Campus visits are often time-consuming, expensive, and, let’s face it, intimidating. However, they’re also a very important part of the college search process. After all, this is where you’re going to live for the next four years. And sure, you’ve seen lots of photos on the brochures, but you wouldn’t buy a house without visiting it in person, would you?
If you’re still not convinced, consider the following five reasons you should consider making a campus visit. And remember: if possible, visit the school while classes are still in session. That way you’ll get the most accurate picture of what your life will be like, should you decide to enroll.
Facts vs. feelings. Bottom line: You need to feel comfortable on campus, and no brochure, slideshow, or virtual tour can give you the corporeal sense of “I belong here” like a college visit. Walk around. Talk to your gut. Your subconscious will have a lot to say on the matter, so make sure you listen.
See if you fit in. Do the other students look/sound/act/feel like you? Can you imagine yourself talking to them, eating with them, attending a class, throwing a party? These are people who will surround you in the coming years, so make sure you feel at home among them.
Get answers. Not just canned FAQs from a website. Not cold, clinical facts and figures from an admissions officer. Real answers, from the food service workers, the professors, and the students—you know, the people you’ll be spending the next four years of your life with. They’re living your future reality. Ask them what it’s like.
See what’s popular. Sure, the college website boasts “12,000,000 clubs and activities,” and your favorites are on there—but is it actually a club-club, or is it four people meeting in a basement? Does Division I football mean huge tailgating parties every weekend, or is this the sort of school where soccer takes precedence? Visiting campus means seeing posters, bulletin boards, and practice fields with your very own eyes. So if that underwater knitting club is a deal breaker for you, make sure it’s not just two students sitting in a bathtub.
Demonstrate “interest.” Maybe you’re the type of student who seeks the gold star . . . or maybe you aren’t. Either way, if you’re interested in attending a college, it is definitely to your advantage to get your name on their visitation records. Colleges want to improve their yield, meaning that the more students who accept admissions offers, the better. Therefore, the more interested you appear, the more likely (it would seem) you would be to accept an offer of admission . . . which means that the school might be more likely to offer you admission than, say, an equivalent student who did not tour the campus.
It’s that time of year again. Homeroom bell has rung, pencils are sharpened, and if you’re a junior, you’re starting to think about your college prospects, while if you’re a senior, you’re busy narrowing down schools of choice.
You already receive endless pamphlets in the mail and emails in your inbox. You have the SATs to study for, and grades to keep up. Should you really make time for a college fair?
These five reasons say “yes.”
- Find a starting point. If you have no idea what sort of college you might like to attend, a college fair is a good place to start. These events bring together multiple colleges and universities under one roof, so you can attend one event and get an idea of what’s out there without conducting aimless Internet searches or passively reading whatever brochures arrive in your mail.
- Get more bang for your buck. Visiting college campuses—whether to collect information and/or get face time with admissions officers—can be both time-consuming and expensive. College fairs bring the schools “to you”; therefore, they can be more convenient and cost-effective than going on multiple campus visits.
- Get answers to your questions—fast. If you’ve already investigated a number of schools, you’ve presumably learned enough about each to know what you don’t know. Google is great, but asking a college representative in real time is better, and oftentimes faster.
- Discover schools you may not have considered. You may think you’ve already considered every school that could possibly be of interest to you, but if so, think again. According to the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, more than 7,200 accredited colleges and universities exist in the United States as of 2012—and with enrollment numbers increasing every year, that number is only likely to rise. Therefore, attending a college fair can expose you to institutions you’ve never even heard of . . . and one of them might just be the college of your dreams!
- Earn “extra credit.” So you’ve done your research, you’ve whittled down your list, and you know where you intend to apply. Now it’s time to make yourself stand out. And believe it or not, colleges keep track of how much interest prospective students express in attending their institution. Therefore, attending a college fair and getting face time with a college representative from your school of choice can actually make a difference in your likelihood of being accepted to that school. Call it “extra credit” if you will, but in the competitive landscape of college admissions, every little bit counts!