When should I visit a college?
It’s not a bad idea to stop by a campus when you are in the area any time from Ninth Grade on and take the official tour. However, in terms of the college admission process, your first set of campus visits should occur during spring break junior year and continue through the summer. During the fall of senior year, try to schedule overnight visits in a residence hall at the schools which most interest you.
Avoid Saturday visits as much as possible as they are generally the busiest visitor days for admission offices and tours can be very large. You will find the smallest tours and information sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Ideally, you will visit only one campus a day. If schools are within an hour of each other, it is possible to visit two campuses the same day, but under no circumstances should you try to visit more than two campuses in a single day.
What should I do during a campus visit?
Always take the campus tour, and attend the admission information session. If interviews are offered, try to schedule one, but only if you are visiting after the end of your Junior year. Note that interviews fill quickly, especially in late summer and early fall, and thus you should request one at least ten weeks before you expect to be on campus. Make sure that you fill out a card in the admission office so they have a record that you visited.
You should, however, spend another couple of hours on campus. Explore the neighborhood immediately around the campus. Have a meal in the dining commons if it is open (admissions offices will sometimes pay for this) and perhaps dinner in the surrounding town. If school is in session, pay attention to bulletin boards and information kiosks. Pick up any campus publications available for free distribution and a copy of the local town alternative newspaper (almost every city has at least one). These will give you an idea of recreational and cultural options that are available locally.
Some questions you might ask
- Who taught you in your first year and how large were the classes?
- How often are you unable to schedule a course you want or need?
- How much do students study?
- To what extent are academic ideas discussed beyond the classroom?
Ask admissions officers, faculty etc.
- What is the range of class and lab sizes?
- How can a student get to do research and how common is this?
- What distinguishes your students intellectually?
- How are courses structured – how many lectures vs. classes vs. labs?
Concerning campus life:
- How do students spend their non-academic time?
- When do most students have leisure time?
- How much do students discuss current issues? The arts?
- How would you characterize the political orientation of the student body?
With former deanships at Vanderbilt and Bowdoin, William S.’s admissions experience is unmatched. He also spent several years as an admissions officer at Princeton and at Macalester College in St. Paul. As an Aristotle Circle expert, Bill brings that specialized insight and a thorough understanding of how stressful the process can be, and how to best manage that stress, to his work with his students.