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How To Make the Most of Your College Visit

Written by

Scott Brodie

Date

December 8, 2017

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How to make the most of your college visit

Typical college visits give prospective students a lot of information about the school they’re looking at. College tours give students a feel for the campus and where they might live, information sessions provide an opportunity to ask admissions counselors questions, and having lunch in a dining hall gives students a taste of the food. All of this is important information, but it’s also general information. Here’s how to make the most of your college visit and tailor the experience toward your specific academic interests and career aspirations.

Schedule a Meeting with the Department Head of Your Chosen Major

Before your college visit, email the head of the department you’re hoping to major within. For example, contact the Mechanical Engineering department head if you plan on majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Ask the department head if they’re able to meet with you on the day of your visit.

Department heads often have busy schedules, and they might not even be on campus when you’re visiting. Many will, however, meet with a prospective student who shows initiative if they’re able to. If they aren’t able to, they may even be able to recommend another faculty member who can (and they often have the ability to tell another faculty member to meet with you). 

Talking one-on-one with a faculty member lets you ask detailed questions about the department — ones that go beyond the scope of general admissions counselors. For example, you can ask about:

  • what their current research projects are

  • whether the department has any particular focus within the field

  • how they involve students in their research and projects

  • what they’d like to see on applications (if you haven’t yet applied)

  • how they’re helping students in choosing a career within the field 

Ask About Program-Specific Job Placement Statistics

College admissions counselors usually have job placements statistics for their universities, and they sometimes even have specific statistics for particular schools within their university. For example, admission counselors might be able to tell you the job placement of their university’s engineering school, or arts and humanities school

School-wide statistics are generally reliable, but they can mask major-to-major variations. Ask one of the admissions counselors you talk with if they can look up the specific job placement statistics for students in the major you’re considering or who are choosing a career similar to what you want to do. They likely won’t know this off the top of their head, and they may not even have the information handy. They should, however, be willing to find the answer to your question. They can look up statistics for a specific major, and then call or email you with the information in a few days. 

Looking for career advice? Choosing a college or career is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Make sure you get all the help you need. Go to the College Mouse career directory to find a career counselor near you.

Or sign up for our upcoming Keys to Career Success course. We will walk you through the steps you need to follow as you chart your career journey – from how to narrow your career options, choose a college major and decide where to study, all the way to how to plan your job search, switch careers, and position yourself for your dream job. Click here to sign up

Sit in on a Class in Your Program

It’s common to sit in on a class during a college visit. When you do, try to make it a class that’s relevant to your major. This will provide you with an accurate idea of what the classes you’d take are like.

As you’re sitting in on a class, you have an opportunity to learn a lot through observation. For example, you might want to note:

  • whether the facilities are wired to incorporate new technology

  • how large the class size is, especially if it’s an entry-level course

  • whether the professor appears to be invested in the course and students 

Check for Relevant Extracurricular Groups

Learning during college doesn’t take place only in the classroom. Check whether the school’s list of extracurricular groups includes any that are focused on your major. If there are, these groups can provide valuable ways to network with other students in your major, apply what you’re learning outside of the classroom and possibly even meet people working in the industry.

During your college visits, make sure you check out the dorm rooms, exercise facilities and dining halls. Don’t just focus on what life will be like while attending a school though. Use these ideas to help explore how a college will prepare you for life after school — and one that includes doing the kind of work you want to do.

Be sure to follow these tips in order to make the most of your college visit. Remember, where you end up studying has immense implications not just for your learning, but very likely it will impact your employment prospects. And according to one recent research paper, students who show demonstrated interest by making an official visit to their prospective college have an advantage over those who don’t.

For a helpful list of accredited colleges across the United States and a detailed state-by-state overviews, check out our guide to finding the right college

 

Written by:  Scott Brodie

Scott Brodie is a freelance writer located in New York State. When not writing, Scott enjoys roasting coffee and reading. He can be reached at http://scottmbrodie.com/.

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