Admit it: College visits and campus tours are essential in today’s admissions process. Until very recently, campus visits were informal with a small tour and a brief interview with an admissions officer. Twenty years ago, it was not uncommon that many students first discovered their campus destination of four years on freshmen move-in day.
How times have changed. Contemporary college admissions offices are well versed in marketing and branding with prime campus real estate serving as welcome centers. Information sessions consist of beautifully designed multi-media presentations that are followed by eloquent admissions officers heralding the school’s academic offerings, unique research opportunities, noteworthy study abroad programs and impassioned student life. Afterwards, a well-trained student ambassador leads a campus tour highlighting the iconic features of the college. Yet, a successful campus visit should detail many sites and activities not included in the official university presentation. These will allow a student to better understand the true dynamics of the schools that are critical in making final admissions decisions. Crisp Consulting + Coaching would like to offer the following strategies for executing a successful campus visit:
Plan ahead. Planning is essential to a successful college visit. A student, not a parent, should contact the admissions office about information session and tour times. During this initial contact, inquire about visiting an academic department or professor of interest, eating in one of the school’s cafeteria, attending a student event occurring during your visit and speaking with your regional admissions representative. Do not forget to include specific parking instructions as this can be the most frustrating detail for families. Virtual tours from admissions websites or Campus Tours will help you understand the layout of the campus before your arrival. Once you have all this information, plan an itinerary that allows for an arrival to the admissions office at least twenty minutes early and for extra time to explore the school.
Plan it all. Seeing all of the school is critical and this will require families to go beyond the confines of the information session and tour. Primarily, investigate all of the campuses. Some tours will only highlight the iconic campus featured in marketing materials and leave out other campuses where students spend time. On your visit, take a bus or drive to these campuses and see their offerings. Also, investigate the student union, cafeterias, arts spaces and athletic facilities. These are major activities hubs and will give a clear indication of student life on campus. While walking on the campus glance at the student flyers, take a copy of the campus paper and investigate the calendar of student events as all of these will provide an in-depth view of the school.
The General’s Plan. The general of this visit should be the student and each student should come prepared with specific questions for admissions officers and student ambassadors. In information sessions, parents often ask questions for the students. This does not empower the student nor does it provide the opportunity for a student to make a connection with the admissions staff. A thoughtful question will make a great impression. If a parent has a question, it should be about the parent perspective and in the voice of the parent. Otherwise, encourage your student to do the talking.
Plan a follow-up note. Obtain a business card from your regional admissions officer and send a thank-you note detailing the highlights of your campus visit. A sincere note of gratitude is essential and makes you memorable.
A college visit that exceeds the university sanctioned information sessions and campus tours will be essential in determining college fit and success. Students will have information that informs the application process and a better understanding of campus life. This is a great way to prepare for admissions success.
Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families in Asheville, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.