Before applying to universities abroad, you need to shortlist colleges where you will thrive. The best way to gain first-hand insight is to visit a few campuses. After all, the college you finally attend will be your home for the next three to four years. If you are already on vacation or are planning to travel in the coming months, including campus visits in your itinerary may be a good idea.
These six tips will make your college campus visit a fruitful experience:
1) Look at location and accessibility:
The location of the campus is often overlooked when families shortlist colleges, but this is the first thing you need to check. One of our consultants, who was in the US on a recce, found that many urban colleges may be easy to reach, but have smaller, more fragmented campuses. For example, New York University’s campus buildings are situated in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Nonetheless, it offers a sea of opportunities to students. However, schools like the Manhattan College located in Bronx, Riverdale is on the outskirts of New York City, boasting a sprawling campus.
However, if you are looking at non-urban colleges, check their accessibility. Cornell University has a huge campus but is a four-hour bus ride from the airport. Emory University in Atlanta requires at least two flights, while The College of Wooster will require two flights and a long bus ride when travelling from India. It’s important to take these kinds of transportation detail into consideration before you shortlist your colleges.
2) Connect with the admissions office:
A campus visit is a perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate an interest in the institution as well as get more clarity on any questions. Before travelling to the campus, go online and register for an information session. These sessions are typically led by an admissions officer (AO) and they cover basic information about the college as well as some details about courses of study and requirements. After this session, if you wish, you can request to meet the AO personally to discuss any specific topics. If possible, request to meet with the admissions representative who reads applications for your region. After the meeting, remember to email the AO that shows gratitude and reiterates your interest in the university. Such demonstrated interest can give your application an edge.
3) Take a student-led tour:
This public tour is designed to give you an overview of the college from someone who knows it best–one of the current students. The tour usually takes you around the campus and provides information about the college’s history. For example, Harvard University’s student-led tour departs from the Harvard Information Center, in the Smith Campus Center and comprises an outdoor walk through Harvard Yard, where a student reveals the university’s history, general information and their individual experience.
Ask your guide anything and everything that comes to your mind–whether it’s about student clubs and activities or even about classes and the library. Don’t forget to take down the person’s contact number for future correspondence. Such tours generally take an hour, so be prepared for all the walking. Also, these tours are conveniently scheduled before or directly after the information sessions; most visitors attend both the information session and the tour for a complete experience.
4) Spend time on campus, as a student would:
Explore the campus. Start by making your way to the cafeteria or common hall to get a feel of the place. Mingle with the crowd. This is also a good way to be part of the community and decide if you’d enjoy living here. If you can, pick up a college newspaper or subscribe to the students’ newsletter for information that’s unavailable on the college website. This information can range from a student strike on campus to places around the campus where you can grab some “me-time”, but it will give you an idea of the dynamics and life there. If you’re up to it, a great way to learn about student experience is to talk to a student! Most students are willing to take a moment to share their views with you, so don’t be shy to strike up an informal conversation.
5) Check the college’s basic services:
Many colleges allow you to have your own bicycles for commuting. Make sure you ask about the same. Also, check the first aid and medical facilities available on campus. If the college has a dorm, dropping by is a good idea. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a chance to check out the amenities provided. However, the most important stop during your visit should be the career services centre and check their previous performances.
6) Be a part of activities:
Most colleges have activities going all year round. Attend any ongoing match or show during your visit. One of our counsellors attended a baseball game at Boston University on her recce and she says it definitely gives you a sense of the campus spirit. If it feels like home, you know which college has secured its place at the top of your list.
Finally, remember to look beyond rankings and apply to colleges that suit you. If you haven’t made up your mind about your college list yet, then get in touch with us.