After receiving offers of admission from multiple colleges, students and parents wonder how they will choose. If you’re uncertain, and even if you’re not, the best thing you can do is revisit the colleges on your list of acceptances. Since college is a major purchase and a 4-year commitment, it makes sense to go to the respective campuses one last time before making your final decision.
Why revisit a college?
Now that you are accepted into a particular college, you can think more realistically about about your future life there. You want to be able to picture yourself on campus—in the dorms, dining halls, and classrooms. Since most applicants visit a college for the first time during their junior year of high school, about a year will pass before they find out if they have been accepted. A lot can change in a year—your interests or priorities, your financial situation, your personal life—all of which could have a large effect on where you go to college. A college that may have appealed to you a year ago might not land at the top of your list after you revisit. It is important to get a second impression!
What should you do when revisiting a campus?
Visiting a college after your acceptance is different than visiting before you apply. During the first visit, you are gathering information, touring dorms and classrooms, and learning the basic facts of the college. After your acceptance, you have to decide which college accommodates your needs over any of the others. Looking for the right “fit” requires careful consideration. On your second visit, you should concentrate on learning more details about campus life. The more you know about the college, the easier it will be to make a decision.
Here are 10 ways you can really learn about a college:
1. Talk to students
College students won’t be afraid to “dish” on what campus life is really like. They can give you insight on classes, professors, and the social scene of the college. Are they happy there? How do they spend their free time? What do they study? What are the biggest “happenings” on campus?
On your first college visit, the majority of your information most likely came from your tour guide. Even though this information is detailed and reliable, tour guides must be objective when speaking about the school. This is why it is so important to talk to unbiased students.
2. Attend a class
While you are on campus, attend an actual class. This gives you an idea of how large the classes are and how they are conducted. If you can, sit in on freshman classes, as they are traditionally larger and introductory level. If you’re not comfortable in a large class environment, this could be a deal breaker. By attending a class, you also get a better look at the academic environment. Try to visit a class that interests you or is required for the major you are considering.
3. Take a closer look at the housing
Campus tours always show the largest, cleanest dorm room on campus. In reality, depending on the size of the school, there are several freshman dorms to choose from. Visit rooms in several different dorms, and take note on which style of housing you like the most. Most colleges ask you to list your top housing choices, and this is a great way to be confident in your request.
4. Eat in the cafeteria
You are going to be spending a great deal of your time eating on campus. Many colleges will give families vouchers for a meal while they are visiting. Make sure the dining halls offer a variety food and drinks you like. It’s also a good place to examine how students interact with one another and people they don’t know. Did someone come up and speak to you, introduce themselves, or ask if you wanted to join them? This is a good indicator that they are welcoming to new students.
5. Stay overnight
Most colleges offer "student days" to accepted applicants, which allows you to spend the night in a dorm. This gives you an opportunity for an up-close-and-personal look at dorm life. Do you like the rooms? What about the bathrooms? What is the campus like at night? Do you feel safe walking around or have they made provisions for escorts? What is the social life like at night? Staying on campus is the best way to get an inside perspective on student life.
6. Venture out beyond the campus
You won’t be staying on campus all four years of college. Venture out and visit the surrounding area. If the college is located in or close to a large city, do you like the city itself? Would you feel comfortable living there? What kind of cultural activities does the city offer? If the college is far away from a metroplex, are you comfortable with the isolation?
7. Consider the environment
Students often overlook weather and climate when selecting a school, but this can have a significant impact on your all-around college experience. If you can’t stand the snow, college in Minnesota is probably not a good fit for you! If your first college visit was in the winter, it might be a good idea to revisit in the summer.
8. Ask about transportation
Many colleges don’t allow freshmen to have cars on campus. Ask about this policy and if they don’t, ask about transportation off campus. Do they offer buses for students to get into the city? Is there a convenient subway or other form of transportation? How do students get to the surrounding airport or train station when they travel home?
9. Ask any unanswered questions you might have
Before you revisit the college, compile a list of questions that haven’t been answered. Visit the admissions office and financial aid office and get the answers to these questions while you are there. Speaking with someone face-to-face is much better than communicating through emails.
10. Ask yourself if it feels right
When it comes right down to it, your decision should be just as emotional as it is logical. When you revisit the schools, which one just feels right? When you close your eyes and think about your freshman year of college, where do you see yourself? It may not be the school you originally thought it would be. Be open to all possibilities.