Fresh off my recent trip to visit colleges in Florida, I compiled a list of secret things college counselors do when we visit colleges. Seeing colleges ourselves helps us guide our students to colleges that are a good “fit.” Campus Bound Counselors are dedicated to staying up-to-date on the latest developments within the realm of college admissions and on the campuses of particular colleges.
When I visit colleges, I ask many questions and develop a good sense of which kind of student that particular college would be a great match for. There are certain things we counselors do when we visit colleges that most students do not do, and we are happy to share these tips with you. Have fun!
- Prepare. Before we visit any college, we review the basic information about that college. We remind ourselves about the size, location, popular majors, etc. We also come up with specific questions we hope to have answered during our visit.
- Be present. Put down the phone, take the earbuds out, forget about your “to do list.” This may be your only chance to see a particular school and really decide if it’s the right place for you. Contrary to some advice, I don’t take notes during a campus tour, unless it’s something that I absolutely don’t want to forget. (Some students do take notes during the tour and it helps them to be present. Point is, pay attention!)
- Look at everything. When I visit colleges, I look at everything. The tour guide will point out the beautiful pond, or neat dorm room, but what I like to see are the things they don’t point out: the looks on the students’ faces (smiling?), if professors acknowledge the students in the quad, the bulletin boards, the food options, etc.
- Write notes after the visit. If you decide to refrain from taking notes during the tour, jot some things down immediately after. If you are visiting many colleges within a short time period, they can become jumbled in your head. (“Which school had the awesome work study program?” Which one had the delicious curly fries?”)
- Ignore the “stats”. During a college information session or campus tour, the student or admission counselor will likely spout off statistics about the school: enrollment, number of majors, percentage of students who graduate in 4 years, etc. While this is all great information, it can be easily found in books or online. Don’t waste your mental energy memorizing those stats. Likewise, some admission offices misrepresent their selectivity or admission data. I hear students come back from college visits saying, “they said they only take students with a 4.0!” Take this information with a grain of salt and ask your college counselor to analyze your actual admission chances.
- Ask questions. My favorite thing to do during campus tours is ask the tour guide about themselves and facilitate a personal conversation. On a recent trip to a college, the tour guide was pointing out the beautiful dorm rooms. So, I asked him, “Where do you live?” His response: “Oh, I don’t live on campus. Most of the dorms are awful so almost everyone moves off campus after freshman year.” Good to know!
- Buy food. Either before your tour or after it, buy yourself a cup of coffee or lunch and sit down near other students. Whether in a coffee shop, outside on the quad, or in the student center, look around at the students and try to visualize yourself there. You can learn a lot about the culture and atmosphere of a school by watching the students interact.
Campus Bound counselors visit colleges regularly and use those experiences to guide our students in the right direction. If you need help planning a college tour, or want advice about how to best take advantage of college visits, contact us today.