While the majority of colleges have some type of reputation in the academic world, the truth is that it really isn’t easy to decide which school is right for you without visiting at least a couple of schools first. Imagine arriving at the campus of your choice, sight unseen, only to realize the atmosphere, academic support, and overall culture are the complete opposite of your own personality and expectations. Even the highest rated school on the planet may just not be for you. The only way to find out of a school is really right for you is to make a visit, and there are a few things you should do while you’re there to make the decision making process a bit easier.
Take a Formal Tour
If you go to a formal open house, there will be plenty of students giving formal tours of the campus. Take one of these tours so that you can get a feel for the layout. Just remember, though, students who aren’t happy aren’t asked to give tours, and students giving tours during the open house aren’t likely to highlight any negative experiences they’ve had. Ask as many questions as you can about campus life and pay close attention to the responses.
Take Some Time for Your Own Tour
Once you’re able to break away from the formal tours, take a look around on your own. Try to find a student who’s willing to show you his dorm room (as opposed to the empty and polished dorm room you may have been shown on your tour). Look around some of the buildings that were only glossed over. The historic buildings highlighted on your tour were probably lovely, but you’re not choosing a campus based on the age of the buildings. You should be more concerned about upkeep and the quality of the housing and education.
Dine in the Dining Hall(s)
Some colleges have a few options in terms of dining – a formal dining hall and maybe even an express dining option. Many college campuses will give visitors free passes so that they can check out the environments. While hitting the local restaurant scene may be tempting, you won’t be able to do that while you’re going to school. Take the opportunity to visit the dining hall, watch how students interact, and – most important – check out the food selections. If the food is gross and over-processed, you probably won’t be happy eating there 3x per day for an entire school year. The less healthy your options, the higher your odds of becoming drained, ill, and completely unhappy as time goes by.
Talk to Professors and Coaches
Are you planning to play a sport while you’re in college? Schedule an appointment to meet with the coach of your team. Do you already know what major you want to study? Find out which professors are most influential in that department and schedule a meeting or two. Ask about the college, ultimate graduation requirements, and the professor’s view of the program. The professor will likely give you honest answers based on what he knows students need to do to actually succeed.
Document Your Visits
Take notes during your visit, and take pictures – of both things you do and do not like. If you are comparing several schools, it’ll help you later on as you are trying to remember details and make comparisons. Be both factual and emotional in your notes. Make reference to things you really like and don’t like. Your notes ill ultimately help you to determine which institution felt more like a home environment.
Choosing a college is no easy task, but it’s one that should be taken very seriously. Considering how difficult it can be to transfer credits from one place to another, you’ll want to do your best to ensure you have found the college where you’ll start and finish your higher education career. Good luck!
About the Author: Jeffry Cippeoneri works on a college campus and aids in recruitment efforts. He recommends all students, whether starting undergrad studies or getting ready for GMAT review, check out the universities they’re considering on their own to ensure they’ll really be happy.