By Stephanie Shandra
MMI College Admissions Counselor
As the school year winds down, many MMI students and families beginning or in the throes of the college planning process, start to plan out college visits. In fact, one of the most important parts of your college research is the campus visit, and it is highly beneficial to begin the visit process the summer after sophomore year. Visiting colleges on your list will give you a firsthand impression of the students, faculty, staff, facilities, and programs. On a visit you can learn what the admission office is looking for in its applicants, gain a feeling for the academic and social atmosphere, see the study/living/ recreation facilities, talk with students, and get a sense of the surrounding community.
Families often ask me about the best time to visit colleges, and I simply reply, “Whenever you can.” Although it is best to see a college when the classes are in session with the full study body present, this isn’t always possible and leads families to plan a great deal of college visiting during the summer months. Often these visits can be planned around your business or personal travel. A visit in midsummer, when most students are away, is better than no visit at all; however, if you like the school, you should visit again later when classes are in session.
Arranging a college visit is relatively simple and straightforward. Visit the college admission websites to locate visit information. Some colleges allow you to schedule information sessions, tours, and even class visits via the web. Others will give you the tour and information session schedule and ask that you email or telephone the admissions office l in advance of the date you would like to visit. Some colleges do not even require that you register for a visit, and allow you to simply show up at the scheduled time. Interview appointments take time to arrange; tour appointments require less notice. Ask for directions to the college, or print them out from the website.
Open Houses are special visit events that admission offices plan, and are similar to an “all you can eat” buffet. These events typically require advance registration. Open houses provide a great deal of information in one day with professors available and many offices represented like financial aid and student disability services.
Another option for college visiting is overnight Visits. These are often restricted to seniors and REQUIRE registration. There are some colleges/universities who will arrange overnight visits with juniors during the spring semester. NOT all colleges offer this opportunity to students, and they are typically not available during the summer months.
So what should you expect when you make your visit? Well, first, do your research. Know the basic facts about the college – size, majors and so on – so that you can ask more substantive questions during your visit.
- Take a tour. These are student-led, and usually last about an hour. Typically they go out several times a day on weekdays, and sometimes on Saturdays. If you are also interviewing, try to arrange to go on the tour before the interview (questions will arise which you can then discuss in the interview). The student guide is a good source of information, so ply him/her with questions. If you do NOT hit it off with the tour guide, try not to judge the entire institution negatively – try to talk with as many other students as possible.
- Attend an information session. These sessions are usually let by an admission counselor and provide a great deal of information in about 45 minutes. They are great overviews of what the college/university has to offer as well as details about the admission process. Generally, they also offer time for Q&A.
- Have an interview, especially if you are a rising senior, if available and recommended by the college. (This is often best left for a second visit to the schools you liked best, unless the school is at a great distance.)
- Talk to students other than the tour guide. Ask people walking around or eating lunch why they chose that school, what they like and what they would change about it.
- Pick up the student newspaper (usually in the student union/dining hall). This will give you an idea of what’s happening on the campus, what the issues of concern to students are.
- Eat a meal in one of the dining halls. This allows you not only to sample the food but to “people watch,” peruse bulletin boards, etc. (Some colleges even allow you to do this for FREE or at a reduced cost!)
- Drive or walk around the town. You’ll want to leave campus sometimes. What is there for students to do nearby?
- Make sure that you have given your name to the admissions office, so that they have a record of your visit to campus. (Usually there will be a card for you to fill out. If not, ask.)
- Meet with a coach in a sport you would like to play. He/she can give you an idea of your chances of playing on that school’s team.
If visiting during the school year and time permits, attend a class! How big is it? Who is in it: freshmen, majors in that subject? Are students asking questions or just taking notes? This often requires prior arrangements with admissions office.
And what should you do after the college visit?
- Make notes in a journal or on your iPad before you get to another campus. This way, you won’t forget your initial impressions of that college.
- Send a thank you note/email to any admission person you meet.
- Look ahead to fall of the senior year to plan a follow-up, overnight visit.
Remember that college visiting allows you to focus on finding the right fit. Will this college meet your academic needs and are you comfortable with the type of instruction? Will you be challenged? Does the college offer a sense of community that makes you feel like “home?” After all, you are looking to find your home away from home after leaving MMI.
Have a great summer, MMI Family! Happy College Visiting!
Below are questions you may want to ask/consider for your College Visit:
1) Consider the LOCATION
Is it in a rural, suburban, or urban setting?
Are there restaurants and shops in walking distance? Where is the closest mall/movie theater/grocery store, etc?
Are students allowed to have cars? Is campus parking available?
How safe is the campus?
2) Consider the ACADEMICS
What are the most popular majors?
What % of classes includes 20 or fewer students?
Do graduate students/teaching assistants teach classes?
How accessible are professors?
Are there learning support services such as tutoring?
Are there opportunities for undergraduates to do research?
Do you offer/require internships, co-ops, or abroad programs?
3) Consider the HOUSING OPTIONS
What % of students resides on campus?
What types of housing do you offer? (Traditional dorms, apartments, suites, special interest housing)
Is housing guaranteed for all four years?
How do people access dorms?
Can I live off campus?
4) Ask about ACTIVITIES and STUDENT LIFE
What % of students remains on campus on weekends?
What levels of athletics are offered: varsity, intramural, club?
What % of students participates in athletics?
What % of students is involved in Greek Life?
What are some popular clubs or annual events?
What cultural opportunities exist on campus?
What are the campus crime statistics?
How are the sports facilities, arts facilities, student center?
May I keep a car on campus?
5) What’s involved in the ADMISSION PROCESS?
Describe the profile of admitted students (GPA, Test Scores, etc)
When is the best time to visit campus?
How can I arrange a campus visit and what will happen on a visit?
Do you offer alumni interviews?
Will I increase my chances for admission if I visit the campus and “demonstrate my interest in the college? Will I hurt my chances if I don’t?
What are the deadlines for applications and financial aid?
Do you require standardized testing? What scores do you want to see?
6) Questions about COST
What is the cost of attendance (Tuition, Room, Board)?
What is the financial aid deadline?
What % of students receives financial aid?
Do you offer merit aid as well as need based aid? How do you qualify?
What % of students work?
Do international students receive aid?
7) Consider the RETENTION RATE and YOUR FUTURE PLANS
What % of freshman return for their sophomore year?
What % of students graduates in four years? Five years?
What % of students pursues graduate or professional school- Where do they go?
What % of graduates finds jobs in their chosen field within 6 months of Graduation?