Even if you only happen to have a day or two to spare, visiting at least one campus over spring break can bring major inspiration to your college search. No matter how many guide books you read or websites you visit, there is just no substitute for the feeling of standing on a college campus. It just makes the whole process more real.
For families living in Southern California, one of the great benefits is that you have an huge variety of colleges within range of a couple hours' drive, whether or not your student is planning to stay close to home. Students, whether you're just getting started on your college search or are already convinced about your dream schools, there is something to learn—about both your likes and dislikes.
Planning & Preparation
• Get online and do some research! Be prepared to ask some questions that aren't readily available on the website.
• Call or email the admissions office, ideally at least two weeks in advance. Sign up (if necessary) for a campus tour and information session. Ask for a list of classes to visit and if you can schedule an interview with admissions while you're there.
• Work on your brag sheet! It can help you discuss your strengths while on campus.
• Don't try packing in more than two visits in any single day. It's just too much info. A good, thorough campus visit usually takes 2 - 4 hours. Budget your time accordingly.
During the Visit
• Push yourself to speak with everyone: faculty, support staff, and especially current students. Everyone has a different perspective and will be happy to share it!
• Make sure to ask for (and keep track of) the name and contact info of anyone in admissions that you connect with.
• Focus on the things that are important to you. What is the social life like? How much time do students spend studying? Which types of students seem the happiest? Does this school have the major(s) you're considering?
• If at all possible, make sure to sit in on a class, eat food from a dining hall, and observe the people in their major gathering places (e.g., at the student center, out in the quad, in the library).
• TAKE CLEAR NOTES! Trust me: it won't take long for all the details to start bleeding together.
• Take notes immediately following the visit, noting everything from your overall impressions to the smallest details. You'll be glad to have them later.
• Send thank-you notes to any person you interviewed or had an official meeting with. If you're excited, want more info or have questions, let the admissions people know.
• Keep everything in perspective. One large chemistry lecture will not be representative of all class offerings. Weather may change. Keep up your research!