College Visits: What You Need To Know
Campus visits are exciting, informative, and absolutely crucial in deciding which school is right for you. This article will explore the nuts-and-bolts of the college visit, pose some vital do’s and don’ts regarding expected behavior, and provide a laundry list of details students and families must observe during campus visits. After reading, you will be able to undertake your tour efficiently and effectively.
Getting to the campus
Plan everything ahead of time. Know how you are getting to the destination and where the school is located in the town or city. And, of course, know where you will be staying when you arrive.
If you’re internationally, it is important to steer clear of overly long flights with ridiculous layovers, unless of course you and your family fancy a side trip. Go with the most affordable and comfortable option available. Remember to arrange some sort of shuttle service to and from the airport. Some services have bag limits, so, for Hong Kong students on a grant tour of schools, make sure to do you homework.
As for getting to your destination, book a place to stay that is affordable, spacious and has an excellent reputation. Before booking, Google the accommodations, to make sure it meets your standards and has good user feedback. Additionally, a part of finding a place to stay is making sure there is access to some form of transportation to and from the school. This may demand booking cars, taxis, or getting subway/elevated train maps. If you’re coming from abroad, don’t forget to exchange funds so you can have easy access to the aforementioned modes of transportation.
Once you’ve made it to the destination…
Once you’ve made it to town, you will want to schedule your campus visit. Most school websites have information regarding the scheduling of visits and/or information sessions. You will need to provide the family name; student name; any sort of identifying factor needed to register e.g. a password and userid; and a time slot for usually both visit and information session. In some circumstance, you will simply go to the website and arrange an interview. But some schools require a phone conversation with the scheduling staff at the school. In either instance, you must provide the above information along with year in school/expected date of graduation, as well as ancillary information that in most cases is school specific. Here is an example of the process:
Adelaide wants to visit Stanford.
-  Step one: go to the Stanford website.
-  Follow the requisite prompts until you get to the reservation page. (In this case it is for the program Discover Stanford).
-  Follow prompts to register.
-  Record information somewhere where it will not be forgotten and/or lost.
-  REMEMBER: We cannot stress enough to make certain you write-down date, time, and scope of process. No-shows reflect poorly on you.
Some tips about the process of getting to the school…
Give your self a time cushion to get to and from the school. Arrive a bit early, as this will allow you to get an informal feel for the admissions office, ideally providing exposure to the campus environment. Early birds will also get the best seats for the admissions information session (frequently these are too crowded for comfort, so better to arrive early). Prepare for inclement weather with an umbrella and poncho. In case you get hungry during the tour and information sessions, both of which should run about an hour each, bring snacks to hold you over.
Touring Campus…The Do’s
. Check out the buildings. Do you find them appealing? Do they represent a sense of unified planning? This feature is significant as it is in part an indication of the school leadership and its capacity to [a] rally alumni support; and [b] to provide the type of direction that will carry the school through building phases.
[a] Are there new buildings? If so, what do these new facilities host? Do they interest you and are they designed to meet your needs in terms of potential major/pre-professional plans.
[b] Is there too much construction going on? Sometimes over-construction on college campuses can be too disruptive and seem  scattered;  unappreciative of current students’ needs;  inconvenient and/or cumbersome.
[c] Are the grounds well-kempt and attractive? Well-managed campuses signify a school leadership which cares about the aesthetic factors which generate a pleasant college experience.
 Pay careful attention to your tour guide. Is she/he dressed appropriately for the casual yet quasi-professional nature of their role? Are they able to speak with enthusiasm about the school? Are they able to address questions? Do they know how to redirect you when they don’t have certain answers? Are they funny? Penultimately, do they offer a sufficiently convincing narrative of the school?
 Check for any accessibility issues. Will you be able to get from one part of campus easily and conveniently, especially after that frat party. Again, look out for obstructive construction that could make getting around a hassle. Building arrangement should also be examined. Are campus facilities pleasing aesthetically and can they be reached and entered with relative ease. Finally, observe traffic flow around campus. Is the campus easily accessible by car, foot, and/or bicycle? Is there decent and conveniently placed parking?
Things to ask while on your tour…
Things to ask (a laundry list):
 How accessible are faculty?
 Where are the tasty places to get a midnight snack?
 Which and how many libraries are there? Which library is the main one?
 What are the inter-campus transportation options like? Where does one catch such transportation?
 What is campus safety like? What are the patrol activities on campus? Are there blue lights with phones for campus emergencies?
 Is off off-campus housing an option? If so, what are the choices like?
 What is the relationship that the surrounding neighborhood has with the school?
 What are the options for getting to and from the nearest commercial airport?
 Where and how expensive is the nearest grocery store?
 What are the nightlife options for students? Underclassmen? Upperclassmen?
 Where are the laundry facilities? Are they expensive?
These are only ten of a potentially limitless array of questions you could ask. They are designed to get you thinking in productive ways about campus life.
The One Don’t…
Don’t ignore anything… There is really nothing to ignore about your college visit. From Frisbee throwing on the quad to the layout of chemistry labs to the vegetarian options in the cafeteria, all factors should be considered and cross-examined during your campus visit. If something you want to see is accessible, check it out. If you have a question, ask!
If it is feasible, visit every school you are considering attending. College visits are vital, in that they are an ideal way for you to get to know the school and for the school to get to know you. Moreover, many students change their mind about an institution after exploring its campus, and so this part of the application/admittance process is crucial to say the least. So plan thoroughly, execute efficiently, and enjoy your visit!
For more information on visiting top schools, come to our upcoming Inside the Ivy League Seminar on June 25th and speak with the people who have been through it.