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How To Get The Most Out Of College Visits

By Alexander Maier - Cincinnati Country Day School - NextGenVest Club Director - Cincinnati, OH

A successful college visit begins before you even step on campus. We show you how to get the most out of it, from deciding where to visit to obtaining important information while there. College tours can be imperative to helping students narrow down their educational options. Visits offer something a college brochure just can’t: a real life glimpse into the place that will become your second home.  Walk away from a college tour with the most useful information possible by going in with a smart plan.

Google It.

Before you set out, start researching.  It’s best to have an idea of what type of college you might be interested in attending first so you’re not spending every weekend at schools that aren’t even valid options.  Look into what kind of schools would be a good fit for regarding aspects like the size of the student body, close by or out of state, urban vs. rural area, type of academic structure, and program offerings. If you have a better idea of the type of college you want to attend, it will be much easier to choose which colleges to visit.

Ask For Advice.

Consulting with your guidance counselor, teachers, family, friends, and college guidebooks can help you determine options that fit your desired criteria.  There are over 4,000 accredited colleges and universities in the US; it’s more likely than not that students do not have detailed knowledge on every one. Maybe there is a smaller school you haven’t heard enough about that could be right for you, or a larger school you weren’t originally considering with an intimate academic program that is exactly what you’re looking for. By asking around you are increasing the amount of information and feedback you can receive, often from those with helpful personal experiences to share.

Know Your Finances.

Be aware of your financial situation before embarking on college visits - this way you can seek out only the schools that are realistic options. Will you be living at home to save money or can you afford to dorm?  Will you have a car or is a campus reachable by public transportation better?  Do you have the means to dorm at school but must be driving distance from home since plane ticket costs add up? Make a budget and stick to it.  Use this budget to find schools that you can attend without overwhelming yourself, or your parents, with debt.  Tuition, dorming, transportation, school supplies, books, and cost of living should all be factored into your decision to take the next step onto a school’s campus.

Check Out The Campus Culture. 

Each campus has a different “feel” to it and as you visit various types of schools, you will gain a better understanding of what type of school will appeal most to you. Are you looking for a bustling, urban metropolis or would you prefer a homey, college-town atmosphere?  Are you passionate about technology, sports, political activism, or the arts?  Look into the clubs, social activities, and movements on campus to learn more about the culture there.  In addition to academics and finances, getting to know the kind of student a campus attracts can shed light on whether it will be a place you will feel at-home in during your college years.

Arrive Prepared.

Go online and schedule tours ahead of time. See if interviews are required therefore, if they are, you can schedule your interview while on campus.  In addition, reach out to the college’s admissions office and check if sit-downs with current students can be arranged, if they aren’t already apart of the tour itinerary.  Come prepared with questions to learn more about real students’ individual experiences.Most importantly, take notes and photos to keep track of all the information you receive and to remember what stood out for you as pros and cons on your visits. This will be extremely useful to you when you making your final decision. Happy hunting!

Follow Alexander's NGV chapter on Instagram at @NGVCincinnatiCD.

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