5 minute read
The Covid-19 pandemic affected all things collegiate. Campus visits in particular were made more socially distant or sometimes even conducted as drive-through tours! Now that on-campus visits are a great option again, The Answer Class wants to make sure families and students get the most out of their trips. In our last blog, “Before the Trip: Planning a College Visit,” we talked about how to prepare for a college trip and what important places to visit on campus.
In this blog, we’ll focus on the things that can’t be planned in advance – the important observations and details for students and their families to note while on campus. The following questions may be helpful to consider while touring campus. (We have also included some tips for those who will be doing virtual tours.)
Do the events happening on campus seem interesting and challenging?
For a lot of students, college is a time to try on new activities and ideas. While on campus, keep an eye out for bulletin boards and posters, the campus newspaper, and chalk advertising on sidewalks. Students who are looking forward to stepping out of their comfort zones should look for a wide variety of events – movies, lectures, musical shows, cultural festivals, and more. The events may also be associated with on-campus groups, which will give students a good idea about the most active clubs on campus.
Online option: The campus newspaper likely has a digital edition and will have discussed recent events. Also, students can find the college’s list of clubs and campus groups to see if any seem interesting.
Does it feel inclusive and safe?
Rates of undergrad diversity can be found online, but more important is if folks feel like they can be their true selves on campus. Are any students wearing clothing that supports their inner selves, like religious garments or pride-related pieces? Are there groups or programs that support underrepresented groups, like women in engineering fields or first-generation college students? Choosing an inclusive and accepting campus will let students focus on their academic and social growth while feeling safe expressing who they are. Tour guides usually talk about physical safety on campus, and students should feel free to ask questions about all the ways that undergrads can feel safe.
Online option: Searching for how different schools respond to social justice issues will give future students a perception of the popular ideas on campus. There are also lots of online resources that have done widespread analyses on campus life. For example, Campus Pride Index ranks schools by how inclusive they are for LGBTQIA+ folks, and Cappex lists the best schools for activism.
Is it accessible for your needs?
Visiting a campus is the best way to get an idea of how far students usually need to walk from dorms to classes, which is an important consideration for anyone with a disability. Mental health is another aspect of student life to consider; students should find out if mental health resources are easily accessible. Even students who have never before visited a therapist may find that they would like to know that the opportunity is there, should they need it. It’s also a good idea to visit the campus health center to see what services are offered.
Does the financial status of the student body seem like a good fit?
Students want to go to a school where they feel comfortable, and most students find that there is less pressure to “fit in” at a large college than in a smaller high school. Although on many campuses, most undergrads would consider themselves as embodying the stereotype of the broke college student, some schools have higher percentages of students with luxury cars and pricey extracurricular activities. Observing the student body on a college visit (especially during the school year) will provide hints about what students value, like dressing up for class, embracing planet-friendly choices, etc.
Is there a culture of help?
For most higher-education attendees, college comes at a very transitional age. Students begin to feel like adults because they’re largely not living at home anymore, but they are still learning how to navigate adult tasks like voting, paying rent, and laying out a career path. All of these changes (and many more!) require guidance and help, and students should look for those resources in a future college. It is in colleges’ best interests for their students to be successful, but some schools are more in-tune with students’ needs than others. Chat with students to hear if they feel supported and look for advertisements about info sessions and networking events on campus.
Online option: Students can look at how open colleges are on their websites about providing assistance and guidance to their students. They can also talk to admissions counselors about help for new students to get acclimated.
Most importantly – what does your gut say?
Campuses appeal to different students for so many different reasons – which is great! It’s pretty amazing that a huge quiet library could be too quiet for one person and a silent haven for another. No matter how beautiful, tech-forward, and impressive the school is, a visiting student has to decide if they could see themselves being happy and fulfilled on the campus. Does the environment feel like a welcoming backdrop for new experiences? And finally – students should try not to feel too much pressure about the decision. All a student (or anyone, really!) can do is put their best foot forward and know that if the choice winds up not being what they anticipated, they can always transfer. As in life, It’s totally fine not to find the perfect fit on the first try.
Bonus: To-dos After the Visit
- Jot down your feelings about the school very soon after the visit. The notes don’t have to be eloquent or organized, but they will be helpful when comparing colleges when it’s time to make a final choice.
- Evaluate the school in context. The weather, the number of students on campus, and how your body and mind feel that day will affect how you view the school. Try to tease out what you did not like about a school ranging from a gloomy day or an upset stomach bringing down your mood.
- Check in with your group. After encouraging everyone to be positive and open-minded, but still honest, debrief with your traveling companions. What did they like or dislike about the school? Do they think that it would be a good fit for you?
Colleges have a way of really surprising first-timers on campus, and we wish everyone an informative and fun experience. Students can put themselves in the best position before applying to their dream school by increasing their ACT and SAT scores! Register now for a prep class with The Answer Class.