In this new series, I will provide info on visiting U.S. colleges and the cities they call home.
At the start, I plan to focus on metropolitan areas that boast several colleges and universities. New York City, Boston, and Chicago are some examples. Visiting these locales will allow you to see several schools in a single trip and to conserve your valuable time.
I also plan to take requests from readers. If you want to know more about a particular college town, email me at [email protected]!
But before I provide info on specific cities and towns, I want to share some reasons why college visits are really worth your time. Check out the information below, which I’ve adapted from The Princeton Review’s Guide to College Visits. Tomorrow I’ll provide info on different types of campus visits, and Friday I’ll provide information on how to prepare for them.
Why Visit College Campuses?
If you’re like most college-bound students, you lead a pretty busy life. You’ve got a full slate of demanding academic courses, an equally jam-packed schedule of school-related extracurriculars, and an active life outside of school that involves family, friends, and community activities. You don’t have a lot of time to go gallivanting around the country to look at a bunch of ivy-covered buildings and sit in on a bunch of classes you’ll be taking next year anyway. So why visit college campuses?
Because when you decide on a particular college, you’ll be choosing much more than your next school. You’ll be choosing the place where you’ll study, socialize, work, shop, eat, and—most likely—sleep for the next four years. It’s a big decision, and you’ll want to base it on as much available information as you can.
A campus visit won’t tell you everything about life at a school, but it will give you a richer, more detailed view than you can get from surfing websites, browsing brochures, watching videos, or reading college guides. Every school has its own culture, its own unique way of doing things.
Spend a weekday on campus while classes are in session and you’ll get a feel for the rhythm of life there, the attitudes of students toward their studies, and some ideas of the atmosphere of the school’s classrooms. Visit over a weekend and you’ll experience the school’s social life (or lack thereof). You’ll also find students relaxing and taking it easy, making it easier to approach them with any questions about the school that you may have.
The benefits of a campus visit can be grouped into three categories:
- You’ll get a feel for the academic life
Academics are the primary reason you’ll be attending college, so you’ll want to know whether you and the school are a good academic fit. The quality of the school’s academic life and the intensity of its student-teacher relationships will strongly impact your experience there. Look for clues about both during your campus visits.
If possible, attend a class or two during your visit (make sure to arrange this with the Admissions Office well in advance of your visit). If asked for your preference, request to sit in on a class that is required for all freshmen so that you’ll get a sense of what your first year will be like.
- You’ll get a feel for the students
For many, whom they go to school with is just as important as where they go to school and what they study. You may think this is a frivolous concern, but it’s not: your fellow students will be your peers, friends, and, in some cases, rivals throughout your time at the school. If you’re a bad fit with the student body, you could be in for four miserable years.
There are lots of different issues to consider as you assess a student body. First, note the degree of similarity among students. Do they all look alike or is the population diverse? Consider not just racial diversity but also economic diversity, religious diversity, and diversity of personality types. Are you more comfortable surrounded by people just like yourself, or do you want a college that will give you the opportunity to encounter people with different backgrounds and perspectives?
- You’ll get a feel for the extracurricular life
Your college experience will consist of more than just studying and hanging out with friends. There will be all sorts of clubs and organizations, and you may want to join several of them. It is important to explore the extracurricular life of a school. What do students do when they’re not in class, in the library, or hanging around the dorms with friends? Do they head into town? Does everyone go to fraternity and sorority parties? Is “game day” the best day of the week? A campus visit can give you an idea, especially if you plan an overnight stay.