A campus visit is an opportunity to get a personal view of a college and life on that campus. College catalogs, brochures or websites can only show you so much. To really get a feel for a college, you need to walk around the quad, sit in on a class, review the student newspaper, activity calendar and bulletin boards and visit the residence halls.
“The importance of visiting college campuses cannot be over emphasized.Walking around the campus can give you a feel for what a college is really like and help you find a good fit where you can be successful,” stressed Mike Queen, Director of Admissions and Enrollment Marketing at SMC.
According to Queen, there are two kinds of visits: one is the “drive-by” informal visit that can begin early in the college search. This type of visit can be made without a lot of hype and pressure and does not have to be the college to which the student will eventually apply. With a little planning the visit can be a welcome side trip during a vacation with the opportunity to walk around, see the facilities, eat in the cafeteria and visit the bookstore. This can be a very low-key, non-stress way of experiencing many different colleges and universities for the whole family, including younger siblings. You also can take advantage of campus tours and information sessions. The differences between campuses will soon become clear to all. If you are not able to travel long distances to visit this is an ideal way to get the feel of a small liberal arts school in a small town or rural area or a large metropolitan university with the city for a campus.
The second type of visit is the more formal visit, and is appropriate for seniors who have narrowed down the list of schools. It is best to visit when the college is in session and students are on campus. The visit should include a campus information session, a campus tour and time to simply wander around the campus. This gives potential students the chance to talk to actual students, faculty, coaches, financial aid and admission officers in person, sit in on classes, and see inside residence halls where the student might live. (Campuses generally have residency requirements: specific halls for males, females, athletes, honor students, etc.) Plus it allows answers to important questions regarding class size, instructors, meal plans, clubs and other student organization activities available.
Although visiting colleges may not be possible for everyone, it’s a good idea to make the trips, if you can. Parents and other family members can participate in visits and informational sessions, and are great sounding boards for discussing the visit on the trip back home. Queen suggests creating a checklist to remind you of everything you want to do and see once you get on campus and make sure to allow plenty of time to explore and be sure and ask your tour guide or students you meet on campus: Why did you choose this college? What do you love about this college?
Spending time on a campus helps you determine whether a college is a good personal fit. SMC sophomore Sam Blackwelder, member of Kingstree United Methodist Church, Kingstree, SC, shared “I immediately felt comfortable and at home. I clicked with the students and the faculty. SMC is everything I imaged college to be!”
A campus visit not only will help to narrow down the choices but it can have benefits such as acting as a real motivator for the student to do well academically as well as in extracurricular activities. Visits give a clearer picture about the college environment and it can act as an ideal opportunity for parents and students to talk about this very important decision. Ultimately, it’s your and your student’s decision. Listen to your heart.