James Boo is a top teacher at Knewton, helping students with their SAT preparation.
It’s easy to forget that the college experience goes far beyond the classroom. Your undergraduate years will not only give you the academic tools you need to succeed, they are a stage for personal and professional growth.
When you get the chance to visit a school you could end up attending for the next 4-5 years, treat it as a place of life, not just a place of study. To maximize the impact of your campus visit, master these three mantras:
1. Prepare. You won’t learn anything you can really use if you leave all the work to pamphlets, parents and tour guides. Prepare questions. Prepare lecture sit-ins. Prepare your own tour routes. Prepare appointments with former classmates, with whom you can catch up on campus. Prepare an overnight stay with a friend in the dorms. Prepare to visit different types of campuses (for example, a small, private liberal arts university, a very small technical/arts school, a medium-sized state college and a large public university), prepare to compare how well each fits your lifestyle needs, and prepare yourself to take everything in with an open mind.
2. Prioritize. In your preparation, do your best to rank what’s most important to you and make sure that you plan your day to get a good feel for each prioritized aspect of your college experience. Do you crave social interaction? Can you live without a variety of dining options and local food sources? Do you want an environment that is tolerant and supportive of the LGBT community? Do you need your professors to be regularly and personally accessible? Are you ready to accept a school without a football team (conversely, are you itching to leave the world of football behind)? These are all valid questions when you’re setting priorities.
3. Be yourself. Even if you haven’t been accepted yet, assume that you will be, and visit these schools as a future member, not an applicant. Don’t worry about impressing anyone and don’t worry about whether or not you will be ‘good enough’ for your school. Instead, ask: “Is this place going to give me what I need to learn, grow and have fun?” You will be an essential part of the student body, so start acting like it.
Remember that the point of your campus visit is not to verify what the school is on paper; it’s to discover anything that you might have never considered while you were slaving away on your applications. Different schools will match up with different personalities, and you know yourself best to make the call on where you’d like to end up.
Knowing this, use your campus visit to make the right call, not just for your lesson planner, but for your life as a new member of the college community!