Campus Visits Are a Great Way to Shortlist Colleges
When deciding what international college to apply to, one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself is, how do I shortlist colleges and choose the one that is the best fit for me? After all, the college that you choose will be your home for the next three to four years. Depending on your time, priorities and budget, a great place to start is by visiting college campuses. Also, if you are already on vacation or are planning to travel in the coming months, it might be a good idea to stop by a few colleges. And to get the best experience out of it all, keep these points in mind.
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. When one of our consultants was visiting the US on a recce, she found that many urban colleges, which are easy to reach, have smaller, more fragmented campuses. For example, New York University’s campus buildings are situated in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, in New York City. Nonetheless, it offers a sea of activities and opportunities for students to choose from. On the contrary, some schools in New York like Manhattan College located in Bronx, Riverdale, on the outskirts of New York City, boast sprawling campuses.
Alternately, if you are looking at non-urban colleges, check how accessible they are. 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, whereas a college like 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 your 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 public, group sessions are typically led by an admissions officer and 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 an admissions officer (AO) personally to discuss any specific topics. If possible, request to meet with the admissions representative who reads applications for your region (e.g. India). After the meeting, be sure to drop the admissions officer an email of thanks and reiterate 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 gives you 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, providing a history of the university, general information, and a unique view on the student’s 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, note that these tours are conveniently scheduled prior to or directly after the information sessions; most visitors attend both the info session and the tour for a complete experience.
4) Spend time on campus like 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 like living in it. If you can, pick up a college newspaper or subscribe to the students’ newsletter for information that is not available on the college website. This information can range from a student strike on campus to places around the campus where you can grab some time on your own, 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, stop by. 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 center. Check their previous performances to see how active the center is.
6) Be a part of activities:
Most colleges have activities going on year round. If there’s any ongoing match or show during your visit, make sure you attend it. One of our counsellors attended a baseball game at Boston University during a 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.