Campus visit advice from Bryn Mawr’s Coordinator of Visits and Events, Libby Lakeman.
If you are planning on visiting a few college campuses this summer, or even if you have some visits laid out for the fall, I am here to help make sure you capitalize on each experience. The campus visit can be overwhelming: you are being given a lot of information in a very short amount of time by staff and current students who seem all too happy for you to be at their school. So, below are a few insider tips to help you navigate your visit. Hopefully, they will help you come out on the other side feeling energized and optimistic about the rest of the college admissions process.
- Take notes. You will probably be researching and visiting several different schools. A lot of colleges will share similarities, so take notes and refer to them throughout the admissions process. Try our College Tracker to stay organized.
- Take notice of flyers and other promotional materials around the campus to see what happens beyond academics. This is a good way to get a sense of what the community values and the social opportunities that are available. The campus center is a great space to gather some of this information!
- Get the contact information of the admissions representative for your area. They will be your best resource for any questions or concerns you have after you leave campus.
- Interview. This is not a requirement at all colleges, but it is a great way for you to present yourself in a different way to the Admissions Office. It is also a good space to get some of your lingering questions answered. Check with the Admissions Office to see if and when interviews are offered. Also check to see if there are outside opportunities to do an interview. Oftentimes alumnae are willing to do interviews in your hometown or an admissions counselor might be visiting your area soon.
- Explore the surrounding city or town. Is the college close to a major city? If so, take a commute into the city as a current student would to see how accessible it really is for academic and social purposes. Is the college located in a quaint town? Eat at one of the local restaurants and try to envision yourself as a member of the larger community. This is where you will be spending the next chapter of your life, so you want to make sure it works for you.
- Sit on a class. This can be a hard experience to have over the summer if the college you are visiting does not offer any sort of summer session. During the academic year though, this is the best way to see if the college’s classroom environment is one you would enjoy. Maybe sitting in a big lecture hall is not as exciting you thought. Maybe you want a little more individualized attention. Check with the Admissions Office to see when class visits are being offered and to see if you are eligible to visit a class before arriving to campus.
- Only ask questions of your tour guide. Your tour guide will no doubt be knowledgeable, but she will provide only one perspective of campus life. Eat in the dining hall, sit in on a class, walk around campus and don’t be afraid to interact with other current students to get their opinion on campus life
- Be shy. This is easier said than done, but the tour guide has been in your shoes before and all the other students on the tour are probably just as nervous as you are. Really try to envision yourself on each campus and ask questions accordingly. You may only be on campus once before you apply, so make sure you are taking advantage of the time you have.
- Be surprised if you love a school you originally were not even considering! One of the best parts about this process is learning about yourself and the surprises that come along with that. The school in a rural town may not have sounded appealing at first, but the campus is beautiful, and the small community seems really inviting. Maybe your parents dragged you to see that one final school while you are in the area and while you are there you meet current students who are just like you! Try not to discount any of the schools on your list before you visit — there can always be surprises!
- Worry if you cannot make it on campus for a visit. Most schools have other ways for you to connect with admissions staff and current students. Be sure to check each college’s website periodically as they update on and off campus events that might better fit your schedule.
If you take nothing else away from this post, my pro tip for this whole process is to try to keep an open mind. The college admissions process can be a wonderful opportunity for self-discovery as you start to explore what type of community you see yourself in for your college years. Allow yourself to visit big colleges and small ones, colleges located in the heart of a city and ones more removed from the noise. Step outside of your comfort zone, if only a little. While the admissions process seems stressful now, it will be over before you know it so savor these moments while you can. It will all work out just the way it should.