You wouldn’t dream of buying a car without test-driving it. Right? Purchasing a car is a big investment. Before buying that new car, you want to see how it feels behind the wheel and how it handles the road. Likewise, deciding on a college is a huge investment and one that parents and students have been saving for and dreaming about for years. “Test-driving” a college before committing makes good sense. Prospective students are always encouraged to visit and revisit their top choice schools before replying “yes” to a college acceptance. I encourage my students to spend a day and, if possible, a night too on campus. Before hitting the road, it is important to determine what kind of college visit is best for the student.
Accepted Students’ Day Many colleges have accepted students’ days on campus. Larger universities usually have several of these to accommodate the large number of students attending. (Hint: Sign up earlier for your first choice day.) These days are packed with students and parents. Schedules usually include tours, student panels, faculty panels, and time to eat in the dining halls. Students and parents should remember that these days are marketing showcases for the school. They are trying to sell you the accepted student and parent on the school.
Official Overnight Visits Colleges frequently offer overnight visits through the admissions office. These are usually offered Sunday-Thursday to high school seniors only. The admissions office assigns the prospective student to a freshman. The high school student attends classes, eats in the dining hall and stays with the student overnight in the dorm. Students who are considering binding early decision are strongly encouraged to have an official overnight visit before applying ED. All other students should consider doing so if it is their top choice school.
Unofficial Overnight Visits If you have a friend on campus, reach out to him or her and ask if you can stay with them overnight. and see what it’s like to be a student there. If you choose this option, try to be on campus when classes are offered and attend a class or two. It’s fine to visit on a Friday night and see what the weekend scene is like, but make sure you experience the academic scene too.
Attending a Class The best way to see what it’s like to be a student at a college is to attend a class. The admissions office has a list of classes open for high school seniors to audit for the day. (Hint: Before the beginning of class, introduce yourself to the instructor and after class thank the professor for the experience.)
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