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After doing tons of research, talking with admissions personal, getting advice from friends and parents, and weighing all of your possibilities, you eventually narrow your school choices down to a few that you will visit. It’s easy to feel like this is a formality. After all, you already know so much about each one of these schools. You may even have a favorite at this point – the one you are fairly sure you will probably go to. The thing is, there can be a large difference between knowing about a school on paper and through others and actually experiencing the school itself. For this reason, college visits are often the most important part of your search. Here are some tips to maximize your visit and ensure that you get the most information possible.

Don’t re-hash what you already know:

Likely you will have a question and answer session with an admissions person. Don’t waste your time confirming what you’ve already read about the school or have already discussed over the phone. The purpose of a visit is to get a more subjective view of the place. What’s it like? Do the students seem to be enjoying themselves? Those are the questions you should be most interested in. If you can, schedule that question and answer session after you’ve had a chance to look around, not before. This way you can ask new questions or address new concerns based upon your experience as you walk around campus.

Remember, this is not just about academics; this is your home for the next four years:

No college is exactly the same. Each has organized its dorms and its campus in a different way. When you are touring the dorms, picture your stuff in the room. Likely you’ll be sharing a bathroom and shower facility. Check those places out too – you’ll be spending a lot of time there. Just like you try on new clothes, try on the campus. Can you see yourself feeling comfortable here? Do the students seem to be enjoying themselves? Spend time feeling the place out, talking to students and faculty. You may want to ask students questions like “what is the best and worst part of living here?” or “what would you change about living here if you could?”

Clubs, athletics, and activities:

All colleges have a wide variety of things to do. There are fraternities and sororities. There are athletics and intramural sports. There are clubs to fit almost any interest. That doesn’t mean, however, that all of the clubs, the fraternities and sororities, or the athletics are robust and popular. If, for example, you are really into drama, you’d want to know whether there is a large or small drama club. Is it really active, or do the rarely meet? Are there a hundred people in the club or just five? All schools have their own particular culture, and so certain groups will be more active than others.

Take the whole day and ask “can I see myself here?”

It’s important you get a substantial amount of time to just be in the college environment. Most of the time, when the official tour is done, the school will invite you to walk around on your own and explore. Take full advantage of this time. Grab a cup of coffee on campus. Visit the library. Talk to students. Don’t fill your mind with questions about the school, just take some time to get the feel of the college. This may be the most important step of all. You may get a strong feeling, a hunch that this particular school is home, that it is the right place to be. Or you may get a strong feeling the other way – the academics are right, the clubs and extra-curricular activities look good, but something about the school just doesn’t seem right for you. If you get a hunch, one way or the other, listen to it. It’s probably right.

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