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If you’re in the process of choosing which grad schools you plan on applying for, likely you’ve already done a ton of research into each school and have a good idea what they offer to students applying for your program. In fact, you’ve probably narrowed the list of schools to those which you are most sure will be the best fit for you – at least on paper. This is why the campus visit is important. It helps you confirm your research and helps you with that more subjective information that you just can’t get from visiting websites and talking on the phone. For most, it’s the campus visit that’s the determining factor in making that final decision of whether to apply or not. Therefore, it’s important to take advantage of your visit to get as much as you can out of it. Here are some things to consider when preparing for a campus visit:

1. Work with the school to schedule your visit.

It is important to explore the timing of your visit. Speak with the admissions advisor to make sure that you can schedule a tour during the time you’d like to visit. It’s a good idea to start planning ahead of time so that you have some flexibility regarding the timing of your visit. This way, you may be able to take greater advantage of your visit if, for example, there is an open house for prospective students scheduled for some time near the time you plan to visit.

2. Take advantage of tours.

Definitely schedule a tour. Often done by admissions personnel or students familiar with the campus, these tours help you get the lay of the land and understand where you classes are likely to be, how to find help, where to find food and public transportation. Basically all of the things you’ll need to know before your first day in class.

3. Take the tour, but also go off by yourself.

Tours are great, but to really get the feel for the campus, go walk around on your own a bit. Wander around, talk to other students and ask them about their experience. It may even be a good idea to leave campus and check out the surrounding city. If you plan to live on campus, it’s nice to know where the local grocery store and other necessities are.

4. Prepare a list of questions beforehand and keep a notebook with you.

During your visit, you’ll be bombarded with information. If you have a list of questions with you, then you are less likely to forget to ask important questions. Have questions ready for the tour, for talking with other students, faculty, and the admissions advisor.

5. Try to schedule time to talk with people prior to your visit.

If possible, schedule your admissions interview at the same time as your visit. You will also want to see if you can schedule time to talk with faculty directly related to your degree program. It’s always good if you can speak with some of your future potential professors prior to taking their class.