• College Counseling
It Depends, A College Counseling Blog Series: What to do When Visiting a College

 

Editor’s Note: 

It Depends is a series from the Office of College Counseling, that aims to answer some common questions asked by students and families as they navigate the college search and application process, within the context of today’s world, with today’s technology.   

Check back monthly as Co-Director of College Counseling Keegan Ash poses frequently asked questions to ChatGPT and analyzes the responses, going deeper than the generic replies by reminding us, “it depends.” 

 


Welcome to It Depends, a blog series from the College Counseling Office.  

In each post, I will pose a question to ChatGPT about the college process and then respond and add perspective to the AI generated response. The goal is to provide the general content anyone could find on internet forums, or websites, or through AI, but to go one step further and add the expertise, experience, and perspective of an experienced counselor. 

AI content will be displayed in normal text, while my comments will be purple and bolded to distinguish between the two perspectives. 

 

Let's get started.  

Question: What should I do when I visit a college? 

When you visit college campuses, it's important to make the most of your time and gather as much information as possible. Here are some tips on what to do during your campus visits: 

 

1. Take a guided tour: Most colleges offer guided campus tours led by current students. Sign up for a tour to explore the campus and learn about its facilities, academic buildings, residence halls, dining options, and recreational areas. Pay attention to the tour guide's insights and ask questions along the way. 

Pretty standard advice.  Not going to disagree there.  


2. Attend an information session: Many colleges also provide information sessions where admissions representatives share details about the college's programs, admission process, financial aid, and campus life. Attend these sessions to gain a comprehensive understanding of the college and its offerings. 

Again… pretty good info.  Typically, there will be an information session prior to your tour. 
 

3. Engage with students and faculty: Take the opportunity to interact with current students and faculty members. Strike up conversations with students you encounter on campus, and don't hesitate to ask them about their experiences, academic programs, extracurricular activities, and campus culture. If possible, arrange to meet with faculty members or visit academic departments to get a sense of the academic environment and potential opportunities for research or mentorship. 

This is not a requirement.  It can also be extremely challenging. Often families are initially touring colleges in the summer or over a high school break.  These colleges are also often on break, so there may not be many people around.  Interacting with faculty can also be difficult, however, smaller schools do this very well.   

Reach out to admissions to ask if there would be a possibility to meet a professor.  If you do meet one, don’t ask if the biology department (for example) is good.  Ask them to tell you about the opportunities their students are taking advantage of outside the classroom!   

Interacting with students on campus can seem daunting, but at the very least, observe the student population.  Is it diverse?  Are the students wearing college gear or repping other colleges?  Could you see yourself comfortable with the students you see while on campus?  That’s what you want to look for.  Walking up to a random student at a college and asking them to sell you on the college may not work out. It’s much easier to interact with students at an Accepted Students event or Open House on campus than during a regular tour. 
 

4. Explore campus facilities: Make sure to explore key campus facilities such as libraries, labs, athletic facilities, and student centers. Take note of the resources and support services available to students, as well as the condition and accessibility of these facilities. 

You’re making a big investment of time, money, and effort while in college.  Look for the right environment.  If you’re majoring in the sciences, then look for resources in that department.  If you want to play sports in college, look at the fields/facility. 
 

5. Observe campus life: As you walk around the campus, pay attention to the overall atmosphere and student life. Observe how students interact with each other, whether there are engaging activities taking place, and how vibrant the campus feels. This will help you gauge whether the college aligns with your preferences and interests. 

Go look at the weight room!  Even if lifting isn’t your thing, go see what the weight room looks like.  The state of the weight room is a huge indication of the culture of a campus.  Are there weights everywhere?  Much like going to a town and seeing how many shopping carts are left out at the grocery store, this is a great indication of the community on a campus.  Do you take pride in your community enough to return your weights?  It may seem silly, but it's a nice little barometer.   Check out the dining hall.  Are students sitting in groups or alone? Are they studying or socializing? 
 

