Deciding on a College? A Campus Visit May Help

Are you among the thousands of students who will visit colleges this summer?

Visiting a new place and imaging living there for four years can be daunting. Chances are you, like many of your fellow students, have never been as completely on your own as you will be the fall after your high school graduation, so it is important to check out some of the places you are considering. One great way is a visit to the school to find out if it’s a good fit for you.

How to get started

The best time to visit a prospective college or university is during a middle-of-the-term week, so you can observe typical day-to-day campus life. Figure out when you and a parent or other interested adult can get away from school and work, then contact the school to make appointments with a financial aid counselor and the admissions office. Most schools have information on their website for prospective students that includes how to set up appointments and tours.

And don’t forget your own special interests—you may want to visit when you can watch the spring theatre production rehearsal or a lacrosse team practice. Don’t plan to visit during homecoming week or during exams (many students and staff will be too busy to spend time with you). Remember that people you want to visit with might be unavailable during winter or spring break.

 Atmosphere and aura

Keep in mind the important question: “Could I live here?” As intimidating as it may sound, walk up to a few students and ask if and why they like it there. Grab a meal in a dining hall or student cafeteria if it is allowed and check out the surroundings while you’re checking out the food. Are people friendly? How diverse (age, gender, ethnic background, race) is the student body? Do students and staff seem comfortable with each other?

You’ll have ample opportunity to check out bulletin boards — see if notices concerning club meetings, fraternity and sorority news, athletic events, political issues and opportunities for fun and entertainment reflect a mix that appeals to you. Pick up a college paper — it offers a quick glimpse of what people on campus are talking about.

 Living there

You’ll want to visit a dormitory or other student housing; an official campus tour will probably include one or two dorm rooms. Many campuses with fraternities and sororities have houses for members, although sometimes they are only open to upperclassmen/women.

It will be important to make the most of the little spare time you’ll have (after class time, study time, work practice and sleep) while you’re in college. What do you like to do to relax or have fun? Work out? Read? Socialize? Is the fitness center open late? Can you find your favorite book in the library?

Tips from those who have done this before
  • Make appointments. Schedule your campus tour, meetings, interviews and dormitory overnighters ahead of time so you’re not shut out after arriving.
  • Obtain a map of the school (often available on the website) to determine where you can park for your visit and to see routes to buildings and facilities.
  • Then put your map in your pocket and wander around campus. This is a great time to pretend you belong here and approach students and staff with your questions.
  • Start planning early — you’ll have to coordinate campus appointments with your preferred days to visit the school, your parents’ schedule and your own current commitments.
  • Take notes and photos for each school and keep them together with their brochures and correspondence. Tree-lined walkways and red brick administration buildings tend to get mixed up after two or three visits; it will help to have a separate folder for each prospective school.

Use the Idaho Career Information System (CIS) to learn about training schools, colleges, and other postsecondary options. Go to these topics in a CIS State School or U.S. College or University description for background information and help arranging a visit and appointments:

  • School name and address
  • General information
  • Costs
  • Financial aid
  • Admissions
  • Housing

And don’t forget you can compare two or three schools’ information side-by-side in CIS.

– Terry Mocettini,
training, support and marketing coordinator,
Idaho’s Career Information System