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Five things you should do during a campus visit

Five things you should do during a campus visit

These days, you can pretty much learn everything you need to know about a college online, including what majors a school offers, acceptance rates, tuition rates and on-campus dining options. Choosing a college is as much an emotional decision as it is an intellectual one, however. And while the information you find online can intrigue you, nothing clinches the deal quite like a campus visit.

There's no wrong way to visit a campus, but there is definitely a wise way. Here are five things you should do during a campus visit.

1. Explore beyond a campus tour

There's no question that you should take a guided campus tour. Hearing about the history of the campus and seeing the campus through a student advocate of the school is crucial. But you also need to branch out on your own, according to About.com College Admissions Guide Allen Grove.

"The trained tour guides will show you a school's selling points," writes Grove. "But the oldest and prettiest buildings don't give you the entire picture of a college, nor does the one dorm room that was manicured for visitors. Try to walk the extra mile and get the complete picture of the campus."
Literally walk the extra mile to check out the lesser-traveled campus spots.

2. Talk with current students

People who work in admissions at a college will no doubt highlight the good aspects of school and not go too in-depth on the unfavorable ones. Talking to a current student could give you further insight on all facets of the school and what it's like to actually be a student there. So approach some students on campus.

Here are just a few questions you may want to ask, according to Joie Jager-Hyman in the book "B+ Grades, A+ College Applications":

  • How often do you talk to your professors or teachers?
  • How big is your biggest class? How small is your smallest class?
  • If you could go back in time to your senior year of high school, is there anything you know now about this school that you wish you had know then?
Students who are happy to be students there should talk to you. And "...if they are not [willing to talk to you], that should be a pretty serious warning sign," according to Macalester College president Brian C. Rosenberg in a New York Times article.

3. Eat on campus and near campus

Don't underestimate the role of food in being a student. If you're not fed well, your studies could suffer. Eat on campus and near campus -- at all the places you think you'd eat at as a student. Keep in mind some questions while doing this, according to Grove.

"Do the students seem happy?" Grove writes. "Stressed? Sullen? Also, is the food good? Are there adequate healthy options?"

Don't expect a top-notch restaurant, but be honest with yourself about the food's quality.

4. Use the College Board's campus visit checklist

Having a checklist when visiting a campus can help you reflect and keep you on track. If you wing it, you may forget to do something important during your campus visit. The College Board has an excellent campus visit checklist.

Here are a few things on the College Board's checklist:

  • Take part in a group information session at the admission office.
  • Walk or drive around the community surrounding the campus.
  • Read the student newspaper.
  • Visit the dining hall, fitness center, library, career center, bookstore and other campus facilities.
Go in with a plan.

5. Stay overnight

You should see the campus in all the times of day, to see how active students are on campus at different times. Don't just stop by during the day and head to a hotel at night.

According to a Princeton Review article, staying overnight is a "great opportunity to get a deeper sense of campus life and interact with your potential future friends and college roommates." This is because it allows you to experience dorm life and in many cases stay with a current student. You could make friends this way.

Of course, no one is grading you on a campus visit. It's optional. But doing it right could benefit you greatly in your college search.