What to look for on a campus visit

Whether you’re a high school student applying to colleges or an older adult thinking of returning to school, it’s essential to visit the campuses of the schools you’re considering. A college or university that might initially seem like your dream school could turn out to be the wrong place for you, and it’s best to find that out before you become a student there.

Before you start touring campuses, it’s essential to first identify your needs as a future college student. “If a student thrives in interactive class settings, he or she should look at schools that offer smaller class sizes,” says Nikki Young, Interim Director of Admissions at Texas Woman’s University.

She adds that other considerations —such as distance from home, tuition and fees, and the availability of financial assistance —all must be factored into the decision.

Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your campus visits.

Get ready before you go

Before scheduling your campus visit, explore the school’s official website and carefully read any materials they may have sent you. This information will help you formulate questions to ask during your campus visit. Also, try to schedule your visit during a weekday when classes are in session, especially if you want to talk to current students and professors.

Go off the beaten path

Don’t feel limited to the official campus tour. A tour will give you a decent overview of the school, but remember that the job of tour guides is to present their school in a favorable light. Beyond the tour, ask questions of students you encounter in places like the cafeteria or student union.

Why did they choose this school and what do they like most about it? You may also ask if there are things they don’t like or would change about the school.

You might also try to talk with a faculty member in the field you want to major in and maybe even sit in on a class. Take note of the computer equipment in the classrooms.

Is it up-to-date and working properly? As you explore, pick up brochures and business cards that may be helpful for getting additional information once you’ve returned home.

Pay attention to the facilities

Are the school’s buildings clean, well-lit and adequately maintained? Look for any new construction on campus and try to determine if the school is making an effort to upgrade and/or expand its facilities.

Ask about campus safety

It’s important to feel safe on your college campus. Ask the tour guide about campus safety policies and the availability of campus security officers. Take the time to explore the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the campus to get a feel for how safe they seem to be.
Read a student newspaper
Make sure to grab a copy of the school newspaper to discover which issues current students are talking about and to gain more insight into the school’s culture.

Get financial aid information

Along with understanding the culture of a school and its academic programs, you should also explore the financial aid options available, including scholarships, grants, student loans and campus work-study programs. These can help reduce the costs of earning your degree.

Document your visit

Take a pen and notepad to write down the information you’ll acquire on your campus tour, and take plenty of pictures as a visual reference of the things you’ve seen. Documentation is especially necessary if you’re visiting multiple campuses. Facts, figures and impressions can easily blur together over time.

In the end, campus tours can help you choose the school that you feel most comfortable with in terms of costs, overall campus culture and academic programs.

“If a student thrives in interactive class settings, he or she should look at schools that offer smaller class sizes.”