6. Sample the local area: Venture beyond the campus boundaries to explore the surrounding area. Check out nearby shops, restaurants, parks, and cultural attractions. Consider whether the location offers amenities and resources that suit your lifestyle and preferences. 

This is a fantastic suggestion!  What is around the college? Do you feel safe leaving campus?  Are there things to do?  This isn’t the most important thing in the world, because colleges offer so much on campus, but it will be part of your experience.  For international students, how far away are the airports and public transportation?  If there is a significant distance, ask about transportation from the colleges. 
 

7. Attend classes or events: If possible, arrange to sit in on a class or attend campus events. Experiencing a class firsthand can give you a sense of the teaching style, class size, and student engagement. Attending events like guest lectures, performances, or club meetings can provide insights into the campus community and its extracurricular offerings. 

This is likely not going to be possible on your first visit if you have set up an admissions tour. Sitting in on a class will happen more likely during an Accepted Students Day or Open House.  To get a sense of classes, ask a tour guide what their largest and smallest class size has been in their time.  That could give you an idea of the range. 
 

8. Take notes and photos: Bring a notebook or use your smartphone to jot down important observations, thoughts, and questions during your visit. Taking photos can also help you remember specific details and compare different campuses later on. 

I would love if my students took a notebook, but I also know that many take notes right on their phones.  I would suggest bringing a small notebook and jotting down some notes.  Don’t do it on your phone because you’ll unintentionally look uninterested.  If you need to take the notes and put them into your phone later, that’s a better idea than sitting in an info session and looking at your phone or walking around campus looking down at your phone.  Take lots of photos though… that’s great advice.  It will help jog your memory later, too. 

 

Mr. Ash and Chompers, the Allegheny College mascot


 

9. Reflect on your impressions: After each campus visit, take some time to reflect on your overall impressions and how well the college aligns with your academic and personal goals. Consider the campus culture, academic offerings, support services, facilities, and overall environment. Reflecting on your experiences can help you make informed decisions during the college selection process. 

Could I see myself here?  That’s the ultimate question.  Start with the positives on every campus.  The absolute dealbreaker is safety.  If you don’t feel safe, take the school off the list.  If you felt safe, consider all the other positives and ask yourself if you could see yourself being there.   
 

10. Ask for contact information: Before leaving the campus, make sure to collect contact information for the admissions office or any individuals you've connected with during your visit. This will allow you to follow up with any additional questions or inquiries that may arise later on. 

You can do this, but there’s also the internet.  You don’t need to ask all the admissions people.  Just Google: ____ University admissions staff.  It will come up and you won’t have to carry around a bunch of business cards.  Focus on getting contact information from students you meet if you’d like to have further conversations.  Admissions representatives don’t make it hard to find their emails. 

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Do the tour, but then stick around for a while.  Sit on a bench and just observe.  Take an extra five minutes.  What are the aspects of that college that you want to see in other colleges you tour?  The more you can reflect while on campus, the better.  It will also help lead to better conversations with your college counselor. 

 

. . . 

The college process is filled with nuances, and as the name of this blog series reiterates, a lot of this process comes down to context.  The answers to many questions will be “it depends.”   The College Counseling Office is here to give the best advice possible within that context.  Our student-centered approach is focused on meeting the needs of our students while keeping their goals in mind -- and celebrating them along the way.  

If you have additional questions, schedule a time to speak with your counselor.  You can use the links below to schedule a time. 

Mr. Ash: https://calendly.com/kash-perk

Ms. Davidson-Kellogg: https://calendly.com/perk-davidson-kellogg

 


 

College Counseling at Perkiomen School
 

Read more by the College Counseling Department

 

Check out the It Depends Podcast

 

'It depends' is meant to lead to further discussion. It is an opportunity for us as counselors to ask follow-up questions. It is a chance for us to gather more information about each child in this process. We are student-centered.  We know every student is unique and therefore every process will be unique.    - KEEGAN ASH, Co-Director of College Counseling