Boston, William had the opportunity to explore the science laboratories in the Snell Experimental Library, which made him more interested in applying to Northeastern given the practical exposure he got to the cutting-edge research products. 

At USC, Anamika got the chance to see the Media Center, where students worked to create broadcasts and cover campus news using an abundance of technology, allowing her to see the hands-on nature of a USC education in action. 

Being able to watch students in their daily lives is something that a website or a brochure cannot convey, and this is what makes in-person visits so valuable. As the winter break of your junior year approaches, we recommend that you start compiling a list of potential colleges that interest you, and for the ones that are compelling enough, schedule a visit and make sure to be prepared!

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