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Planning your college visit

Tips for planning your college visit

One of the best ways to gauge if a school’s the right fit for you is from the gut feeling you get from actually stepping foot on its campus. Visiting campuses is one of the most enjoyable parts of the application process and helps give you a sense of what attending that college is really like. Here are some things you might want to consider before (and during) your campus visits.
  • Take a campus tour
  • Schedule an interview with an admissions officer
  • Sit in on a class that interests you
  • Have lunch in the dining hall (Most admissions officers can give you a voucher to enjoy a free lunch on campus)
  • Talk to students and ask questions (i.e. how they're enjoying their classes or what campus life is like)
  • Explore the area surrounding campus
  • Read the college newspaper
  • Scan the bulletin boards around campus for upcoming events and announcements
  • Schedule an overnight and spend the night in the dorms with a current student
  • Explore the town at night and have dinner at a local off-campus favorite amongst students
  • Make sure to get the contact information of the people you meet with so you can reach out later if you have questions

Strategize the order in which you visit these schools

You'll get better at visiting colleges with practice. As you visit more and more campuses, you'll develop a better understanding of what you're looking for in a school. You’ll also develop a sense for which questions are the most important to ask on your visits. For these reasons, it’s better to visit your favorite schools last (if possible), so you'll be in the best position to make comparisons to the other schools on your list.

Always follow-up with a "Thank You" letter

It’s always a good idea to send a follow-up email or letter to the person who interviewed you or hosted you for an overnight. Remember to keep a formal tone throughout and share a few aspects of your visit that you found most memorable or meaningful.

There's a final reason you should visit your top choice schools...

If you already know you want to attend a particular school, you might think there’s no reason to visit. But touring a campus isn’t just a way to learn more about a school—it’s also a way to show admissions officers you’re truly interested in attending.
Some colleges take demonstrated interest into account more than others, but all schools want to enroll students who are eager to attend. Colleges want to keep their transfer rates low and if you’re already enthusiastic about their school, they assume you’re less likely to want to transfer later on.
Colleges also have an easier time predicting their yield if they offer acceptance letters to the students who consider it one of their top choices and therefore have a higher likelihood of actually attending. When admissions can somewhat accurately predict the ratio of students they accept that actually enroll (as opposed to students that are accepted but choose to enroll elsewhere), they end up with their ideal class size.
Colleges send acceptance letters to more students than they actually have the capacity for since they know not all students will decide to attend. This explains why the most competitive schools tend to consider demonstrated interest far less (or sometimes not at all) because they assume you'd rather attend their institution over a less selective one.
Sometimes if candidates are on the cusp of being admitted, admissions officers will look at how much interest they’ve demonstrated in their school.
Here are some ways you can demonstrate interest include:
  • Visiting campus and scheduling a tour
  • Interview
  • Overnight stay
If your ability to visit colleges is constrained by your financial circumstances, you can always ask the school if they have a program to help lower-income students visit, or whether they hold virtual interviews for students who can't make it to campus. More and more schools are doing this, and it never hurts to check!
Visiting college campuses is probably the most exciting part of applying, so enjoy it and let it motivate you to finish strong, work hard on your applications, and get excited for what the next four years of your life could look like!
Find more resources on planning your campus visit at Big Future.

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