Going on college visits? Wondering what, exactly, you are supposed to be looking at? Here are some tips that will help you gather useful information. These are suggestions that will help you frame your search – everyone will have factors that are especially important to them, so your list might look a little different. Also, your criteria will likely evolve as you continue to visit schools.

  • Basic Information

Start to gather basic information, so that you can compare your options later. How big is the school? What is the average GPA? Average SAT or ACT? Do they even require test scores when you apply? What is this school best known for, academically and socially? (They will probably tell you all of this in the tours and info sessions, which you should definitely participate in.)

  • The Freshman Experience

What is life like when you first arrive? Do all freshmen live on campus? Can you visit the dorms while you are there? What is orientation like? What type of academic support is offered during the first year? How many freshmen transfer out?

  • Academics

What is the average class size? How many courses are required? Are courses taught by professors or graduate students? If you have a specific academic interest, what do they offer in your field? Can you take classes pass/fail? Is there a “shopping period” so that you can try out courses early in the term before committing to them?

  • Social Life

What percentage of students live on campus? Is campus housing guaranteed for all four years, if you want it? What are some of the most popular clubs? What restaurants are nearby? How is the on-campus dining? Can you try the food? Are sororities and fraternities a big presence? What sports are popular, and do students support the teams?

  • Intangibles

What do you feel like on campus – do you like the architecture and setting? How about the climate? Do you like the distance from home? Do the students seem happy? Are there movie theaters, shops and restaurants in close proximity? Can you do things like study abroad or have a co-op internship, if those opportunities are important to you?

Going on college visits and envisioning several possible futures can be a lot of fun. It may also seem overwhelming at times, and schools can blend – so, whatever your personal criteria, please be sure to take great notes.

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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