For most students and parents of college-bound students, a college visit includes going on the college coordinated campus tour with other prospective students, sitting in on a class, and talking to an admissions counselor about admissions requirements, scholarships, and financial aid. Then you leave campus and evaluate your options.
I say, step out of the box and make more use of your college visit. You will be living on your college campus for at least 4 years, so why not make sure you will like living there, not just going to school there. Of course, take the campus tour and sit in on a class, etc., but when that is over, here’s what you should do.
Can you stay overnight in a dorm with current students? You usually have to call in advance to set this up, and it all really depends on the campus, but it can be a great way to see if you could actually live at that particular campus. My overnight stay at a couple of campuses really changed whether I thought I wanted to attend those colleges or not. I am sure that you can learn the same thing if you stay overnight too. Not only do you learn about what the dorms are like, but you also get a feel for the students. If no one is nice, or if it is a non-stop party and you don’t see anyone studying at any time day or night, you will know what to think.
Eat in a dining hall. Every campus has one, and they vary greatly from school to school. When I visited one campus, the dining hall was down-right depressing to me. There was not a great selection of food, there was not enough seating for everyone, and in a period of about 40 minutes, the masses of students had eaten and gone just like that. That was not what I wanted out of my college dining hall experience, and it therefore affected where that school fell on my ranked list of where I wanted to attend. But this atmosphere might be exactly what you want—the high energy lunch time on a college campus might be right up your alley, but I wanted a more laid back atmosphere where students socialized not just ate and ran. By eating in a dining hall you can get a feel for the food, the students, and the school in general. So if you are on a college campus doing a visit, the dining hall is a place you don’t want to miss.
So to sum up this first part: Parents—encourage your students to call ahead and schedule an overnight stay if they can, and be sure to treat your student to a meal in a campus dining hall. Students—call far enough in advance to schedule not only a campus tour, but also a night in one of the residence halls. And don’t leave without getting a bite to eat in the dining hall.
College success can be more than just academic success. If you are not happy at your college campus, you cannot perform as well in the classroom. So take it from me—do more than just the traditional college visit—make your visit non-traditional.