Mapping out Your Campus Visit: Use These 10 Steps to Plot out a Complete College Tour

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#1 PLAN AHEAD Contact the admission office to schedule a visit--preferably when school is in session. Avoid weekends, holidays, and semester breaks. If possible, ask the admission staff to arrange for you to stay overnight in a dorm room. Try to coordinate visits at several schools in one area, and choose a variety--even if you're set on attending a large university, visit a small school, too, just to be sure.

#2 GET READY Read up on your college choices in brochures, guides, and on the Web. Talk with graduates of current students you might know. Make a list of questions you have for each school.

#3 SET UP AN INTERVIEW An in-person meeting helps you--and the admission staff--decide if a school is a good match so try to arrange one at each school you visit. You may want to bring copies of your transcript and a list of activities so the admission officer can gauge your eligibility.

#4 TAKE THE CAMPUS TOUR Enthusiastic undergrads usually lead the official tours, sharing an insider's perspective that you may not find in the brochures. Don't hesitate to ask about housing conditions, campus safety, and even job placement. Take note of campus events. Are students hanging out with friends on the library steps or are they waiting in lines to use the computers in the library? Pay attention to the posters advertising extracurricular activities. What are the typical social events? Are facilities clean and well-maintained?

#5 SPEND TIME IN CLASSES Let the admission office know which subjects most interest you, so you can see your potential professors in action. Try to sit in on both a large introductory course and a smaller seminar. Before or after class, introduce yourself to the professor as a possible applicant and ask any questions about the course.

#6 EXPLORE ON YOUR OWN After the official tour, take your own. Scope out dorms, eat in the dining hall, and peek in the library--noting the depth of the collection and study space. Visit the gym, walk around the student union, and take note of clubs and activities. Pick up a student newspaper to get a sense of what's happening on campus.

#7 DO THE TOWN You're not just going to college, you may be moving to another town. Check out the area surrounding the campus. …