5 College Visit Tips You Haven't Heard Before

Get familiar with the least desirable aspects of a college to ensure you can handle them.

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The Commons was created in 1974 when East State Street was closed to vehicular traffic. Now a pedestrian mall, the Commons is popular for shopping, strolling and people watching.

A lot of tips on visiting colleges are repeated often, but here's some advice on visiting schools that may be a bit more unexpected.

JULIE:

When visiting schools with Lindsey, we tried to take advantage of the common college visit wisdom: Have your student sit in on a class, eat in a dorm cafeteria, and ask lots of questions to your tour guides. Some of the things that we discovered, however, we hadn't heard before, so we're talking about them here.

1. Drive, don't fly: If you're visiting a destination that's far from home, get a feel for the real distance at least once by driving, not flying. This is particularly helpful if trips home from college will happen by car, even if it's just part of the time.

A car trip not only gives the student an opportunity to see just how far from home that distance really is, but the rides to and from will provide an opportunity to discuss the upcoming visit and the pros and cons of the college you've just seen.

[Consider what to do if you can't afford a college visit.]

2. Visit during less-desirable weather: A Wisconsin campus will have a completely different feel in the summer than in the throes of winter. While that's easy to process intellectually, a student from the heart of Texas should probably experience just what that means. Similarly, a Florida campus will likely have great appeal to a native Minnesotan in January, but the heat and humidity may feel oppressive in August.

Take the weather when you visited into account when comparing colleges. If you visited college A during the winter when the ground was frozen and students were scurrying from building to building, keep that in mind when comparing it to college B, which you visited in late Spring, when the bulbs were blooming and the students were sunbathing between classes.

[See which colleges have warm weather all year.]

LINDSEY:

College visits can be a great time to see the best aspects of a school. They can also be opportunities to see some of the less appealing parts and how well you can handle them. Here are some of the ways to make your college visit worth the time, money, and effort.

1. Ask to see another residence hall: Colleges likely show their shiny, recently renovated rooms on housing tours. That's great if you know you'll get into the ideal hall, but chances are you won't be living in the absolute nicest room on campus.

Do your best to finagle your way into a tour of the residence hall you'd actually be living in, if possible. That goes for dining hall tours, too!

2. Break away from the tour: It may sound counterintuitive to venture away from the person assigned to tell you everything about campus, but you're not obligated to stay on a tour the entire time. If you're not loving your tour guide, or you see something that looks interesting to you, don't be afraid to leave the main group and catch up later.

[Use 10 tips for an effective college visit.]

Sometimes, you can learn a lot more from an on-campus event or a candid conversation with a current student than you can from a scripted tour. 

3. Explore the peripheral areas: College campuses can be so beautiful and full of activity that it can be easy to forget the importance of the town or city in which they are located. Make sure to explore the edges of campus and the surrounding areas.

[Check out 10 great college towns.]

Is the campus next to a rough part of town, a bustling city, or a suburban area? You likely won't spend all your time on campus, so make sure to look into external factors, especially if they aren't so desirable.