A quality college visit is all about asking good questions.
You may be thinking, well gosh, Sarah, I’ve never visited a college before, so how am I supposed to know what to ask? Let me offer some advice. There is a lot to learn about each institution you’re pursuing, so let’s start by breaking it down and identifying the major categories of information: 1) application process & requirements, 2) campus culture, 3) academic programs, and 4) financial aid process & scholarships. If you can make it your goal to gather information for these four categories, you will feel more confident walking into each college visit, knowing what you’re looking for.
From here you’ll want to come up with a list of questions for each category. Several of your questions may be answered during the course of the visit, whether it’s through an information session, tour, or individual meeting with a counselor, faculty member, or coach. I would recommend keeping a checklist of the questions you have and checking off the ones that have been answered throughout your visit. Allow the college to offer the information they’d like to communicate to you first, and then ask your remaining questions. You can learn a lot about an institution through the things they don’t say and through the depth of information they choose to provide. Here are some good questions to start with, but you’ll want to add to this list with questions that pertain specifically to you:
1) Application Process & Requirements:
- How does the application process work (rolling admission vs. decision deadlines)?
- Do you take the Common Application?
- What are the requirements for the application?
- What are you looking for in an applicant?
- Is the application fee waived because of my visit today?
- Do I need to come back for an interview or audition?
2) Campus Culture
- Do students stick around on the weekends?
- Is there a lot to get involved in?
- What kinds of clubs and organizations exist on campus?
- Is there Greek life?
- In what division of athletics are the varsity sports teams?
- Are there club and intramural sports?
- What do students do for fun?
- How safe is the campus – is there a safety plan in place?
- (If the representative is an alum) Why did you choose this college?
3) Academic Program
- How many students are in the major I’m thinking about pursuing?
- Is the program I’m interested in accredited?
- What is the ratio of lecture to hands-on class work?
- What internship opportunities are available?
- What type of Career Services Office do you have?
- Is study abroad available?
- Is there academic support?
- What are the four- and five-year graduation rates?
- What is the career outcomes rate after graduation and how is it calculated?
4) Financial Aid & Scholarships
- Is there institutionally funded merit-based and/or need-based aid available (from the college itself)?
- How do merit-based scholarships work?
- Do I qualify for any unique scholarships the school offers?
- Will I still receive the full amount of aid I’m eligible for if I bring in private scholarships as well?
- Can I realistically afford to come here?
- How do you measure the long-term value of an education here?
Depending on the kind of visit, you may not have a chance to interact with an admissions counselor, faculty members, current students, coaches, and alumni. The conversation doesn’t have to end there, though! Don’t be afraid to ask your counselor to connect you via phone or email with other people around campus who may be able to offer a more in-depth perspective on aspects of the college you’re curious about, such as academic programs or extracurricular activities.
Some final ideas to consider:
- You might want to consider visiting in less-than-ideal weather to get a sense of whether or not you’re comfortable in that climate.
- Explore the campus and the surrounding town and area on your own.
- Ask residents of the town or city what their opinion of the college is and what their experiences with students have been like.
- Observe conversations between students in the student union or around campus.
- If you sit in on a class, ask the professor for a copy of the syllabus.
- Dress appropriately for your visit – including interview attire and comfortable clothing for a walking tour.