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College-bound high school seniors are busy! Between juggling Honors and AP course loads, resume boosting extra-curricular activities, college applications, and scholarship essays, it’s hard to imagine cramming one more item on your “To Do List.” Completing one final piece of the college puzzle is crucial, however. Don’t forget the campus visit!

Deciding which college or university to attend is a monumental decision. The geographic location, size of the campus, availability of various majors, and that feeling of “coming home” all factor into your big decision. Although glossy brochures and interactive online tours are helpful, nothing gives you the same perspective as a real campus visit.

Depending on which colleges and universities are on your list, many visits can be tucked into a regular fall calendar during teachers’ in-service days or other scattered vacation days. To visit a campus further from home, taking a Monday or Friday off is usually necessary.

It’s important to note that a college visit will be most telling on a weekday. To get a true understanding of a campus’s dynamics, the atmosphere within lecture halls and classrooms, and a feel for what it might be like to live there for the next four years, a Monday through Friday visit is a must.

A bit of preparation will ensure your successful visit. Read the college’s website so that you are familiar with the “facts and figures” for each. That way you won’t waste your time asking questions that you could easily have found online. This basic research may even help you narrow your search before you schedule a visit.

The campus visit is usually broken into two parts: the Admissions “pitch” and the campus tour. The Admissions representatives will likely have a lovely presentation with video, student speakers, and a short Q&A period.

Questions regarding academic requirements, majors, wait listing, and the Honors program are best left to college or university Admissions representatives. Remember to do your homework and ask questions whose answers you were unable to find prior to your visit. Thoughtful questions will be much appreciated by the college’s staff.

The second part of the day involves the actual campus tour. This is your chance to walk the campus grounds like a college student and see if the glossy pictures in your brochure reflect the true feel of the campus!

Many campus tours are conducted by current students. This is the ideal opportunity to get the “real scoop” on campus life. What is dorm life like? How is the food at the dining hall? Does Greek life dominate campus activities? How many students commute or go home on the weekends? What kinds of clubs or intramurals are available?

While on campus, make sure to visit several dorms (not just the fancy one on your tour), a dining hall, some classrooms, labs, or lecture halls, and the library. If you are able to sit in on a class, by all means, do so! And, don’t forget to take a look at bulletin boards and signage for upcoming events. Are there concerts, lectures, parties, and other activities? This will be a good indicator of the overall campus mood.

What you find may surprise you! After a visit, some colleges may move up on your list and some may even be eliminated. Remember to trust your gut. If, after a visit, you feel as if you are finally “home,” chances are, you’re right!

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