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Author Bio: Katie Storer is an Assistant Director of Admissions at Nichols College.
Check out additional blogs about college and the college admissions process.
In this digital world that we live in, it is so easy to get swept away by virtual college tours and flipping through school mailings that flood your mailbox. However, stepping foot on campus gives you a whole different experience; one these virtual tours, mailings or conversations with guidance counselors and alumnus cannot provide. Campus visits provide the opportunity to see whether you can picture yourself on campus and if the institution will be the best fit for you. I always suggest a student visit campus twice: once during the admission process and once after they are accepted. Junior year and the summer going into your senior year are great time to visit campus for the first time. Try to meet the admissions counselor who will be reading your application; this gives us a great opportunity to put a name to a face!  Make sure you are aware of the application process as well as any admission deadline.
Physically going to campus provides you with many opportunities. Most of the time, your tour guide will be a current student who is very knowledgeable about the institution. Make sure to ask why he or she chose that college and ask where their roommates or friends are doing internships and/or where they are employed. A campus visit can provide additional opportunities to learn more about academic offerings, student services, and extracurricular activities. While there is information about most of these offerings online, more detail is provided during personal visits. Another benefit of a campus tour is being able to have a meal in the dining hall. Many times students ask how the food is; campus visit allows you to get a first-hand look of the choices and quality of the institution’s dining services.
Even, driving through campus for an informal visit if you are in the area is absolutely one way to see the campus and get a feel of what it is like. Institutions provide many different options for you to visit campus in a more formal way. Many of these visit opportunities are on their website and many times, you can sign up for them right online! Information Sessions give you and your family an opportunity for a short presentation of the institution followed by a campus tour. Open Houses offered in the Fall, and sometimes in the Spring, are larger events that differ from school to school, but have the same contents of an Information Session with more faculty and staff on hand for your questions to be answered. Many times you can have a conversation with professors in your intended area of study.
My personal favorite visit opportunities are overnight programs. If a school that you have been accepted to has an overnight program, take advantage of it! It is a great way to be away from your family for a night and see what college life really would be like. It is a great way to “test drive” a school to see if you can picture yourself there as a student. Many times with an overnight opportunity, you are able to sit in on a college class. Many institutions offer this as an option; at Nichols College, we call it our Shadow Day. If you do not see anything on a college’s website about sitting in on classes, just call and ask or email your admission counselor and most will be more than welcome to set that up for you!
As an accepted student, you are not going to want to miss out on a college’s Accepted Student Reception! This is a great chance for you to meet other students in the “same boat” as you. Make sure to talk to any and all staff and faculty. Talk to all of the student ambassadors or workers; they are helping out because they love their institution!
When it comes to making your final admission decision, reflect on how you felt on each campus. Was the campus too big? Too small? Does it have your intended major? Can you see yourself getting involved in a sport or other extracurricular activities? Is it a place where you can see yourself making a difference and leaving your mark? This is the place that you will call home for the next four years. Making sure to take advantage of all visit opportunities leading up to your final admission decision will only make that decision easier for you. Best of luck!