If we could only name one step of the college selection process that applicants should absolutely not skip over, we would have to say, ‘the campus visit.’
If it’s at all possible, try and visit the campuses of the schools you are considering. Seeing the size of the school, the housing or dormitories, classrooms, and other facilities can help you determine if the school is a good fit for you.
Unfortunately, many applicants are only able to visit their target schools during the summer, when classes are not in session. The feel of campus will be different than it is during the year. Keep that in mind. There may not be as many students there, or there may be physical renovations going on, or summer school, etcetera.
Prospective applicants should not limit themselves to passively observing the campus and its buildings. They should ask questions, too. If you haven’t already read up on class size at the school, you can ask about class size you might encounter as a first year student. You might also ask about the accessibility of instructors and the resources that will be available to you in terms of advising, sports – either varsity or intramural. Extracurricular activities and dining hall food are other topics to ask about.
If you’re not able to visit all of the schools you’re considering, all is not lost. If it’s not possible to visit some of the schools you are considering, there are other ways to get the information you’ll need to make a decision about applying. College fairs can be a good resource. You can use them to meet with a representative of the school without having to travel to there. Often, an alumnus of the school will attend college fairs to help the admissions representative.
College admissions officers also schedule visits to individual schools each year. Call the college admissions office and see if a staff member is planning a visit to your school or area.
If you’re accepted to a school that you haven’t been able to visit, you should do your best to tour campus before making up your mind about whether or not to attend. Remember that most schools will have events for admitted students. If you were unable to visit prior to spring of your senior year, now may be the time to see campus with other admitted students.
Again, if travel to the school in question isn’t possible and you have to decide whether to attend, ask the admissions office if it is possible to speak to an alumnus in your area, or if there might be a local gathering of admitted students.