Silver Chips' guide to the college visit

April 10, 2003, midnight | By Annie Peirce | 17 years, 9 months ago

The applications have gone out. The acceptances have returned. Now comes the most wonderful and dreaded step of college preparations: the decision. A highly recommended part of the decision-making process, the college visit, helps one get a feel for his or her perspective colleges and receive an impression of the students that goes beyond the pretty hype of pamphlets and websites.

With the next four years and future careers looming on the horizon and the stakes of choosing the right college high, the college visit can be a stressful experience. Luckily for you, here is all you need to know about what to do and what to ask when first approaching a college campus.

The first step is to get a notebook. When it comes down to it, the differences between many students' perspective colleges are small and a notebook helps organize these all-important details. Write down beforehand what you want to know about the college and what is important to you. Some aspects recommended by's college visit checklist are: typical class size, available tutors, whether housing guaranteed, whether dorms are co-ed by wing/floor/every other room, whether it has fraternities or sororities, whether students feel safe walking at night, quality of faculty advising, popularity of spirit and sporting events, whether it has a diverse student body, whether freshman need cars and how active the campus is on weekends. Finding out all of this information may mean some research on your part, since the usual college advertising materials haze over some of the college's least admirable aspects.

When you're taking a long trip to visit multiple colleges during a short period of time, a camera is invaluable. It serves to help your memory match the identical mental images with the correct college name. After a while, the green lawns and brick buildings and windowed libraries all begin to look the same and a camera is a good memory enforcer. Photos of different dorm rooms and empty bathrooms are also helpful for later comparison. Armed with a notebook and camera, the next steps are the tour and the questioning.

All college campuses have student-led tours which show the most beautiful parts of the campus and talk about the best aspects of the academic and social life. This tour is very useful is justifying why students applied to the school in the first place, but are not a very good judge of whether you will be happy at the college. Be sure to take your own personal tour around the college and see the sites that the tour does not show and talk to as many faculty and students as possible. Ask the same questions about classes and events to different people and compare their answers. Everyone has an agenda, so make sure to find out what it is before completely trusting one person's opinion.

Pay attention to the environment. The feel of the college will be different depending on when you are visiting. A college will feel very different during the summer, spring break, open houses, or "the one week of good weather," says the Princeton Review website.

The last piece of advice is simply to remember that every college that has accepted you wants you to come. They will go out of their way, if you ask them to, to give you a good time and make a good impression. But also remember that just because a college is nationally ranked, has a good reputation, and your parents had a wonderful time there does not mean that the college will be right for you.

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Annie Peirce. Annie Peirce is a senior in the Communications Arts Program and the public relations manager for Silver Chips. She is also an opinions editor for Silver Chips Online. She was born on October 25, 1984, in a hospital somewhere in Prince George's County; but doesn't … More »

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