Posts Tagged ‘college tour’

Can’t Afford to Make a Campus Visit? 4 Ways you Can get the Inside Scoop for Free

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

When a high school senior is debating which college is the best for him or her, it’s highly important that he or she physically goes to visit his or her college-of-choice before making any commitments. After all, students need to feel comfortable knowing that the school is a “right fit” for them and that the establishment will actually be able to help them accomplish all their goals, including career and social. But visiting several different colleges can get expensive, especially after considering traveling costs, hotel accommodations and food. If your family can’t afford to travel to several different campuses right now, there are still a few (free) ways you can get a feel for what a school is like without ever having to step foot on campus. To learn how, continue reading below.

Take Virtual Tours

There are some college websites that actually offer interested students “virtual tours” of their facilities, including the campus and residence halls. You may not be able to see it in the flesh, but some of these tours are so well-executed and use such good photos that you feel as though you’re really there. You may also try doing a Google search and seeing if there are any videos about your school created by other students that may be able to give you a better inside look into campus-life.

Read Campus Newspaper Online

Another easy way to get a “feel” for what life on a certain campus will be like is to read the school’s student newspapers. Most colleges offer their student papers online for free. You may need to do a simple Google search first to discover the name of the publication however. What reading the student newspaper does is give you some insight to what’s going on campus and the city as a whole. Thus you can get a better idea of what the crime rate is like as well as what kind of events are thrown at your school. You can also get a better idea of what your peers will be like and learn a few of their accomplishments.

Call Alumni Centers

If you want to get a first –hand, unrehearsed account of what life is like at your college but don’t have any friends who have attended the school, then your next best bet is to call the school’s alumni center. Someone should be able to put you in contact with a former college student who will be able to answer all of your questions about the school so that you can make a more formal decision if whether that particular school sounds like someplace you’d like to be for the next four years.

Scour Open Courseware

Last but not least, you want to see if your school-of-choice offers open courseware. Open courseware is free online classes that are opened for the public. While you won’t need to take these courses, sometimes it can be beneficial to take a peek to see what’s to come. Or in other words, you can see what might be expected of you and get a better idea if the academic department is up to par with your standards. On that note, you’ll also want to do some research on your potential department’s faculty team—are there any notable professors who have done groundbreaking research? Are there any notable graduates from the department that went on to accomplish great feats? All of this should be considered before committing to a school.


This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes for online universities blog.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

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Preparing for the College Visit

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Undoubtedly, the campus visit is the most important step in choosing a college. Regardless of what appears in a university’s website and brochures, the visit is certain to give prospective students a much more realistic image of campus life; trust me, even colleges in up-state North Dakota tend to represent their campuses with pictures of students studying outdoors during a warm summer day. Aside from this, college visits also increase a student’s chance of being admitted. Most schools track the number of times a prospective student has contacted the institution; thus, students who visit the school’s campus tend to appear more serious applicants than those who make no contact with the university. That’s not to say that it will work miracles. But in a competitive applicant class, a previous campus visit could tip the scale in your favor.

In planning your visit, the first thing you should consider is the time frame. Although it’s tempting to visit colleges during the summer, you should try to schedule visits during the academic year. A majority of your college experience depends on your fellow students. Thus, you want to see a college when those students are actually on campus. Also, you should avoid visiting several different colleges in a short amount of time; after awhile they all blend together.

Take note of the different options that a school offers for campus visits. All colleges offer guided tours of the campus. A student usually leads the tour, reciting a scripted account of campus life but perhaps speaking candidly at times. Often, a Q&A session with an admissions officer will follow. Most colleges offer tours nearly year-round Monday through Saturday. Additionally, many schools offer half-day and open house programs. These events usually include a tour, an information session, a meal in the student dining hall, and faculty or student panels. Some schools also offer overnight programs, in which a prospective student stays with a current student, sits-in on classes, eats at campus dining halls, and attends student events. Most universities only conduct open houses and overnight visits at certain times, so be sure to schedule these well in advance. Of course, prospective students also have the option of taking an unofficial visit, in which he or she walks through campus without a guide. It is best to mix both official and unofficial visitation. Attend official tours and Q&A sessions so that your visit is included in your admissions file; however, don’t let info sessions form your entire opinion. Be sure to walk around campus, taking note of activities and talking to current students about their college experience. Pick up a newspaper and flip through it. Look at flyers and the dates of campus events – if most parties occur on Wednesdays and Thursdays, there must be a reason, and it could affect your college experience. It is particularly important to have a meal in the college dining hall if possible; it allows you to get a feel for the campus’s social atmosphere. Observe how students act toward each other, whether everyone is studying (an inevitability during mid-terms and finals) or talking, and what they talk about. Almost every student will be happy to speak with you for a few minutes about campus life and their decision to attend that college.

To make the most of your visit, be sure to plan ahead. First, think deeply and decide what about a college matters most to you. Don’t find yourself in the middle of a tour thinking, “this college has a great Greek life… maybe I’ll like to party.” Next, be sure to take notes about each college you see. You don’t need to be “that kid” who transcribes the entire Q&A session, but you should take a few notes about the campus immediately after your visit. Note things that are important to you, these could include: the dorms (their condition and how many people share a bedroom and bathroom), how safe you feel on campus (whether there are blue phones or other safety mechanisms, whether parts of campus seem dangerous at night, and whether student transit runs during the night), how stressed other students seem, whether they share your interests, whether the college has mainly small classrooms or large lecture halls, whether the library has a large selection of books on hand or depends on an interlibrary loan system, whether or not undergraduate research opportunities are available on campus, the condition of campus athletic facilities, how far shopping outlets and grocery stores are from campus (you likely don’t want to live out of your suitcase for four years). Also, take down the name of your tour guide and the admissions officer with whom you spoke and send a follow-up email or thank you note. If the college’s application or interviewer asks about your previous contact with the college, use some of these names when recounting your visit; this adds authenticity to your account and makes you seem like a more serious applicant. For students with a laptop or smart phone, it is a good idea to make a spreadsheet that includes the college’s name, its contact information, the date of your visit, notes about the tour, information session, and other meetings, the names of the officials whom you have met, and notes about the campus. This allows you to better distinguish between colleges; without it, they all begin to blend together.

The primary objective of college admissions is not to find the “best college” but to find the best college for you. The visit is a pivotal step in achieving this, and a well-planned visit will help you with both picking the right college and being accepted.

Additional Resources:

Our Video on the College Visit

College Tracker Worksheet

Google Docs – (for your online spreadsheet)

Online Degree Programs

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