The campus visit: the single most important thing you can do in the college search process, and by far the most fun. Over the years, we've blogged about lots of college visit advice and today, we compiled all those tips into one easy read. Hit 'print' and go forth—your future college awaits!
ON YOUR FIRST VISITS
1. Snap photos. Throughout your tour and as you explore on your own, use your phone to take pics. These shots will be invaluable when you're back home and want to recall everything you saw.
2. Collect campus publications. College newspapers and magazines can give you a great glimpse into the goings-on around campus. As you walk through hallways and lobbies, look for anything that's written by or for students.
3. Pick up a local newspaper. Grab a copy of the local paper for a peak at what's going on in the area. If you're at Siena, make a quick stop at Stewart's and reach for the Times Union or Daily Gazette. (We've told you before that job opportunities in the Capital Region are booming, but scan the business section to see for yourself.)
4. Bring home business cards. If you chat with any admissions counselors on your trip, ask for their contact information to make following up easy, should you have any questions. While you're at it, take home any admissions materials they have on hand that you can add to your files.
5. Chat with professors. If you have the opportunity to meet with a professor in your field of interest, go for it! Ask them questions like, What do you love about teaching here?, What types of students thrive in your courses? and Can you tell me the biggest strengths of your program or department? (More questions below.)
6. Chat with students. The same goes for current students. Any chance you get, go ahead and ask anything you want to know—about life on the weekends, the food, the location and so on.
7. Check out what's within walking distance. Find out where students can almost always be found when they’re off the grid. Are there are nearby cafes, shops or parks they love to frequent? Make time to drive or walk around. (Here are 15 places you can walk to from Siena.)
8. Notice student pride. As you roam the campus, take note of all the students wearing college apparel...and simply having a good time. Those kinds of scenes can really paint a picture about the community you'd be joining.
9. Look for construction. No, really! If you see any construction trucks or workers with hard hats, it could mean the college wants to improve their facilities or is adding new ones—a great sign about the pride they take in their campus.
10. Peek into collaborative centers and institutes. Not all colleges have designated areas where students and faculty can meet and collaborate. If the one you're visiting has a few, step inside. Are they equipped with innovative meeting rooms and cutting-edge technology? (At Siena, ask us about the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, two of our many centers.)
11. Personalize your visit. See if the admissions team is open to customizing your visit based on your year and interests. If you're into basketball, can you check out a practice or meet the coach? If you're undecided about your major, can you meet with a few students who were in the same boat?
12. Sit in on a class. Preferably in a topic that interests you. But regardless of if it's a class you'd actually enroll in, you'll learn a lot from scoping one out—like how interactive it is, how engaging the professor is, what the size is like and more.
13. Eat in the dining hall. Blend in with current students and make yourself a plate! The dining hall is one of the best places to imagine yourself living there, and of course, to find out how the food tastes. (At Siena, don't miss the gelato bar in Lonnstrom...)
14. Take notes. We don't mean about everything! But if something makes you go "oh wow, that's awesome!" or "hmm, I don't love that," it's important enough to jot it down on your phone, so you can easily jog your memory back home.
15. Pick the right kind of visit. Depending on how far along you are in your college search, you may want to sign up for an Open House or other event for prospective students. Or, you might be better off with a quick campus tour this time around. Here's how you can decide.
WHAT TO ASK PROFESSORS
Here are a few questions you can ask them to make the most of your conversation and learn more about their courses.
- Why did you choose to teach here?
- What are your favorite courses to teach?
- Can you tell me the biggest strengths of your program or department?
- What are some reasons why students choose to study [insert their field] here?
- Is there anything you're looking to change about your program in the next few years?
- What types of students have you seen really thrive in your courses?
- What resources are available for students who may want a little extra guidance or help with an assignment?
- What are some things you look forward to during the school year? Maybe some traditions or annual events?
IN THE SUMMER
1. Ask for a specialized tour. If there are certain facilities you want to see that aren't typically on regular campus tours, a summer visit is the perfect time to request a special viewing. Planning to study biology? Go see the labs! Interested in finance? Check out their trading room. Since there likely won't be too much going on this time of year in those spaces, admissions counselors should have no problem getting you a closer look.
2. Arrange a few meetings. Don't assume that during the summer, you won't be able to meet with faculty, students or staff. Chances are, admissions counselors will be happy to try to arrange meetings that are important to you. Just let them know ahead of time what your ideal visit would consist of; same goes for the specialized tours above.
3. Make a stay of it. It's summer vacation! Why not treat campus visits like mini getaways? By staying overnight or even for a few days, you'll have the chance to explore your potential new town when everyone is out and about, enjoying the sunshine. Find out what locals love to do, where the popular restaurants are and how students—who stick around campus for the season—like to spend their days. (If you happen to be swinging through Siena, here's your agenda.)
4. Plan your visit around a campus event. Whenever you can tour a campus is a good time, but if your dates are flexible, find out if the school is hosting any summertime events specifically for prospective students. At Siena, for example, we have our Summer Days. Planned events will usually give you more of a full experience, often with current student panels, financial aid discussions and speeches from the deans.
5. Ask a lot of questions. Tours are typically less crowded during the summer, which means it's a lot easier to pitch question after question along your stroll—and your tour guides may even give more thorough answers. With more time to chat and less people to chat with, they'll gladly welcome the conversation. (For even more information, pick up these publications on your visit.)
On campus revisits
1. Check out health services. Getting sick is never fun, but it can be especially inconvenient when you’re away at school, out of tissues and have a 10-page essay due ASAP. In those moments, you want to know that whatever school you’ve chosen is reliable and helpful when it comes to your physical health. (FYI: The Health Services office at Siena partners with St. Peter’s Health Partners to promote everyday health and wellness for our community.)
2. Look into the long-distance transportation. First visits are a good time to find out about the different transportation services a school provides for its students. For example, students at Siena have access to shuttle buses and Zipcars, which are perfect for short trips off campus. But what about long-distance transportation options? Ask how out-of-town students get home for the holidays. If you’re Siena-bound, you’ll be happy to know that Albany International Airport, Amtrak’s Rensselaer terminal and several bus terminals are located just minutes from campus, making travel easy for every student.
3. Scope out the late-night food. Be honest: You’re excited about those late nights you’ll have with your new college friends, studying while chowing down on some good grub, right? It’s okay to ask about this stuff, too! A college student’s schedule sometimes strays from the norm, meaning you might end up catching dinner at 10 p.m. If the cafeteria closes early, is there somewhere else on campus where you can grab a late-night meal? (If you end up at Siena, you’ll love Casey’s—a great place to get sandwiches, noodle bowls, sushi and snacks when your stomach is rumbling past midnight.)
Got your tips, now get going. Come see Siena soon.